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Drug War Chronicle

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Poll Finds Little Support for Asset Forfeiture, Argentina Okays MedMJ Home Growing, More... (11/13/20)

State legal marijuana regulators form an association, a New Jersey marijuana decrim bill is amended to include magic mushrooms and wins a committee vote, and more.

Asset forfeiture is not a popular program, a new poll finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

State Marijuana Regulators Start 'Cannabis Regulators Association.' State marijuana regulators from across the United States have announced the formation of a non-partisan organization, the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), to better share institutional knowledge and regulatory best practices. Cannabis regulators from 19 states have joined in filing documents to establish CANNRA, which is being created in order to assist federal, state and local jurisdictions that have approved or are weighing legalization of cannabis. "The Cannabis Regulators Association will provide a much needed forum for regulators to engage with each other to identify and develop best practices, create model policies that safeguard public health and safety, and promote regulatory certainty for industry participants," said Norman Birenbaum, CANNRA's inaugural president.

New Jersey Bill Decriminalizing Up to Six Ounces of Pot -- and Magic Mushrooms, Too -- Passes Senate Committee. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved S 2535, which decriminalizes the possession of up six ounces of marijuana. And an unidentified senator added an amendment decriminalizing up to an ounce of psilocybin mushrooms. It was still a unanimous vote.

Asset Forfeiture

Poll Finds Little Public Support for Asset Forfeiture. A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Institute for Justice finds that asset forfeiture has little public support. Only 26% support allowing police to seize cash or property from someone without a criminal conviction. Some 59% of respondents oppose "allowing law enforcement agencies to use forfeited property or its proceeds for their own use." Opposition to equitable sharing, a federal program that allows state and local police to evade state laws against civil asset forfeiture, was even higher, with 70% against the program. When it comes to where seized funds should be allocated, 38% said Social Security trust funds, 36% said drug treatment, 28% said paying down the national debt, and only 19% wanted forfeiture funds to go to federal law enforcement. (The question was multiple choice, thus adding up to more than 100%.)

International

Argentina to Allow Medicinal Marijuana to Be Grown at Home. President Alberto Fernandez issued a decree Thursday allowing people to grow marijuana at home for medicinal use, as well as allowing caregivers to grow for patients. The decree also allows pharmacies to sell marijuana-based products and orders insurance systems to pay the cost of marijuana for those who obtain a prescription.

Longest-Serving MJ Prisoner to Be Freed, Boston Must Pay Cops Fired Over Bad Drug Tests, More... (11/12/20)

New Jersey politicians are squabbling -- again -- over how to tax legal marijuana, Tucson joins Phoenix in walking away from marijuana prosecutions, the Mexican Senate moves toward a vote on marijuana legalization, and more.

Richard DeLisi has served more than 30 years for marijuana. (family photo)
Marijuana Policy

America's Longest-Serving Marijuana Prisoner Will Go Free Next Month. Richard DeLisi, 71, was sentenced to 90 years in prison for marijuana trafficking by a Florida judge in 1989. He's been behind bars ever since, making him the country's longest-serving marijuana prisoner, but now he's about to be released early because of coronavirus concerns. He should walk out of prison next month, a year and a half ahead of his scheduled release date.

Arizona's Second Most Populous County to Drop Pending Marijuana Possession Cases. Following in the footsteps of Maricopa County (Phoenix), Pima County (Tucson) announced it will begin dismissing minor marijuana possession charges once the election results are certified on November 30. "Pima County has been the most progressive county in Arizona," said Amelia Cramer, the Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney. "Law enforcement agencies exercise discretion and [do not] make physical arrests for possession of marijuana, but issue paper citations. If the individual who is issued the citation attends the class and provides a certificate, the charges dismissed."

New Jersey Politicians Split Over Legal Marijuana Taxes. The state's leading Democrats all say they want to move marijuana legalization enabling legislation as quickly as possible, but Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) aren't on the same page when it comes to cannabis tax policy. Coughlin is calling for "an additional user fee on cannabis consumers," which would violate the constitutional amendment, which sets a ceiling of 6.625% on retail marijuana sales. Murphy praised Coughlin's position Monday, but Sweeney and legalization sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D) issued a joint statement disagreeing: "We should not impose any additional taxes that will put the cost of legally purchasing marijuana out of reach for the communities that have been impacted the most," they said. Stay tuned.

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules Boston Must Pay Millions to Police Fired Over Faulty Drug Tests. The state Appeals Court ruled Tuesday that the city of Boston must pay millions in back pay to six police officers, mostly Black, who were wrongly fired in the early 2000s because of unreliable drug tests. The six were accused of using cocaine due to a now discarded hair-testing technology that returned disproportionally more false positives for Black officers because of their different hair texture.

International

Israeli Marijuana Legalization Could Occur Within Next Nine Months. The inter-ministerial committee charged with coming up for a plan to regulate the country's marijuana market turned its conclusions over to the Justice Ministry Thursday. The ministry will then draft a legal memo for government approval, which will form the basis of a legalization bill that come could for an initial reading in the Knesset before year's end. The entire legislative process is expected to take around nine months.

Mexican Senators Will Vote on Revised Marijuana Legalization Bill Next Week. A revised draft marijuana legalization bill is now circulating among senators, with several committees set to hold a joint hearing on the bill Friday. The legislation would then go the Senate floor as early as next Tuesday. The bill would allow adults 18 and over to buy and possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to four plants, but would also require users to obtain a license from regulators in order to legally consume marijuana.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Our law enforcement rogues' gallery this week yields an embarrassment of riches. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, three guards at the city's federal jail were arrested October 21 after a grand jury indicted them and four inmates in an ongoing scheme to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the jail. The arrested guards are Andre Davis, 35, Darren Parker, 45, and Talaia Youngblood, 35. The exact charges they face were not specified.

In Franklin, Indiana, a Johnson County probation officer was arrested October 21 for having sex with a woman probationer he supervised and tampering with her drug test. Community Corrections Officer Evan Hill, 50, admitted to the sexual relationship, but denied having actual intercourse and denied dumping her positive drug test sample and recording it as negative. He is charged with felony official misconduct and felony sexual misconduct.

In Clinton, Louisiana, a Dixon Correctional Institute prison guard was arrested October 27 for trying to smuggle drugs to inmates at the prison. Jamenisha Huff got caught placing sheets of paper treated with synthetic cannabinoids in a waste basket in the visitors' bathroom. She is charged with one count each of introduction of contraband into a penal facility and malfeasance in office.

In Miami, a Miami-Dade police officer was arrested October 30 for allegedly protecting shipments of cocaine through the city. Officer Rod Flowers, the son of Bal Harbor Police Chief Raleigh Flowers, was taken into custody by DEA agents. It's not clear what the exact charges are.

In Louisville, a Louisville Metro Police officer was arrested last Friday for seizing pot from people and then giving it to a woman "he had a relationship with." Officer Tyler Gelnett repeatedly seized marijuana and gave it to the woman from December 2019 through April 30, 2020. He faces one count of official conduct and one count of marijuana trafficking. He isalso facing a pending lawsuit from a woman who claims Gelnett groped her during a traffic stop.

In Minneapolis, a former Minneapolis police officer was arrested last Friday on charges that he used his position as a street cop to steal meth, heroin, oxycodone, and other drugs for his own personal use. Ty Raymond Jindra, 28, stole drugs by means of "deception, extortion, and conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures," according to a grand jury indictment. He would seize drugs during searches while his partner wasn't looking and then fail to turn them in and is also accused of skimming from bags of drugs turned in by a concerned citizen before logging them into evidence. He faces six counts of acquiring controlled substances by deception, two counts of extortion under color of official right and three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. He left the department on October 23.

In Jacksonville, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office jail guard was arrested Sunday for smuggling drugs into the jail. Hunter Jean, 24, went down after a jail inmate reported him to authorities, and he was caught coming to work with a package of marijuana and methamphetamine. He is charged with three felonies: delivery of methamphetamine, delivery of marijuana and introduction of contraband into a detention facility. He resigned his position upon being arrested.

In New York City, an NYPD officer was arrested Monday on charges he played a major role in a drug ring that imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the city from January 2016 until last month. Officer Amaury Abreu, 34, led a group that sent couriers from the Dominican Republic to JFK Airport, where a crooked Customs and Border Patrol officer would escort the shipments through customs. Serving in the NYPD for nine years, Abreu has been suspended without pay, according to a department spokesperson.

In Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the Seward Police Chief was arrested Tuesday for coercing sex from a woman who was facing a marijuana paraphernalia charge. Chief Robert Baldwin, 49, offered to "work out" her situation for her if she would have sex with him. The woman said didn't want to have sex with Baldwin but feared arrest if she didn't. He is charged with obstruction of justice, hindering apprehension and official oppression.

In Houston, a former Harris County deputy constable pleaded guilty October 24 to transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds on multiple occasions and transporting drugs on at least one occasion. Betty Molina admitted being paid $30,000 for her efforts. She was initially charged with conspiracy, possession, and money laundering, but ended up pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. She's looking at a mandatory minimum 10 years in federal prison.

In Baltimore, a former Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty last Friday in a case where he and two other officers were accused of not turning in a portion of a cocaine seizure and instead selling three kilograms of cocaine to a confidential informant who was a drug dealer. Ivo Louvado, 47, admitted receiving $10,000 as his share of the proceeds. He copped to one count of making false statements to federal agents. He's looking at a maximum five-year federal prison sentence.

In Houston, a former Border Patrol agent was sentenced last Tuesday to nearly 16 years in federal prison for his role in a cocaine distribution scheme. Daniel Polanco, 39, was involved in the distribution of 15 kilograms of cocaine in 2013, and the investigation into that plot eventually led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 people, including six law enforcement officers. He was convicted of cocaine distribution and making false statements.

In Macon, Georgia, a former Valdosta State Prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 46 months in federal prison after being caught with methamphetamine, marijuana, and cell phone packed in Ziploc bags in her vehicle as she arrived for work. Melissa Crawford, 53, went down after prison investigators got word she would be smuggling drugs into the prison the following day and then searched her vehicle. She then admitted smuggling drugs and other contraband on at least four occasions. It's not clear what exact charges she pled to.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Coming, British Heroin-Assisted Treatment Pilot Gets Results, More... (11/11/20)

The odor of marijuana will no longer be the sole grounds for police searches in Virginia after March 1, a bid to legalize marijuana in Colombia has failed, but another remains alive, and more.

Peyote and other psychedelics could be decriminalized under a bill soon to be filed in California. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Law Ending Searches Based on Marijuana Order Goes into Effect on March 1. After lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5029 during a special session, police will no longer be able to conduct searches based solely on the odor of marijuana. The law will go into effect on March 1.

Psychedelics

California Will See Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics. Weiner is also pushing a broader drug policy agenda that includes legalizing safe injection sites and ending mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses. "The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating law enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prisons," Wiener said. "We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime."

International

British Pilot Heroin Maintenance Program Celebrates First Year. A heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program in Middlebrough marked its first anniversary this week and is reporting good results. Half of the 14 people who began the program remain on it and the result has been "low re-offending rates, improved physical and mental well-being, and repaired relationships with family and friends," according to the program's director. The people remaining on the program had committed 541 detected criminal offenses before entering the program, but only three since joining. Participants come twice a day to a clinic to inject pharmaceutical heroin in a supervised setting.

Colombia Shelves Congressional Bill on Marijuana Legalization. A bill that would have legalized marijuana has been defeated in the Chamber of Representatives on a vote of 102-52. Right-wing factions allied with President Ivan Duque defeated the bill. But a second marijuana legalization bill is still alive in the Senate and will be debated by mid-month. To become law, that bill must be fully approved by year's end.

House to Vote on Legalization Bill Next Month, SF Psychedelic Reform Push, More... (11/20/20)

No more pot prosecutions in Phoenix, a new marijuana legalization bill in Texas, a push for psychedelic reform in San Francisco, and more.

The Garden State is moving full speed ahead on implementing marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Federal Marijuana Legalization Next Month. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Monday that the House would vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HB 3884) next month. It had been scheduled for a September vote, but was delayed after moderate Democrats worried that advancing a marijuana vote ahead of a renewed coronavirus package would hurt their election chances. Instead, several of those moderates lost on Election Day, while marijuana legalization went four for four.

Arizona's Most Populous County Gives Up on Marijuana Prosecutions. The Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney's Office announced Monday it will drop all pending charges for marijuana use by adults in the wake of the passage of a marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207, with 60% of the vote last week. "Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately," the office said in a written statement Monday.

New Jersey Lawmakers Vote to Advance Legislation to Implement Marijuana Legalization. Companion marijuana legalization implementation bills A21 and S21 advanced in committee Monday, with A21 approved by the Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee and S21 approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills allow for home delivery, on-site consumption, protections for employees, students, parents, tenants, and those needing organ transplants, but not home cultivation. Both bills are set for hearings in their respective appropriations committees later this week.

Texas State Senator Pre-Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Senator-Elect Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) made marijuana legalization one of his campaign centerpieces, and now he's following through by a pre-filing a marijuana legalization bill. "There is going to be a budget shortfall to affect all Texans next legislation session, however, I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer a real solution," Gutierrez said in a news release. "This bill will generate new revenue and create at least 30,000 high paying jobs. Our state's economic future is uncertain and in order to best serve our state, we have to look at cannabis legalization as a solution and not keep going back to the taxpayers and raise their taxes."

Psychedelics

Psychedelic Advocates Eye San Francisco Reform. Following Election Day victories in Oregon and Washington, DC, San Francisco activists are ready to press for policy changes in the district attorney's office. Decriminalize Nature national board chair Carlos Plazola said things may be about to change in the city. "We have a call next week with District Attorney [Chesa Boudin]," Plazola said, "in which we hope to do the same thing we recently did in Ann Arbor." Ann Arbor deprioiritzed enforcement of laws against possessing psychedelics in September.

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High of 68%, More... (11/9/20)

Support for marijuana legalization hits an all-time high in the latest Gallup poll, New Jersey lawmakers take up an interim marijuana decriminalization bill, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Support for Legal Marijuana Inches Up to New High of 68%. Support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time of 68% in the latest Gallup poll, which was released Monday. When Gallup first measured attitudes toward legalization back in 1969, only 12% supported it, and support didn't exceed 30% until 2000, but has climbed steadily upward since then. Marijuana has majority support among every age, educational, and income bracket. Legalization is favored by 83% of Democrats, 72% of independents, and 48% of Republicans.

Montana Marijuana Foes Try Lawsuit to Overturn Legalization Initiative Victory. Just one day after state voters decisively approved a marijuana legalization initiative, opponents filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results. They argue that the initiative is unconstitutional because it appropriates tax revenues. A similar pre-election lawsuit was rejected by the state Supreme Court.

New Jersey Bill Would Decriminalize Up to Six Ounces of Marijuana, Sales of Up to an Ounce. With an eye on the interim period before voter-approved marijuana legalization goes into effect, lawmakers took up a bill (S2535) Monday that has been amended to decriminalize possession of up to six ounces of marijuana and distribution of one ounce.

Des Moines Task Force Recommends Marijuana Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Policy. A community force looking at marijuana policy is recommending making pot possession the lowest law enforcement priority. The recommendation presented the recommendation during a city council work session Monday.

Opioid Settlement Looms, NJ Legislature Moves on Voter-Authorized MJ Legalization, More... (11/6/20)

State elected officials react in different ways to marijuana legalization votes, a major settlement looms over prescription opioids, and more.

An opioid manufacturer and three distributors are nearly a major settlement on thousands of opioid lawsuits. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Governor Appoints Top Marijuana Regulator Following Legalization Vote. Moving quickly to implement the will of the voters, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has named the people who will administer the implementation of legalization as the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He named former policy counsel to the state ACLU and current administration staffer Dianna Houenou to head the commission. She is emphasizing social equity. "Cannabis legalization and regulation is just one illustration of much larger work that is needed to reform our drug policies wholesale. We really are looking to make sure that equity is built into a regulated structure at the onset," she said. The legislature is also quickly swinging into gear.

South Dakota Republican Legislators Look for Ways to Undo the Will of the Voters. After the resounding victory of the state's medical marijuana initiative and the clear victory of its legalization initiative, the state's Republican governor and legislature are now pondering how to try to undo what the voters chose. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said voters made "the wrong choice" in approving the initiatives. The legislature is limited in its ability to mess with the legalization initiative because it was a constitutional amendment, but the medical marijuana initiative is a statutory one, which the legislature can nullify, repeal, or gut such measures, as it did with a voter-approve campaign finance reform initiative in 2016. And lawmakers could vote to propose a future amendment to nullify marijuana legalization. Stay tuned.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

$26 Billion Settlement Offer in Opioid Lawsuits Gains Wide Support. A large pharmaceutical drug maker and three distributors are nearing a $26 billion deal with state and local governments to settle thousands of lawsuits over the companies' role in the opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s. The four companies are McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson. A settlement would mean those companies would face no risk of further lawsuits from those state and local governments. The bulk of the money would go to help pay for treatment and prevention programs in areas hard-hit by the epidemic.

International

Final Results Confirm New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Referendum Failed. Vote totals tightened after initial results had the country's marijuana legalization referendum failing with only 46% of the vote, but not enough to overcome the vote deficit. The final tally ended with the referendum getting 48%, 51% opposed.

PA Bill Says MedWorkers Comp Not Required, Cuomo Says Legalize Now, More... (11/5/20)

New Jersey's vote to legalize marijuana is turning up the heat on nearby governors, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers move to let employers and insurers off the hook for paying for medical marijuana under workers' compensation claims, and more.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says "the time is ripe" for marijuana legalization in the Empire State. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Says Legalization Being Looked at This Year. Prodded by New Jersey's vote Tuesday legalizing marijuana, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said Wednesday his state will likely try again to legalize it this year. "We're much stronger when we work on a regional basis," Lamont said during a Wednesday news conference about marijuana, adding that one of the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic is Connecticut is stronger when it works with its neighbors. "My thinking is sort of similar when it comes to marijuana... I think that we do something, we do it on a regional basis," he said.

New York Governor Says Time is Ripe for Marijuana Legalization. Lawmakers in Albany will approve marijuana legalization "this year" because "the pressure is on" after neighboring New Jersey legalized it on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday. It was unclear if Cuomo was contemplating a special session before year's end or referring to 2021 legislative session. "I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding" amid the coronavirus crisis. Legalization represents a potential source of revenue, he argued. "I've supported it for years. The question becomes about the money -- about the distribution and the power. What does it always come back down to? Money and power. Who gets the licenses and who gets the money. I think we get there this year."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Lawmakers File Bill to Let Employers Avoid Paying Workers' Compensation for Medical Marijuana. A group of Republican lawmakers last Friday filed SB 1360, which would allow employers and insurers to not be required to cover or reimburse for medical marijuana for injured workers. The bill would also clarify that an employer can fire a worker who is intoxicated on the job and not hire someone who fails a marijuana drug test. The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

A Clean Sweep for Drug Reform Initiatives [FEATURE]

The day after Election Day, national election results remained muddy, but one thing was crystal clear: the American public is ready for drug reform. Drug reform initiatives went nine for nine on Tuesday. With successful marijuana legalization initiatives in two of the reddest of the red states to a groundbreaking drug decriminalization initiative and the first voter-approved psychedelic liberalization initiatives, we can see the erosion of drug prohibition happening right before our eyes.

Perhaps the most striking victory of all is Oregon's Measure 110, which will decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs can either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

The notion of not arresting people just for having or using "hard" drugs is a radical one in the United States, but increasingly common in the rest of the world. At least 29 countries have embraced some form of drug decriminalization, and even the US has seen marijuana possession decriminalized in a number of states. But not cocaine or heroin or meth or LSD. Or not until Tuesday, when more than 58% of Oregon voters said let's try something new.

"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in an email message on Tuesday evening. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action Network, spearheaded the Measure 110 campaign, just as they backed the state's successful 2014 marijuana legalization initiative.

And speaking of marijuana legalization, the weed swept to victory everywhere it was on the ballot -- in Arizona and New Jersey but also in deeply conservative Montana and South Dakota. That means the number of states that have freed the weed jumped from 11 to 15.

"From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice," Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns, said in a Wednesday email.

In Arizona, the marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, cruised to victory Tuesday night with 60 percent of the vote. It will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a Tuesday night email. "According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance," Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In New Jersey, Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and allows for system of regulated to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature and state regulators. It won with a resounding 67 percent of the vote.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

"This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization," said Hawkins. "With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use."

And speaking of cannabis for medical use, two deep red states, Mississippi and South Dakota both approved medical marijuana initiatives on Tuesday night. Mississippi's Initiative 65 overcome a watered down legislative alternative to win with 74 percent of the vote, while South Dakota's Measure 26 won with 70 percent. That brings the number of states with access to medical marijuana to 38.

And then, there's the psychedelic front. On the East Coast, Washington, DC, voters approved Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, with 74 percent of the vote. The measure will have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

And on the West Coast, Oregon voters didn't just decriminalize drugs, they also passed Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, with 56 percent of the vote. It will create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People will be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Altogether, a stellar night for drug reform at the ballot box. Marijuana legalization continues its inexorable advance across the land, and new fronts are now open on psychedelics and broader drug decriminalization. A few more bricks fell from the wall of drug prohibition this Election Day.

California Effort to Roll Back Sentencing Reforms Defeated on Election Day

A ballot measure that would roll back changes to California's sentencing laws, changing certain misdemeanor crimes, including some drug offenses to felony crimes, was roundly defeated at the ballot box on Election Day. Proposition 20 which "Restricts Parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors," went down 68% to 32%, according to the Associated Press.

It was an effort to undo sentencing reforms by both the legislature (AB 109 in 2011) and two voter-passed initiatives, Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). All of those measures were designed to reduce the state's prison population; this one would have increased it at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a year.

Deep Red States Montana and South Dakota Both Legalize Marijuana

It wasn't just blue Joe Biden-supporting states like Arizona and New Jersey that freed the weed on Election Day. Two of the reddest of the red states also rejected Reefer Madness.

In Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 won with 58 percent and 57 percent of the vote, respectively. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21, as is the age for alcohol consumption in the state.

In South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment A won 54 percent of the vote in a state where more than 60 percent voted for Donald Trump. The measure will legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring.

The two states become the 14th and 15th to legalize marijuana.

Washington, DC, Approves Natural Entheogen Initiative

Voters in the nation's capital have overwhelmingly approved an initiative to effectively decriminalize the cultivation, use, possession, and distribution of natural psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, and peyote. According to unofficial election results, the measure was winning with 76% of the vote.

Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, would have police treat natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

"Initiative 81's success was driven by grassroots support from DC voters. We are thrilled that DC residents voted to support common sense drug policy reforms that help end part of the war on drugs while ensuring that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets," Decriminalize Nature DC Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani said in a press release.

Mississippi, South Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana

Voters in two red states, Mississippi and South Dakota, have approved initiatives allowing for medical marijuana.

>In Mississippi, Initiative 65 won an easy electoral two-step, with 68% of voters approving medical marijuana and then 74% approving Initiative 65 over a watered down legislative substitute.

"It is great to see that the tides of change are continuing to flow across the country and now they have come to Mississippi," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level legalization victories over the past eight years. "As we saw in Utah in 2018, and as we see in Mississippi this year, medical marijuana can pass in any state in the country."

In South Dakota, Measure 26 was winning with 69% of the vote late Tuesday night. It would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants. The initiative also establishes a state medical marijuana program with dispensaries, licensed cultivators, and testing operations.

They become the 36th and 37th states to legalize medical marijuana.

Oregon Becomes First State to Decriminalize All Drugs, Allow for Psilocybin Therapy

According to the Oregon secretary of state's office, as of 9:00pm Pacific Time, both of the state's pioneering drug reform initiatives are cruising to victory. The drug decriminalizing Measure 110 was winning with 59% of the vote, and the therapeutic psilocbyin initiative, Measure 109, was winning with 56% of the vote.

Oregon's Mt. Hood (David Mark/Pixabay)
Measure 110 would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs could either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized.

Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

Measure 110 was spearheaded by Drug Policy Action, the advocacy and political arm of Drug Policy Alliance, which also backed prior drug policy wins in Oregon, including the YES on 91 campaign in 2014 that legalized marijuana.

"Today's victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,"said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date. It shifts the focus where it belongs -- on people and public health -- and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people. As we saw with the domino effect of marijuana legalization, we expect this victory to inspire other states to enact their own drug decriminalization policies that prioritize health over punishment."

In addition to decriminalizing possession of all drugs for personal use, Measure 110 will greatly expand access to evidence-informed drug treatment, peer support, housing, and harm reduction services, without raising taxes. Services will be funded through excess marijuana tax revenue (over $45 million) and savings from no longer arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting people for drug possession. Based on current projections, 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.

Arizona Legalizes Marijuana

The state's marijuana legalization initiative, Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act, is crusing to victory Tuesday night. With nearly 73% of the vote counted as of 8:30pm Pacific Time, NBC News has called the election with the measure currently winning 60% of the vote.

The initative will legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state will regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales.

"Arizona voters have spoken, and they are ready for marijuana legalization," said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level adult-use legalization victories over the past eight years.

"According to the latest Gallup poll, 66% of Americans support marijuana legalization, and this victory further reinforces that stance." Hawkins added. "We are poised for major marijuana reform federally. Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, or the Senate, Americans are ready for legal marijuana."

This election night has already seen New Jersey become the 12th state to legalize marijuana. Arizona makes 13. That number could rise to 15 before the night is over as we await results from pot legalization initiatives in Montana and South Dakota.

New Jersey Legalizes Marijuana

New Jersey voters have approved marijuana legalization. Although only 35% of the vote was in as of 10:00pm Eastern Time, the marijuana legalization initiative was cruising to victory with 66.2% approval, and NBC News has called it.

Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for system of regulated sales subject to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature and state regulators.

New Jersey becomes the 12th state to legalize marijuana. It's also on the ballot tonight in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota, so stay tuned; we will be posting those results as they come in.

How the 6th Amendment Helped a Texas Man Overturn His Meth Trafficking Conviction [FEATURE]

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

A Fifth Circuit appeals court reversed a recent drug conviction against an Austin, Texas man based on the prosecutor's  illegal use of an "out-of-court" hearsay statement made by a snitch who told a DEA agent that the defendant had purchased a substantial amount of methamphetamine from another person. Federal prosecutors never brought the snitch forward to testify at trial that Coy Jones had, in fact, done a drug deal. Instead, prosecutors allowed a DEA agent to testify to the jury that the snitch had told the agent that the deal had gone down, and that Jones was in possession of big-time dope. The appeals court mandate in Jones case was issued on May 19, 2019. 

Federal District Judge Sam Sparks erred by allowing certain testimony in the Coy Jones case. (UScourts.gov)
Following four days of testimony, a jury in the Western District of Texas in Austin convicted Coy Jones in October 2017. On January 29, 2018, federal judge Sam Sparks gave Jones, a Native American, 30 years in a federal joint for methamphetamine trafficking and gun-related charges as a result of an alleged witness (the snitch) -- who never appeared in court, and whom Jones never got a chance to confront and cross-examine, as required by law under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.

The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that "in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the "right" to be confronted by the witnesses against him." Under the statute, accused defendants are given the opportunity to face prosecution witnesses against them in order to dispute the witnesses' testimony. This guarantee applies to both statements made in court, including statements made outside of court that are offered as evidence during trial. 

In a lengthy ruling, the Fifth Circuit said: "The government has therefore failed to meet its burden to show harmless error as to Jones' conviction for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm." Here, the court added, "the inadmissible evidence was highly incriminating. Jones denied possessing the drugs and no drugs were found in his possession and no officer witnessed a drug transaction on May 3,2017.

Attorney Santosh Aravind successly appealed Coy Jones' conviction.
"We hold that Jones' rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated when a law enforcement officer testified, he knew Jones had a large amount of methamphetamine because of what the officer was told by a confidential informant. We therefore vacate Jones convictions and the related revocation of his supervised release and remand for a new trial,” the Fifth Circuit panel said. 

A DEA agent testified in open court about what the snitch allegedly told him about Jones meeting up with another narcotics dealer, which amounted to unsubstantiated hearsay. Although police never saw Jones purchase drugs, they and prosecutors relied on the words of the undercover snitch who said he made calls to other individuals who, in turn, told him the transaction had taken place. So, at this point, the government used double hearsay to convict Coy Jones.

"Everyone deserves the right to confront their accusers in court," retired criminal defense attorney Craig Washington told Drug War Chronicle.

But no such confrontation took place in this case. Federal prosecutors Matt Harding and Daniel Guess argued the use of "out-of-court" hearsay testimony by the informant was only to explain the officers" investigative tactics during the investigation.

Fifth Circuit judges concurred that the trial judge in Jones' case shouldn't have allowed prosecutors to elicit the snitch's hearsay testimony from the DEA agent about what he was told concerning the alleged drug purchase that Jones supposedly made with another suspect.

When Jones attorney Santosh Aravind objected at trial to the snitch's testimony and other detailed information the officers received from the missing witness against Jones, the judge overruled Aravind's timely objection, agreeing with the prosecutors that  the officers' references to what the informant told them was more to explain the officers' actions rather than vouch for the truth about what the informant said. 

Prior to trial, Jones' attorney Santosh Aravind filed a 403 motion to force the government prosecutors to disclose the identity of the informant. In response, prosecutors argued against identifying and bringing forth the informant because "the informant only gave a tip, and that the informant was not on the scene on any of this and would not be a fact witness." 

The Arrest of Coy Jones

The long, winding road to Coy Jones' federal conviction was the result of a hearsay statement by a "streetwise snitch." The showdown encapsulated a cast of dubious characters on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. On this eventful day in Jones' life, DEA agent Royce Clayborne received a tip from his prize-winning informant.

The informant told Claiborne that a drug deal would go down at a Valero gas station in Travis County, Texas. The DEA surveillance team, along with Austin police officers, observed Jones arrive in a vehicle. Jones parked next to a truck driven by a roommate of Fredy Cruz-Ortiz. DEA agents initially targeted Cruz-Ortiz, not Jones, because Cruz-Ortiz was the ring-leader of a meth trafficking ring. DEA agents and Cedar Park Detective Michelle Langham would later testify that they observed Coy Jones make a gesture to the other driver. Following the gestures, both vehicles drove off simultaneously.

 DEA agents had no direct knowledge that a drug deal had gone down until the informant told agent Claiborne by phone that a transaction had taken place and that the drivers had left the Valero parking lot. Officers immediately followed both vehicles as they headed towards County Road 213. This area is a lightly traveled rural road. When both vehicles briefly passed out of view and then reappeared into sight, Detective Langham spotted both drivers on County road 213 talking. When Jones and the other man departed, they drove off in different directions. 

Keep in mind, at this point, the officers never saw a dope exchange between Coy Jones and the other man he met on the night of May 3, 2017 nor did officers see Jones in a drug transaction on two prior occasions when he met with the alleged meth dealer. And on that night, the officers never saw Jones with a gun. They only had suspicions about drugs based on the tip from the informant.

The unidentified man, who was suspected to be the roommate of the meth ringleader identified as Cruz-Ortiz, was not  followed or stopped after his separate encounters with Jones. Officers instead continued to follow Jones as he finally turned onto County road 201. Detective Langham dispatched a sheriff's deputy to stop Jones by using a pretext traffic violation. 

When the deputy activated his emergency red light to pull over Jones' vehicle, Jones' vehicle sped up, accelerating up to 90 miles per hour with the officers in hot pursuit. The chase lasted for at least two miles.

During the ensuing chase, none of the officers or agents saw Jones throw a weapon from his vehicle, yet when Jones' vehicle came to a screeching halt both windows rolled down. With guns drawn, officers arrested Jones and searched his vehicle, but no drugs or firearms were found.

Where is the Dope?

Unable to find dope on Coy Jones--either in or around his vehicle -- the officers grew increasingly frustrated. 

Perhaps the officers should have freed Coy Jones because they did not have an iota of evidence that he was guilty of a crime, right? 

But these hounds smelled blood.

"Let's get a K-9 out here," an officer said. Officers used the K-9 dog to retrace the route of the road that Jones and the officers had traveled during the chase. After 'one to two' hours of searching, officers discovered an unloaded pistol in a 'cactus patch'. Then, finally, on the opposite side of the road, approximately 'a half mile' from where the gun was found, an officer recovered a zip lock bag containing 982 grams of methamphetamines.

Detective Langham testified at trial that both the gun and the meth were found in an area "where the sheriff's deputy lost sight of Jones as he sped down County road 201."

DEA agents interrogated Coy Jones on the same night he was arrested.  When agents accused him of intentionally fleeing to avoid being caught with the methamphetamines and the gun, Jones explained that he was attempting to avoid an individual who tried to fight him at the Valero. 

On Appeal

Attorney Santosh Aravind appealed Coy Jones' conviction based on these four key points:

1.The District Court erred by admitting evidence of Jones' prior conviction.

2. Testimony regarding the confidential informant (aka snitch) violated Jones' rights under the Confrontation Clause.

3. The District Court erred by not ordering disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant.

4, The evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict.

During the trial, as stated, Jones' attorney objected multiple times to the prosecutor's use of information from a snitch that was spoken to in court by a DEA agent. To determine whether the Sixth Amendment (Confrontation Clause) had been violated, the Fifth Circuit focused on the exchange of testimony between the prosecutor and DEA agent Royce Clayborne.

Prosecutor: "Based on the information you had received; Coy Jones received a large amount of methamphetamines."

Defense Attorney: "Objection hearsay."

Judge: "That objection is overruled."

Prosecutor: "Why did you follow Coy Jones as opposed to the other guy?"

Agent Clayborne: "Well, we knew Coy Jones had just received methamphetamines."

Clayborne further told the prosecutor that their purpose there forward was to stage a traffic stop of the vehicle driven by Coy Jones and arrest him. 

During cross-examination, defense attorney attacked Agent Clayborne's knowledge of whether Jones obtained meth from another person at the Valero.

Defense attorney: "[You] did not see any interaction between Mr. Jones and the person in the silver truck, right?"

Agent Clayborne: "That's correct."

Defense: "But you did not know that, right? You had not seen anything. You had not seen an exchange of methamphetamines or money."

Clayborne: "But I knew it was."

Defense: "You believed it, but you did not know it."

Realizing Clayborne's testimony created doubts as to whether he saw the drug deal go down between Jones and the other guy in the silver truck, the prosecutor took the agent on re-direct examination.

Prosecutor: "The defense confronted you about when you said you knew a drug deal had gone down, but that you had not seen anything; how did you know that a drug deal occurred?"

Clayborne: "Once we saw (other officers included) what looked like a drug deal; I made a phone call to my confidential source (the snitch) who got back to me -- and said the deal had happened."

Prosecutor: "Based on that information, you decided to stop Coy Jones?"

Clayborne: "That's correct."

Bottom Line

Coy Jones' case exemplifies how federal prosecutors flagrantly violate the law in drug cases. Here, prosecutors violated Jones' constitutional rights to a fair trial and to have the right to confront his accuser(s) in court. The accuser was a police informant who prosecutors failed to bring forward to testify about what he did or did not see. Prosecutors knew beforehand that they were bypassing the constitutional limits of the Confrontation Clause, which enshrines the use of the Sixth Amendment to confront accusers(s). The trial court judge was equally responsible for the reversal of Jones conviction because Jones trial lawyer made timely objections to the judge about the prosecutors not bringing forth the "drug informant" to testify to the jury of whether he saw Jones do a dope deal.

Trapped in the system, unable to make bail, Coy Jones was bullied into pleading guilty all over again to the same charges that the Fifth Circuit had reversed in his favor. A federal judge gave Jones only eight years this time around on November 1, 2019.

Jones attorney, Santosh Aravind told the Drug War Chronicle that "if the case would've been retried, then it's likely the government would have to bring in the actual informant to testify." Prosecutors had already figured they could win the case outright if the informant testified in open court during a new trial for Jones. 

Attorney Craig Washington viewed the situation differently. Washington said the new plea raises the possibility that Coy Jones pleaded guilty to crimes that amount to "Fruit of the Poisonous tree." Under this doctrine the law says that "if the evidential tree is tainted, so is its fruit.”

"Once the Fifth Circuit granted a new trial, prosecutors shouldn't have been able to use the same evidence that was overturned in the first place to get Coy Jones to plead guilty to it."

Prosecutors have not responded to the Drug War Chronicle’s inquiry about Washington’s allegations as of this writing.

Meanwhile inmate Coy Jones#63245-280 is serving his prison sentence at FCI in Three Rivers, Texas. Although his projected release date is in 2024, the word in the legal arena is that another round of appeals will hit the court by the end of this year or early 2021.

Drug War reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]

"Autocrat Fair" -- Protest by Movement for a Free Philippines and StoptheDrugWar.org, Trump International Hotel

Our October 27th event with Movement for a Free Philippines, "Autocrat Fair," launched the "Stand with Human Rights and Democracy" campaign -- a pro-democracy, pro-human rights movement branching from our work on the Philippine drug war killings.

The event also featured a statement provided by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an organization found by journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his assassination in Istanbul by Saudi agents; and a statement from US Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

Click here to watch our YouTube playlist, or visit the Stand with Human Rights and Democracy (also known as "Stand Global") web site. Read our post-event press release here. Please also watch the campaign's first video, "Trump and Duterte -- Allies in Violence" (YouTube and Facebook copies).

United Press International (UPI) photos here.

Photos by Conrado Muluc:

Biden Says Tough Drug Policies Were "A Mistake," German Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization, More... (11/2/20)

A New Jersey bill to ensure workers' compensation covers medical marijuana advances, a Caribbean island nation embraces psychedelic therapies and wellness, and more.

The Democratic presidential contender apologizes for anti-drug bills in the 1990s. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Workers' Compensation Bill Advances. The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed A1708 on Monday, which would require employers and insurance carriers to "provide for coverage for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis" for workers' compensation claimants. The bill now heads for an Assembly floor vote.

Drug Policy

Biden Says Anti-Drug Policies Harmed Black Communities and It Was a ‘Mistake’ to Support Them. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden is addressing his past support for tough crime and drug policies, saying the Black community was "really hurt" by them. "It was a mistake, and I’ve been trying to change it since then." He pointed to reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity as one way he has attempted to make amends. "There’s so much we can do. And by the way, it’s because we’ve learned so damn much more," he said. "Look, unlike Trump, when I make a mistake I admit it. I admit it. And we can make it better. And I think the public is with us, I really do."

International

German Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization. The Bundestag has rejected a bill that would have created a "strictly controlled" adult-use legal marijuana market. The defeat came even as most Bundestag members belong to parties that favor some form of marijuana law reform, but opposition parties could not reach agreement on how to do it. The bill that failed was filed by the Greens, but had only the support of the Left Party.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Okays Psychedelic Program. The Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has approved a measure that will allow for the "cultivation, research, processing, and prescription of psychedelic plant-based compounds including psilocybin, ibogaine, peyote, ketamine, dimethyltryptamine, ayahuasca and sassafras" for the purpose of psychedelic therapy. The country has already granted license to three companies to pursue research and wellness with psychedelics.

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

Drug Reform Measures on Tuesday's Ballot [FEATURE]

Although the questions of whether Donald Trump is driven out of office and whether the Democrats sweep to control of the Senate are dominating the discourse as we head toward Tuesday, there are other items for people to be voting on, too. Those include drug policy-related items in a half-dozen states and the nation's capital. And there's one bad initiative to reverse sentencing reforms.

As we prepare for a tumultuous Election Day, here's a brief review of them, and of what the polls say their prospects are:

Arizona -- Marijuana Legalization

Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Actwould legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for home grows of up to six plants. The state would regulate a legal marijuana market with a 16% tax on retail sales. Polling has been variable enough to make backer nervous, with several recent polls showing the measure in the mid-50s, but another recent poll putting it at 45.6%, with 34.2% opposed and 19% undecided. If that latter poll is accurate, Prop 207 needs at least a quarter of those undecideds to break in its favor.

ANTI-REFORM: California -- Sentencing Reform Rollback

The ballot title for Proposition 20, "Restricts Parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors," pretty much says it all. The measure is an effort to roll back sentencing reforms by both the legislature (AB 109 in 201) and two voter-passed initiatives, Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). All of those measures were designed to reduce the state's prison population; this one would increase it at a cost of tens of millions of dollars a year. A late September Survey USA poll had support for Prop 20 at 35%, with 23% opposed and 43% undecided.

Mississippi -- Medical Marijuana

Mississippians for Compassionate Care placed Initiative 65 on the ballot as a full-fledged medical marijuana measure, prompting the state legislature to propose its own watered-down version, , which, among other things, limits smoking medical marijuana to terminally ill patients. An had support for medical marijuana at a whopping 81%, and voters preferring Initiative 65 (52%) over Initiative 65A (23%).

Montana -- Marijuana Legalization

Constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190 are complementary marijuana legalization initiatives. I-190 is a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that would allow I-190 to set the minimum age at 21. The initiatives are complementary and work together to establish a careful framework for legalizing marijuana in Montana. The latest polling has the initiative at 54%, trending up from earlier polls.

New Jersey -- Marijuana Legalization

Public Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and allow for system of regulated sales subject to the state sales tax of 6.625%. It leaves questions such as possession limits and whether to allow home grows up the legislature state regulators. Things are looking good in the Garden State: A series of Brach Eichler pollshas had the measure winning around two-thirds support, while a Fairleigh Dickinson poll released earlier this month had support at 61%.

Oregon -- Drug Decriminalization

The groundbreaking Measure 110 would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs and use revenues from legal marijuana sales to help fund expanded drug treatment. People caught with drugs could either pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment. Distribution of such drugs would remain criminalized. There is no polling to point to, but the measure has lots of money and a bevy of endorsements, including the state Democratic Party.

Oregon -- Therapeutic Psilocybin

Measure 109, the Psilocybin Services Act, would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator. The only known poll is more than a year old and had it in a dead heat, with 47% support and 46% opposed.

South Dakota -- Medical Marijuana

The Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants. The initiative also establishes a state medical marijuana program with dispensaries, licensed cultivators, and testing operations. A late October poll has the measure winning handily with 74% in support.

South Dakota -- Marijuana Legalization

Constitutional Amendment A would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants in jurisdictions with no retail marijuana outlets. It also envisions a legal marijuana market with a sales tax of 15% and requires the state legislature to pass laws providing for medical marijuana and hemp by next spring. A late October pollhad the measure winning 51% to 44% with 5% undecided.

Washington, DC -- Natural Psychedelic De Facto Decriminalization

Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020, would have police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also asks the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases. It looks likely to win. The measure has been endorsed by the DC Democratic Party, and according to a September FM3 poll, when read the ballot language, 60 percent of likely voters supported it. That figure jumped to 64 percent when respondents were given a plain-language explanation of the measure. The initiative is also well-financed, with the New Approach PAC kicking in nearly half a million dollars. There are no registered opposition campaign committees.

Trump and Duterte -- Allies in Violence (video)

Please watch our new video on Duterte's drug war violence and Trump's support for it. Then visit the "Stand with Human Rights and Democracy" campaign web site at DemocracyStand.Global, sign up for the email list, and like the campaign's Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

MT Poll Has Rising Majority Support for Marijuana Initiative, New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Falters, More... (10/30/20)

Santa Fe joins a growing list of cities and states that have banned no-knock raids, the Montana marijuana legalization initiatives look like they're heading for victory, and more.

It looks like no Marijuana legalization for Kiwis this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Late Poll Shows Rising, Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A poll released Friday has 54% of respondents backing Initiative 190, the marijuana legalization measure. That's up five points from the same poll earlier this month. Majorities of Democrats (77%) and independents (63%) support the measure, but fewer than a third (31%) Republicans do.

Law Enforcement.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, Bans No-Knock Warrants. The Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance to ban the use of no-knock warrants in the city. "Tonight, the city of Santa Fe joins a handful of municipalities across the nation to outright ban no-knock warrants," saidEmily Kaltenback, Senior Director of Resident States and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance."Santa Fe is doing the right thing by standing up against a paramilitary practice fueled by the war on drugs that has led to widespread civil rights violations and too often, the death of Black, Brown, Native and Indigenous people."

International

New Zealand Marijuana Legalization Initiative Trailing in Initial Count. New Zealand's bid to be the next country to legalize marijuana is faltering, with an initial vote count having it losing 46% to 53%. On the other hand, voters approved a referendum to allow voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill by a margin of two-to-one.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

VA Governor Signs "Breonna's Law," Oglala Nation Legalizes Marijuana, Hemp, More... (20/29/20)

Two Native American nations take different paths on marijuana and hemp, Virginia's governor signs Breonna's Law into effect, and more.

Breonna Taylor. Virginia just became the third state to pass a "Breonna's law" banning no-knock police raid. (Family photo)
Navajo Nation Sues Farmers for Growing Marijuana, Hemp. The Navajo Nation is suing 33 farmers for allegedly violating tribal law by growing marijuana and/or hemp in the Shiprock area of the reservation. The move comes after tribal officials earlier this month amended the tribe's criminal code to define all parts of the cannabis plant as marijuana and make possession or distribution of the plant a criminal offense. This is the second lawsuit the tribe has filed over hemp operations that were established this summer in Shiprock and nearby communities, which became a contentious issue between residents.

Oglala Nation Passes Ordinance Legalizing Marijuana Use on Tribal Lands. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted this week to approve a new ordinance legalizing and regulating the possession and use of marijuana on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation. The move comes after tribal members passed a referendum in March in support of changing the laws. The ordinance permits the use of marijuana for both patients and adults (non-patients age 21 or older). It permits tribal members to cultivate and dispense marijuana and also allows for the establishment of social consumption facilities – which may be accessed by both tribal members and non-members.

Law Enforcement

Virginia Governor Signs Bill Banning Police No-Knock Search Warrants. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed into law House Bill 5099, which bars police from breaking into a home or business to conduct a raid without first announcing their presence. The state becomes the third to pass such a bill since Kentucky resident Breonna Taylor was gunned down by Louisville police in a misbegotten no-knock drug raid in March. The laws are known colloquially as "Breonna's law." The bill and other police reform measures "represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve," Northam said in a signing statement.

International

Bahamas Committee Recommends Legalizing Marijuana, Hemp. The island nation's Economic Recovery Committee, which is charged with laying out a plan for economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus, has recommended legalizing both recreational marijuana and industrial hemp. After receiving the report, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called the country's marijuana laws "outdate" and said they need to change.

KS Pot Poll Shocker, WY Company Sues DEA, CA Cops Over Destroyed Hemp Field, More... (10/28/20)

Massachusetts' highest court rules worker's compensation doesn't cover medical marijuana costs, a Mississippi mayor has issued a last-minute legal challenge to the state's medical marijuana initaitive, and more.

A hemp field. Female hemp plants look very much like female marijuana plants. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas Poll Shocker: Two-Thirds Support Marijuana Legalization. An annual survey from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University has a whopping 66.9% in support of legalizing marijuana. The poll also had Donald Trump leading Joe Biden by 14.4 points. He beat Hillary Clinton by 21 points in 2016.

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts High Court Rules Workers' Compensation Doesn't Cover Medical Marijuana Costs. The state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled Monday that health insurance providers are not required to cover the costs of medical marijuana for people who receive worker's compensation benefits. The court held unanimously that the state's medical marijuana law was crafted to avoid exposing insurers to any potential federal prosecution. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Mississippi Mayor Seeks to Block Medical Marijuana Initiative. Even as early voting is underway on the Initiative 65 medical marijuana measure, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed papers with the state Supreme Court seeking to knock the measure off the ballot on the grounds that its signature-gathering did not comply with the state constitution. The campaign, however, said the lawsuit was bogus: "The Secretary of State properly qualified Initiative 65 under the same constitutional procedures used for every other successful voter initiative,” Jamie Grantham, spokeswoman for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, said in a statement. “The lawsuit from the City of Madison is meritless."

Hemp

Wyoming Company Sues DEA, California Cops for Destroying Its Hemp After Mistaking It for Marijuana. Agro Dynamics LLC, a Wyoming hemp company, has filed a federal lawsuit in San Diego against the DEA and California police for destroying more than $3 million worth of hemp they mistook for marijuana. State and DEA officers raided the company's southern California hemp field in September 2019 after an aerial inspection showed what they believed to be a marijuana field, but didn't bother checking to see if it was a registered hemp grow, the company argued. "Upon (police) arrival on the premises, a tenant in possession advised the officers that there was a legal registration issuance from the County of San Diego for the hemp growing on the premises. Law enforcement disregarded this information and continued to seize and destroy all plants that appeared to be marijuana," the lawsuit alleges. The company is seeking unspecified damages.

International

Colombia Claims It Is Near Target of Eradicated Coca Crops. The country is nearing its goal of eradicating 130,00 hectares (325,000 acres) of coca crops, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday. "With 98,056 hectares of coca eradicated as of October 24, the Public Forces progress towards the target of 130,000 hectares eradicated in 2020," Trujillo said, adding that 101,273 hectares were eradicated in 2019.

NY Poll Has Strong Majority for Marijuana Legalization, Bolivia's New President Will Industrialize Coca, More... (10/27/20)

Both New Yorkers and Czechs are ready to legalize marijuana, Bolivia's new president wants you to use coca toothpaste, and more.

Both Czechs and New Yorkers are ready to legalize marijuana, polls find. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll Finds New Yorkers Ready to Legalize Marijuana. A new Spectrum News/Ipsos poll finds that New Yorkers are ready to legalize marijuana. The poll, which comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) touts legalization as a revenue generator, had 61% of respondents saying they favored legalization.

Drug Testing

Washington Court Upholds Jury Verdict that Directly Observed Urine Collections Did Not Invade Employee's Privacy. A state appellate court has upheld a jury verdict that an employer's requirement that urine collection be directly observed does not invade the employee's privacy. The employee refused the test, arguing that the employer failed to accommodate her PTSD in violation of a state anti-discrimination law, but failed in that argument. The employee also arguing that by sending him home until he agreed to a urine test he had been effectively fired, or "constructively discharged, but did not prevail in that argument either at trial.

International

Bolivia's New President Wants to Industrialize Coca Production. Following the same line as his predecessor, Evo Morales, incoming President Luis Arce of Morales' Movement to Socialism (MAS) Party says he wants to expand industrial uses for the country's coca crops. "We want to not only continue to produce coca, but also industrialize it," Arce said, citing, for example, toothpaste."A coca leaf contains 14 alkaloids, one of which is an excellent remedy for caries, that is why those who chew coca do not have cavities," Arce said.

Czech Poll Shows Narrow Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Prazsky Denik has support for marijuana legalization at 54%, with especially strong support from teenagers (72%), twenty-somethings (79%), and people in their thirties (70%). By contrast, support was very weak among people in their fifties (20%) and people over 60 (8%).

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