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Virginia Legalizes Marijuana, California Safe Injection Site Bill Advances, More... (4/8/21)

Medical marijuana bills advance in several states, Virginia legalizes marijuana, a West Virginia bill to continue mandatory drug screening and testing of welfare recipients passed the House, and more.

California could see pilot safe injection site programs if a bill in the state Senate passes. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legalizes Marijuana. With a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), the state Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to Senate Bill 1406, which legalizes marijuana in the state. The legislature also approved amendments by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) that included moving up the date of the legalization of pot possession from 2024 to this coming July. Virginia now becomes the 16th state to have legalized marijuana (New Mexico has passed a bill but it has not been signed into law yet.)

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A medical marijuana bill that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 46, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House Health Committee before heading for a House floor vote. The bill would allow the use of marijuana by people with specified qualifying conditions.

Georgia Legislature Approves Bill to Allow Marijuana Oil Dispensaries. With a final vote in the Assembly, the legislature has passed House Bill 738, which will allow for the production and distribution of marijuana oil. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

South Dakota Governor Still Wants Changes in Medical Marijuana Program. Despite being rebuffed by lawmakers during the last legislative session, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) says she wants a special session convened to address the same proposed changes lawmakers just rejected. She wants to set the maximum number of plants grown at three, she wants the Department of Health to be the rule-making authority for the program, and she wants to bar people under 21 from being eligible to use medical marijuana.

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. A bill that would expand the state's compassionate use program for medical marijuana, House Bill 1535, has passed the House Public Health Committee. The bill would expand the program, which currently only applies to terminal cancer patients, to include other cancer patients, veterans with PTSD, and chronic pain that would otherwise be treated by an opioid.

Hemp

Idaho Legislature Approves Hemp Bill. With a final vote in the Senate Wednesday, the legislature approved a bill to legalize hemp production in the state, House Bill 126. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Brad Little (R). Idaho is the only state that has yet to legalize hemp production.

Drug Testing

West Virginia House Approves Bill to Extend Drug Testing Requirement for Welfare Recipients. The House of Delegates on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 387, which would keep in place a requirement that first time applicants of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) pass a drug test if a drug screening suggests they may be drug users. The Senate version of the bill would only extend the program for one year, so the bill is going to have to go back to the Senate to resolve the difference.

Harm Reduction

California Bill to Allow Safe Injection Site Pilot Programs Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Public Safety Committee on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco). The bill would legalize safe injection sites as pilot programs in Los Angeles County, Oakland, and San Francisco. The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate Health Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. If passed, it may have to overcome federal hurdles too.

Key Democrat Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill, MD House Approves Police Reforms, More... (3/12/21)

A Vermont drug decriminalization bill is filed, Rhose Island's governor rolls out a marijuana legalization plan, Morocco moves toward legalizing hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

The Maryland House has approved sweeping police reforms including limits on no-knock raids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key Congressional Chair Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), head of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday that he will reintroduce his bill to legalize marijuana this session. The bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed the House last year, but was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, the Democrats control both houses.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Plan in Budget Proposal. Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Thursday released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes a plan for legalizing marijuana. McKee is calling for 25 retailers to be licensed in each of the first three years of legalization, with five being earmarked for minority-owned businesses, including those owned by women. Legislative leaders filed their own bill to legalize marijuana earlier this week. Both lawmakers and administration officials said they plan to work together to achieve legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Senate Revives Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill Killed by House. After the House on Wednesday killed a bill to substitute for a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, Senate Bill 2765, the Senate moved late Wednesday night to revive it. Although SB 2765 is dead, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-South Haven) successfully amended another bill, House Bill 119, using the exact language in SB 2765.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize hemp, House Bill 126, which has already passed the House, has now been unanimously approved by the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee and is headed for a Senate floor vote. Idaho is the only state where industrial hemp production remains illegal.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill to Make Legalizing Drugs More Difficult Passes Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to legalize marijuana or any drug through the initiative process has been approved by the Senate and now heads to the House. Under the bill, the legalization of any drug would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. This bill now needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House. If approved, it would then go before voters in 2022.

Vermont Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Reps. Selene Colburn (P) and Logan Nicoll (D) have filed House Bill 422, which would decriminalize the possession and dispensing of personal use amounts of all illicit drugs. Under the bill, personal use quantities would be set by a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Health Department. Persons caught with personal use amounts of drugs would face a $50 fine, which could be avoided by agreeing to be screened for substance abuse disorder.

Law Enforcement

Maryland House Approves Sweeping Police Reform Bill. The House on Thursday approved an omnibus police reform bill, House Bill 670, that, among other things, would require the use of body cameras by 2025, ban chokeholds and create a duty for police to intervene in the face of misconduct, and would limit but not ban no-knock raids. The Senate has already approved a package of nine bills with many provisions similar to the House bill. The two chambers will meet to attempt to reconcile the bills and send them to Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

International

Morocco Government Approves Bill to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The cabinet has approved a bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana, i.e. hemp and medical marijuana. The bill will now be submitted to parliament. The country is seeking to establish a regulatory framework for the entire chain of cultivation, production, processing and marketing of marijuana for medical, cosmetic and industrial uses such as textiles or paper. Morocco has long been one of the world's leading marijuana producers and currently supplies Europe with black market hashish.

CT Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization in Budget Proposal, Baltimore Announces Policing Reform, More... (2/11/21)

The appetite for busting pot smokers grows weaker in Fort Lauderdale and Milwaukee, Idaho could this year finally legalize hemp, and more.

Baltimore police are reforming some of their stop and search practices. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Plan in Budget Proposal. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) on Wednesday released his budget request, which includes a plan to legalize marijuana. His plan would involve creating a "comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, use, and taxation of cannabis that prioritizes public health, public safety, and social justice," Lamont said. "The proposal builds on the significant work that the Legislature has done on adult-use cannabis in recent sessions and ensures alignment with the approaches pursued by regional states," a summary of the plan says.

Florida's Broward County Gives Up on Misdemeanor Pot Prosecutions. Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) State Attorney Harold Pryor has told county police agencies not to bother referring misdemeanor marijuana possession cases for prosecution. "Prosecuting these cases has no public safety value and is a costly and counterproductive use of limited resources," Pryor wrote in a memo to the law enforcement agencies. He asked them to refer violators to drug-treatment programs instead of the criminal justice system. Possession of up to 20 grams is a misdemeanor under state law. Neighboring Miami-Dade County enacted a similar policy six months ago. Dade and Broward are the state's two most populous counties.

Milwaukee County Board to Consider $1 Fine for Pot Possession. Board Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez has proposed an ordinance that would make the maximum penalty for possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana a $1 fine. Currently, possession is punished with fines of between $250 and $500. The board's Judiciary Committee will take up the ordinance on March 11.

Hemp

Idaho House Committee Files Hemp Bill. Acting on the behest of the state Farm Bureau, the House Agriculture Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to file legislation to legalize industrial hemp in the state -- the only state yet to do so. The committee vote sets the stage for a full hearing on the bill, which agriculture leaders say they hope will end years of debate on legalizing the crop.

Drug Testing

Utah Bill Would Ban Hair Follicle Drug Tests in Child Welfare Cases. Rep. Christine Watkins (R-Price) has filed House Bill 73, which would ban the use of hair follicle drug tests in child welfare cases. "It discriminates against people with dark hair," she said in a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. "This is very, very disturbing," Watkins said. "Melanin in dark hair binds with the drugs for a longer time." That means Black and Hispanic parents disproportionately test positive in those tests, she added. The bill has the support of the state Department of Child and Family Services, which said it had been moving away from using the tests.

Law Enforcement

Baltimore Police Unveil New Stop and Search Policies to Comply with Federal Consent Decree. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced Wednesday that the department has implemented a new "stops, searches and arrests" policy as the department seeks to comply with a federal consent decree and eliminate unconstitutional interactions with the public. Under the policy, officers will be trained in what constitutes "reasonable, articulable suspicion" for stopping a citizen. The new policy makes clear that someone fleeing when he sees police is not an adequate reason to stop and investigate him. Police had frequently resorted to "jump outs at corners," jumping out of their vehicles at corners known for drug trafficking and detaining anyone who ran away. No more.

NJ Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Bill, Mexico Strikes Back at DEA, More... (12/7/20)

South Dakota's attorney general's office intervenes against a challenge to the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization, New Jersey's governor and lawmakers reach an agreement on their marijuana bill, and more.

No random marijuana tests for NBA players next year -- and maybe ever.
Marijuana Policy

NBA Won't Test Players for Marijuana Next Year. In a continuation of a policy adopted this year, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will not drug test players for the presence of marijuana -- and it could be moving toward a permanent suspension of such testing. "Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA [NBA Players Association] to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse," an NBA spokesperson said. The pause only applies to random drug tests; a player could be tested for marijuana for cause.

New Jersey Governor, Lawmakers Approve Framework for Recreational Marijuana Bill. "We're proud to announce today that we've reached an agreement on legislation providing the framework for legalization, which is a critical step in reducing racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system," the office of Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a statement last Friday. Among the areas of agreement are that 70% of marijuana sales tax revenues will go to social justice programs and that licenses will be issued to 37 growers for the first two years. An amendment to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms will be removed and considered separately.

South Dakota Attorney General's Office Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Victorious Legal Marijuana Initiative. State Assistant Attorney General Grant Flynn last Thursday filed a request with a district judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the legality of the voter-approved initiative that legalizes marijuana in the state. "The State respectfully requests that Contestants' Election Contest be denied in all respects and that Contestants' Complaint be dismissed with prejudice, in its entirety, and judgement be entered in favor of the state," says the filing authored by Flynn. The plaintiffs are arguing that the measure violates the state constitution because it deals with "a multitude" of topics, not just legalizing marijuana. Those include medical marijuana and hemp. "The State denies that Amendment A includes a 'multitude' of different subjects," Flynn wrote. Attorneys representing the initiative campaign have also joined the case. All sides have until January 8 to file motions and briefs.

Foreign Policy

Mexican President Proposes Stripping Diplomatic Immunity for DEA Agents. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has proposed removing diplomatic immunity for DEA agents working in Mexico. Under the proposal, DEA agents would have to submit all the information they collect in the country to the Mexican government. Also, any Mexican government officials contacted by the DEA would have to report on that contact to the Foreign Relations Department. A DEA spokesman said, however, that sharing information with Mexico "is not going to happen," citing corruption in the Mexican government. The proposal after former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested on drug and corruption charges in Los Angeles, only to see the charges dropped weeks later by US prosecutors who cited "sensitive and important foreign policy considerations."

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.

CA Governor Signs Marijuana Appellations Bill, IL Senate Committee Takes Up Drug Penalties, More... (9/30/20)

A new federal bill uses drugs and terrorism to take aim at tech companies' liability protections, a new Wyoming bill would ban smokeable hemp and most CBD products, and more.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/Old_Gravenstein_Highway_road_sign-213x320.jpg
Your California marijuana may soon be labeled for appellation of origin, like wine. (Frank Schulenberg, Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Marijuana Appellations Bill into Law. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 67, which will allow marijuana growing communities in the state to establish authentic, terroir-based appellations similar to those used by wine producers around the world.

Wyoming Bill Would Limit CBD, Hemp Products. At the behest of Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt, state Sen. R.J. Kost has drafted a bill, 21LSO-88, that would ban the processing, possession, and retail sale of smokable hemp and CBD food and beverage products. CBD oils are not included in the bill. "It's an attempt to try to eliminate where the crossover between marijuana and hemp is so difficult to be able to identify," Kost said. The bill would all ban CBD products from being marketed as a dietary supplement and require labels saying that the product has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Drug Policy

New Federal Bill Uses Drugs, Terrorism Threats to Limit Internet Companies' Liability Protections. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) on Tuesday filed the See Something, Say Something Online Act that would limit tech companies' liability protections over illegal activity on their platforms. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently exempts tech companies from being liable for third-party content on their platforms, but this bill would amend Section 230 to make large tech companies legally responsible for removing specified illegal content -- such as drug sales or terrorist activity -- on their platforms.

Illinois Senate Committee Focuses on Drug Penalty Reform. The state Senate Criminal Law Committee and Special Committee on Public Safety held its latest in a series of hearings related to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus' legislative agenda Tuesday, focusing on reclassifying offenses, drug penalty reform and elderly parole. Witnesses told the committee that changes to reduce penalties for marijuana offenses were a step forward, but that deeper changes are needed. They pointed to racial disparities in drug sentencing, where Blacks who make up less than 15% of the state population account for nearly 70% of prison admissions for drug charges. No legislation has yet been filed.

SD Marijuana Poll Has Good News, UC Berkeley to Open Psychedelic Research Center, More... (9/22/20)

A Texas judge has temporarily lifted a ban on smokable hemp, the Ann Arbor city council approves a resolution effectively decriminalizing plant-based psychedelics, and more.

Marijuana legalization and medical marijuana initiatives are polling well. If they can win in South Dakota... (CC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Opposition Group's Polling Shows Voter Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiatives. A poll commissioned by a group opposing the state's marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, finds both leading by a sizeable margin. The survey found that 70% supported the medical marijuana initiative and 60% supported the legalization initiative.

Hemp

Texas Judge Lifts Ban on Smokable Hemp Until 2021. A Texas judge has granted a temporary injunction barring the state from enforcing a ban on smokable hemp products until a challenge from the industry can be heard on court. The ban was written into legislation legalizing hemp in the state, but four hemp producers challenged it in court. Last week, Travis County Judge Lora Livingston found that the plaintiffs "have demonstrated a probable right to relief," Livingston granted the injunction, which will be in effect until the issue is litigated in February.

Psychedelics

New Psychedelics Research and Education Center Launched at UC Berkeley As Reform Movement Grows. The University of California at Berkeley will launch a new center dedicated to psychedelics research and education, the school announced Monday. Researchers will study psychedelics to "investigate cognition, perception and emotion and their biological bases in the human brain," according to a press release. At the same time, the new entity will be putting resources toward informing the public about "this rapidly advancing field of research." Johns Hopkins University opened a similar center last year.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council voted Monday night to approve a resolution effectively decriminalizing plant-based psychedelics (or entheogens). The resolution passed unanimously.

AZ Poll Has MJ Init With Bare Majority, White House Releases Annual Drug Certification List, More... (9/16/20)

A new poll has the Arizona marijuana legalization initiative at 51%, the natural psychedelic decriminalization movement comes to Ann Arbor, and more.

President Trump released the annual certification of other countries' compliance with US drug policies on Wednesday. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative with Bare Majority. A new Monmouth University poll has the Prop 207 marijuana legalization initiative winning the support of 51% of registered voters, with 41% opposed, 6% undecided, and 3% who said they would not vote on the issue. That is an uncomfortably close margin, but at this late stage also a hopeful one. Traditionally an initiative campaign hopes to begin a campaign with 60% support, expecting to lose some voters as election day approaches and details of the initiative get debated.

Foreign Policy

White Houses Releases Annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2021. In an annual exercise in which the US grades other countries' compliance with US drug policy objectives, President Trump on Wednesday named 20 countries as "major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries." They are: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Although Venezuela is not a drug producing country, Trump named "the Venezuelan dictator, Nicholas Maduro" as "the most complicit kingpin in the Hemisphere." He also called on Colombia to "move forward with aerial spraying" of coca crops and Peru "to resume eradication operations in the country"s high yield coca producing regions, including the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers." He also warned Mexico that it must step up anti-drug operations if it wants to avoid being considered a country that "failed demonstrably to uphold its international drug control commitments."

Psychedelics

Ann Arbor, Michigan, City Council to Take Up Natural Psychedelic Lowest Priority Ordinance. The Ann Arbor city council will take up a ordinance that would make enforcement of laws against plant- and fungi-based psychedelic drugs the lowest law enforcement priority next Monday. Those drugs include psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca, mescaline, ibogaine and others. The move is being pushed by an activist group, Decriminalize Ann Arbor.

International

Brazil Fast-Tracks Legislation to Legalize Cultivation of Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The Brazilian legislature is moving a bill that would legalize the cultivation of medical marijuana and hemp. While efforts have been underway since 2015 to revise the country's marijuana laws, this new version of the legislation calls for cultivation, processing, research, storage, transportation, production, industrialization, commercialization, import and export of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp be legalized.

Can Marijuana Win Over Voters in This High Plains Red State? [FEATURE]

Marijuana is on the ballot in South Dakota this year. This is a state that has the dubious distinction of being the only one to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative. And it has another dubious distinction: It's the only state where people get prosecuted for having marijuana show up on a drug test.

That South Dakota has reactionary drug laws is not surprising; it is a pretty reactionary state. It voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has (in)famously discussed adding the president's likeness to Mt. Rushmore with him. The state's congressional delegation is all-GOP, including Senate Majority Whip John Thune, and Republicans control both houses of the legislature as well, holding a supermajority in both for nearly a quarter-century.

Still, not one but two marijuana initiatives managed to find enough support to make the ballot, and local organizers supported by national reform groups New Approach PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) are hoping that marijuana's momentum can overcome rock-ribbed Republican recalcitrance on the prairie come November.

The first, Initiated Measure 26, led by New Approach South Dakota, would create a medical marijuana program for patients with doctor-certified specified debilitating medical conditions. Patients could possess up to three ounces and grow up to three plants -- or more if a doctor okays it. The state Department of Health would create and enforce rules and regulations.

The second, Constitutional Amendment A, would legalize up to an ounce for adults 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated cultivation and sales. It would allow people to grow up to three plants at home -- but only if there are no retail sales outlets in their local government jurisdiction. The amendment would also require the legislature to legalize the sale of hemp and create a state medical marijuana program by April 1, 2022.

Can green win in red South Dakota? Perhaps the state isn't as red as it seems, said Michael Card, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

"There are more no-party voter registrations now," he said in a phone interview. "Within five years, independents will probably come close to catching up to Republicans. Democrats are fleeing the party because they don't win."

"Our campaign is really bipartisan; this isn't a partisan issue," said Melissa Mentele, director of New Approach South Dakota, which is leading the effort for the medical marijuana initiative. "It doesn't matter what your party is; this is something that has brought so many people together," she said in a phone interview.

And it's no longer the last century or even the last decade, pointed out MPP campaigns coordinator Jared Moffat, who is working with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws in support of both initiatives.

"It's been 10 years since the last attempt to reform South Dakota's marijuana laws through the ballot, and in that time, a lot has changed," he said in an email exchange. "Support for marijuana policy reform has increased significantly in every part of the county and 11 states have adopted adult-use legalization laws -- and they're working well. No state has made a serious attempt to repeal those laws. We also have recent internal polling of South Dakotans that suggests we have a great shot at passing both initiatives."

"We've had six years of education leading up to this medical marijuana initiative, the same bill has been sponsored twice in the legislature, it's been debated publicly, there's been a lot of media, and I think it's time," said Mentele. It will take a nice, slow, steady march to victory," she added.

When queried about the need for a separate medical marijuana initiative, she bristled just a bit.

"We need to press forward with both," she said. "Legalizing adult use is beneficial to the economy, but I'm a patient advocate; I'm about things like teaching people how to move off of opioids and pharmaceuticals, and when adult use programs come on board they tend to swallow medical programs. We don't want that to happen. We want two distinct markets with a tax break for patients. The people who aren't medical can buy it and pay taxes, but a true medical marijuana program passes savings on to patients."

So, will both pass, will one pass, will neither pass?

"If I had to predict, expecting high turnout for the presidential race, you're looking at Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County, the largest county in the state voting for it, and probably Brookings and Clay counties [home of South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, respectively], and Union County, and the reservation counties," said Michael Card, associate professor of political science at USD in a phone interview.

But that means a whole lot of South Dakota counties likely won't be voting for either medical or recreational marijuana this fall. Still, with the Sioux Falls metro area population of 266,000 constituting nearly 30% of the entire state population, that makes up for a number of sparsely-populated, more conservative counties. It's going to be competitive.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the constitutional amendment passed because of the inclusion of industrial hemp and the taxation of marijuana," said Card. "If I were leading the campaign, I'd be telling people this is a tax you don't have to pay. It's also being supported by a former US attorney, Brendan Johnson."

But, Card said, it's also possible that voters could reject legalization and just pass medical marijuana. "Our population is aging, we're seeing more patients, and even for many youth there are medicinal uses, so the idea that they could vote down legalization and approve medical is certainly plausible," he said.

"The governor is very strongly against marijuana in any way, shape, or form," said Card. "She kept the South Dakota legislature from adopting a farmers' hemp cultivation bill. She drew a line in the sand and said no way."

Noem is not alone in opposing marijuana reforms; the usual suspects are also out to block it. In July, the South Dakota Medical Association came out against both initiatives and will write the opposition statement that will appear on the general election ballot. The association maintains that marijuana is a hazardous drug and a public health concern.

Also in July, the legalization initiative drew organized oppositionin the form of a ballot committee calling itself NO Way on Amendment. That group is led by David Own, the president of the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is being joined by law enforcement, public officials, and social work leaders.

"South Dakota's current marijuana laws aren't working, and they are not serving South Dakotans' best interests," argued Moffat. "Amendment A and Measure 26 will fix what's broken and establish a commonsense approach that provides relief to patients, improves public safety, and strengthens South Dakota's economy."

The campaign is still honing messages for key voters, he added, but will likely emphasize the need for tax revenues in the face of economic downturns and the need to get marijuana out of the criminal justice system. He noted that one out of 10 arrests in the state in 2018 was for marijuana. The campaign will also make the argument that passage of the constitutional amendment is necessary to protect medical marijuana from legislative chicanery, as happened with a campaign finance law approved by voters in 2016 and gutted in Pierre.

The campaign is in decent financial shape in small-market South Dakota and ready to do battle, said Moffat.

"With significant in-state and national support, as well as an expanding small-dollar fundraising effort, we are feeling good about the campaign budget at this point. Compared to other states where there are competitive national races, we expect our advertising dollars will go pretty far in South Dakota," he said. "We never want to underestimate the opposition. Right now, it's not clear what they are willing to spend, in terms of both money and political capital, to fight us. My sense is that they're not willing to expend much, but that could change. We'll have to see."

Indeed. Early voting starts September 18.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School