Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

FL Decrim Bill, UAE Drug Reform, Guide for Psychedelic Churches, More... (11/29/21)

The Chacruna Institute releases a guide for psychedelic churches, the Justice Department says the Bureau of Prisons short-changed up to 60,000 First Step Act prisoners on their earned-time credits, and more.

Dubai skyline (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Kentucky Lawmaker Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bills for 2022. State Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) announced Monday that she is pre-filing two parallel bills to legalize marijuana. One bill would proceed along the statutory legislative route, while the other would ask legislators to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, which would then go before the voters. "I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law," Kulkarni said. "First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine. Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes a single cent."

Psychedelics

Chacruna Institute Releases Guide to Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Best Practices for Psychedelic Plant Medicine Churches. The Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines has released its comprehensive Guide to RFRA and Best Practices for Psychedelic Plant Medicine Churches. This free publication aims to inform churches using psychedelic plant medicine as a sacrament on how to better establish their operation and rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

"This Guide is written to simply explain the laws and basic information needed by a psychedelic plant medicine church to make informed decisions and understand its rights and risks by operating in the United States," said Allison Hoots, member of Chacruna's Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants. The guide is a comprehensive resource on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and how a church using psychedelic plant medicine as sacrament can be informed by the law in terms of its operation and establishing its rights under RFRA. Download it here.

Drug Policy

Florida Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Decriminalize All Drugs. State Rep. Dotie Joseph (D) has filed a drug decriminalization bill, the "Collateral Consequences of Convictions and Decriminalization of Cannabis and All Drugs Act" (House Bill 725). The bill would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a violation punishable by no more than a $50 fine and automatically expunge past arrest and conviction records if the offense is more than a year old. The bill adds that the legislature prioritizes "rehabilitative health intervention in lieu of criminalization for personal usage of controlled substances, including but not limited to stimulants including cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, heroin, fentanyl, depressants or benzodiazepines, and other addictive controlled substances." To that end, charges "associated with the personal usage and possession of controlled substances that do not involve production, distribution or sale shall be decriminalized in favor of civil fines and referral for drug rehabilitation."

Sentencing

Justice Department Finds Federal Bureau of Prisons Failed to Apply Earned Time Credits to First Step Act Prisoners. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has released a report charging that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) failed to properly credit up to 60,000 federal prisoners with time served under the First Step Act's recidivism programs. "We are concerned that the delay in applying earned time credits may negatively affect inmates who have earned a reduction in their sentence or an earlier placement in the community," Horowitz wrote in the report. Under the First Step Act, inmates who completed a recidivism program could receive time-served credit, but the BOP told the inspector general the credits were not applied becausethey "must be negotiated with the national union because it would create changes to conditions of employment, including determinations and application of earned time credits for inmates, for Unit Team staff working in BOP institutions who are bargaining unit employees," according to the report.

International

United Arab Emirates Enacts Drug Reforms. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has dramatically amended its drug laws to allow for drug treatment instead of prison for first-time offenders. The new law mandates the creation of specialized treatment and rehabilitation units throughout the country, where judges can place offenders instead of in prison. The new law also changes the UAE's stance toward foreigners who get caught carrying food items or other products containing drugs (mainly marijuana). Under the old law, deportation was mandatory in such cases, but now people caught with such items will face no charges, but the items will be seized. The new law also increases penalties for some repeat offenders and imposes a mandatory minimum five-year sentence for anyone "who induced, incited or facilitated drug use for another person." The new law goes into effect January 2.

MA Poll Finds Public Happy with Legal Weed, Mexico Senate Moving on Marijuana Legalization, More... (11/26/21)

Pennsylvania medical marijuana regulators take aim at vape products, Mexican cartel violence flares in Sonora and Zacatecas, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Poll Finds Majority Think Marijuana Legalization Has Been a Good Thing. Five years after voters approved legal weed, a new University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB poll shows strong continuing support for marijuana legalization in the Bay State. The poll found 61% of respondents said legalization has been a net positive for the state, 25% said it was neither positive nor negative, and only 13% said it was negative. "This poll also shows that legalization is reducing the stigma historically associated with cannabis, which will only enable the Commission to continue making headway on efforts to ensure full participation in this industry by disproportionately harmed communities," Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven J. Hoffman said in a statement. "Our work is far from done, and my colleagues and I will continue to be vocal about the solutions that are needed to ensure Massachusetts meets its equity mandate."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Regulators Order Review of Medical Marijuana Vape Products. The state Health Department has ordered a review of "all vaporized medical marijuana products containing additional ingredients." Growers and processors licensed by the state must submit samples of vape products containing "anything that alters the dosage level, color, appearance, smell, taste, effect or weight of the medical marijuana." The department is also warning against additives not yet approved by the FDA: "If you are producing any vaporized medical marijuana products that contain additional ingredients that are not approved by the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for inhalation, you MUST recall these products pursuant to 28 Pa. Code 1151.42(c)." But the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, representing medical marijuana licensees said the vape products had already won state approval.

International

Mexico Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill Being Circulated. A draft marijuana legalization bill is now being circulated among senators, with a top lawmaker saying a vote could come by December 15. The bill has yet to be formally introduced, but the draft is largely similar to the bill the Senate passed late last year. The Supreme Court three years ago held that the prohibition of marijuana possession and cultivation was unconstitutional, but the Congress has repeatedly failed to meet court deadlines to implement legalization, leading the court last year to vote to end criminalization on its own. But that still leaves the need for a structure for legal marijuana markets unmet and that's what the politicians are struggling with.

Mexico Cartel Violence Continues to Plague North Central States. Even though the country's murder rate -- largely driven by prohibition-related violence -- is finally set for a slight decrease this year, clashes between rival drug trafficking and other criminal organizations continue talking a toll, most recently in the states of Sonora and Zacatecas. Authorities in Sonora announced Wednesday they had found 14 clandestine graves outside of the state capital of Hermosillo. They noted that each pit should contain at least one -- if not more -- bodies. In Sonora, there is a three-way battle for control among the Sinaloa cartel, allies of the Jalisco cartel, and a faction allied with fugitive drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero. Meanwhile, in Zacatecas, three more bodies were found hanging from bridges in the town of San José de Lourdes Tuesday. That comes just a week after 10 more bodies -- nine hanging from bridges -- were found in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc. The Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are vying for control of that state, too. On Wednesday, the Mexican army said it was sending nearly 3,500 soldiers and National Guard members to the state to perform law enforcement functions.

SD MJ Legalization Init Thrown Out, New Zealand Legalizes Drug Checking, More... (11/24/21)

A federal jury finds major drugstore chains culpable in two Ohio counties' opioid crisis, St, Louis decriminalizes marijuana possession, and more.

drug checking kits (SSDP)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Supreme Court Throws Out Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the voter-approved Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative violates the state constitution because it violated a provision limiting constitutional amendments to one subject. The court held that encompassing medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as well as setting out a taxation and regulatory structure made the amendment too broad to be considered a single subject.

While the ruling derails legalization for now, it may not be derailed for long. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind Amendment A, is already undertaking a signature-gathering drive to get another, single-issue initiative on the 2022 ballot, and the state legislature has already committed to taking up marijuana legalization in the legislative session that begins in January.

St. Louis Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession. The city's Board of Alderman voted unanimously Tuesday night to repeal an ordinance making it illegal to possess 35 grams or less of marijuana, and to bar police from enforcing state and federal law against small amounts or paraphernalia. Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (D) says she will sign the bill as soon as it reaches her desk.

Opioids

Ohio Jury Finds Drugstore Chains Culpable in Opioid Crisis. A federal jury has found that three major retailers -- CVS, Walgreens and Walmart -- helped flood two Ohio counties with opioids, contributing to the area's opioid crisis. The two counties, Lake and Trumbull, argued that the pharmacies did not do enough to stop large quantities of opioids from reaching the black market, and the jury agreed. Two other pharmacy chains -- Giant Eagle and Rite Aid -- previously settled with the counties for undisclosed amounts.

The counties' attorneys estimated the opioid epidemic cost each one more than a billion dollars. "For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law," the counties' legal team said. "Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market. The judgment today against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS represents the overdue reckoning for their complicity in creating a public nuisance."

No mention was made about the need to protect chronic pain patients from the spillover effects from opioid crackdowns. In 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control issued a statement detailing ways in which its 2016 guidance on pain prescribing had been misapplied to harmfully restrict patients' access to pain medications.

International

New Zealand Becomes First Country to Legalize Drug Checking. With a vote in parliament this week, New Zealand has made permanent and explicitly legal a pilot drug checking program. The pilot program approved last December was set to expire next month. The Health Ministry had recommended in April that the program be made permanent after data showed high percentages of people who took advantage of the drug checks changed their behavior and better understood the potential harms. The bill creates broad legal protections for people offering and using drug checking services.

NY Marijuana Arrests Up in Smoke, TX MJ Poll, First SD MedMJ Patient Card, More... (11/23/21)

St. Louis aldermen move to end fines for marijuana possession and allow personal cultivation, New York marijuana arrests are declining dramatically, and more.

The medical marijuana program is up and running in South Dakota. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York State Marijuana Arrests Nearly Vanish After Legalization. Since marijuana became legal in the state in March, marijuana arrests have shrunk to extremely low levels. According to data compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, only 116 people were arrested on marijuana charges from April through October. In 2017, there were more than 28,000 pot possession arrests alone. By 2020, after lawmakers moved to reduce marijuana penalties, there were only 2,720 arrests. And now the state is on track to reduce that number by 90 percent this year.

Texas Poll Shows Strong Majority for Marijuana Legalization, Even Majority Support Among Republicans. A new poll from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University has support for marijuana legalization at 67 percent, with even 51 percent of Republicans in support. That Republican support number is important since Republicans control the state legislature, and polling like this could prod the party to get on board with the public. The poll also asked about legalizing other substances, such as meth and heroin, but found little support with only 16 percent in favor.

St. Louis Aldermen Move to Decriminalize Pot Possession, Cultivation. The city's Board of Aldermen voted last Friday to give preliminary approval to a measure to decriminalize marijuana in the city. The measure needs one more vote by the board to go into effect. Under the proposed ordinance, people 21 and over could possess up to two ounces without any penalty. The ordinance also mandates that "no resources" be spent to punish adults for growing up to six plants. The measure also has the support of Mayor Tishaura Jones (D), whose office said the "intention is to free up police resources so they don't even have to worry about arresting someone for a victimless crime." In 2018, the board voted to make pot possession a civil infraction with a maximum $25 fine.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Program Issues First ID Cards. The state has issued its first medical marijuana ID cards, the state Health Department's Medical Cannabis Program announced last Friday. The first card issued went to a resident of Day County. "Today marks the culmination of months of hard work in preparation for the kickoff of a responsive and efficient medical cannabis program for eligible South Dakotans," said Geno Adams, Medical Cannabis Program Administrator. "In the months ahead, we will continue to ensure that patients and their caregivers, can continue to obtain medical cannabis permits in accordance with their written certifications."

Patients, caregivers, and medical providers who wish to get more information on how to participate in South Dakota's medical cannabis program can visit: MedCannabis.sd.gov. The site features a "Frequently Asked Questions' section, as well as a section for establishments, that is continuously updated by the Department. All patients and caregivers who apply and are issued a medical cannabis card will also receive a flyer with helpful tips on the importance of safe and responsible storage of their medical cannabis at their homes. To view the flyer, click here.

First Actual Fentanyl-Laced Marijuana Case -- Or Not? -- ICC Temporarily Suspends Philippines Probe, More... (11/22/21)

An Illinois judge rules the odor of raw marijuana is no longer a basis for a vehicle search, an Ohio move to legalize marijuana is nearing its signature-gathering goal, and more.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, orchestrator of tens of thousands of drug war murders
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Health Officials Confirm First Actual Case of Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl. While scattered police departments have previously reported cases of marijuana laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl, those claims have never panned out. But now, top Connecticut health officials say it has turned up there. After nearly 40 cases of reviving apparent overdose victims with the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone who reported using only marijuana since July, the state Department of Public Health announced last Thursday that it had found fentanyl in a marijuana sample it tested. "This is the lab-confirmed case of marijuana with fentanyl in Connecticut and possibly the first confirmed case in the United States," said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD.

Is it what it seems? Harm reductionionists have posited on email lists that it is likely to be a case of surface contamination, and noted that fentanyl requires a vaporize at different temperatures.

Illinois Judge Rules Smell of Marijuana No Longer Provides Basis for Vehicle Search. A district court judge in Whiteside County has ruled that the odor of raw marijuana alone does not provide probable cause for a warrantless search of a vehicle. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana has not been a criminal offense since June 2019, but police officers continued to use the smell of weed as a reason to search vehicle during traffic stops. But Judge Daniel P. Dalton ruled that "there are a number of wholly innocent reasons a person or the vehicle in which they are in may smell of raw cannabis." Judge Dalton ruled that "the court finds the odor of raw cannabis alone is insufficient to establish probable cause." This is only a district court opinion, and the state can appeal if it chooses.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Petition Nearing Enough Signatures to Force Legislature to Act. The state Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is pushing a signature-gathering campaign for an initiated statute that would force lawmakers to act on legalization or send the issue to a popular vote, says it is nearing the required 133,000 valid voter signatures to force the issue. If they reach that signature goal, the General Assembly would have four months to act on the proposal. If lawmakers fail to act or reject legalization, petitioners would then have to gather more signatures to send the issue to the voters in the next general election. The proposal would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, set up a system of retail sales, and allow people to grow up to two plants of their own.

International

International Criminal Court Temporarily Suspends Probe into Human Rights Violations in Philippines Drug War. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has temporarily suspended a formal investigation into human rights abuses during outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs and drug users. The move comes after the Philippines government filed a request for deferral, saying its own investigations into drug war killings were underway.

"The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request," ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan wrote. Khan wrote that he would seek more information from the Philippines. Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2018 and had vowed that it would not cooperate with the ICC, but has allowed severely limited investigations into several dozen killings out of the thousands admitted by the government and the more than 30,000 claimed by human rights groups.

Those groups called on the ICC to get back to investigating Duterte: "We ask the ICC not to allow itself to be swayed by the claims now being made by the Duterte administration," said the National Union of People's Lawyers, which represents some victims' families. The national justice system is "extremely slow and unavailing to the majority of poor and unrepresented victims", the statement said. The Duterte government's claim that existing legal mechanisms could bring justice to Duterte's victims was "absurd," said Human Rights Watch. "Let's hope the ICC sees through the ruse that it is," said Brad Adam, HRW Asia director.

OR Has Another $270 Million for Drug Treatment Programs, Germany to Legalize Marijuana, More... (11/19/21)

Germany is moving to legalize marijuana, DC is moving to legalize marijuana sales, and more.

Employers are beginning to move away from drug testing workers and job applicants, a new survey finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

DC Council Holds Hearing on Legal Marijuana Sales Bill. The DC Council on Friday held its first public hearing on a bill to legalize the sale of marijuana in the District. Marijuana has been legal in the District since voters approved Initiative 71 in 2014, but not sales, which has instead emerged as a sort of gray market via the practice of "gifting" marijuana. There is widespread support for legalizing sales, from Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to members of the Council. That would require ending a six-year-old congressional prohibition on sales, which Democrats are already moving to repeal, but which may not happen this year. And then there's the possibility that Republicans can take back control of the House next year and reinstate the ban. But at the Council, the debate is now underway.

Drug Testing

Survey: Nearly One-in-Ten Employers Dropping Drug Testing Requirements to Attract Workers. A survey of some 45,000 employers in North America and Europe finds that about one out of 10 are dropping drug testing requirements as a way to attract new hires and keep current employees. Nine percent of those responding said they had "eliminated job screenings or drug tests" as a way to either attract or keep their employees. Sixty-nine percent of respondents acknowledged experiencing "difficulty" in filling staffing positions in the current job market, a 15-year high. The increasing number of states that have legalized marijuana is also having an impact, with Amazon dropping pre-employment marijuana testing in June, and a number of cities and states have enacted policies restricting testing for marijuana.

Drug Treatment

Oregon Set to Spend $270 Million on Drug Treatment Centers as Part of Decriminalization Law. The state Oversight and Accountability Council, created as part of the successful Measure 110 drug decriminalization initiative passed last November, is set to distribute $270 million to groups treating people addicted to drugs. The council has now opened the grant process for groups to seek a share of those funds, which come from legal marijuana tax revenues as mandated by Measure 110. Meanwhile, the council is continuing to craft rules for the new Behavioral Health Resource Networks to increase access to treatment and other services. "Our vision is that by funding BHRNs, there will be a collaboration of networks that include culturally and linguistically specific and responsive, trauma-informed and gender affirming care that will meet the needs of anyone seeking services who have been negatively affected by substance use and the war on drugs," said Oversight & Accountability Tri-chair LaKeesha Dumas.

International

German Coalition Parties Agree to Legalize Marijuana. The three parties set to form the country's next governing coalition have agreed to legalize marijuana and its sale. The Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats are prepared to "introduce the regulated sale of cannabis to adults for consumption purposes in licensed stores," according to the coalition's health group's findings paper. Legalization would ensure quality control, protect minors, and prevent the distribution of contaminated products, the paper said. It is not clear, however, whether home cultivation will be allowed.

Oregon Drug Decrim is Slashing Drug Arrests, Massively Funding Services [FEATURE]

In a groundbreaking move a year ago now, Oregon voters approved decriminalization for personal use amounts of all illicit drugs, with Measure 110 passing with a healthy 59 percent of the vote. That made the state the first in the US to make this dramatic break with decades of the war on drugs. Now, as other states pondering a similar move look for evidence to bolster their case, some of the initial results in Oregon are looking pretty impressive.

Oregon's Mt. Hood. (David Mark/Pixabay)
Measure 110 promised not only thousands fewer drug arrests, but also a turn from the punitive to the compassionate -- providing hundreds of millions of dollars for greatly expanded access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, without raising taxes to do so. Services would be funded through excess marijuana tax revenue (over $45 million) and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. State analysts estimated the excess marijuana tax revenue alone should result in over $100 million in funding for services in the first year and up to $129 million by 2027.

The state analysts were off the mark. Last week, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), whose legislative action arm, Drug Policy Action spearheaded the successful campaign, and the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, which is working to implement treatment, harm reduction, and support programs, announced they had secured funding of $302 million over the next two years. That's over $150 million a year, including $30 million lawmakers agreed to release ahead of schedule in May of this year.

That initial round of grants went to 70 organizations in 26 of the state's 36 counties, with these results:

  • 33 harm reduction and addiction recovery service providers expanded access to treatment services for indigent, uninsured individuals.
  • 52 organizations hired peer support specialists -- a role that addiction medicine experts have long heralded as essential to one's recovery journey.
  • 32 service providers added recovery, supportive and transitional housing services.
  • 30 organizations increased harm reduction services, which include life-saving interventions like overdose prevention; access to naloxone, methadone and buprenorphine; as well as drug education and outreach.

"We were about to have to close our doors in Wasco County, which would have been devastating to the people that depend on us for support there, but thanks to Measure 110 passing, we were not only able to get the funding we needed to stay open, but also to expand the services and spectrum of care we were able to provide our clients," said Monta Knudson, Executive Director of Bridges to Change, a nonprofit that offers peer recovery support, housing and treatment services in the state.

"Addiction has touched us all somehow, some more personally and heartbreakingly than others," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Too many of us have lost loved ones to addiction, or struggled with it ourselves. COVID-19 has made things much worse, decreasing access to care during a time when Oregonians need these services more than ever before. That's why we celebrate the great strides made when it comes to addressing Oregon's addiction crisis, while recognizing that there's still much work to be done. Our immediate focus is to ensure every Oregonian knows these critical harm reduction and recovery services are being invested in and expanded so that they will be available to anyone who wants and needs them, and that they can feel comfortable and safe accessing them."

But while the huge expansion of treatment, harm reduction, and related social services is undeniably a good thing, drug decriminalization is ultimately about getting people out of the criminal justice system by not getting them sucked into it in the first place. It's looking like Measure 110 is achieving that goal.

According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, there were roughly 9,000 drug arrests a year prior to passage of Measure 110, and while it is too early to have precise numbers, thousands of Oregonians who would have been arrested for drug possession this year have instead faced only their choice of a $100 fine or a health assessment. It won't be 9,000 fewer drug arrests, though, because some felony drug possession arrests (possession of more than the specified personal use amounts) have been downgraded to still arrestable misdemeanors. Still, it will be thousands fewer people subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system and all the negative consequences that brings.

"A year ago, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110 to remove criminal penalties for possession of drugs and expand access to health services. Now, because of this measure, there are thousands of people in Oregon that will never have to experience the devastating life-long barriers of having a drug arrest on their record, which disproportionately and unjustly affected Black and Indigenous people due to targeted policing," said DPA Executive Director Kassandra Frederique. "Because of this measure, there is more than $300 million in funding that did not exist before being funneled into community organizations to provide adequate and culturally competent care that people desperately need. And while the devastation of 50 years of cruel and counterproductive policies can’t be erased overnight, by all metrics we hoped to achieve, and what voters asked for, we are going down the right path."

A number of states -- including Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland and Kansas -- the District of Columbia, and even the United States Congress have introduced bills or launched campaigns to similarly remove criminal penalties for drug possession and increase access to health services since the passage of Measure 110. These initial results should provide plenty of ammunition for advancing those campaigns.

Capitol Hill Democrats Divided on Marijuana Reform Progress, Administration Releases Model Naloxone Legislation, More... (11/18/21)

South Dakota lawmakers are ready to take up marijuana legalization in the next session, the drug czar suggests the pandemic-related easing of methadone restictions could be made permanent, and more.

Drug czar Dr. Rahul Gupta is pushing harm reduction and is considering loosening methadone restrictions. (March of Dimes)
Marijuana Policy

Democratic Divisions Threaten Progress on Federal Marijuana Reforms. Democrats on Capitol Hill are finding it difficult to push forward with marijuana law reforms as they split on whether to pass a bipartisan bill to provide state-legal marijuana firms access to banking services or instead push a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill. Backers of the banking bill have tried to move it by attaching it to a must-pass defense spending bill, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is proving a roadblock. He is instead siding with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) as a cosponsor a marijuana legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

The Senate trio and their supporters argue that passing the banking bill first would make passing their broader bill more difficult. "To me, it wouldn't be a win," Booker said Tuesday. "It would be a setback for expunging the records of all of the people who are waiting for some kind of justice. And unfortunately, if you do that, the pressure won't be there to get it done." Those prioritizing the banking bill "are doing a big disservice to our ability to get restorative justice principles passed, and it's really unfortunate they can't see the urgency for the millions of Americans who are carrying criminal charges for nonviolent drug offenses involving marijuana and have had their lives destroyed because of a war on marijuana that has disproportionately impacted people of color." But supporters of the banking bill, the SAFE Banking Act, say it has bipartisan support that legalization lacks and the time has come for Congress to chipping away at pot prohibition.

South Dakota Top Lawmakers Officially Recommend Marijuana Legalization Bill for 2022 Session. The legislature's Executive Board, led by the House speaker and the Senate president pro tempore, has unanimously approved a report from the Marijuana Interim Study Committee recommending that the legislature take up a bill to legalize marijuana during the 2022 session. Meanwhile, activists who ushered a marijuana legalization initiative to victory last year only to see it blocked in court (the state Supreme Court has yet to decide the case) are pushing to put another legalization initiative on the ballot next year, too. As drafted, the current version of the legislation approved in committee and by the executive board would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis. The state Department of Revenue would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing marijuana business licenses. It does not include the right to grow your own.

Harm Reduction

Biden Administration Releases Model Naloxone Legislation. The administration on Wednesday released model legislation to help states improve access to naloxone treatment for opioid overdoses. The move comes as the nation recorded a record-high 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a one-year period ending in May. The model bill encourages people to obtain naloxone, protects them from prosecution when administering it, requires health insurance to cover it, and provides increased access to it in schools and correctional facilities. "This model law can help all states implement consistent, evidence-based policies to make naloxone always accessible to those who need it," said Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Dr. Rahul Gupta. "We certainly hope that state leaders will carefully consider this model law, which can help save lives."

Drug Czar Wants to Expand Use of Addiction Medication. Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Wednesday that the Biden administration is now considering making permanent the easing of restrictions on methadone that has occurred during the coronavirus pandemic. Patients must go to a clinic to have methadone administered but were allowed to take a supply home with them during the pandemic, and Gupta suggested that change could be here to stay. "Adoption of these services did increase access to opioid and substance use disorder treatment," Gupta said, so making the changes permanent is "under consideration and we remain pretty hopeful about it."

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Pennsylvania trooper's heroin habit gets him in trouble, a Georgia cop's protection of her drug-dealing boyfriend gets her in trouble, and more. Let's get to it:

In Los Angeles, a Los Angeles County sheriff's jail guard was arrested last Monday for trying to smuggle meth into the Men's Central Jail. The unnamed guard was caught with more than 100 grams of meth inside his vehicle parked in the jail's parking structure. He is charged with one felony count each of transportation of a controlled substance and attempted bringing of an illegal substance into a jail.

In Bridgeport, West Virginia, a Randolph County jail guard was arrested last Tuesday for smuggling drugs into the jail for an inmate. Guard Homer Howell, 39, allegedly took drugs and cell phones to the jail when returning from breaks in exchange for money from an inmate's parent. He allegedly made $8,000 to $10,000 for multiple deliveries. He is charged with delivering a controlled substance to a correctional facility.

In Atlanta, a former South Fulton police officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly tampering with evidence in a drug investigation in which her boyfriend was targeted. Former Officer Aliyah Jackson went down after police stopped her boyfriend and found a gun in the car he was driving. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. But police learned the vehicle was owned by Jackson, and as part of the investigation, Jackson was charging with evidence tampering for allegedly concealing information about the boyfriend.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a state trooper was arrested last Friday for stealing heroin from a police barracks for his own use. Corporal Brian Rickard went down after being found in possession of heroin he had taken from the evidence room. He allegedly used heroin both at home and on the job. He tried to cover up the thefts by altering records on work computers. He is charged with obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function, forgery, tampering with records or identification, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, theft by unlawful taking, criminal use of a communication facility, unlawful use of a computer, obtaining possession of controlled substance by misrepresentation or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippians will have to wait even longer for their medical marijuana, Coloradans will face some restrictions on medical marijuana purchases, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Announces New, Stricter Medical Marijuana Rules. As of January 1, the rules for purchasing medical marijuana will be tightened. Among the changes: daily purchases of marijuana flower will be limited to two ounces and eight grams of concentrates, such as wax or shatter. For patient between ages 18 and 20, the limit will drop to two grams per day. The current purchase limit for concentrates is 40 grams per day. To enforce the daily limits, dispensaries will be required to input patient ID numbers on patients' medical marijuana cards. The rule changes come after the legislature passed a bill largely driven about concerns about young people using high-potency marijuana concentrates.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Bills Would Legalize Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana. Lawmakers in both houses have filed companion bills to legalize health insurance coverage for medical marijuana products and clinical visits. State Sens. Julian Cyr (D-Truro)and Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) filed S. 649 in the Senate, while state Rep. David LeBoeuf(D-Worcester) filed the companion legislation in the House. They said that the uninsured cost of medical marijuana makes it too expensive for some patients. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I drug federally, the state does not currently allow insurers to pay for medical marijuana. The bills got a hearing Tuesday in the Joint Finance Committee with several patients testifying that if medical marijuana were more affordable, they could switch from pharmaceuticals drugs to it.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Will Not Call Special Session on Medical Marijuana. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will not call a special session of the legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill after all. Reeves had earlier signaled he was open to a special session to deal with the issue, but more recently indicated he wanted tighter limits on the quantities of marijuana patients could access and limits on the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products. On November 1, he said getting the medical marijuana program "done right is more important than getting it done quick." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana in the 2020 elections, but the state Supreme Court overturned the initiative results, ruling that the initiative process was outdated and unworkable. Lawmakers then filed medical marijuana legislation and urged Reeves to call a special session to handle it. Now, though, the issue will be postponed until the legislature meets again in January.

Drug ODs Top 100,000 in One Year, GOP Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed, More... (11/17/21)

A Czech marijuana magazine editor gets convicted of promoting "toxicomania," the DEA has to return money it stole from Americans in two separate cases, New Yorkers rally for sentencing reform, and more.

Another bumper crop of Afghan opium this year. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

GOP House Member Files Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced the States Reform Act, which would legalize marijuana at the federal level. It would do so by removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, leaving it up to the states to set their own marijuana policies. The bill would also set a 3 percent federal excise tax and release and expunge the records of those convicted of federal marijuana offenses. Mace said her bill represented a compromise that could gain support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Wisconsin Bipartisan Bill Would Lighten (Most) Marijuana Penalties. Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) have filed a bill that would lessen penalties for marijuana possession in most of the state, but increase fines in some of the state's largest cities, including Madison and Milwaukee, where the fine for pot possession is $1 in the former and $0 in the latter. Under current state law, pot possession is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Under the new bill, the maximum penalty would be a $100 fine with no possibility of jail time. Marijuana reforms have so far gone nowhere in the Republican dominated legislature, which has refused to pass even medical marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

DEA Forced to Return $100,000 Stolen from Two Victims. Twice in the past week, the DEA has been forced to return money it seized from travelers as they tried to board flights at domestic airports. Although it is not illegal to carry large sums of cash, in both cases, the DEA decided the cash had to have been illegally obtained and seized it. In one case, New Orleans resident Kermit Warren had $30,000 he was carrying to buy a tow truck seized by agents in Cincinnati. Only afte Warren's lawyers presented corroborating evidence to prosecutors back down, agree to return his seized money, and dismiss the case "with prejudice," being they cannot go after the money later. In the second case, with the same elements -- a US airport, a domestic flight, the presence of cash, and unsubstantiated claims about drug trafficking -- the DEA seized $69,000 from New York filmmaker Kedding Etienne. But Etienne, too, fought back and prevailed, but only after rejecting an offer to drop the case after the DEA skimmed 10% off the top.

Harm Reduction

US Overdose Deaths Topped 100,000 in One Year, CDC Says. An estimated 100,300 Americans died of drug overdoses in the period from May 2020 to April 2021, the highest one-year death toll ever, according to provisional estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's a jump of 30 percent over the previous year. Experts point to the prevalence of fentanyl in the unregulated drug supply and the social isolation of the coronavirus pandemic as major drivers of the increasing toll. "This is unacceptable and it requites an unprecedented response," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). Fentanyl was implicated in nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths, other opioids in about 12 percent, and non-opioid drugs were implicated in about a quarter of the deaths.

Sentencing

New York Activists Rally for Sentencing Reforms. Activists rallied all across the state on Wednesday to demand sentencing reforms under the rubric Communities Not Cages. Arguing that current laws are unfair and disproportionately target communities of color. The campaign is also calling for the passage of a trio of reform bills, the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act, the Second Look Act, and the Earned Time Act. The first would eliminate mandatory minimums and the state's three-strikes law, the second would allow imprisoned people to seek resentencing after serving either half of their sentence or 10 years, and the third would increase "good time" laws to allow prisoners to earn more time off their sentences.

International

Afghanistan's Opium Production Continues to Rise, UN Report Says. Even as the country's Western-backed government was crumbling in the face of a Taliban advance this past summer, Afghan opium production was on the increase, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday. The 2021 harvest was some 6,800 tons of opium, up 8 percent over 2020. That generated between $1.8 and $2.7 billion for the Afghan economy, but "much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan," it added. The Taliban has threatened to ban the crop, but faces the reality that opium -- which accounts for 10 percent of the national economy -- is a mainstay for thousands of families. "There is no work, all the families are in debt, and everyone's hope is opium," farmer Mohammad Wali explained.

Czech Marijuana Magazine Editor Convicting of Promoting "Toxicomania." Robert Veverka, the editor of the magazine Legalizace, and the magazine itself have been convicted in a district court in the town of Bruntal of inciting and promoting "toxicomania." Veverka was sentenced to 2 ½ years of probation, with a one-year jail sentence hanging over his head. Judge Marek Stach conceded that the magazine provided comprehensive information and expert opinion, as well as insight into medical marijuana, but ruled that some articles could "incite" readers to acquire the means to grow marijuana themselves.

IN Democrats Call for Marijuana Legalization, PA ACLU Opposes Parental Drug Screening Bill, More... (11/15/21)

Renewed clashes between prison gangs linked to rival drug cartels left at least 68 more dead over the weekend, an Oklahoma marijuana legalization initiative gets hit with a nuisance lawsuit, and more.

The Pennsylvania ACLU says a proposed parental drug screening bill is unconstitutional. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Indiana Democratic Party Calls for Marijuana Legalization. The Indiana Democratic Party, has announced its full support for marijuana legalization and called on the General Assembly to get the job done. They also called on Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) to rescind his opposition to legalization. Bills to legalize marijuana have so far gone nowhere in the GOP-dominated legislature, but the Democrats said legalization "would provide the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the state, create good-paying jobs, develop a long-term cash crop for Indiana's ag and business communities, provide medicinal opportunities for people like the state's veterans and seniors, and could start the process of expunging records for simple possession across the state."

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hit with Legal Challenge. A marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is being challenged in court by an incarcerated person, Paul Tay. Tay's lawsuit raises numerous claims about the constitutionality of the initiative, including challenging the validity of signatures gathered in Indian County. "We believe that we have a really strong case," ORCA Director Jed Green said. "[The man filing this challenge] wants attention… this is the second time that he's done this." Green called the lawsuit "a shotgun challenge," going after multiple points and seeing if any of them stick. Green says the challenge is what he calls a shotgun challenge, going after multiple points and seeing if any of them stick. "We don't believe that a lot of it is really pertinent," he said. There will be a hearing on the challenge on December 14.

Drug Testing

Pennsylvania ACLU Opposes Bill to Compel Parental Drug Screening in Abuse and Neglect Cases. The ACLU of Pennsylvania has come out against HB 1737, which would allow county children and youth services (CYS) agencies to obtain court orders to compel parents to undergo drug and alcohol testing during child welfare investigations if there is evidence that impairment due to drug or alcohol use is a contributing cause of alleged abuse or neglect. "Because drug testing is considered a search, both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions require the government to show that it has probable cause before it can compel an individual to undergo a drug test," the group said. "HB 1737 would permit unconstitutional intrusions on parents' privacy rights because it does not contain a requirement that a CYS agency have probable cause to believe that an act of child abuse or neglect has occurred and that drug testing the parent will reveal evidence relating to such abuse." The bill passed the House last week.

International

Ecuador Prison Clash Leaves at Least 68 Dead. In the latest outbreak of fighting among prison gangs linked to international drug trafficking groups, at least 68 prisoners were killed in an hours-long gun battle Saturday inside the Litoral Penitentiary, the country's largest prison. This is the second major outbreak of violence at Litoral in less than two months. In September, 119 prisoners were killed in gang-related clashes there. Another 79 prisoners were killed in clashes last February. So far this year, more than 300 prisoners have died in the violence. The prison violence comes amid a national state of emergency decreed by President Guillermo Lasso in October that empowers security forces to fight drug trafficking and other crimes. The country's prisons hold some 40,000 inmates, including 15,000 jailed awaiting trial, and are filled way above capacity.

CO Announces Stricter MedMJ Rules, German Coalition Nearing Marijuana Legalization Deal, More... (11/12/21)

A New Jersey judge's ruling keeps an Atlantic City needle exchange program alive (for now), the Scottish government is trying to find a way to open a safe injection site in Glasgow, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado tightens its medical marijuana rules, mainly around concerns about youth, dabs, and wax. (Creative Commons)
Colorado Announces New, Stricter Medical Marijuana Rules. As of January 1, the rules for purchasing medical marijuana will be tightened. Among the changes: daily purchases of marijuana flower will be limited to two ounces and eight grams of concentrates, such as wax or shatter. For patient between ages 18 and 20, the limit will drop to two grams per day. The current purchase limit for concentrates is 40 grams per day. To enforce the daily limits, dispensaries will be required to input patient ID numbers on patients' medical marijuana cards. The rule changes come after the legislature passed a bill largely driven about concerns about young people using high-potency marijuana concentrates.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Judge Rules to Keep Atlantic City Needle Exchange Open -- At Least for Now. Judge Michael Blee of the Atlantic County Superior Court on Friday continued the restraints against Atlantic City enforcement of Ordinance 32 (which would terminate the city's syringe access services operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance) until further order of the court. Judge Blee also ordered Atlantic City to provide the New Jersey Commissioner of Health with formal written notice of the adoption of Ordinance 32, together with pertinent documents from the litigation. He intends to issue a written opinion on the duration of the restraints no later than December 3.

"Syringe access is health care, period. Every day that the clients of South Jersey AIDS Alliance have access to lifesaving health care service is a day worth celebrating, and we're thrilled that our syringe services will continue operation for the time-being," said Carol Harney, Chief Executive Officer of South Jersey AIDS Alliance. "Our job is to show up for people living with HIV and living with a substance use disorder with the best public health tools we have, and there is no denying that syringe access is an essential service for Atlantic City residents."

International

Germany's Next Coalition Nears Deal on Legalizing Marijuana. The parties likely to form the next governing coalition -- the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats -- are close to a deal on legalizing marijuana. The parties are hammering out details, including rules for the use and sale of marijuana. But it's not a done deal yet, and the outcome could still change. Spokespeople for the three parties declined to comment on the negotiations. The effort comes as public support for marijuana legalization has hit 49 percent with 46 percent opposed -- the first time those in favor polled higher than those opposed.

Scottish Government Working on New Plan for Safe Injection Site in Glasgow. The Scottish government is "actively exploring" ways to open a safe injection site in Glasgow, Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said Thursday. There are legal and political barriers to overcome. The comment comes after the current Lord Advocate said last week that even though a previous Lord Advocate had ruled in 2017 that such facilities violated the Misuse of Drugs Act, the issue "could be looked at again." But the notion still faces opposition from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and it is the British government that determines drug policy for the union. Some 1,339 people died of drug overdoses last year in Scotland, the seventh year in a row of rising overdose deaths.

Three Senate Dems Seek Pardons for Nonviolent Marijuana Prisoners, MS MedMJ Will Have to Wait, More... (11/11/21)

Massachusetts legislation would legalize health insurance coverage for medical marijuana, federal lawmakers seek language in Justice spending bill to protect legal marijuana states, and more.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will not call a special session to pass medical marijuana. (nga.org)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Request Broad Marijuana Protections for States and Territories in Justice Department Spending Legislation. A bipartisan group of legislators has sent a letter to House leaders asking them include broad protections for states and territories that have legalized marijuana. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) signed the letter. They ask the leadership to ensure that language is included that bars the use of Justice Department funds "to prosecute those who are in compliance with their state-legal or tribal-legal adult-use marijuana laws." They are asking that the following specific language be included in the Justice funding bill: "None of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana."

Three Senate Democrats Call on Biden to Pardon all Nonviolent Federal Marijuana Offenders. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to exercise his authority to issue a blanket pardon to all nonviolent marijuana offenders. "Our country's cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now," the trio wrote. Biden has yet to embrace marijuana legalization, but he has come out for decriminalization and during a November 2019 debate said "anyone who has a record should be let out jail, their records expunged."

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Bills Would Legalize Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana. Lawmakers in both houses have filed companion bills to legalize health insurance coverage for medical marijuana products and clinical visits. State Sens. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) filed S. 649 in the Senate, while state Rep. David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester) filed the companion legislation in the House. They said that the uninsured cost of medical marijuana makes it too expensive for some patients. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I drug federally, the state does not currently allow insurers to pay for medical marijuana. The bills got a hearing Tuesday in the Joint Finance Committee with several patients testifying that if medical marijuana were more affordable, they could switch from pharmaceuticals drugs to it.

Mississippi Governor Will Not Call Special Session on Medical Marijuana. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will not call a special session of the legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill after all. Reeves had earlier signaled he was open to a special session to deal with the issue, but more recently indicated he wanted tighter limits on the quantities of marijuana patients could access and limits on the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products. On November 1, he said getting the medical marijuana program "done right is more important than getting it done quick." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana in the 2020 elections, but the state Supreme Court overturned the initiative results, ruling that the initiative process was outdated and unworkable. Lawmakers then filed medical marijuana legislation and urged Reeves to call a special session to handle it. Now, though, the issue will be postponed until the legislature meets again in January.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The Detroit dope squad gets a house cleaning, a San Francisco police sergeant has a bad habit, and more. Let's get to it:

In Detroit, the Detroit police on Tuesday concluded a two-year internal probe into a crooked dope squad. Detroit Police Chief James White said Tuesday that a two-year internal affairs probe into corruption in the departments drug unit known as the Operation Clean Sweep Taskforce has ended and "we're confident we rooted out the problem." The probe found numerous examples of misconduct, including overtime fraud, forgery, false affidavits, and perjury, leading 12 members of the Narcotics Squad to leave the department under investigation. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is still evaluating whether to bring criminal charges against any squad members.

In San Francisco, a San Francisco police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly robbing a Rite-Aid pharmacy of prescription opioids at gunpoint. Police Sgt. Davin Cole is now on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation. His attorney says he suffers from an opioid addiction "that has ravaged his life." He is charged with robbery in the second degree and resisting arrest for the robbery.

In Minneapolis, a former Minneapolis police officer was convicted last Wednesday of stealing drugs and violating people's civil rights through illegal searches and seizures. Ty Raymond Jindra procured drugs by "not reporting, logging, placing into evidence, or informing his partner or other officers on scene about the controlled substances that he had confiscated," prosecutors told the jury. Drugs he obtained included meth, fentanyl, and oxycodone. Jindra also conducted searches without evidence or warrant, violating the subjects' civil right. He was convicted ofthree counts of acquiring a controlled substance by deception, and two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and is looking at up to 14 years in prison.

OK Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million J&J Opioid Settlement, Detroit Dope Squad Probe Ends More... (11/10/21)

Civil rights groups ask for expanded clemency options for federal prisones sent home during the pandemic emergency, an Ohio bill would greatly expand the state's medical marijuana program, and more.

Medical Marijuana

OH Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana for Any Patient Who Can "Reasonably Be Expected to Benefit" from It. State Sen. Stephen Huffman (R) has filed a bill that would expand qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use to include arthritis, migraines, autism spectrum disorder, spasticity or chronic muscle spasms, hospice care, opioid use disorder, and the open-ended any condition from which a patient could benefit or obtain relief. The measure is Senate Bill 261, and it would also allow curbside pickup and drive-through dispensing, as has been allowed during the coronavirus epidemic. But wait, there's more: The bill would also expand the number of dispensaries to one for every thousand registered patients, up to the first 300,000 patients. After that, additional dispensaries would be added on an as-needed basis. The bill would also triple the maximum size of medical marijuana cultivation sites from 25,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet for large growers and allow small-scale growers to grow up to 20,000 square feet, up from the current 3,000. Huffman said he expects his bill to be sent to the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, with a hearing next week.

Opioids

Oklahoma Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million Opioid Ruling Against Johnson & Johnson. In a setback for those seeking to hold pharmaceutical manufactures accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a 2019 lower court ruling that found Johnson & Johnson liable and ordered it to pay $465 million. That is the second time this month that a court has reversed decisions requiring drug companies to pay for their role in the opioid crisis. A California judge ruled similarly on November 1. In Tuesday's case, the high court rejected the state's contention that the company violated "public nuisance laws," and the two decisions together invalidate a key legal strategy used by plaintiffs in thousands of cases attempting to hold the drug companies responsible. But "public nuisance" laws vary from state to state, so it is not clear how much impact these decisions will have in other states. The state had argued that J & J created a "public nuisance" by aggressively overstating the benefits and downplaying the dangers of their prescription opioids.

Law Enforcement

Detroit Police Conclude Two-Year Probe into Crooked Dope Squad. Detroit Police Chief James White said Tuesday that a two-year internal affairs probe into corruption in the departments drug unit known as the Operation Clean Sweep Taskforce has ended and "we're confident we rooted out the problem." The probe found numerous examples of misconduct, including overtime fraud, forgery, false affidavits, and perjury, leading 12 members of the Narcotics Squad to leave the department under investigation. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is still evaluating whether to bring criminal charges against any squad members.

Sentencing

Civil Rights Groups Ask White House to Expand Pandemic Clemency. Some 29 civil rights and civil liberties groups have coalesced to ask the White House to broaden a plan to grant clemency to inmates released to home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic. They say the current policy wrongfully excludes people convicted of non-drug-related crimes and people serving long sentences. Some 4,800 federal prisoners were released early because of the pandemic but face a return to prison once the emergency ends if no clemency is granted. The attorney general is on board: "It would be a terrible policy to return these people to prison," Merrick Garland told lawmakers last month, but his Justice Department says it lacks the legal authority to let the prisoners stay at home. The Biden administration is only allowing released inmates to seek clemency if they are low-level non-violent drug offenders with less than four years to serve.

HUD to Continue Evicting Residents for Marijuana Use, Singapore Drug Execution Delayed, More... (11/9/21)

Another poll has a solid national majority for marijuana legalization, an Ohio judge gets punished for jailing a court spectator for refusing a drug test, and more.

You still can't do this in public housing--even in states where marijuana is legal. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rasmussen Poll Has Solid Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Rasmussen poll has support for marijuana legalization at 62 percent, with only 23 percent opposed. The poll comes just days after a Gallup poll reported support for marijuana legalization holding steady at 68 percent. Even 54 percent of Republicans support legalization, along with 68 percent of Democrats and 62 percent among independents. When respondents were asked if legalization should be done at the local, state, or federal level, 47 percent said the federal government should be in charge, 32 favored the states, and 11 percent wanted local action.

Infrastructure Bill Includes Provision Allowing Research with Marijuana from Pot Shops. The massive infrastructure spending bill approved by the House last Friday includes a provision that will eventually allow researchers access to the marijuana actually being consumed by users instead of relying only on government-grown marijuana from its farm in Mississippi. That provision will require the transportation secretary to work with the attorney general and the secretary of Health and Human Services to create a report within two years with recommendations on allowing scientists access to storefront marijuana to study impaired driving.

Federal Housing Authority to Continue Taking Punitive Actions Against Marijuana Consumers. In response to a request for clarification from to Rep. Elizabeth Holmes-Norton (D-DC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has reaffirmed its longstanding policy of banning marijuana users from federally-subsidized housing, even in states where it is legal. In a letter to Holmes-Norton, the agency says that it will continue to enforce policies that involve the "termination of the tenancy of any household" in instances where a tenant is found to have engaged in the use of a controlled substance while on the premises — "including [the use of] state legalized medical marijuana." Because marijuana remains classified under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance, "HUD prohibits the admission of users of marijuana to HUD assisted housing, including those who use medical marijuana," the letter reads.

South Dakota Activists Miss Initiative Signature Deadline but Look to Federal Court Decision for More Time. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced Sunday that they would not turn in signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative by a Monday deadline, but are hoping that a federal court ruling will give them until next May to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. In August, the federal district court in the state ruled that the state's election law requiring signatures be handed in a year before the election was unconstitutional, pushing the deadline to the May before the election and enjoined officials from enforcing that provision. The administration of Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is appealing the decision, but the activists argue that "the May 3 deadline is the law in South Dakota and we feel confident that we can rely on that extension." Voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020, but it has been blocked by lower courts and a final decision is still pending at the state Supreme Court.

Drug Testing

Ohio Judge Suspended for Jailing Spectator over Drug Test Refusal. The state Supreme Court has suspended a Seneca County judge for a year without pay for ordering a courtroom spectator to undergo a drug test and then holding that person in contempt and jailing her for refusing to do so. In the unanimous opinion, the court held that Judge Mark Repp violated rules of professional conduct for judges in the state, including a failure to perform all his judicial duties fairly and impartially. The woman, who was the girlfriend of the defendant before the court "suffered great personal indignities and emotional distress as the result of the security and medical screenings she had to endure during her incarceration, on top of the anxiety regarding the care and well-being of her two young children." The boyfriend was a drug court participant, and the Supreme Court held tat Repp's behavior toward him and his girlfriend was "undignified, improper, and discourteous."

International

Malaysia Okays Use of Medical Marijuana. Heath Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has formally acknowledged that marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes. The acknowledgement came in response to a question from parliament. Jamaluddin said the medicinal use of marijuana complies with Malaysian drug laws, but that imports and the wholesale trade must be licensed. Medical marijuana should be sold by a registered medical practitioner or pharmacist. "Therefore, if there are parties who have sufficient scientific evidence to use cannabis (hemp) for any medicinal purpose by taking into account the aspects of quality, safety and effectiveness, then the application to register cannabis products for medicinal purposes can be submitted to DCA [Drug Control Authority]] to be evaluated and registered under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulation 1984 in order to be marketed in Malaysia," Khairy said in a written reply to the enquiry.

Singapore Delays Appeal Hearing on Man Set to Be Executed for 1.5 Ounces of Heroin. The nation's top court has postponed an appeal hearing for Malaysian national Nagenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was sentenced to death for trying to smuggle 1.5 grams of heroin into the country. Dharmalingam, who his attorneys say is intellectually disabled, was set to be executed Monday, but was delayed amidst an international campaign by human rights groups when the high court accepted an appeal. The hearing was originally set for Tuesday, with Dharmalingam set to be executed Wednesday if he lost on appeal. The appeals court noted that Dharmalingam had tested positive for COVID-19 and sent him away from the courtroom Tuesday, saying, "We have to issue a stay of the execution until all proceedings are concluded. That is the proper order of things."

GOP Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming, Mexico Blames US Guns for Bolstering Cartels, More... (11/8/21)

A Malaysian man set to be hanged in Singapore over 43 grams of heroin has won a temporary reprieve, our supply chain woes include 72,000 truckers felled by drug testing, and more.

Drug testing---especially for marijuana--is costing the economy tens of thousands fo truck drivers. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Republican Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming. US Rep. Nancy Mace (R-NC) has drafted a "compromise" marijuana legalization bill that aims for a happy middle between merely rescheduling marijuana, as proposed by some other Republican lawmakers, and the comprehensive bill that Democrats are championing. The proposed bill, known as the States Reform Act, now in preliminary draft form, would deschedule marijuana, impose a 3.75 percent excise tax on weed sales, limit the FDAs regulatory authority to medical marijuana, make the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau the lead regulatory agency, and make certain marijuana convictions expungable. The bill has dim prospects in the current Democratically-controlled Congress, but could open the way for similar legislation if Republicans take control after next year's elections.

Drug Testing

Supply Chain Woes Include 72,000 Truckers Taken Off the Road by Failed Drug Tests, Mostly for Marijuana. The American Trucking Association says the industry has a driver shortfall of 80,000, which is contributing to the economy's supply chain woes, but at the same time, some 72,000 truckers have been forced off the roads in the past two years by tough federal drug testing restrictions. The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, a registry designed to increase safety on the highways, went into effect in January 2020. "It’s a staggering number of drivers we have lost" because of the new drug-testing rules, said Jeremy Reymer, chief executive of industry recruiter DriverReach. The majority (56 percent were sidelined because of testing positive for marijuana. "There needs to be the ability to test for real-time impairment and not just recent or long-term past use of marijuana," said Scott Duvall, director of safety and compliance for TransForce Group, which runs truck driving schools and rents out drivers.

Foreign Policy

Mexico Calls on US Government, Courts for Help Stemming Flow of American Guns to Drug Cartels. Mexican officials say illegal guns are flowing into the country from the US and are contributing to rising homicide rates and empowering the drug cartels responsible for most of the killings. "We estimate that half a million weapons are trafficked from the U.S. to Mexico every year. The problem is that all this weaponry is getting to the criminal organizations, giving them very strong firepower to commit all kinds of crimes," said Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon, Mexico’s consul general in El Paso. The Mexican government has now filed a lawsuit to try to block the flow. We have never meddled with the Second Amendment. This is not against the rights of the people of the United States to buy and own a gun," Ibarra said. "We (sued) gun manufacturers and distributors we believe are engaging in negligent commercial practices because they know the weaponry they produce is being trafficked to Mexico and is being used in criminal activity."

International

Singapore Temporarily Halts Execution of Malaysian Man Over 1 ½ Ounces of Heroin. Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran K.Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for smuggling 43 grams of heroin into the country, has won at least a temporary reprieve an international human rights campaign to spare the man, who supporters say is intellectually disabled. The execution is now halted until the constitutional appeal is heard on Tuesday, alongside a separate appeal for psychiatrists to assess Dharmalingam. If both appeals are unsuccessful, he will be hanged as scheduled on Wednesday.

Another AR Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed, Furor Over Looming Singapore Drug Execution, More... (11/5/21)

Critics chide the new drug czar over his perfomance in West Virginia, a third marijuana legalization initiative has been filed in Arkansas, and more. 

Peru's coca crop is increasing, and much of it has to do with the pandemic. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Third Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. And then there were three. Veteran activist Melissa Fults on Friday filed the Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment, the third marijuana legalization initiative filed in the state so far this year. The initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which means it faces higher signature-gathering requirements than the other two initiatives, which are statutory initiatives. Constitutional amendments require 89,151 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but statutory initiatives require only 71,321. In either case, signatures must be handed in by early July 2022. The Fults initiative would increase the number of dispensaries to one for every 15,000 residents up to a maximum of 200 and would also allow the home cultivation of up to six plants. The amendment also envisions a tax on recreational marijuana sales, with proceeds going to support education and the state's general fund. Other initiatives already filed are the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Amendment and an initiative sponsored by Arkansas True Grass.

Drug Policy

Critics Question New Drug Czar's Commitment to Harm Reduction. The Biden administration is now on record as supporting harm reduction policies, but some critics of his pick to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office), Dr. Rahul Gupta, are expressing concern over his commitment to harm reduction, especially around his role in shutting down West Virginia's largest needle exchange program. As then-director of the state's Bureau of Public Health and faced with harsh local political opposition to needle exchanges, Gupta ordered an audit of the Charleston needle exchange program and called for it to be suspended because it didn’t require participants to first seek treatment for drug use before accessing clean syringes. That stance flouted Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that support lowering barriers to access and guidelines set up by his own office. Since then, the state has moved toward eliminating all harm reduction services. Dr Robin Pollini, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, and six other harm reduction experts nationwide wrote letters speaking out against Gupta’s findings saying his central criticism – that treatment options weren’t being prioritized above syringe access – showed he missed the point of harm reduction entirely. "The report was arbitrary in faulting the program for not adhering to practices that were not even required by the state certification guidelines” – guidelines written by Gupta’s own office." Pollini said in a recent interview. Gupta's audit legacy includes a new state law that makes it illegal for harm reduction programs in the state to follow CDC guidelines. Since that law passed, three more counties have shut down their needle exchange programs.

International

Peru Coca Cultivation is Rising; Three Reasons Why. While the White House and Peruvian authorities disagree over how much coca is being produced in the country, there is little disagreement that coca cultivation is increasing and Insight Crime has produced an analysis citing three reasons why: The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns led the government to suspend eradication efforts and reduced the ability of the National Police to enforce coca cultivation laws, the balloon effect (when crops are suppressed in one area, they pop up in another), and people who lost jobs because of the pandemic headed back to the countryside, where sowing coca or working as laborers on coca farms are some of the only economically viable activities.

Singapore Set to Execute Malaysian Man Over 1 ½ Ounces of Heroin. Singapore is set to hang Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran K.Dharmalingam for smuggling 43 grams of heroin into the country, but human rights and legal groups are calling for the execution to be halted because the man has an IQ of only 69, indicating severe disability. A hearing is set for Monday where supporters will argue that executing a mentally disabled person violated the country's constitution. Nagaenthran's lawyer aid he "could possibly have a mental age below 18," and that that disability doesn't allow him to understand deterrence. "Therefore, we contend that the execution is irrational and a capricious act of the state." The Malaysian Bar and other legal groups submitted appeals to commute his sentence this week, and demonstrations have broken out in front of the Malaysian Parliament demanding the government intervene. The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch echoed calls to save Nagaenthran, saying the execution of a disabled person violates international laws and won’t deter crime. "Singapore should commute Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s sentence and amend its laws to ensure that no one is subjected to the death penalty, certainly not people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities,” Human Rights Watch said.

New Gallup Poll Shows Continuing Strong Support for Pot Legalization, Mexico Michoacan Massacre, More... (11/4/21)

A Congressional Research Service report shows easy off-ramp for federal pot prohibition, a new Gallup poll shows marijuana legalization retains strong majority support, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Sees Continuing Strong Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Gallup poll released Thursday has marijuana legalization maintaining record-high levels of support with 68 percent of respondents in favor—the same percentage as when Gallup last polled in November 2020. Only 32 percent favored continuing marijuana prohibition, giving legalization two-to-one support. "As was the case in 2020, solid majorities of U.S. adults in all major subgroups by gender, age, income and education support legalizing marijuana," Gallup said. "Substantive differences are seen, however, by political party and religion." Support for legalization was highest among Democrats (83 percent), followed by independents (71 percent) and Republicans (50 percent).

Congressional Research Service Report Provides Pathway for Presidential Administration to Deschedule Marijuana. A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) outlines pathways for the Biden (or any other) administration to unilaterally end marijuana prohibition and issue a general amnesty for federal marijuana crimes by acting administratively to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). "The President could pursue the appointment of agency officials who favor descheduling, or use executive orders to direct DEA, HHS, and FDA toconsider administrative descheduling of marijuana," the CRS report advised. "The notice-and-comment rulemaking process would take time, and would be subject to judicial review if challenged, but could be done consistently with the CSA’s procedural requirements.The Biden administration has officials in place who are sympathetic to legalization, but the president himself has no sign of going further than decriminalization, not legalization.

Ohio Towns Split on Marijuana Reform Ballot Measures. More than a dozen Ohio cities had marijuana reform measures on the ballot Tuesday and seven of them voted to approve local measures to decriminalize marijuana. Before Tuesday, 22 cities and counties across the state had adopted similar marijuana reform measures. The most common initiative language was "shall [jurisdiction] adopt the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by State Law?" Voters in Martins FerryMurray CityNew LexingtonNewStraitsville, RaylandTiltonsville and Yorkville approved the decriminalization proposals, while voters in BrooksideDillonvaleLaurelvilleMcArthurMorristownMount Pleasant and Powhatan Point rejected the reform measures.

International

Mexico's Michoacan Sees New Massacre, 11 Killed Near Tarecuato. Michoacan state prosecutors announced late Monday that police had found the bullet-riddled bodies of five men and six boys near the town of Tarecuato in the north of the state near the border with the state of Jalisco. The area has been a hotbed of bloody conflict between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and local criminal gangs. Tarecuato is not from the municipality of La Barca, where clandestine mass graves have been unearthed, and also near to the avocado-producing regions of the state, which are the target of organized crime extortion efforts.

Chronicle Book Review: The Afghanistan Papers

Chronicle Book Review: The Afghanistan Papers: The Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock (2021, Simon & Schuster, 346 pp., $30 HB)

Well, this is a book that could hardly be more timely. Coming out in the immediate wake of the chaotic debacle that was the final American withdrawal from Afghanistan, The Afghanistan Papers takes advantage of voluminous troves of heretofore unseen accounts of the war to paint an unflattering portrayal of two decades of our seemingly interminable occupation of the country in the name first of fighting Al Qaeda and then of vanquishing the Taliban.

While the book is about the war effort as a whole, for devotees of drug policy, it has two chapters specifically to opium production, its role in the war, and American and allied efforts to suppress it. More on that below.

The author, Craig Whitlock, is an investigative journalist with The Washington Post who spent the last two decades covering the global war on terror and has won prestigious journalistic awards for his efforts. In 2016, he learned of the existence of hundreds of interviews with war participants -- civilian and military alike -- conducted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) under the rubric Lessons Learned.

For reasons that would become obvious upon their release, SIGAR did not want to release them, but the Post sued under the FOIA Act, eventually prevailing and producing a series of stories based on them in 2019. Here, Whitlock supplements those Lessons Learned interviews with oral history interviews of officials who served at the US embassy in Kabul conducted by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, interviews with more than 600 Afghanistan war veterans conducted by the Army's Operational Leadership Experience project, as well as hundreds of previously classified memos Pentagon head Donald Rumsfeld drafted between 2001 and 2006.

Woven together in Whitlock's narrative, the interviews and documents present a devastating indictment of American hubris, cluelessness, and fecklessness as general after commanding general came and went, all proclaiming "progress" even as the war effort slipped deeper and deeper into the Afghan morass and the body count -- both allied and Afghan civilians -- grew ever higher.

"We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking," said Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, war czar under Bush and Obama.

"We did not know what we were doing," said Richard Boucher, the Bush administration's top diplomat for South and Central Asia.

"There was no coherent long-term strategy," said British Gen. David Richards, who led US and NATO forces in 2006 and 2007.

Yet officials like these, and many, many more, spent the war years playing up illusory successes, minimizing real defeats, and always proclaiming "progress" was being made. But after about 2005, the only progress really being made was by the Taliban, which had returned from defeat to begin an insurgency that would slowly, year by year, envelop ever more of the country until in August it swept into Kabul and once again took control of the country.

The American project to do nation-building in Afghanistan, always half-baked and half-hearted project failed despite the billions upon billions of dollars poured into the country. Or perhaps because of it. As one interviewee noted, the only thing the US managed to build in Afghanistan was "massive corruption."

Enter the opium economy. Not only were leading members of the American-backed Afghan government stacking up personal fortunes out of the US largesse, they were also deeply implicated in the illicit, but economically dominant, opium economy. Even when the Afghan or Americans developed solid cases of drug trafficking, connections inside the government ensured that traffickers remained protected. The Taliban profited from the trade, but so did everybody else.

And even when the Americans managed to snag one of the traffickers, things tended to go screwy. In 2008, they lured an alleged Afghan trafficker named Haji Juma Khan to Jakarta, where Indonesian authorities extradited him to New York to face trafficking charges brought by a federal grand jury. But when he got to court, his defense attorney mentioned in open court that he was an informant for the CIA and DEA, the judge cut her off and later sealed the legal proceedings. His legal proceedings then vanished into a black hole. He was never convicted of any charges but still spent 10 years in US custody before being released in 2018. That tale ought to raise some Orwellian fears.

Whitlock provides a concise history of our efforts to suppress the opium economy as well as the profound contradiction at the heart of the effort: Any attempt to suppress the opium economy undermined the counterinsurgency project. In other words, you could have your war on terror or you could have your war on drugs, but you couldn't have both.

Not that the US and its allies didn't try. In 2003, the British offered to pay farmers to eradicate their crop in one province, but the farmers just took the money and harvested the crops anyway. In 2006, the Bush administration launched Operation River Dance, siccing tractors and weed whackers on the poppy fields of Helmand province. The tractors broke down, the hand eradicators quit and worked harvesting poppies whey they got better pay, and corrupt local officials ensured that only disfavored farmers got raided. Not only was the operation a flop -- despite the de rigueur press releases announcing "progress" -- it was severely counterproductive to the war effort because it enraged the opium economy-dependent population of the province, already a Taliban hotbed, and turned them decisively against the Americans and their Afghan allies in Kabul.

The Obama administration tried a different tack: Alternative development, along with crackdowns on smuggling and trafficking. That didn't work either; between 2002 and 2017, Afghan acreage devoted to opium production quadrupled, even as the US spent $9 billion to stop it. The Trump administration reverted to Bush-style tactics, although in 2017 instead of going after poor peasants, it unleashed high-tech bombers and fighter aircraft on "heroin laboratories" that turned out to be mostly easily replaceable mud huts. The destruction of those mud huts was yet another sign of "progress" that was soon forgotten.

If the American withdrawal from Afghanistan this fall was a debacle, it has many fathers. Joe Biden just got to clean up the mess left by his predecessors, and as Whitlock makes achingly clear, there is plenty of blame to go around.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An illicit marijuana scheme in Maine draws in a prosecutor and several cops, a Raleigh detective gets fired for planting fake drugs on people, and more. Let's get to it:

In Bangor, Maine, a prosecutor and a number of law enforcement personnel were indicted last Wednesday as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving illegal marijuana growth and sales that wrapped up a dozen people. Those indicted are accused of collecting over $13 million over six years from weed grown under cover of the state's marijuana law but sold illegally out of state. Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Kayle Alves, 36, is accused of tipping off a sheriff's deputy about an FBI investigation of the ring, and that deputy, Bradley Scovil, then tipped off the ringleader. Two other officers, then-Oxford County Deputy James McLamb, 29, and Wilton police officer Kevin Lemay, 33, are accused of using government databases to warn ringleaders they were under investigation. A 14-count criminal complaint charges 12 people with a range of criminal conduct, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, bank fraud, tampering with proceedings, tampering with documents, conspiracy to defraud the United States and to impede and impair the IRS, tax evasion and tax fraud.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a Raleigh police detective was fired last Friday after a lawsuit alleging he planted fake heroin on Black men was settled for $2 million. Detective Omar Abdullah used a snitch who delivered drug buy videos and audio recordings with critical clips missing and delivered drugs that lab tests weren't drugs at all. Victims of Abdullah's scheme spent a combined 2.5 years in jail, and while the city has settled the civil suit, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has so far declined to prosecute him.

In Inglewood, California, an Inglewood police officer was arrested last Friday for trying to sell a kilogram of cocaine to a law enforcement informant. Officer John Abel Baca, 45, is accused of delivering cocaine in April and again in May to a cooperating witness. In the latter instance, he allegedly received $22.000 in cash. An informant for Baca was also arrested last week and charged with intent to distribute heroin after FBI agents found a kilogram of heroin and a pound of cocaine buried in his backyard. The informant had been approved since 2016, but never conducted any actual operations. Baca is the police union representative for the Inglewood police.

In Florence, Alabama, a Lauderdale County jail deputy was arrested last Friday for allegedly trying to deliver meth to inmates. Deputy Matthew Moran, 20, went down after a two-week investigation and was busted when another deputy at the jail confiscated a package from him that contained meth. He is charged with attempt to commit a controlled substance crime, distribution of a controlled substance and promoting prison contraband.

Medical Marijuana Update

Mississippians still can't get their medical marijuana, New York medical marijuana patients can now buy buds, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Wants Tighter Limits on Medical Marijuana Before He Will Call a Special Session to Pass It. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Monday he wants to reduce the amount of medical marijuana that people can buy and reduce the allowable level of THC in it before he will move forward to call a legislative special session to create a medical marijuana program. "If we’re going to have a medical marijuana program, we need to get it done right," said Reeves. "I think getting it done right is more important than getting it done quick." Voters approved medical marijuana via an initiative a year ago, but the state Supreme Court threw out that victory, invalidating the state's initiative process as it did so. The legislature then failed to pass a make-up bill during the regular session. Reeves has said he will call a special session, but now is demanding these new restrictions.

New York

New York Dispensaries Call Now Sell Buds. Finally, smokeable "whole flower" marijuana buds are now on sale in dispensaries in the state. Smokeable marijuana had been banned at the insistence of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) when the state's medical marijuana law passed in 2014. But after the state passed marijuana legalization last year, the ban on smokeable medical marijuana no longer made any sense, according to state Sen. Diane Savino (D), one of the bill's authors. "We knew restricting access to whole flower was going to drive up the cost of the product, because it costs more money to process it into non-smokable forms," Savino said. "And for a lot of patients, the fastest delivery method to really obtain relief is through smoking."

Washington, DC

DC Council Approves Bill to Aid Struggling Dispensaries. The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill aimed at helping the city's dispensaries, which have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. The new bill allows patients whose cards have expired since March 2020 to continue using them through January 2022 and creates a two-year medical marijuana card, as opposed to the current one-year card. The bill also doubles the amount of marijuana a patient can purchase at one time from four ounces to eight.

Detroit Voters Approve Psychedelic Reform, Philadelphia Voters Approve Pot Legalization Measure, More... (11/3/21)

Election Day brought a pair of big city victories for drug reform, Mississippi's governor wants a more restrictive medical marijuana proposal before he will call a special session, and more.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is trying to tighten the screws on medical marijuana legislation. (nga.org)
Marijuana Policy

Philadelphia Voters Approve Referendum Calling for Statewide Marijuana Legalization. Voters on Tuesday approved a referendum calling for statewide marijuana legalization by a margin of 73 percent to 27 percent. The referendum adds a section to the city charter, saying "the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes." The referendum is non-binding but adds pressure on the legislature to act. Republicans control both houses of the legislature and have so far blocked action on marijuana legalization, but last month, a bipartisan legalization bill was formally introduced.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Wants Tighter Limits on Medical Marijuana Before He Will Call a Special Session to Pass It. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Monday he wants to reduce the amount of medical marijuana that people can buy and reduce the allowable level of THC in it before he will move forward to call a legislative special session to create a medical marijuana program. "If we’re going to have a medical marijuana program, we need to get it done right," said Reeves. "I think getting it done right is more important than getting it done quick." Voters approved medical marijuana via an initiative a year ago, but the state Supreme Court threw out that victory, invalidating the state's initiative process as it did so. The legislature then failed to pass a make-up bill during the regular session. Reeves has said he will call a special session, but now is demanding these new restrictions.

DC Council Approves Bill to Aid Struggling Dispensaries. The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill aimed at helping the city's dispensaries, which have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. The new bill allows patients whose cards have expired since March 2020 to continue using them through January 2022 and creates a two-year medical marijuana card, as opposed to the current one-year card. The bill also doubles the amount of marijuana a patient can purchase at one time from four ounces to eight.

Psychedelics

Detroit Voters Approve Psychedelic Decriminalization Measure. Voters in Michigan's largest city approved a ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psychedelics by an unofficial tally of 61 percent to 39 percent. The initiativesays the city will "decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults." The new policy will also "make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority." Detroit now joins the Michigan communities of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Grand Rapids in having approved psychedelic reform. Meanwhile, a bill to legalize the cultivation, possession, and delivery of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics is before the state Senate.

Opioid Makers Win One in California Court, NH Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed, More... (11/2/21)

The DC council retreats from language that would have threatened a crackdown on the city's marijuana "gift economy," a California court rules in favor of opioid manufacturers in a rare victory for the industry, and more.

Marijuana Policy

JAMA Study Finds Legalizing or Decriminalizing Marijuana Reduces Race-Based Arrests. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that states that legalize or decriminalize marijuana see "large reductions in race-based arrests among adults" while those states that do not continue to see "increases in arrest rate disparities." Legalization was associated with 561 fewer arrests per 100,000 Black people and 185 fewer arrests per 100,000 White people, while decriminalization was associated with 449 fewer arrests per 100,000 Black people and 117 for White people. On the other hand, "cannabis arrests for adults and youth increased over time in states that did not implement a cannabis policy change," the study concluded. "Overall, results revealed that states that implemented a cannabis policy change saw large decreases in arrests compared with states that had no policy reform," the researchers concluded.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Tim Egan (D-Grafton) has filed a bill that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot and allow for home grows of up to three mature plants. The bill also envisions a system of taxed and licensed marijuana production and sales. While the House passed a similar bill last year, legalization efforts in the state face an obstacle in Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who has historically opposed legalization.

DC Council Removes Marijuana Bill Language That Threatened Crackdown on Unregulated Market. A provision of a DC marijuana bill that could have led to a crackdown on the city's unregulated marijuana "gift economy," which skirts the ban on legal retail sales, was removed Monday as the council prepares to vote on the measure on Tuesday. The move came after strong criticism from activists, who argued that targeting those currently providing marijuana would perpetuate systemic racial inequalities that marijuana legalization is supposed to reduce. There are currently estimated to be dozens of grey market pot shops and more than a hundred delivery services operating in the city.

Opioids

California Judge Rules for Drug Makers in Lawsuit Over Opioid Crisis. A California state judge has handed a rare victory to opioid manufacturers by rejecting the legal argument successfully employed against the industry in thousands of cases charging that it substantially contributed to an opioid epidemic that has taken more than half a million lives since the late 1990s, when the appearance of OxyContin marked the beginning of the current wave. "There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the result of the medically appropriate provision of pain medications to patients in need," wrote Judge Peter Wilson of Orange County State Superior Court. The counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Orange and the city of Oakland had sued four opioid manufacturers—Johnson & Johnson, Teva, Allergan, and Endo Pharmaceuticals—charging that their manufacturing and distribution of opioids constituted a "public nuisance, but Judge Wilson held that even if the companies were found to have created false or misleading marketing, "any adverse downstream consequences flowing from medically appropriate prescriptions cannot constitute an actionable public nuisance."

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