Drug War Chronicle

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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pervy, predatory probation officer goes to prison, a half-dozen Maryland prison guards go down in a racketeering case, and more. Let's get to it:

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, a Kenosha County Sheriff's Department jail guard was arrested last Friday for allegedly delivering drugs to an inmate on repeated occasions. Guard Devine Jackson, 24, went down after a tip that he was smuggling cocaine into the jail inside tubes of tooth paste. When confronted, Jackson confessed. He now faces four felony charges: possession with intent to deliver cocaine (less than 1 gram) on or near a jail, manufacture/deliver cocaine (less than 1 gram) on or near a jail, deliver illegal articles to an inmate and misconduct in public office.

In Jessup, Maryland, six prison guards and staff members were arrested Tuesday along with seven inmates and seven outside "facilitators" in a racketeering case at the Maryland Correctional Facility. The guards and prison staff allegedly took bribes to smuggle in contraband including drugs, tobacco, cell phones, and unauthorized flash drives. Among the drugs involved were heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and K2.

In Rome, Georgia, a former Rome probation officer was sentenced Monday to six years in prison for taking advantage of his position to coerce sexual favors from drug users under court supervision. Anyoel Cordovi had pleaded guilty to felony charges that he had sex with one probationer and exchanged nude photos with another. He will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

Holland's Half-Baked Attempt to Return to the Marijuana Vanguard [FEATURE]

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Holland was the world's marijuana mecca. Under the quite sensible policy of gedogen (pragmatic tolerance), Dutch authorities didn't quite legalize marijuana but instead effectively turned a blind eye, allowing licensed retail establishments -- the famous coffeeshops -- to sell five grams or less of marijuana, and to let their customers consume the products onsite despite prohibition remaining on the books.

an Amsterdam coffee shop (Creative Commons)
A generation of stoners made the pilgrimage to Amsterdam, getting wrecked on hash and primo nederwiet (Dutch weed) and musing fuzzily about why their home countries couldn't be as cool about cannabis as the Netherlands. That was then.

Oh, the stoners still come for coffeeshops like the Bulldog and Die Melkweg, especially weekend punters from more puritanical locales, such as Britain and France, where weed can still get you in trouble. This is the "drug tourism" the Dutch decry even as they pocket the Euros.

But over the years, some of the luster has rubbed away, in part because conservative Dutch governments who were never happy with the coffeeshop scene whittled it down as much as they could, but also in part because the Dutch were standing still while the relaxation of marijuana prohibition gained momentum around the world.

Uruguay legalized it. Canada legalized it. Ten American states, the nation's capital, and two US territories legalized it, with another state or two or three likely to do it this year. And this was actual legalization, not the wink-wink-nudge-nudge "it's still illegal but we'll allow it" Dutch compromise. And while no European country has completely legalized it, decriminalization is afoot in broad swathes of the continent, and Spain allows private use and cultivation, as well as "cannabis clubs," especially in Catalonia.

Now, though, the Dutch are finally considering taking the next step, and that involves fixing a chronic issue for their system: the "back door problem." That is, while it has been allowed for the coffeeshops to sell marijuana, they have had no legal source of supply. The Dutch system had no provision for the regulated provision of product to the coffeeshops. Instead, while coffeeshops could openly sell to their customers through the front door, their black market weed supplies had to sneak in the back door.

A halting and limited effort to rectify the situation is now about to get underway. The coalition government announced last week that it will move forward with a pilot program in regulated marijuana production for the coffeeshops. Under the plan, the government will issue licenses to 10 growers who will each have to produce at least 10 types of marijuana product, with THC content clearly marked on the packaging. A minimum of six and a maximum of 10 local authorities will take part in the trials, which will last four years, meaning that it will be up to the next government to decide whether the Netherlands will press ahead with state-regulated production.

But both the local authorities' association, VNG, and the government's highest advisory body, the Council of State, have already criticized the plan as too limited and stringent. The plan seeks to completely eliminate the black market as a source for coffeeshop product: "Coffeeshops in the municipalities which are taking part in the experiment can only sell legally-produced hemp products and growers can only sell to those shops," the plan says. "This means the entire chain will be closed."

The local authorities in the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have complained that the goal is unworkable, especially in Amsterdam, where more than a hundred coffeeshops are doing brisk business. The Council of State, meanwhile, has complained that the pilot program is too small and will not allow useful conclusions to be drawn.

Still, the coalition government is moving forward with the plan and says it expects final decisions on which local authorities will be involved by the end of the year. The Netherlands is now poised to once again move into the marijuana vanguard with state-regulated commercial marijuana production, even if the government's plan is still half-baked. We will see in four years whether the country is ready to finally solve the "back door problem" and fully embrace the marijuana business.

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

Medical Marijuana Update

A federal bill to protect the 2nd Amendment rights of medical marijuana patients is filed, North Dakota backs away from messing with those rights, no medical marijuana for Tennessee this year, Texas bills get a public hearing, and more.

National

Federal Bill Aims to Let Medical Marijuana Patients Keep Their Guns. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WY) has filed a bill aimed at protecting the gun rights of medical marijuana patients. The Second Amendment Protection Act would grant an exemption from the federal law that says people cannot purchase firearms if they're "unlawful user[s] or addicted to any controlled substance" for state-legal medical marijuana patients.

North Dakota

North Dakota Lawmakers Back Away from Proposal for Database to Check Patients' Eligibility for Concealed Weapons Licenses. House lawmakers on last Tuesday approved a measure, Senate Bill 2140, that would require the Department of Health to disclose medical marijuana patients' identities to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation "for the sole purpose" of determining whether they are eligible and in compliance with the state's concealed weapons law. But on Wednesday, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem reminded lawmakers that changes to the voter-approved medical marijuana law required a two-thirds vote, not a mere majority, so lawmakers voted to send the bill back to the Natural Resources Committee, where its chairman said he will strip the gun language from the bill so it can pass.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Signs Patient Protection Bill. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has signed into law HB 2612, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. The measure protects patients' rights to possess firearms under state law and allows the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to hire its own investigators to probe alleged violations. The law will go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, which will be at the end of May.

Tennessee

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bills Are Dead for This Year. State Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), a doctor and leading proponent of medical marijuana in the legislature, announced last Wednesday he was delaying all medical marijuana bills until next year. He said he was convinced the bill would fail, and decided it was better to delay the proposal than watch it fail in committee. "You can run a bill and have it defeated, or you can keep it alive," Dickerson said. "And practically speaking, we decided to keep it alive and not have a defeat for perception more than anything."

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Get Hearing. The House Public Health Committee held a hearing on a trio of medical bills last Thursday. Testimony was sometimes highly emotional, and no one spoke up against medical marijuana. HB 122 would create a legal defense for patients possessing medical marijuana and doctors who recommend it; HB 1405 would allow hospital patients to use CBD cannabis oil; and HB 3703 would expand current use of CBD cannabis oil to all epilepsy patients, not just those with intractable epilepsy. No votes were taken.

Washington

Washington Senate Approves Allowing Medical Marijuana in School. The state Senate on Saturday overwhelmingly approved SB 5442, which would allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their children at school, on the school bus, and at after-school activities. The bill limits the kind of marijuana used to infused products and extracts.

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

Chronicle AM: FDA Eases Opioid Rules to Allow Tapering, Ciudad Juarez Violence Spikes, More... (4/17/19)

Decriminalization bills are alive in Alabama and North Carolina, the Iowa Senate approves hemp, the FDA eases opioid prescribing rules, Ciudad Juarez sees a bloody weekend, and more.

Hydrocodone. New FDA rules will allow docs to taper patients off opioids, instead of going cold turkey. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Decriminalization Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved SB 98, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. People caught with less than an ounce would face a maximum $250 fine for the first two offenses, but possession of between one and two ounces would be a Class A misdemeanor and possession of more than two ounces would be a Class C felony worth up to 10 years in prison.

Michigan Bills Would Cut Sentences for Pot Prisoners, Probationers. A package of bills from Sen. Sylvia Santana (D) would allow people on probation or in prison for marijuana offenses to have their sentences reduced or eliminated. While there are only three people in state prison who would be affected, more than 1,300 people are on probation for marijuana offenses. "We have already legalized marijuana in the state so therefore this is just the right thing to do," Santana said.

North Carolina Decriminalization Bill Filed. Four state representatives have cosponsored HB766, which would "decriminalize possession of four ounces or less of marijuana and allow for the expunction of possession of marijuana offenses involving possession of four ounces or less of marijuana." It's been referred to the House Rules Committee.

Hemp

Iowa Senate Passes Hemp Legalization. The Senate voted 49-1 to approve SF 599, the Industrial Hemp Act. The hemp industry would be regulated by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The bill now goes to the House.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

FDA Eases Opioid Policy to Allow for Tapering. The Food and Drug Administration has issued labeling changes for prescription opioids that instruct physicians to taper opioid prescriptions rather than cut them down or off. The agency also acknowledged that a 2016 CDC guideline restricting opioid prescriptions had resulted in harms to patients. "Recently, the FDA has received reports of serious harm, including serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain and suicide, in patients who are physically dependent on opioid pain medicines when these medicines are suddenly discontinued or when the dose is reduced too quickly, often without adequate patient communication, follow-up or support," the FDA said in an April 9 announcement. "These practices have also been associated with patients attempting to find other sources of opioids in order to minimize their withdrawal symptoms or self-medicate for pain," the statement said.

Harm Reduction

California Bill Would Let Localities Veto Needle Exchange Programs. State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Orange County) has filed a bill that would require city or county officials to sign off before needle exchanges could operate in their jurisdictions. SB 689 is opposed by public health advocates, who fear it could lead to increased HIV and Hep C transmission and even overdose deaths. The bill is set for a hearing before the Senate Health Committee next week.

International

Mexico Sees Bloody Weekend in Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez saw its bloodiest weekend of the year so far, with 19 people killed last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That brings the death toll for the month so far to 79 as warring cartel factions fight over the lucrative plaza, or control of drug smuggling and retail sales operations.

Chronicle AM: Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decrim, Denver Moves to Expand Pot Social Clubs, More... (4/16/19)

The Denver city council is trying to make it easier for marijuana social consumption businesses to open, a Colorado drug defelonization bill advances, a Democratic presidential contender calls for opioid decriminalization, and more.

The Denver city council is trying to find room for more social consumption spaces. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Moves to Boost Social Consumption Businesses. More than two years after voters approved social use of marijuana in licensed businesses, only two such businesses exist, and now, the City Council is moving to boost their prospects. The Council voted 9-2 on Monday to advance a proposal that would allow such businesses to operate closer to rec centers, day cares, and other such facilities. The law approved by voters required that such establishments be at least 1,000 feet from schools, but city officials added similar requirements for day care, rec centers, and addiction treatment centers. Under this bill, that distance requirement is dropped to 500 feet for all categories except schools.

Hemp

Nebraska Hemp Bill Advances. State lawmakers have given a first approval to a measure to legalize hemp production, LB 657. The bill advanced on a 37-4 vote despite a filibuster from a senator who warned it was a stalking horse for marijuana legalization. The bill enjoys bipartisan support and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) says his administration is working with bill sponsor Sen. Justin Wayne (D-Omaha) to get the bill through. It still needs two more votes before going to the governor.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Democratic Presidential Contender Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decriminalization. Startup veteran, Venture for America founder, and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang used a CNN town hall Sunday night to flesh out an earlier proposal to decriminalize opioids. Calling opioid addiction "a plague," Yang said the goal of decriminalization was to get more Americans in treatment and out of jail. "We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use," Yang said. "I'm also for the legalization of cannabis."

Sentencing Policy

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill that would shift drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors was approved by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday. That's the final committee vote before HB19-1263 heads for a House floor vote. The bill has already been approved by the House Finance and House Judiciary committees.

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

Chronicle AM: No Cannabis Lounges for Oregon This Year; Drug Eradication Clashes in Peru, Mexico, More... (4/15/19)

A set of Michigan bills would do some post-legalization cleanup, a decriminalization bill advances in Missouri, an Oklahoma bill protecting patient rights is signed by the governor, drug crop growers clash with authorities in Mexico and Peru, and more.

Peruvian coca farmers clashed with police and eradicators last Friday, leaving two dead. (deamuseum.org)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Bills Would Cut Sentences for People Jailed for Possession. State Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) has filed a package of bills that would reduce prison, parole, and probation sentences for people jailed for marijuana possession. SB 262 through SB 265 are now before the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. "After the passage of Proposal 1, it's time we rethink drug sentencing laws in Michigan, so let's start with marijuana offenses, since those are no longer considered crimes under current law," Santana said.

Missouri Decriminalization Bill Advances. The House Special Committee on Criminal Justice last Thursday unanimously approved HB 1095, which would decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. The measure would also make possession of less than 35 grams from a felony to a Class D misdemeanor. The measure now heads for a House floor vote.

Oregon Social Consumption Bill Dies. A bill that would have allowed marijuana consumption lounges, SB 639, was among hundreds of bills that died in the legislature after failing to move out of committee by April 9. The bill's failure is a blow to the state's legal marijuana industry, which is faced with chronic oversupply.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Governor Signs Patient Protection Bill. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has signed into law HB 2612, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act. The measure protects patients' rights to possess firearms under state law and allows the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to hire its own investigators to probe alleged violations. The law will go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, which will be at the end of May.

Washington Senate Approves Allowing Medical Marijuana in School. The state Senate on Saturday overwhelmingly approved SB 5442, which would allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their children at school, on the school bus, and at after-school activities. The bill limits the kind of marijuana used to infused products and extracts.

International

Mexico Poppy Farmers Detain Soldiers in Eradication Protest. Residents of a rural town in Guerrero state said they detained 40 soldiers last week to demand they halt opium poppy eradication efforts. The farmers said they set up roadblocks to prevent soldiers from leaving the region and called on the state and federal governments to provide assistance to local farmers so they aren't forced to grow opium. The farmers said the state government had promised in November that their poppy crops would not be destroyed and alternative means of support would be provided, but neither happened.

Peru Clashes Over Coca Eradication Leave Two Farmers Dead. Two coca growers were killed in clashes with a large eradication team last Friday. The team, which consisted of 72 police officers and158 civilian eradicators, had arrived in the area near the Bolivian border to destroy illegal coca fields, but reported that they were attacked by people wielding machetes and sticks as they set up camp. But the mayor of the town of San Gaban said witnesses told him police fired indiscriminately. "They were shooting right and left. That's why we have this bloodshed," the mayor said.

Chronicle AM: Bipartisan Cannabis Banking Bill Filed, Texas MedMJ Hearings, More... (4/12/19)

Some 20 senators sign on to a bill to solve legal marijuana's banking problem, a Maine jail appeals a federal court ruling that it must provide Suboxone to a prisoner, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Federal Bill Would Open Banks to Marijuana Businesses. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with 18 other cosponsors, filed legislation Thursday that would shield banks that maintain accounts for marijuana businesses from being punished by federal regulators. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act would stop federal agencies from being able to "prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a depository institution from providing financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider or to a State, political subdivision of a State, or Indian Tribe that exercises jurisdiction over cannabis-related legitimate businesses." Companion legislation in the House has already passed out of committee and awaits a House floor vote.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Get Hearing. The House Public Health Committee held a hearing on a trio of medical bills Thursday. Testimony was sometimes highly emotional, and no one spoke up against medical marijuana. HB 122 would create a legal defense for patients possessing medical marijuana and doctors who recommend it; HB 1405 would allow hospital patients to use CBD cannabis oil; and HB 3703 would expand current use of CBD cannabis oil to all epilepsy patients, not just those with intractable epilepsy. No votes were taken.

Drug Treatment

Maine Jail Appeals Federal Court Ruling It Must Provide Drug Used in Opioid Treatment. The Aroostook County Jail is appealing a federal judge's ruling that it must provide an opioid addiction medication it says it is necessary to keep addiction in remission. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on March 27 that required the jail to provide buprenorphine (Suboxone) to the prisoner. The jail argues that the judge didn't defer enough to jail administrators for policymaking decisions.

Chronicle AM: Dutch to Try Licensed Grows for Coffee Shops, No MedMJ for TN This Year, More... (4/11/19)

Medical marijuana and guns rights are in the news today, the Dutch embark on a pilot program of licensed legal marijuana grows, there is no medical marijuana for Tennessee this year, and more.

The Dutch are finally moving to resolve the "back door problem" of a legal weed supply for coffee houses. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Block Home Marijuana Deliveries Killed. A bill that would have allowed localities to ban home deliveries of marijuana has died on a tie vote in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. AB 1530 stalled amid concerns it would further hamper the state's struggling legal marijuana industry. Bill sponsor Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Cordova) said he will decide later whether to try again next year.

Wisconsin Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Marquette University Law School poll has support for marijuana legalization at 59%. Support for medical marijuana was even higher at 83%. Gov. Tony Evers (D) has called for the legalization of medical marijuana and the decriminalization of up to 50 grams.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Bill Aims to Let Medical Marijuana Patients Keep Their Guns. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WY) has filed a bill aimed at protecting the gun rights of medical marijuana patients. The Second Amendment Protection Act would grant an exemption from the federal law that says people cannot purchase firearms if they're "unlawful user[s] or addicted to any controlled substance" for state-legal medical marijuana patients.

North Dakota Lawmakers Back Away from Proposal for Database to Check Patents' Eligibility for Concealed Weapons Licenses. House lawmakers on Tuesday approved a measure, Senate Bill 2140, that would require the Department of Health to disclose medical marijuana patients' identities to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation "for the sole purpose" of determining whether they are eligible and in compliance with the state's concealed weapons law. But on Wednesday, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem reminded lawmakers that changes to the voter-approved medical marijuana law required a two-thirds vote, not a mere majority, so lawmakers voted to send the bill back to the Natural Resources Committee, where its chairman said he will strip the gun language from the bill so it can pass.

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bills Are Dead for This Year. State Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), a doctor and leading proponent of medical marijuana in the legislature, announced Wednesday he was delaying all medical marijuana bills until next year. He said he was convinced the bill would fail, and decided it was better to delay the proposal than watch it fail in committee. "You can run a bill and have it defeated, or you can keep it alive," Dickerson said. "And practically speaking, we decided to keep it alive and not have a defeat for perception more than anything."

International

Dutch to Move Forward with Legal, Regulated Marijuana Production for Coffee Shops. The Dutch government released detailed plans Thursday for moving forward with regulated marijuana production to supply the country's famous coffee shops. The plan is to license 10 growers, each of which will grow at least 10 different strains. THC content will be clearly labeled. At least six and no more than 10 local authorities will take part in the trials, which will last four years. It will then be up to the next cabinet to decide whether to move forward with state-regulated marijuana production. The plan is being criticized by some local authorities and coffee shops as being too restrictive by requiring that all cannabis sold in participating coffee shops come from the licensed growers.

The War on Cocaine Only Strengthens Drug Cartels, Study Finds [FEATURE]

If you've spent nearly a half-century and $250 billion trying to stop the flow of cocaine into the US and the white powder is now cheaper and more plentiful than ever, maybe it's time to rethink. That's the implicit lesson lurking behind a new study on the impact of drug interdiction efforts on drug trafficking organizations.

cocaine interdicted by US Customs (dhs.gov)
Interdiction is the supply side approach to reducing drug use. Rather than reducing demand through education, prevention, and treatment, interdiction seeks to reduce the supply of drugs available domestically by blocking them en route to the US or at the border.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and conducted by scientists from a half-dozen American universities, the study relied on a computer model called NarcoLogic that shows how drug traffickers respond to interdiction strategies and tactics. More sophisticated than previous attempts to simulate the drug trade, NarcoLogic models local- and network-level trafficking dynamics at the same time.

"Our team consists of researchers who worked in different parts of Central America during the 2000s and witnessed a massive surge of drugs into the region that coincided with a reinvigoration of the war on drugs," David Wrathall of Oregon State University's College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences said in a press release announcing the research results. "We asked ourselves: did drug interdiction push drug traffickers into these places?"

The short answer is yes, and that has implications that go far beyond drug policy. The Central American migrants who are at the center of the current "border crisis" are fleeing not only poverty but also high levels of violence generated by the movement of Mexican drug trafficking groups into the region a decade ago as they faced increasing interdiction efforts at home and from US authorities.

In fact, although it is not addressed in this new research, it was earlier interdiction efforts aimed at Colombian cocaine trafficking groups in the 1980s that led directly to the transformation of formerly small-scale Mexican cross-border smuggling organizations into the Frankenstein's monster of drug prohibition that the cartels are today. With the Colombians under intense pressure, Mexican traffickers rose to the occasion and have been making billions of dollars a year ever since.

This despite five decades of US interdiction efforts with an average annual expenditure of $5 billion. Instead of curbing the flow of cocaine into the United States, all that has been accomplished is making the drug trafficking operations more widespread and harder to eradicate. Putting pressure on one route or location simply leads traffickers to scatter and regroup. This is the "balloon effect," where suppressing traffic or production in one area prompts it to pop up elsewhere, and the "cockroach effect," where traffickers simply decentralize their operations.

"Between 1996 and 2017, the Western Hemisphere transit zone grew from 2 million to 7 million square miles, making it more difficult and costly for law enforcement to track and disrupt trafficking networks," Wrathall said. "But as trafficking spread, it triggered a host of smuggling-related collateral damages: violence, corruption, proliferation of weapons, and extensive and rapid environmental destruction."

And for all that effort, the impact on cocaine price and availability has been negligible -- or even perverse.

"Wholesale cocaine prices in the United States have actually dropped significantly since 1980, deaths from cocaine overdose are rising, and counterdrug forces intercept cocaine shipments at a low rate. More cocaine entered the United States in 2015 than in any other year," Wrathall said. "And one thing people who support interdiction and those who don't can agree on is that change is needed. This model can help determine what that change should look like."

The main takeaway from the study is not that drug trafficking became more widespread and resilient because of ineffective interdiction efforts, but because of interdiction itself. The policy aimed at suppressing the drug trade has only made it stronger and wealthier.

"The study is a victory for observation and theory. This model successfully recreates the dynamic our team had observed," Wrathall said. "It tells us that increased interdiction will continue to push traffickers into new areas, spreading networks, and allowing them to continue to move drugs north."

Maybe it is time to try something different.

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

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina deputy tries to set up his ex-grlfriend's new boyfriend, a former Texas cop heads to federal prison for helping a "rip crew" steal loads of dope, and more. Let's get to it:

In Wadesboro, North Carolina, an Anson County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for planting drugs in the car of his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. Deputy David Scott Burroughs went down after coworkers grew suspicious when he told them he was getting anonymous tips about the man dealing drugs out of his car. That was last Sunday. Last Wednesday, when police stopped the vehicle, the drugs were still there, adding to suspicions it was a set up. The department then contacted the State Bureau of Investigation, which found that Burroughs had purchased heroin and meth and planted them in the vehicle.

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, a former Chesapeake County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty last Tuesday to smuggling drugs and other contraband into the city jail. Jenis Leroy Plummer, 34, admitted smuggling heroin, cocaine, e-cigarettes, cellphone batteries, and even superglue into the lockup. The superglue was used to help an inmate hide contraband inside his mattress. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former state prison guard pleaded guilty last Wednesday to smuggling drugs and tobacco into the Belmont Correctional Institution in St. Clairsville. Alfred Horvath, 38, was paid hundreds of dollars by people outside the prison to sneak drugs and tobacco inside for use by prisoners. He copped to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Donna ISD police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 130 months in federal prison for assisting a "rip crew" that conducted fake traffic stops on vehicles loaded with drugs so the crew could steal the goodies. Juan Fernando Mata, 40, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 pounds of marijuana in January.

Medical Marijuana Update

Florida battle brews over limiting THC in smokable marijuana, Michigan's unlicensed dispensaries get at least a temporary reprieve, Oregon growers get a heads up from regulators, and more.

Arizona

Arizona Prosecutor Still Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Patients, ACLU Charges. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office under ardent marijuana foe Bill Montgomery is continuing to prosecute medical marijuana patients for extracts even as the legality of that move is being litigated before the state Supreme Court. The state law is unclear on whether extracts and hashish are covered, but such products are widely available in the state, and the ACLU wrote to Montgomery that he needs to quit prosecuting patients "for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries."

Florida

Florida House Committee Votes to Limit Strength of Smokable Marijuana. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted last Wednesday to cap the amount of THC allowed in smokable marijuana flowers at 10% despite the objections of patient advocates who noted that much stronger buds are already available on the market. The move comes less than a month after the legislature removed a ban on the use of smokable marijuana.

Florida Judge Rules Patients Have No Right to Grow Their Own. The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled last Wednesday that a Tampa patient does not have the legal right to grow his own medicine. The decision overturns a lower court ruling that held the patient could grow plants to be juiced as part of his treatment for cancer.

Florida House Committee Approves Limits on THC Levels in Smokable Marijuana After Contentious Hearing. Despite the angry complaints of veterans, patients, and activists, the House Appropriations Committee voted 19-7 Tuesday to approve HB 7117, which would cap the amount of THC in smokable marijuana at 10%, far under the levels normally found in commercially available marijuana. The bill now heads for a House floor vote, but prospects for passage aren't good because the Senate has yet to see a companion bill and the session ends in less than two months.

Michigan

Michigan's Unlicensed Dispensaries Can Stay Open for Now. Unlicensed dispensaries that were set to be shut down by March 31 can continue to operate as attorneys for the businesses meet with state regulators seeking to reach an agreement that will allow the 50 shops to stay open. Regulators had planned to send out cease and desist letters at the beginning of this month, but a Court of Claims judge has blocked that action -- at least until another court hearing set for next Thursday.

Missouri

Missouri Regulators Release Additional Draft Rules. The state Department of Health and Senior Services has released more draft rules for the state's medical marijuana program. The new draft rules for facility evaluation criteria and medical marijuana testing facilities can be viewed here. Draft rules must be finalized by June 4.

New Mexico

New Mexico Governor Signs Omnibus Medical Marijuana Bill. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has signed SB 406 into law. The bill makes broad changes in the state's medical marijuana program, including allowing medical marijuana in schools and allowing licensed manufacturers to process home-grown marijuana. And it allows for reciprocity with other medical marijuana states and protects workers who are medical marijuana patients.

Oregon

Oregon Medical Marijuana Growers Warned to Report Inventory. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program has warned medical marijuana growers that they need to come into compliance with inventory reporting requirements or face stiff penalties. The program issued a bulletin reminding growers they need to use the Oregon Medical Marijuana Online System (OMMOS), and that they must report their onsite marijuana inventory and any sales.

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

Chronicle AM: Trump AG Open to States Setting Pot Policy, Federal Reentry Bill Filed, More... (4/10/19)

Trump's attorney general is down with letting states decide their own pot policies, New York City bans most pre-employment drug testing for marijuana, a federal bill to increase educational opportunities for prisoners gets filed, and more.

Hashish. At least one Arizona prosecutor claims this doesn't qualify as medical marijuana. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Barr Says States Rights Marijuana Bill Better Than Status Quo. In remarks before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said he would rather Congress pass a bill allowing states to legalize marijuana than continue with the status quo, where federal law conflicts with legalization in a number of states. Asked about the STATES Act, which would protect legal marijuana states from federal interference, Barr said he preferred marijuana prohibition, but acknowledged that was a losing proposition. "The situation that I think is intolerable and which I'm opposed to is the current situation we're in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are," Barr said. "Personally, I would still favor one uniform federal rule against marijuana but, if there is not sufficient consensus to obtain that, then I think the way to go is to permit a more federal approach so states can make their own decisions within the framework of the federal law and so we're not just ignoring the enforcement of federal law."

New York City Council Bans Employers from Drug Testing for Marijuana. The city council on Tuesday passed a bill that would ban most public and private employers from requiring job candidates to undergo a pre-employment test for the presence of THC. There are exceptions for workers in construction, caregiving professions, and law enforcement. "We need to be creating more access points for employment, not fewer," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in a release. "It makes absolutely no sense that we're keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use."

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Prosecutor Still Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Patients, ACLU Charges. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office under ardent marijuana foe Bill Montgomery is continuing to prosecute medical marijuana patients for extracts even as the legality of that move is being litigated before the state Supreme Court. The state law is unclear on whether extracts and hashish are covered, but such products are widely available in the state, and the ACLU wrote to Montgomery that he needs to quit prosecuting patients "for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries."

Florida House Committee Approves Limits on THC Levels in Smokable Marijuana After Contentious Hearing. Despite the angry complaints of veterans, patients, and activists, the House Appropriations Committee voted 19-7 Tuesday to approve HB 7117, which would cap the amount of THC in smokable marijuana at 10%, far under the levels normally found in commercially available marijuana. The bill now heads for a House floor vote, but prospects for passage aren't good because the Senate has yet to see a companion bill and the session ends in less than two months.

Michigan's Unlicensed Dispensaries Can Stay Open for Now. Unlicensed dispensaries that were set to be shut down by March 31 can continue to operate as attorneys for the businesses meet with state regulators seek to reach an agreement that will allow the 50 shops to stay open. Regulators had planned to send out cease and desist letters at the beginning of this month, but a Court of Claims judge has blocked that action -- at least until another court hearing set for next Thursday.

Sentencing Reform

Bipartisan Federal Bill Would Boost Prisoner Reentry. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and two Democratic colleagues, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Dick Durbin of Illinois, unveiled a bill Tuesday aimed at boosting reentry prospects for newly released federal prisoners. The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act would provide more educational opportunities for federal inmates, including access to college Pell Grants. "The REAL Act removes some federal impediments to allowing prisoners to participate in federal higher education funding, including the Pell Grants. This would allow for more federal inmates to have the opportunity to participate in these programs," Lee said. The REAL Act is endorsed by a number of stakeholder organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Correctional Association and the Drug Policy Alliance.

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

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, CT Legalization Bills Advance, More... (4/9/19)

A drug defelonization bill advances in Colorado, marijuana legalization bills advance in Connecticut, Oregon medical marijuana growers are put on notice, and more.

The Colorado legislature is taking up both marijuana expansion and drug possession defelonization in this session. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Social Consumption, Marijuana Delivery Bills Advance. The House Finance Committee narrowly approved a pair of bills aimed at expanding access to legal marijuana Monday. HB 1230 would require the Marijuana Enforcement Division to create a licensing system for social marijuana consumption, while HB 1234 would allow delivery of medical marijuana only for the first year, expanding to the legal adult market in year two. The social consumption bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, while the delivery bill head for a House floor vote.

Connecticut Legalization Bill Package Advances. The Judiciary Committee approved a trio of bills Monday that would legalize marijuana and expunge old pot convictions. SB 1085 is the main legalization bill, while SB 1089 would ensure that employers could mandate marijuana could not be smoked at a workplace and HB 7372 would establish an equivalent of a DUI test for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Regulators Release Additional Draft Rules. The state Department of Health and Senior Services has released more draft rules for the state's medical marijuana program. The new draft rules for facility evaluation criteria and medical marijuana testing facilities can be viewed here. Draft rules must be finalized by June 4.

Oregon Medical Marijuana Growers Warned to Report Inventory. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program has warned medical marijuana growers that they need to come into compliance with inventory reporting requirements or face stiff penalties. The program issued a bulletin reminding growers they need to use the Oregon Medical Marijuana Online System (OMMOS), and that they must report their onsite marijuana inventory and any sales.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado House Panel Advances Drug Defelonization Bill. The House Finance Committee has approved HB19-1263, which would change the penalty for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Chronicle AM: CA Cities Sue State Over Pot Deliveries, Fed Bill Targets Chinese Fentanyl, More... (4/8/19)

A Hawaii decriminalization bill nears passage, some California cities are suing the state over being forced to allow marijuana deliveries, the 3rd Circuit clarifies the law on intent to distribute, and more.

A bipartisan federal bill targeting Chinese fentanyl production has been filed. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Cities That Restrict Marijuana Sales Sue State Over Allowing Deliveries. Twenty-four cities that ban legal marijuana sales filed suit against the state last Thursday, arguing that allowing home deliveries in those locales violates the state's marijuana laws. The lawsuit comes after the California Bureau of Cannabis Control adopted a rule in January that permits state-licensed companies to deliver marijuana in cities that ban pot shops.

Florida Legalization Bill Killed. A bill that would have legalized marijuana in the Sunshine State is dead. HB 1117, filed by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) was killed in the House Judiciary Committee, where, he said, "It got no hearing, no debate, no vote. Just like they always do."

Hawaii Senate Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to three grams of marijuana, HB 1383. The bill has already passed out of the House and two other Senate committees and now heads for a Senate floor vote. If it passes there, it will then go to a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

North Dakota Legalization Initiative Organizers to Try Again in 2020. Legalize ND, the folks behind the failed 2018 legalization initiative, will be back in 2020, the group said last Thursday. Organizers said they hoped to have initiative language in place by mid-summer. The new measure will include possession limits, growing limits, taxes on sales, banning of edible gummies, packaging and licensing requirements and wouldn't allow any type of advertising of products.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Governor Signs Omnibus Medical Marijuana Bill. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has signed SB 406 into law. The bill makes broad changes in the state's medical marijuana program, including allowing medical marijuana in schools and allowing licensed manufacturers to process home-grown marijuana. And it allows for reciprocity with other medical marijuana states and protects workers who are medical marijuana patients.

Prosecution

Third Circuit Tosses Heroin Dealer's Conviction, Clarifies Law on Intent to Distribute. The US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the conviction of a heroin dealer, ruling that a conviction for intent to distribute 1,000 grams or more of heroin must be based on evidence that the defendant possessed or distributed that quantity at a single time and not based on adding up several smaller possessions and distributions during the indictment period.

Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Bill Targets China Over Fentanyl. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) led a bipartisan group of senators in filing a bill that would slap sanctions on China if it fails to live up to its recent promise to regulate fentanyl as a controlled substance. The Fentanyl Sanctions Act allots $600 million to law enforcement and intelligence officials to identify producers and traffickers of the drug and would block access to US markets for Chinese chemical and pharmaceutical companies if they are caught producing the drug.

Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl? No, Just Cluelessness by White House Drug Policy Advisor Kellyanne Conway [FEATURE]

Among other roles in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway is the White House's opioid crisis czar. But a comment she made last week demonstrates how totally clueless and unqualified for the job she is.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump drug policy advisor (somehow). (Twitter)
At a news conference before briefing Trump on the latest developments in the opioid crisis, Conway took on fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid linked to an ever-increasing number of overdose deaths in the country. The presidential advisor warned that fentanyl was turning up in other drugs, which is true. The illicit drug is showing up not only in heroin, where it might be expected to add to the opioid's kick but also in other powder drugs whose users are not even looking for an opioid high, such as the stimulants cocaine and methamphetamine.

The concern about drugs being adulterated with fentanyl is warranted. But Conway went a step further in her remarks, making a claim that would require only a moment's thought (or some actual familiarity with illicit drugs) for her to realize was not only false but ludicrous.

"People are unwittingly ingesting it," she said of fentanyl. "It's laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it's also being distributed by itself."

Okay, one of those drugs is not like the others, and that should have been a signal to Conway that she was spouting horse manure. Fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth are all drugs that come in powder form, making it easy to cut one with the other. Marijuana, on the other hand, consists of the flowering buds of a plant. Marijuana buds spotted with powdery white speckles would be obvious (and would probably have consumers wondering if that white stuff was mold).

There is also no evidence of marijuana adulterated with fentanyl despite some urban mythologizing by a handful of law enforcement officials, which was repeated by people who should know better, including Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

When questioned about Conway's fentanyl and marijuana claim, the White House press office pointed to a speech last year by Volkow. "Fentanyl is being used to lace a wide variety of drugs, including marijuana," she claimed.

When questioned about Volkow's claim, the NIDA press office cited "anecdotal reports" from law enforcement. But those "reports" were actually a single report from police in Vancouver, B.C., in 2015 that "fentanyl-laced marijuana" was killing area drug users. And despite the panic over the claim, Vancouver cops admitted a year later that they hadn't actually seen "fentanyl-laced marijuana".

Again in 2017, some Canadian officials claimed there had been fentanyl-laced marijuana deaths. The only problem with that claim is that Canadian coroners reported no such cases.

There are a couple of ways the fentanyl-laced marijuana myth could have come about. The first is that extremely sensitive fentanyl test strips, which detect concentrations as tiny as one-billionth of a gram, could have detected minuscule amounts of the drug on pot handled by people using fentanyl, much the same way $20-dollar bills are found to be widely contaminated with traces of cocaine. Just as you're not going to get high by licking a $20, you're not going to die by smoking weed contaminated by vanishingly-small traces of fentanyl.

The second link is the presence of marijuana in the bodies of some who have died of fentanyl overdoses. But that reveals only that some people use multiple drugs, not that the lethal fentanyl was in the weed.

The DEA, for its part, has not reported encountering "fentanyl-laced marijuana," but none of this has stopped Conway from making her bogus claim. She made the same claim to right activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March.

That Conway continues to spout such nonsense is disturbing for a number of reasons, drug policy experts told Buzzfeed News last week.

"It's crazy that this story is coming out from our leaders," said epidemiologist Dan Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco. "It shows that concerns about fentanyl have reached the level of moral panic. Fear outweighs rational evidence. There is scant evidence for cannabis laced with fentanyl."

"This is part of a wider fentanyl panic that goes beyond having alternative facts and leads to bad decisions," added Northeastern University drug policy expert Leo Beletsky. "There's this mistaken belief that law enforcement are experts on the drugs they are seizing. That's just not the case, and that's part of the problem."

That's an important and under-emphasized point. Police are no more experts on drugs because they arrest drug users and sellers than they are experts on marital relations because they arrest people for domestic violence.

"The danger in a moral panic is that we see this overreaction that leads to a replay of the mistakes of the crack cocaine crisis," Beletsky said. "We need to move beyond the universe of alternative facts."

Unfortunately, this is an administration that swims in a sea of alternative facts. The least we can do is push back hard.

Chronicle AM: Trump Delays Border Shutdown Over Drugs, Migrants; NH House Approves Legal Pot, More... (4/5/19)

Trump pushes his threat to close down the border into the future, migrant workers in the state-legal marijuana industry are being denied citizenship, New Hampshire is one step closer to marijuana legalization, and more.

The US-Mexico border. No shutdown this year, Trump now says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Legal Marijuana Industry Workers Are Being Denied Citizenship. At least two immigrant workers in Colorado's state-legal marijuana industry have been denied citizenship under a US Citizenship and Immigration Services policy that automatically denies citizenship to immigrants working in a business that involves a Schedule I drug. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) has sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr (R) advocating for a change in the policy.

Arkansas Decriminalization Bill Stalled. A bill to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana an administrative infraction instead of a misdemeanor failed to advance out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. Instead, bill sponsor Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) pulled HB 1972 after the committee requested more research instead of passing it.

New Hampshire House Approves Legalization Bill. The House voted 200-163 Thursday to approve HB 481, which would legalize marijuana in the Granite State. The bill's tax structure was amended in the House. Instead of a $30 an ounce tax as originally proposed, the bill now contains a 5% tax at the wholesale/cultivation level and a 9% tax at the retail level. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats hold a 14-10 majority. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) remains opposed to legalizing marijuana.

Washington Bill Would Change Penalty for Sales to Minors from Felony to Misdemeanor. A bill to drastically reduce the penalty for sales to minors has passed the House and is now before the Senate Rules Committee. Under current law, any sales to minors is a felony, but HB 1792 would take that penalty from a felony down to a misdemeanor—unless the seller knew the buyer was a minor.

The Border

Trump Gives Mexico a Year to Stop the Flow of Drugs, Migrants. Retreating from his vow to shut down the US-Mexico border this week President Trump now says he will give Mexico a year to end the flow of migrants and illicit drugs across the border. If the problem persists, he said, he will impose auto tariffs, and if that doesn't work, he will then shut the border. "You know I will do it. I don’t play games. ... so we’re doing it to stop people. We’re gonna give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. ... and if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border," Trump told reporters at the White House. That is a significant retreat from his vow on March 29 to close the border "next week."

Chronicle AM: Guam Legalizes Pot, New Mexico Decriminalizes Pot, Andrew Yang Talks Drug Pardons, More... (4/4/19)

A US territory legalizes weed, a US state decriminalizes it, Florida medical marijuana battles continue, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Federal Lawmakers Reintroduce STATES Act. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has refiled the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, or STATES Act, in both the House and Senate. Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was joined by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in filing the Senate bill, while Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) sponsored the bill in the House.

Guam Legalizes Marijuana. Gov. Leon Guerrero (D) Thursday signed a marijuana legalization bill into law, making Guam the first entity to legalize marijuana this year and the second US territory to do so, after the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The law will create a system of taxed and regulated sales, with a 15% excise tax.

New Mexico Decriminalizes Marijuana. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has signed into law a bill decriminalizing the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana. The maximum penalty will be a $50 fine. The legislation also reduces penalties for pot paraphernalia.

Medical Marijuana

Florida House Committee Votes to Limit Strength of Smokable Marijuana. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Wednesday to cap the amount of THC allowed in smokable marijuana flowers at 10% despite the objections of patient advocates who noted that much stronger buds are already available on the market. The move comes less than a month after the legislature removed a ban on the use of smokable marijuana.

Florida Judge Rules Patients Have No Right to Grow Their Own. The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Tampa patient does not have the legal right to grow his own medicine. The decision overturns a lower court ruling that held the patient could grow plants to be juiced as part of his treatment for cancer.

Drug Policy

Democratic Presidential Contender Andrew Yang Calls for Legalized Marijuana, Commutations for Non-Violent Drug Offenders.  Presidential contender Andrew Yang said Wednesday he would issue mass commutations for imprisoned non-violent drug offenders on 4/20. "I would legalize marijuana and I would pardon everyone who's in jail for a non-violent, drug-related offense," Yang said. "I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, and I would high-five them on their way out of jail."

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

Medical Marijuana Update

An Arizona Walmart worker wins a drug testing case, CBD bills are on the move, no edibles for North Dakota, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. More than a dozen legislators have filed HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Arizona

Arizona Federal Judge Rules for Medical Marijuana-Using Walmart Worker. An Arizona federal district court judge ruled March 19 that Walmart wrongfully fired a long-time employee who was a medical marijuana patient after a drug test returned positive results for marijuana because the company did not establish through expert evidence that she was impaired by marijuana at work. The court held that Walmart's action violated protections in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Colorado

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana for Autism Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday signed into law HB 19-1028, which adds autism to the list of disabling medical conditions that qualify a person to use medical marijuana. A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who cited concerns from medical professionals.

Georgia

Georgia Legislature Approves CBD Oil Access Bill. Both the House and the Senate have now approved HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

Kansas

Kansas CBD Oil Bill Passes House. The House passed HB 2244 last Wednesday. The bill would allow parents of minor patients to travel to Colorado to obtain CBD oil and bring it back to Kansas legally.

New Mexico

New Mexico Regulators Reaffirm Support for Medical Marijuana for Opioid Users. The state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted 4-0 Friday to reaffirm its support for making medical marijuana available for people struggling with opioid addiction. That increases the pressure on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to have the state's health secretary add opioid addiction as a qualifying condition.

North Dakota

North Dakota Senate Rejects Allowing Edibles. The Senate last Monday narrowly rejected HB1364, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to buy and use edible products. The measure had passed the House and actually won majority support in the Senate but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to amend a recent ballot measure. Senators expressed fears children would get access to the drug.

South Carolina

South Carolina Senate Panel Advances Medical Marijuana Bill. A subcommittee of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved SB 366, the Compassionate Care Act, on a 5-1 vote on March 19. The vote came after the subcommittee accepted amendments aimed at easing law enforcement opposition to the bill, among them, banning certain transportation workers from participating, working toward a better method of detecting marijuana-impaired driving, and tightening the definition of a debilitating condition. The bill now goes before the full committee before heading for a Senate floor vote.

West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Vetoes Medical Cannabis Vertical Integration Bill, But Fix May Appear on Special Session Call. Gov. Jim Justice (R) has vetoed a bill that would allow vertical integration of medical marijuana businesses. The measure, HB 2079, may, however, be taken up in a special session set to resume in May.

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

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, ND Moves to End Civil Forfeiture, More... (4/3/19)

Drug defelonization is advancing in Colorado, asset forfeiture reform heads to the governor in North Dakota, New Jersey bail reforms are having a dramatic impact, and more.

North Dakota legislators are making it harder for cops to get their hands on cash and property. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana for Autism Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday signed into law HB 19-1028, which adds autism to the list of disabling medical conditions that qualify a person to use medical marijuana. A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who cited concerns from medical professionals.

Hemp

Idaho Senate Approves Modified Hemp Bill, House Unhappy. The Senate on Monday approved a hemp bill, HB 122, but amended it to address law enforcement concerns, leaving House backers withdrawing their support from the bill. Rep. Dorothy Moon (R) withdrew as a sponsor, saying the amended bill effectively "makes hemp illegal to grow, possess and transport in Idaho."

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Senate Approves Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate voted 46-1 Monday to approve a bill requiring a criminal conviction before authorities can seize cash or valuables.  The House passed HB 1286 in February. The bill now goes to the governor.

Bail Reform

New Jersey Judiciary Releases Annual Bail Reform Report, with Additional Key Statistics. The New Jersey Judiciary released its second Annual Report to the Legislature and Governor on the state’s historic bail reform law. Key findings include that the state's pretrial jail population has declined 43.9 percent since December 31, 2015, and that last year, only 102 people had cash bail set for them out of more than 44,000 criminal defendants.

Sentencing

Colorado Proposal to Defelonize Drug Possession Offenses Advances. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill 8-3 Tuesday that would reduce the penalties for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. HB19-1263 will now advance to the House Finance Committee.

Medical Marijuana Update

An Arizona Walmart worker wins a drug testing case, CBD bills are on the move, no edibles for North Dakota, and more. 

Alabama

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. More than a dozen legislators have filed HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Arizona

Arizona Federal Judge Rules for Medical Marijuana-Using Walmart Worker. An Arizona federal district court judge ruled March 19 that Walmart wrongfully fired a long-time employee who was a medical marijuana patient after a drug test returned positive results for marijuana because the company did not establish through expert evidence that she was impaired by marijuana at work. The court held that Walmart's action violated protections in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

Georgia

Georgia Legislature Approves CBD Oil Access Bill. Both the House and the Senate have now approved HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

Kansas

Kansas CBD Oil Bill Passes House. The House passed HB 2244 last Wednesday. The bill would allow parents of minor patients to travel to Colorado to obtain CBD oil and bring it back to Kansas legally.

New Mexico

New Mexico Regulators Reaffirm Support for Medical Marijuana for Opioid Users. The state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted 4-0 Friday to reaffirm its support for making medical marijuana available for people struggling with opioid addiction. That increases the pressure on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to have the state's health secretary add opioid addiction as a qualifying condition.

North Dakota

North Dakota Senate Rejects Allowing Edibles. The Senate last Monday narrowly rejected HB1364, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to buy and use edible products. The measure had passed the House and actually won majority support in the Senate but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to amend a recent ballot measure. Senators expressed fears children would get access to the drug.

South Carolina

South Carolina Senate Panel Advances Medical Marijuana Bill. A subcommittee of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved SB 366, the Compassionate Care Act, on a 5-1 vote on March 19. The vote came after the subcommittee accepted amendments aimed at easing law enforcement opposition to the bill, among them, banning certain transportation workers from participating, working toward a better method of detecting marijuana-impaired driving, and tightening the definition of a debilitating condition. The bill now goes before the full committee before heading for a Senate floor vote.

West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Vetoes Medical Cannabis Vertical Integration Bill, But Fix May Appear on Special Session Call. Gov. Jim Justice (R) has vetoed a bill that would allow vertical integration of medical marijuana businesses.  The measure, HB 2079, may, however, be taken up in a special session set to resume in May.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A pair of New Jersey cops go rogue, prison guards go wild, and more. Let's get to it:

In Ocean Township, New Jersey, an Ocean Township police officer was arrested March 20 on multiple drug charges. Officer Ryan Vaccaro, who is also head of the local Police Benevolent Association, got caught with multiple unprescribed doses of Clenbuterol, a steroid. He is charged with possession of prescription drugs and possession of prescription drugs with intent to distribute, according to municipal court records. 

In Ridgeville, South Carolina, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday for bringing marijuana and other contraband into the prison. Lieber Correctional Institution guard Anthony Murgolo admitted bringing the goodies into the prison with the intent of selling them. He is charged with misconduct in office, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and introduction of contraband to inmates.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an Angola state prison guard was arrested last Thursday after a shakedown uncovered various drugs inside her vehicle. Corrections Officer Crystal Jenkins, 40, got caught with 14 grams of heroin, an ounce of heroin powder, 12 ounces of marijuana, 3 ½ ounces of synthetic cannabinoids, four ounces of methamphetamine, and a digital scale in her car. She is charged with distributing marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and heroin, one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of introduction of contraband into a penal institution. She admitted to trafficking inside the prison and resigned from her position.

In Joliet, Illinois, a former Joliet police lieutenant was arrested last Friday was arrested for what appears to be stealing dope from the evidence room. Dennis McWherter, 51, faces charges of official misconduct, theft, and possession of a controlled substance. The official misconduct charge indicates he committed the offenses while working in an official law enforcement capacity.

In Princeton, Indiana, a Princeton police officer was arrested Monday for helping a subject detained in a drug investigation discard his dope before arriving for booking at the police station. Officer George was called to assist in a DEA-directed traffic stop bust and was transporting one of the detainees to the station when he became aware the suspect had 77 grams of heroin in his pants. Gibson allowed him to discard the drugs, but other officers found the dope and notified the Indiana State Police Organized Crime and Corruption Unit, which investigated and arrested Gibson. He is charged with official misconduct.

In Salem, Oregon, a former Salem police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to 18 months' probation and 20 days in jail after being caught in February with methamphetamine and stolen computer equipment. Seth Thayres, 31, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft. He still faces an additional 17 counts of computer crime, theft, and meth possession in another county. He is accused of stealing from several businesses including a legal firm, a tech business and a production company. He had been on administrative leave since October and was awaiting a fitness-for-duty evaluation when arrested. He resigned from the department after his arrest.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a former Paterson police officer was sentenced last Wednesday for dealing drugs, including some he stole from a crime scene, as well as assaulting a hospital patient in an unrelated case. Ruben McAusland, 27, had pleaded guilty in June to possessing drugs with the intent to distribute and depriving the patient of his civil rights. He got 66 months in federal prison.

Chronicle AM: China Bans All Fentanyl Variants, DC Gets 76,000 Naloxone Kits, More... (4/2/19)

China bans all fentanyl variants, Sri Lanka is to resume drug executions, marijuana sentencing reform bills advance in Iowa and Texas, and more.

A lethal dose of fentanyl (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill Filed to Protect Legal Marijuana States. For the fifth consecutive congressional session, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has filed a bill to block the federal government from going after states that have legalized marijuana. The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt states with legal marijuana from federal intervention. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Arkansas Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) and cosponsors filed HB 1972 on Monday. The measure would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a maximum $200 fine. Currently, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Iowa Bill to Reduce Pot Penalties Advances. A bill that would reduce penalties for possessing five grams of weed or less passed the Senate Monday on a 40-8 vote. SF 378 would move possession of five grams or less from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor. The bill now heads to the House.

Texas Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill to decriminalize small-time pot possession was approved by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday. HB 63 would reduce criminal penalties for low-levels of marijuana possession, allowing a person carrying cannabis to receive two civil penalties before facing misdemeanor charges. The next step is a House floor vote.  

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Speeds Access to Opioid Addiction Medication. The state's Human Services Commissioner announced that beginning this week, Medicaid recipients will no longer have to wait for approval from an insurance company before a doctor can prescribe them medication-assisted treatments. Previously, people faced delays as doctors submitted paperwork and waited for an okay from the patient's Medicaid managed-care plan.

DC Police, Community Groups Will Get 76,000 Naloxone Kits. The city of Washington, DC, has purchased 76,000 kits of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. The kits will be distributed to police officers and community health organizations by September 30. Last year, the District saw more deaths from drug overdoses than from homicides.

International

China Bans All Types of Fentanyl. Chinese officials said Monday that the country is banning all variants of fentanyl by declaring them controlled substances under Chinese law. The move makes good a pledge Premier Xi Jinping made to President Trump late last year. The move could slow the supply of the drug and its variants to the US, where it is implicated in tens of thousands of overdose deaths. But the ban does not cover precursor chemicals, which are often sent to Mexico, where traffickers use them to produce fentanyl.

Sri Lanka Burns Cocaine Haul as President Announces First Executions in Decades. President Maithripala Sirisena used the public burning of seized cocaine to announce the first executions in decades as part of a crackdown on drugs. ’To curb the illegal drug menace, it is necessary to implement the death penalty," he said.  "The death penalty will be implemented in the coming days. The list has been prepared and we have decided on the date too. The move toward a drug crackdown has been criticized by human rights groups and the European Union. 

Chronicle AM: Israeli Pot Decrim Now in Effect, NY Legal Pot Push Hits Bump, More... (4/1/19)

Pot legalization fails to make the budget in New York, New Mexico regulators reaffirm their support for medical marijuana for people addicted to opioids, Israel pot decriminalization is now in effect, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

New York Budget Proposal Doesn’t Include Marijuana Legalization. Marijuana legalization will not be fast-tracked as part of the state’s budget because lawmakers could not reach agreement by April 1, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state will pass it by June. "We will get marijuana done, it’s not a question of political desire, it’s a question of practical reality of how you put the new system in place," Cuomo said.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Legislature Approves CBD Oil Access Bill. Both the House and the Senate have now approved HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

New Mexico Regulators Reaffirm Support for Medical Marijuana for Opioid Users. The state's Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted 4-0 Friday to reaffirm its support for making medical marijuana available for people struggling with opioid addiction. That increases the pressure on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to have the state's health secretary add opioid addiction as a qualifying condition.

West Virginia Governor Vetoes Medical Cannabis Vertical Integration Bill, But Fix May Appear on Special Session Call. Gov. Jim Justice (R) has vetoed a bill that would allow vertical integration of medical marijuana businesses.  The measure, HB 2079, may, however, be taken up in a special session set to resume in May.

International

Israel Marijuana Decriminalization Now in Effect. Marijuana possession is decriminalized as of April 1. Under new guidelines, possession of small amounts of marijuana in private homes will no longer be treated as an offense, criminal or otherwise. Public possession will generate a fine of around $275, with that fine doubling for a second offense within five years. Only if someone commits a third public possession offense within seven years will he face the possibility of criminal prosecution. 

Chronicle AM: Fed Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed, MT Legal Pot Bill Killed, More... (3/29/19)

A Michigan commission wisely recommends no de jure limit on THC in driver's blood, a Montana marijuana legalization bill gets killed in committee, a federal bill to end civil asset forfeiture is filed, and more.

Various states and the Congress are taking up asset forfeiture reform. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Regulators Recommend No Legal Limit on THC in Drivers. The state's Impaired Driving Safety Commission has recommended that the state set no limit for the amount of THC in a driver's blood. Instead of setting a limit similar to that for blood alcohol, the commission recommending using roadside sobriety tests to measure impaired driving. "The only reasonable way to do this right now is to demonstrate that people are impaired," Norbert Kaminski, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University and commission member, said. 

Montana Legalization Bill Killed. A bill to legalize marijuana died in committee on Thursday. HB 770 was killed in the House Taxation Committee after law enforcement representatives called legalization "a nightmare" for state citizens.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) filed the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act on Wednesday. The bill, HR 1895, would bring sweeping reforms to the federal use of civil asset forfeiture, most critically, it would end the equitable sharing program, which local and state law enforcement uses to evade restrictions on seizures under state laws.

Minnesota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee voted Tuesday to advance Senate File 2155, which would replace a number of state asset forfeiture laws with a single statewide law and repeal administrative forfeiture, an archaic process that allows assets to be seized without a court order.

South Carolina Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House. The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would require the State Law Enforcement Division to keep a database of seizures and disbursements. HB 590 faces one more routine vote before it is sent to the Senate.

Chronicle AM: No Legal Pot for NJ (Yet), CO Drug Defelonization Bill Filed, Guam Legal Pot Bill, More... (3/28/19)

New Jersey doesn't yet have the votes to pass legalization, Guam sends a legalization bill to the governor, a Colorado drug defelonization bill gets filed, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Bill Advances in House. The House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 Thursday to approve HR 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. The bill aims at ensuring that state-legal marijuana operations have access to banking and financial services. This marks the first time a marijuana banking bill has been approved by a congressional committee.

Connecticut Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The General Law Committee voted 10-8 Monday to approve a bill that spells out many of the details of a proposed system of legal marijuana for adults. The bill is one of a number of bills aimed at legalizing pot this session and could eventually be combined with others to craft a comprehensive bill.

Guam Legalization Bill Heads for Governor’s Desk. Legislators in the US island territory voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as allowing adults to possess, grow, and consume their own. The measure, Bill 32-35, now goes to the desk of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D), who is expected to sign it. If she does, Guam will become the first US state or territory to pass legalization this year.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Ways and Means Committee voted 14-6 Wednesday to approve HB 481, which would legalize marijuana for adults and create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The bill would also allow adults to grow and possess their own. The bill now goes to a House floor vote before heading to the Senate.

New Jersey Legalization Bill Stalled. A much anticipated Monday vote on the legalization bill, A 4497/S 2703, didn’t happen after legislative leaders realized they still didn’t have the votes in the Senate to pass it. "History is rarely made on the first try," Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a press conference announcing the postponement. "Certainly I’m disappointed but we are not defeated… We all remain committed to passing this bill and making our state a national model for justice and opportunity because ultimately this is the right thing to do for New Jersey, and we know the people of New Jersey are on our side."

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. More than a dozen legislators have filed HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Kansas CBD Oil Bill Passes House. The House passed HB 2244 on Wednesday. The bill would allow parents of minor patients to travel to Colorado to obtain CBD oil and bring it back to Kansas legally.

North Dakota Senate Rejects Allowing Edibles. The Senate on Monday narrowly rejected HB1364, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to buy and use edible products. The measure had passed the House and actually won majority support in the Senate but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to amend a recent ballot measure. Senators expressed fears children would get access to the drug.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Bill Wins Senate Support. A civil asset forfeiture reform bill, HB 1286, that has already passed the House found support in the Senate Tuesday. Sen. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee said after a hearing she was open to amending the bill to get it passed. As it stands, the bill would require a conviction before forfeiture proceedings could take place.

Drug Policy

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Filed. A bill to defelonize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, HB 19-1263, has been filed in the House. Under the bill, those convicted of simple drug possession would face misdemeanor charges with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. The current maximum sentence for simple possession is 18 months. The bill was introduced last Friday. 

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