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AZ Pot Foes File Suit to Block Initiative, House Votes to Allow Military Members to Use Hemp and CBD, More... (7/22/20)

The organized opposition makes a move in Arizona, a Pennsylvania lawmaker is trying to jumpstart a stalled marijuana legalization bill, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arizona Pot Legalization Foes File Lawsuit to Block Initiative. Opponents of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative have filed a lawsuit aimed at keeping the measure off the November ballot. The lawsuit, by Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, argues that the initiative's backers did not accurately describe the measure in a 100-word summary included on petitions that voters signed for it to qualify for the general election. The initiative campaign says the lawsuit is without merit, and the state Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the 100-word summaries do not need to detail every provision of a ballot measure. The initiative has already handed in signatures and is awaiting verification from state officials that it has qualified for the ballot.

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Renews Push to Legalize Recreational Marijuana. State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) is trying to jumpstart a marijuana legalization bill, SB 350, that has been stalled in committee since last fall. He authored a letter to Senate and Republican leadership earlier this month to try to prod them, and more than a dozen other senators, all Democrats, signed it. Street says the state needs the revenues from marijuana legalization in the wake of the fiscal impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Hemp

House Approves Hemp, CBD Use for Military Members. The House Monday approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) that would allow service members to use hemp and CBD products. "The Secretary of Defense may not prohibit, on the basis of a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from hemp, the possession, use, or consumption of such product by a member of the Armed Forces," the amendment says. The bill now must be approved by the Senate.

Democratic Platform to Call for Rescheduling and Decriminalizing Marijuana But Not Legalizing, Canada Police Chiefs Want Drug Decrim, More... (7/13/20)

Democratic task forces working on the party platform have settled on rescheduling and decriminalizing marijuana but not legalizing it, the Justice Department rips a Massachusetts dope squad for its resort to excessive force, Canadian police chiefs call for drug decriminalization, and more.

The Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative has qualified for the ballot. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Proposed Democratic Platform Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization and Descheduling. Task forces charged with drafting the Democratic Party platform are calling not for the total federal legalization of marijuana but for decriminalizing it and for rescheduling it for medical purposes. The recommendations will be provided to the platform committee, which will ratify it before the Democratic national convention next month. According to NJ.com, the proposals include allowing states to decide on whether to legalize marijuana, expunging past convictions, and calling on states that have legalized marijuana to reinvest revenues in communities that have borne the brunt of the drug war.

Kansas City to Remove Marijuana Violations from City Code. The city council voted last Thursday to remove possession or control of marijuana as a violation within the city. The ordinance, introduced on June 18 by Mayor Quinton Lucas and four City Council members, passed by a 9-4 vote. Two years ago, the Jackson County (Kansas City) prosecutor announced her office would no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases, with the exception of illegal sales, distribution and impaired driving.

Hemp

Hawaii Legislature Approves Industrial Hemp Bill. A bill to legalize industrial hemp in the state passed the Senate last Wednesday after having already passed the House. The bill, HB1819 HD2 SD3, now goes to the desk of Gov. David Ige (D). Ige vetoed a similar bill last year, citing concerns it was unenforceable, but this year, legislators worked closely with Ige's office to ensure it would get signed.

Law Enforcement

Democratic Progressives Announce BREATHE Act to Reform Policing. House Democratic members including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) are pushing for a wide-ranging bill called the BREATHE Act, which would transform the country's criminal justice system. Among its provisions are a call to eliminate life sentences, retroactively expunge drug convictions, shut federal prisons and immigration detention centers, and afford voting rights and "lifetime education" for prisoners. The bill would also move to defund the DEA and ICE, end mandatory minimums, and decriminalize drug possession, among other provisions.

Justice Department Accuses Springfield, Massachusetts Narcotics Bureau of Using Excessive Force. In a report released last Wednesday, the Justice Department said an investigation has revealed that there is "reasonable cause" to suspect the Springfield Police Department's Narcotics Bureau regularly resorted to excessive force. "Our investigation of the Springfield Police Department over the last year revealed chronic issues with the use of force, poor record-keeping on that subject, and repeated failures to impose discipline for officer misconduct," said US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling. The Justice Department said the bureau violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects the public from the unreasonable use of force by the police. In the report, Justice said "our investigation identified evidence that Narcotics Bureau officers repeatedly punch individuals in the face unnecessarily, in part because they escalate encounters with civilians too quickly, and resort to unreasonable takedown maneuvers that, like head strikes, could reasonably be expected to cause head injuries."

North Carolina Cops Confronted by Hostile Crowd After Drug Bust. Police in High Point, North Carolina, were swarmed by an angry crowd after police searched a home as part of a drug investigation. People kept arriving at the scene until "a hostile crowd of approximately 50 people had taken over the street in front of the residence," police reported. Police said the crowd blocked the roadway and swarmed a police vehicle, and police resorted to pepper spray to clear the area. Police seized 85 grams of heroin and 15 grams of marijuana and arrested two people.

Psychedelics

Oregon Therapeutic Psilocbyin Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. Initiative Petition 34, which would legalize psilocybin to use for therapeutic purposes in a controlled setting with a licensed facilitator, has qualified for the November ballot, the secretary of state's office announced last Wednesday.

DC Natural Psychedelic Initiative Faces Challenge from GOP Congressman. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a longtime foe of allowing Washington, DC, to move forward with drug reform efforts, says that he plans to force a vote in Congress to block the proposed natural psychedelic initiative. He said he plans to force a House Appropriations Committee vote next week.

International

Canadian Chiefs of Police Call for Drug Decriminalization. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has recommended that simple drug possession should be decriminalized. The report by the association's special committee on decriminalization of illicit drugs calls for the creation of a national task force to research drug policy reform. "Canada continues to grapple with the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply that has devastated our communities and taken thousands of lives," association president and Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said in a statement. "We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government."

Biden's Criminal Justice Task Force Gets Ahead of Him, Rio Drug Gangs Coordinate Favela COVID Response, More... (6/15/20)

Pot decriminalization bills are popping up in New Jersey, hemp is now legal in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Rio's drug gangs get busy with coronavirus, and more.

A Brazilian favela, or slum. In Rio de Janeiro, drug gangs are coordinating the response to coronavirus in the favelas. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Sees Second Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. Last week, a decriminalization bill, S2535, was introduced in the Senate. On Monday, another decriminalization bill, A1897, advanced from the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee. The Senate bill would decriminalize the possession of up to a pound of weed, while the Assembly bill only decriminalizes up to 10 grams. The Senate bill has $25 fines; the Assembly bill has fines starting at $150, going to $200 for a second offense, $500 for each following offense.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Regulators Recommend One New Qualifying Condition, Reject Two Others. A state medical board committee has recommended adding cachexia, or wasting syndrome, to the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The committee rejected adding autism and anxiety, though. The board will finalize the decision during a board meeting next month.

Hemp

Northern Marianas Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. DLG Torres has signed into law a bill legalizing hemp in the US territory. The new law allows the Natural Resources-Division of Agriculture to regulate the hemp industry in the CNMI "consistent with the federal requirements."

Drug Policy

Biden-Sanders Task Force Members Push for Legalizing Marijuana and Other Drug Reforms. Joe Biden may not have yet endorsed marijuana legalization, but members of a criminal justice task force he organized appear to be getting ahead of him. One unnamed member, a former federal prosecutor, says that Biden's proposal to decriminalize marijuana doesn't go far enough and should be replaced with legalization, and another, former Attorney General Eric Holder suggested broader drug decriminalization without actually using the word. He said dealing with drug use should be a public health issue and taken "out of the system" of law enforcement.

International

Rio de Janeiro Drug Gangs Now Pushing Social Distancing, COVID Medications. With the government of rightist authoritarian populist President Jaoa Bolsonaro largely absent and in denial about coronavirus, residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are seeing drug gangs effectively replace the state as responders to the pandemic. They are handing out alcohol, gel, medications, and cash to local residents.

(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.)

Poll Finds Legalizing Marijuana is Good Policy, WA Drug Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway, More... (4/22/20)

A new poll finds most of us think marijuana legalization has been a success, Lebanon's parliament approves medical marijuana and hemp cultivation, and more.

A new poll finds that most Americans think legalizing marijuana has been a successful policy. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll Finds Majority of Americans Think Marijuana Legalization Is a Successful Policy. A new YouGov poll of 27,000 adults finds that a majority of Americans believe marijuana legalization laws are a success. Some 19% of respondents said legalization was a "success only," while another 36% said it was "more of a success than a failure." That's 55% between the two. Only 6% said it was a "failure only" and only 13% said it was "more of a failure than a success." That's less than one out of five saying legalization is a failure. About a quarter of respondents had no opinion. The figures held true across all regions of the country. Democrats, however, were much more likely to say legalization was a success (67%) than Republicans (41%)

Drug Decriminalization

Washington State Drug Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. A group of activists calling itself Treatment First Oregon is working to place a drug decriminalization and expanded drug treatment initiative on the November ballot. The measure, Initiative 1715, would use marijuana tax revenues to fund drug treatment. It would also have police refer people caught with drugs to a mandatory assessment to be screened for substance abuse disorder within 72 hours. The campaign will need some 259,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify for the ballot. The campaign says it hopes to go all out with signature gathering in the month of June.

International

Lebanese Parliament Approves Medical Marijuana, Hemp Production as Economy Struggles Amidst Coronavirus Crisis. The parliament on Tuesday approved legislation to legalize marijuana production for medicinal and industrial uses, a move recommended by economic advisers even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the struggling economy. The measure doesn't legalize recreational marijuana or hashish sales, for which the country is famous, but it does seek to create a new legal marijuana industry.

Mexico Illicit Drug Prices Rising, OR Regulators Allow Curbside Pot Sales, More... (3/24/20)

States grapple with marijuana sales during a time of crisis, Ghana legalizes hemp and CBD, Mexican traffickers facing chemical shortages are raising prices, and more.

Meth and fentanyl from Mexico are about to get more expensive thanks to the coronavirus crisis. (Warner Robbins, GA, PD)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Governor Shutters Recreational Pot Shops, Lets Medical Marijuana Outlets Remain Open. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has ordered recreational marijuana outlets to close during the coronavirus crisis but has spared medical marijuana dispensaries. The emergency order issued Monday closed all non-essential businesses in the state for at least two weeks. Dispensaries are considered essential; recreational pot shops are not.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Rejected for Lack of Signatures. State Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday announced he has rejected a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana because petitioners did not submit the minimum number of valid signatures required. This was a first step; organizers needed to submit summary language of their amendment along with at least 1,000 valid voter signatures. They didn't do that. "Of the 1,000 minimum signatures required to proceed with the constitutional amendment, those boards of elections reported receiving a total of only 271 valid signatures," Yost said. "Finally, because the petition failed to meet the signature threshold, I have not made any determination concerning the fairness and truthfulness of the proposed summary."

Oregon Regulators Approve Curbside Recreational Marijuana Sales. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which also regulates marijuana, has approved a temporary rule allowing recreational marijuana retailers to sell their products curbside. The rule permits retailers to take orders and deliver marijuana to a customer who is outside and within 150 feet of the licensed premises. The sales can take place only during normal business hours, no earlier than 7:00am and no later than 10:00pm.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Regulators Ease Medical Marijuana Rules Because of Coronavirus. State regulators trying to ensure that patients continue to have access to medical marijuana have removed a cap on the number of patients caregivers can serve and eliminated background checks for caregiver renewal applications. Curbside pickup has also been okayed, as have remote consultations for some practitioners.

International

Ghana Legalizes Hemp, CBD. The parliament has passed a bill legalizing the production of industrial hemp and its use for medicinal as well as commercial purposes. The bill also expands access to drug treatment and medical care and marks a shift from treating addiction as a legal issue to a public health issue.

Mexican Meth, Fentanyl Traffickers Raise Prices Amid Shortages of Precursor Chemicals. With supplies of Chinese precursor chemicals running low because of disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic, Mexican drug traffickers are raising wholesale illicit drug prices. The Sinaloa Cartel is reportedly increasing the wholesale price of a pound of meth from $100 to $600. The price of fentanyl is also going up, although not yet as dramatically. Wholesale prices for a pound have reportedly increased from $35,000 to $42,000.

Baltimore & Philadelphia to End Drug Arrests Due to COVID-19, SAMSHA Eases Opioid Treatment Rules, More... (3/23/20)

Baltimore and Philadelphia stop drug arrests in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, SAMSHA eases opioid maintenance treatment rules for the same reason, and more.

The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on drug policy issues. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Hartford Courant and Sacred Heart University has 63.4% of state residents in favor of ending marijuana prohibition. The poll comes as lawmakers push to advance a legalization bill backed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D). The poll found that 34.4% "strongly support" legalization, while 29.9% "somewhat support" it.

Iowa Poll Has First Time Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll has 53% support for marijuana legalization, the first time the Iowa Poll has registered majority support for the move. As recently as 2013, only 29% supported legalization.

New York Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Still on the Agenda. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Monday that marijuana legalization remained a priority despite the coronavirus crisis. Asked about his legislative priorities during a briefing on the crisis, Cuomo said "I want to do legalizing marijuana," adding that he also wants to achieve a controversial bail reform measure through the budget.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate last week approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 165. The measure would allow people with a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions - including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It also would let them purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. It now goes to the House.

Hemp

Idaho House Kills Hemp Legalization Bill. Lawmakers in the House State Affairs Committee voted 8-7 to kill Senate Bill 1345, which would have legalized industrial hemp production in the state. Although the bill had passed the Senate, it ran into opposition from anti-cannabis activists and law enforcement, who warned that it could lead to a "hemp-marijuana culture" in the state.

Drug Policy

CDC Reports 4% Decline in Opioid, Heroin Overdose Deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that overall overdose death rates nationwide dropped 4.1% from 2017 to 2018. Deaths from heroin use dropped by 4%, while prescription opioid deaths dropped by 13.5%. "Decreases in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin reflect the effectiveness of public health efforts to protect Americans and their families," Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, said in a press release. "While we continue work to improve those outcomes, we are also addressing the increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. We must bring this epidemic to an end," Redfield said. Synthetic opioid deaths were actually up 10%.

Baltimore to End Most Drug Prosecutions Amid Coronavirus Outbreak. In a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D) is moving to dismiss pending charges against most people accused of drug offenses. According to her guidance to staff, things like drug possession, attempted drug distribution, prostitution, traffic offenses and public urination are among the offenses that shouldn't land people being bars at this point. "This policy is in place for now as an attempt to save lives," Mosby said. "We will assess the policy at a later date and time when this global pandemic is over."

Philadelphia Police Halt Drug Arrests During Coronavirus Outbreak. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw last week ordered the department to begin delaying arrests for low-level offenses, including drug offenses. Crimes including theft, burglary, prostitution, stolen automobiles, vandalism, and certain economic crimes will no longer automatically result in detention. Instead, officers will temporarily detain suspects to identify them, then release them with an arrest warrant issued at some later date.

Drug Treatment

SAMHSA Eases Opioid Treatment Rules in Response to Coronavirus. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced policy changes easing the rules for home treatment of opioid use disorder as a response to the coronavirus crisis. The agency issued a directive allowing some patients in opioid treatment programs to take home a 28-day supply of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. For less stable patients, SAMSHA is authorizing a 14-day take-home supply.

International

Paraguay Issues First Medical Marijuana Licenses. Late last month, the government issued its first medical marijuana licenses. Twelve pharmaceutical companies received licenses to import seeds for the domestic cultivation and sale of medical marijuana, which will be provided free to eligible patients.

NJ Supreme Court Protects MedMJ Patients' Employment Rights, SD Hemp Bill Deal, More... (3/10/20)

The New Jersey Supreme Court strikes a blow for medical marijuana patients' employment rights, South Dakota's governor and legislature reach a deal to legalize hemp, and more. 

Mississippi lawmakers couldn't agree on whether to ban or regulate kratom, so they did nothing. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Passes Medical Marijuana Measure as Alternative to Initiative Already on November Ballot. In a bid to head-off a medical marijuana initiative that has already qualified for the November ballot, the House on Monday approved HCR 39 as an alternative for voters. It's the brainchild of Rep. Trey Lamar (R), who claimed people who signed initiative petitions were duped and accused the initiative campaign of "taking advantage" of the state law allowing for citizen-sponsored initiatives. The measure now heads for the Senate.

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Workers Can't Be Fired for Failing Drug Test Because of Medical Marijuana. The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that barring coming to work stoned, medical marijuana patients remain protected by the state's anti-discrimination and cannot be fired for testing positive for marijuana. The high court ruling came just days after an appellate court reached the same conclusion. "This protects hundreds, if not thousands of employees" who’ve faced the "stigma of marijuana," said Jamison Mark, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers, Governor Reach Deal on Hemp Bill. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has reached an agreement with lawmakers that should result in the quick passage of a bill legalizing hemp production in the state. Noem had been demanding $3.5 million to ensure the program started "responsibly," and now lawmakers have agreed to do that. The House has already passed a bill, and now the Senate has gutted and passed its version of a hemp bill, so the agreement can be ratified in conference committee.

Kratom

Mississippi Legislature Decides to Do Nothing About Kratom. Kratom will remain legal and unregulated in the state after legislators killed bills to regulate it and bills to prohibit it. The bills died Tuesday when committees did not consider them before the first big deadline of the legislative session.

Chronicle AM: INCB Head Suggests UN Drug Treaties Are Out of Date, Houston Dope Squad Reforms, More... (2/28/20)

A top UN drug official suggests international drug treaties are out of step with the times, a hemp bill is moving in Idaho, Malawi legalizes hemp and medical marijuana cultivation, and more.

The House has voted to ban flavored e-cigs and tobacco, including menthol. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Plans for Special Marijuana Crimes Unit Sparks Outrage. The state plans to spend $649,000 in marijuana taxes to fund a four-person unit in the its Drug Enforcement Agency to deal with regulatory compliance and monitoring illegal marijuana activities, but the plan announced earlier this week isn't sitting well with some lawmakers and marijuana business owners. "We do not want to see one additional person incarcerated for marijuana," said Mark Barnett, a Portland coffee shop owner applying for a recreational cannabis license. "It’s a move in the wrong direction and counter to the very idea of legalization." Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell, co-chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, concurred: "I thought we legalized cannabis," she said. "If we have spent a total of $33.2 million over just the time I’ve been in the legislature, why are we adding more agents for something that we actually legalized?"

Hemp

Idaho Senate Passes Bill to Legalize Hemp Production. The Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 1345, which would allow farmers in the state to legally grow and process industrial hemp. The bill now heads to the House.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Chief Announces Reforms for Tarnished Narcotics Unit. Police Chief Art Acevedo announced a series of reforms for his department's Narcotics Division on Wednesday, just hours after Harris County DA Kim Ogg said 69 defendants convicted on the testimony of disgraced former drug cop Gerald Goines might have their cases overturned. Goines was the lead officer in a fatal raid last year that left two innocent homeowners dead. Among the changes announced by Acevedo are requiring more oversight and signoff from superiors for drug operations, tighter controls on informants and payments, and restating the already announced policy of requiring high-level approval for "no-knock" raids like the one Goines led.

Vaping

House Votes to Ban Flavored E-Cigs, Tobacco, Including Menthol. The House on Friday approved a bill, House Resolution 2339, that would ban the manufacture and sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes, including menthol. The vote divided House Democrats and drew opposition from Republicans. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus slammed the bill over its ban on menthol, which is popular with African-American smokers. The bill's fate is uncertain in the Senate.

International

Top UN Drug Official Questions Whether Drug Control Treaties Are Out of Date. International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) President Cornelius P. de Joncheere said Thursday the United Nations drug conventions may be outdated, especially when it comes to marijuana. "We have some fundamental issues around the conventions that state parties will need to start looking at," he said, adding, "We have to recognize that the conventions were drawn up 50 and 60 years ago." Joncheere said 2021 is "an appropriate time to look at whether those are still fit for purpose, or whether we need new alternative instruments and approaches to deal with these problems."

Australiana New South Wales Commission Calls for Drug Decriminalization. A government-commissioned special inquiry into drug use has called the criminalization of drug users "a profound flaw" in the state's criminal justice system and recommended the complete decriminalization of drugs in the state. The report called current state drug laws "tired" and "lacking in imagination." It calls for pill testing, ending the use of drug dogs at music festivals, and more safe injection sites. But the NSW state government has already rejected some of those recommendations.

 

. Malawi's parliament on Thursday approved legislation to allow the cultivation of medical marijuana and hemp. The country is looking at an alternative to its tobacco crop, its main earner of foreign exchange, which is under pressure from anti-smoking campaigns. "Legalization of this crop will contribute to economic growth as it will contribute in the diversification of the economy and boost the country’s exports, especially at this time when tobacco exports are dwindling," agriculture minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said. Marijuana for recreational use remains illegal.

Chronicle AM: Bloomberg Says Decriminalize Weed, GA Hemp/Marijuana Bill, AZ MedMJ THC Limits Bill, More... (2/19/20)

Michael Bloomberg goes as far as calling for marijuana decriminalization, a Georgia bill would let police anyone for possession of green leafy substances even if they can't say whether it's hemp or marijuana, and more. 

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg come out for marijuana decriminalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization. Former New York City mayor and billionaire Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg formalized his approach to marijuana Tuesday, calling for decriminalization as part of a broader criminal justice platform. But his one-paragraph policy is short on details. It says he would decriminalize "small amounts" of weed and commute sentences for certain convictions. It also says legalization should be left up to the states "for the moment."

Connecticut Clergy Rally for Marijuana Legalization. Local clergy spoke Tuesday in support of Gov. Ned Lamont's (D) push to legalize marijuana at a press conference organized by the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. Prominent leaders such as the Rev. Charlie L. Stallworth of the East End Baptist Tabernacle Church in Bridgeport and the Rev. Edwin Pérez of the United Church of Christ in West Hartford were joined by the Rev. Alexander Sharp of Illinois, executive director of national reform group Clergy for a New Drug Policy, who said legalization would reduce needless arrests and "provide jobs in communities ravaged by the failed war on drugs.”

Georgia Bill Would Allow Police to Make Arrests for Hemp or Marijuana. A bill that would let police arrest people for possession of small amounts of green, leafy substances even if they can't tell whether it's legal hemp or illegal marijuana has passed the House Agriculture Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote. The measure, House Bill 847, is an attempt to allow police to enforce marijuana laws after the federal and state governments legalized hemp. But Mazie Lynn Causey, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said if police wanted to enforce marijuana laws, they needed to prove the substance in question was indeed marijuana. “What’s happening here is the criminalizing of a legal substance,” Causey said. “What this bill does is it treats hemp as marijuana for the purposes of prosecution.”

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) has filed another marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 2050 (not yet available on the legislative website). He says it's an improved version of a bill that he filed last year. That bill didn't move, and this one isn't likely to, either. It's headed to the House Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), who opposes legalization and says she has no plans to move this bill in committee, either.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Lawmakers Seek 2% THC Cap for Medical Marijuana. Fifteen House Republicans have cosponsored a bill, HCR 2045, that would amend the state’s medical marijuana program by putting a 2% THC limit on medical marijuana. Currently, there is no limit on THC. The measure would also provide grants from the state's medical marijuana fund to conduct research on the relationship between marijuana and violence and marijuana and schizophrenia.

New Mexico Legislature Passes Bill to End Limit Patient Enrollment to State Residents. A bill that would bar out-of-state people from enrolling the state's medical marijuana program has passed out of the legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D), who has said she supports it. State officials said they feared allowing out-of-state enrollment could lead to federal interference in the program. Bill supporters said the state's reciprocity program would allow residents of other states that allowed medical marijuana to participate, but the state hasn't even set the rules for reciprocity yet. They are due by March 1. There are currently more than 600 non-New Mexico residents enrolled in the program.

(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: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes Legislature, Trump Budget Would Shift Colombia Aid Priorities, More... (2/12/20)

The Virginia legislature passes marijuana decriminalization, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill heads for a House floor vote, a South Dakota hemp bill passes the House, and more.

The Trump administration is eyeing Colombian coca and cocaine production in its new budget. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill; Governor Expected to Sign. Hours after the House of Delegates approved decriminalization Tuesday, the state Senate followed suit by approving its own version of the bill, SB 2. Governor Ralph Northam (D) has said he would sign such a bill, but it first needs to go to conference committee to settle minor differences between the House and Senate versions.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-1 Wednesday to approve  HB 136, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. The measure now heads for a House floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the committee last year, but never got a floor vote. This year, 51 of the state's 100 representatives are cosponsors.

Hemp

South Dakota House Passes Hemp Bill with No Debate. The House passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation, HB 1008, with a two-thirds majority after hearing no debate at all. It now goes to the Senate. If that body also passes it by a two-thirds majority and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signs it into law, an emergency clause would go into effect allowing state farmers to grow a crop this year.

Foreign Policy

Trump Budget Proposal Would Slash Colombia Development Aid, Boost Ant-Drug Funding. President Trump's new federal budget proposal would slash economic assistance to Colombia by nearly $70 million while at the same time nearly doubling anti-drug funding from $125 million this year to $237.5 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1. The budget proposal says the funding is needed to fight "threats posed by sharp increases in coca cultivation."

International

Croatia Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A Croatian lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales and permit adults to grow up to nine marijuana plants for personal use. Mirela Holy, head of the Social Democratic Party's Green Development Council filed the bill and said it will be subject to first public and then parliamentary debate. The country has decriminalized pot possession and legalized medical marijuana in 2015, but marijuana sales remains a felony with a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Drug War Issues

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