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Chronicle AM: Ohio Becomes 46th Hemp State, Federal Employees to See Pain Prescribing Tightened, More... (7/30/19)

Hemp and CBD are now legal in Ohio, a federal agency has proposed letting people with low-level drug convictions work in credit unions, the Trump administration moves to tighten up opioid prescribing for federal employees, and more.

Federal employees will see prescribing of opioids tightened up in a bid to reduce abuse. (Creative Commons)
Hemp

Ohio Governor Signs Hemp, CBD Bill. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Tuesday signed into law SB 57, which legalizes hemp production in the state, moves CBD off the state's controlled substances list, and immediately ends all embargoes on CBD inventory. That means CBD products can be imported into the state beginning now.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Administration to Reduce Length of Opioid Prescriptions for Federal Employees. The Trump administration said Monday that the government's employee health program, which covers nine million workers, retirees, and family members, will tighten its rules for prescribing opioid pain relievers beginning this fall. The move is not aimed at patients with intractable pain from diseases such as cancer but is geared toward preventing over-prescribing to people who might just need the drugs for a short period of time, such as after surgery. Under the new policy, the initial prescription will be for a 7-day supply, instead of up to 30 days. Patients will be able get up to three refills of seven days apiece. Formal reauthorization that involves consulting a clinical professional will be required every 28 days.

[Ed: They should be very, very careful about this. It's true that short-term pain situations have different stakes attached than chronic pain situations, and some observers believe the handling of short-term pain is where some of the problems of recent years have arisen. But they should be very careful about it. One question is how long the 28 day requirement remains in place -- if it's permanent, that may be an undue burden on chronic pain patients. Another reason care is needed is that this imposes a blanket rule that may or may not be ideal for every situation -- as opposed to providing guidance or education. It also may fuel more restricting of opioids than is intended.]

Drug Policy

Federal Agency Proposes Letting People with Drug Convictions Work at Credit Unions. The National Credit Union Administration has published a draft rule that would exempt people with low-level drug convictions from a ban on working with credit unions. The agency said existing policies barring people with various criminal convictions require excessive regulatory enforcement and that lifting the ban for some low-level crimes, including simple drug possession, would "expand career opportunities for those who have demonstrated remorse and responsibility for past indiscretions." The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed change until September 27.

International

St. Kitts and Nevis Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. The government of St. Kitts and Nevis on Tuesday filed a bill to legalize marijuana in the Caribbean island nation. The bill would legalize marijuana for "medicinal and scientific, religious, and recreational purposes," the government said. The move comes several months after the Team Unity government of Prime Minister Timothy Harris declared it was moving toward a legalization bill.

Chronicle AM: FL Hemp Law Screwing Up Marijuana Prosecutions, Traffic Stops Drop With Legalization, More... (7/26/19)

Traffic stops in Vermont's largest city declined precipitously after marijuana legalization, a broad coalition urges the FDA to limit a ban on felons participating in the hemp industry, Florida's hemp legalization law is making it almost impossible to prosecute marijuana possession offenses, and more.

Burlington, VT, is the latest jurisdiction to report massive declines in traffic stops after marijuana legalization. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

FDA Again Rejects Petition to Further Restrict Marijuana. For the second time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected an effort by a prohibitionist group to classify marijuana and THC as "negative monographs," which is a classification for substances the agency considers not "generally recognized as safe and effective." Such substances are illegal to market. Drug Watch International's petition was rejected by the FDA in July 2018, but the group appealed that decision. Now, the FDA has shot down that appeal.

Burlington, Vermont, Traffic Stops Dropped 70% After Legalization. The Burlington Police Department, the state's largest local police force, is reporting that traffic stops in the city declined by 70% since the state legalized marijuana. Police officials are saying that legalization is the cause of the decline. The decline in traffic stops held true for all races.

Hemp

Coalition Urges USDA to Limit Hemp Industry Felon Ban. A coalition of farmers, drug policy organizations, and state agricultural officials are urging the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to limit the scope of a ban on people with felony drug convictions from participating in the legal hemp industry. Under the language of the 2018 Farm Bill, the ban only stands for 10 years from the date of conviction, but the coalition says it is concerned that the language could be read to bar such people from any hemp-related occupation while the congressional intent was to only have it applied to people seeking a license to actually grow hemp.

Florida's Hemp Law Is Screwing Up Marijuana Prosecutions. The state law legalizing hemp, which took effect July 1, has effectively stopped enforcement of marijuana possession laws in their tracks, police and prosecutors are complaining. The law legalized cannabis plants containing 0.3% THC or less; the problem for law enforcement is that police field drug tests can identify plant matter as cannabis, but can't measure THC levels to determine whether it is hemp or marijuana. As the Leon County Sheriff's Office noted in a legal bulletin, "the current tests kits in use by law enforcement do not have the capability to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal cannabis, and thus cannot be used to determine probable cause." As a result, some jurisdictions have already decided to stop prosecuting minor marijuana cases.

Chronicle AM: First Step Sentence Cut Prisoners Walk Free, Drug Czar Touts OD Decline, More... (7/19/19)

More than 2,000 federal drug prisoners walk free today under First Step Act reforms, the drug czar touts declining drug overdose numbers and blames Obama, Texas prosecutors balk at low-level pot prosecutions now that hemp is legal, and more.

There's a bit more room in the federal prisons today after 2,200 inmates walked free under the First Step Act. (Supreme Court)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Governor Tells DAs Not to Drop Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Cases. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent a letter Thursday to all county prosecutors urging them to continue to enforce state marijuana laws even though since the state legalized hemp this year prosecutors have no means of testing the amount of THC in a cannabis sample. Their current drug tests only detect the presence of THC, not whether it exceeds the 0.3%, and prosecutors in some of the state's largest counties have announced they will not prosecute small-time pot possession cases. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot is one of them, and he said he's not changing his mind: "I have the responsibility to protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that people are not prosecuted for possessing substances that are legal. The concentration of THC is a statutory element of an offense that we must prove to establish a person's guilt. Our office will not charge a person with a marijuana offense without a laboratory report stating that the substance has an illegal concentration of THC."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Drug Czar Touts Progress Against Opioid Crisis. Jim Carroll, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) gave his boss, the president, credit for an apparent decline in drug overdose deaths reported earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This president has made this a priority since day one and we're beginning to see results. As you know, the billions of pills that were released, without any control or oversight about what was going on in the last administration has resulted in thousands and thousands of people dying," he said. Still, nearly 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year on Trump's watch.

Sentencing Policy

More Than 2,000 Federal Drug Prisoners Walk Free Today Under First Step Act. The federal Bureau of Prisons is set to release today 2,200 inmates who had their release dates recalculated following passage of the First Step Act in December. The measure created an easier pathway for inmates to participate in programs designed to prevent recidivism and earn reductions in their sentences. It also reduced mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders with the goal of accelerating the rehabilitation of criminals and improving their chances for success after release.

International

Colombia Court Upholds Ban on Spraying Coca Fields With Herbicide, but Gives Government an Out. The country's constitutional court on Thursday upheld its restrictions on the aerial spraying of glyphosate to kill coca crops, but also said spraying could be reinstated if the government met certain conditions. The country ended the spraying in 2015 after the World Health Organization linked glyphosate to cancer, and the court ratified that decision. But now, rightist President Ivan Duque wants to overturn that decision. While the court upheld the ban for now, it said it will be up to the national narcotics council to decide whether spraying can resume based on conditions it set in its 2017 ruling.

Oregon's Pot Glut: Great for Consumers, Not So Much for Producers [FEATURE]

Drivers heading north on I-5 in southern Oregon not only enjoy the region's towering mountains and evergreen forests, they are also treated to the occasional enticement. At various points along the way, giant billboards appear, shouting out messages like "NEED WEED? Exit Here" and the succinct "MARIJUANA! This exit."

The popular Blue Dream strain is available for $2 gram or $45 an ounce in one Oregon shop. That's not unusual (CP/Flickr)
And when motorists pull off the highway and wander into those shops, they're finding weed at unbelievable prices. One shop offered grams of the popular Blue Dream strain for $2, and bargain-hunting buyers could walk out with an ounce for only $45. A number of other strains were also available for $100 an ounce or less.

It's no fluke. Walk into any marijuana store in Oregon, and you'll find perfectly acceptable grams packages for $2 or $3. Yes, it's typically outdoor marijuana, which store clerks will tell you goes for less because it doesn't get the same level of care and attention that indoor or greenhouse weed does. But the real reason is that outdoor weed gets one key input -- light -- for free from the sun. At $2 gram, indoor and greenhouse growers are barely recovering production costs; outdoor growers have a little more wiggle room.

If you're feeling particularly Californian, you can still pay $10 or $12 a gram if you want, but that $2 weed is going to get you just as high as that $12 weed. And state regulations let you know the THC content of anything you buy, including high octane strains at bargain basement prices.

Oregon's ridiculously cheap pot prices are a boon to consumers -- and the state's tax revenues. With retail prices falling by half last year, consumption jumped by around 30% over the previous year, driving tax revenues past the $94 million mark by year's end. But while marijuana consumers are happy and pot tax coffers are brimful, the situation is not so great for the state's legal pot producers.

Unlike other early legalization states, such as Colorado and Washington, Oregon placed few limits on who could grow legal commercial marijuana, and the result has been overgrowth of epic proportions. According to the state Oregon Control Commission (OLCC), the agency that regulates marijuana, at the end of the fall harvest last year, Oregon produced enough legal marijuana to supply the state's needs for the next six years. You don't need a PhD in economics to understand how the law of supply and demand is driving prices down.

And OLCC has the raw data to show it: The wholesale price of indoor marijuana peaked at around $2,200 a pound in late 2017 before steadily declining to its current level of about $1,000 a pound. For outdoor marijuana, which accounts for the vast majority of Oregon production, the price peaked at about $1,500 in late 2016, declined to about $1,000 a pound in late 2017, and slid even further to under $500 a pound after last year's harvest.

For the OLCC, the glut is a sign that the system is working: "Oregon oversupply is a sign that policy choices made to attract illegal and grey market producers into the new commercial system have been successful; this was a start-up challenge Colorado and Washington didn't have to face," the regulators noted. "Oregon medical marijuana growers had long been suspected of diverting into the illegal market so it was important to attract these well-established producers into the OLCC's new regulated recreational marijuana program. To entice medical as well as formerly illegal growers into Oregon's legal market the state lowered the barriers to entry with low license fees and taxes and chose not to limit the number of licenses."

Still, the OLCC conceded that while that approach "fulfilled the immediate objective" of absorbing growers into the legal market," it has also "led to industry churn as businesses face mounting cost pressures and attempt to position themselves for the long term."

Now, fearing that "industry churn" could lead some businesses to try to sell their products on the black market or outside the state, lawmakers have moved to rein in production. This year, lawmakers enacted legislation that for the first time allows the OLCC to stop issuing new production licenses when supply exceeds demand.

They also moved to seek broader markets for the state's legal marijuana, passing a bill that would allow growers to sell their product out of state. But that isn't going to happen without federal approval, and there's no sign of that in the immediate future. Still, two Democrats who represent Oregon in Congress, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, last month filed a bill that would allow for interstate commerce between states with legal marijuana programs.

Some legal pot farmers have gone bankrupt, others have just left the business, but a sizeable number have now switched to yet another cannabis product: hemp. In 2015, there were only 13 registered hemp growers in the state; now there are more than 750. And the number of acres devoted to hemp production jumped dramatically as well, from 105 acres in 2015 to more than 22,000 now. That's because hemp can be exported since it is now legal under federal law, and because of the boom in CBD products, which can be derived from low-THC hemp as well as from marijuana. With those push factors, the price of hemp flowers, now going for around $350-$700 a pound, is getting close to and sometimes surpassing the price of outdoor marijuana.

Oregon's legal marijuana market continues to evolve, and, as the OLCC put it, the industry will continue to churn. There are going to be winners and losers among the producers, but for Oregon marijuana consumers, these are the best of times.

Chronicle AM: House OKs Housing Loans for Vets in Pot Industry, HI Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill, More... (7/11/19)

Hawaii's governor wields the veto pen, the House votes to allow home loans for vets working in the marijuana industry, and more.

Hemp field. No hemp for Hawaii after the Democratic governor vetoes the hemp bill. (VoteHemp)
Marijuana Policy

House Votes To Allow Home Loans For Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry. The House voted on Wednesday to approve an amendment to the Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that would end a current VA policy that denies home loan applications to vets who work in the marijuana industry. Authored by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), the amendment was approved on a voice vote as part of a package including 33 other amendments.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Hemp

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed SB 1353, which would have licensed industrial hemp production in the state. In his veto message, he said "there are concerns that this bill creates a licensing structure that cannot be enforced, will not meet USDA requirements for an approved industrial hemp program, and creates practical problems in the enforcement of existing medical cannabis."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senators Grassley and Wyden Expand Their Opioid Investigation to Tax-Exempt Organizations. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking Democratic member Max Baucus (D-MT) have sent letters to 10 tax exempt organizations associated with pain asking for information about their financial relationships with opioid manufacturers and other medical organizations. The letters seek detailed information about financial relationships between the groups and opioid manufacturers The targets of the letter are the American Chronic Pain Association, American Pain Society, American Society for Pain Management Nursing, American Society of Pain Educators, Center for Practical Bioethics, Federation of State Medical Boards, The Joint Commission, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Alliance for Patient Access, and International Association for the Study of Pain.

Chronicle AM: AR, MT 2020 Pot Initiatives Get Underway, Amnesty Int'l. on Philippines Drug War, More... (7/8/19)

Marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are gearing up in Arkansas and Montana, a Missouri legislative committee will study asset forfeiture and racial profiling, Amnesty International calls the Philippines drug war a crime against humanity, and more.

2020 is already shaping up to be a big year for marijuana legalization initiatives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas 2020 Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway. The Arkansas True Grass Ballot Question Committee is gearing up to once again try to get a legalization initiative on the state ballot. The group came up short on signatures in 2016, but is back again with the Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2020, which would legalize it for adults 21 and over, as well as expunge arrest records and free any currently serving marijuana prisoners. The initiative is currently being finalized and will shortly go to the secretary of state's office to be cleared for circulation.

Montana 2020 Legalization Initiative Campaign Getting Underway, and Another Could Follow. A group calling itself MontanaCan has filed a legalization initiative, the Marijuana Regulation Act, or Ballot Issue No. 5, with the secretary of state's office. The measure is now being reviewed by the state's Legislative Services Division before being cleared for circulation. Meanwhile, another group, Coalition 406, is also working on a legalization initiative for 2020, but hasn't filed yet with the secretary of state's office.

Hemp

Ohio Hemp Bill Stalled. A bill to allow the cultivation and sale of hemp,  Senate Bill 57, is stalled in the House because of tussles over CBD. Under state law, CBD remains illegal and under the purview of the state Medical Marijuana Control Program. House leaders say it may be the fall before the bill moves again.

Asset Forfeiture

Missouri Legislative Committee to Hold Hearings on Asset Forfeiture, Racial Profiling. State Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Wildwood) announced Monday that his Special Committee on Criminal Justice will hold public hearings in July and August to thoroughly examine the issues of racial profiling and civil asset forfeiture. Dogan, who chairs the committee, said the committee will hold public hearings July 24 in St. Louis and August 1 in Kansas City. He said the hearings will focus on examining the 2018 Vehicle Stops Report, which showed the largest racial disparity yet in traffic stops, as well as rising civil asset forfeiture seizures.

International

Amnesty International Calls for Urgent Investigation into Philippines' Deadly War on Drugs. The wave of police killings triggered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drugs campaign continues to rage on, destroying lives and devastating communities, a report by Amnesty International revealed Monday. The UN must immediately open an investigation into gross human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed as part of the "war on drugs," the human rights group said. "Three years on, President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia. "It is time for the United Nations, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable."

Sri Lanka Supreme Court Stays Execution of Drug Defendants. The nation's Supreme Court last Friday stayed the death penalty for four persons convicted of drug offenses until at least October 30. If imposed, the death sentences would be the first carried out in the country in 43 years. President Maithripala Sirisena had signed the death warrants last month, ending a moratorium on capital punishment.

Chronicle AM: IL Becomes 11th Legal Marijuana State, Iran Says Sanctions Hinder Drug Fight, More... (6/25/19)

With the governor's signature, Illinois becomes the 11th legal marijuana state; Hawaii's governor wields the veto pen against hemp and asset forfeiture bills, Iran says US sanctions are hurting its war on drugs, and more.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/illinoisstatehouse.jpg
Illinois the latest legalization state
Marijuana Policy

It's Official: Illinois Legalizes Marijuana. Illinois has just become the 11th state to legalize marijuana. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a legalization bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate late last month. With that signature, Illinois became the first state to get a marijuana legalization bill all the way through the legislative process this year, and it became the first state to create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce through the legislative process rather than a voter initiative. (Vermont’s legislature legalized possession and cultivation but not sales in early 2018.) Once the law goes into effect on January 1, Illinois residents 21 and over will be able to legally possess 30 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of concentrate, or 500 milligrams of THC in a marijuana-infused product. Out-of-staters will only be able to possess up to 15 grams of marijuana.

Oregon Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Measure into Law. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has signed into law SB 420, to facilitate the expungement of past marijuana convictions. The law sets procedures for people previously convicted of possessing up to an ounce of weed to file motions to have their convictions set aside. This measure expands upon a earlier expungement bill passed in 2015.

Hemp

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed SB 1353, which would have established an industrial hemp licensing program required by the US Department of Agriculture for industrial hemp production. Ige said he was concerned the bill would create a licensing structure that could not be enforced.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Asset Forfeiture Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 748, which would have prohibited civil asset forfeiture. The reason Ige gave for vetoing the bill is that "current laws are effective."

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Turn Over Narcotics Division Files For Probe Of Botched Raid. The Houston Police Department has turned over thousands of files from its narcotics division to the Harris County District Attorney's office. The DA's office said Monday prosecutors will review the files as part of an investigation sparked by a January 28 botched drug raid in which two civilians died and five officers were wounded.

International

Iran Foreign Minister Says US Sanctions Hindering Fight Against Drugs. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a conference in Tehran marking the International Day Against Drug Absue and Illicit Trafficking that the US and certain Western countries are hindering the fight against narcotics. Zarif said the reimposition of US sanctions against Iran as well as "economic terrorism" were preventing Iran from implementing international agreements about fighting drugs. "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that to fight against narcotics it is necessary to avoid politicization and unilateralism, and to pay attention to international cooperation as a necessary means to achieve the goals set forth to build a better future for all human beings and future generations," he said. Iran seized more than 800 tons of Afghan opium last year.

Chronicle AM: Drug ODs May Have Peaked, New Gallup Marijuana Poll, More... (6/12/19)

New data from the CDC suggests the overdose epidemic may have peaked, a new Gallup poll shows support for marijuana legalization remains strong, Oregon passes an interstate marijuana commerce bill, and more.

The latest Gallup poll has support for legalization at 64%, down two points from October. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 64% Nationwide. A Gallup poll released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at 64%, down two points from the last Gallup poll in October. The poll also asked why people opposed or supported legalization. The top reason for opposition was concern about impaired driving, while the top reason for support was because of its medical value to patients.

California Appeals Court Rules Prisoners Can Possess -- But Not Use -- Marijuana. The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the convictions of five state prisoners for marijuana possession, ruling that Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana in the state, made possession of under an ounce of marijuana legal -- even in prison. But smoking or ingesting marijuana in prison is still a felony.

Oregon Legislature Approves Bill for Interstate Marijuana Commerce. The House on Tuesday approved SB 582, which would allow the governor to enter into agreements with other states for the import and export of marijuana. The Senate has already approved the bill, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Elaine Brown (D), who is expected to sign it. The bill moved in the House after a Republican representative from a prime marijuana-growing area urged its passage.

House Foe of DC Legalization Doesn't Bother to File Amendment Messing with City's Ability to Make Marijuana Policy. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) didn't bother to even propose his amendment to the DC appropriations bill on Tuesday, recognizing that it would go nowhere in the Democratically controlled House. For years, Harris has filed an amendment blocking the city from using its funds to implement marijuana commerce and taxation.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico to Expand Medical Marijuana Production. The state Health Department on Tuesday proposed new rules for marijuana production that would increase a 450-plant limit per grower to 1,750 mature plants per grower. The move is designed to ensure adequate supplies of medical marijuana without flooding the market.

Hemp

Texas Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed into law HB 1325, which will create a state-regulated hemp industry. The law will allow hemp products, including CBD, to be sold as long as it contains no more than 0.3% THC.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Federal Data Suggests Overdose Epidemic Has Peaked. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Tuesday shows that the age-adjusted overdose mortality rate declined in the twelve months ending in the second quarter of 2018. The rate was 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 and increased steadily over the past two decades to 21.7 per 100,000 in 2017. Now, it has declined to 20.8 per 100,000. This isn't a final figure, but it is an encouraging sign.

International

Canadian Commons Committee Urges Government to Study Portuguese Model. The House of Commons Health Committee has called on the federal government to study Portugal's drug decriminalization and see how the model could be "positively applied in Canada." The recommendation came in a committee report produced after members held hearings across the country on drug use and abuse. "Witnesses recommended that the federal government examine the implementation of the Portuguese model of decriminalization of the possession of illicit substances, which included a scaling-up of treatment programs and the creation of diversion programs for offenders who commit crimes related to their substance-use disorders," the report says.

Chronicle AM: USDA Says States Can't Block Hemp Transport, Congressional Pot Banking Bill, More... (6/3/19)

A Treasury department appropriations bill includes language to protect banks doing marijuana business and allow DC to tax and regulate its legal marijuana, the USDA warns states against blocking hemp shipments, and more.

The sun is rising on industrial hemp. (VoteHemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Funding Bill Protects Cannabis Banking and Lets DC Legalize Marijuana Sales. Congressional Democratic leaders released on Sunday an annual Treasury spending bill to block federal officials from targeting banks for working with marijuana businesses. It would only impact Treasury enforcement; the Justice Department is covered in a separate spending bill. The bill would also remove a rider that blocks the city of Washington, DC, from using its own funds to tax and regulate marijuana sales. The bill is set for a committee hearing Monday.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Senate Kills Bill to Let Patients Inhale Their Medicine. The Senate voted Saturday to kill HB 358, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to use an inhaler to take their medicine. Republican senators complained the language in the bill wasn't tight enough, even though it had won overwhelming approval in the House.

Hemp

USDA Says States Can't Block Hemp Transports. The US Department of Agriculture released a memo last week saying states cannot block interstate shipments of hemp, because hemp was legalized under the 2018 farm bill. The memo comes after officers in Oklahoma and Idaho seized hemp shipments because they contained trace amounts of THC. Idaho, however, says it won't follow those guidelines.

Louisiana Senate Approves Hemp Bill. The Senate on Saturday voted to approve a heavily-amended bill to allow the production of industrial hemp, HB 491. The bill had already passed the House, but because the Senate added 16 amendments, it must now go back to the House for a concurrence vote on Monday.

Chronicle AM: CT Legalization Could Get Vote Soon, Chinese Fentanyl Will Keep Coming, More... (5/16/19)

A federal bill to protect immigrants working in the marijuana industry gets filed, the Oregon Senate approves a marijuana interstate commerce bill, the San Antonio DA is no longer prosecuting picayune drug possession cases, RAND says China will have a hard time stopping fentanyl, and more.

A deadly dose of fentanyl. China won't be able to stop exports, a RAND report says. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Congressional Bill Aims to Resolve Marijuana Industry Border Issues. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday filed a bill which would clarify that using marijuana in compliance with state or foreign law, or working in the legal industry, wouldn't disqualify people from entering the US. The legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections for Legal Entry (MAPLE) Act, updates a bill Blumenauer filed in December to protect Canadians working in the marijuana industry from being denied entry to the US. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Connecticut Could See Marijuana Legalization Vote in Next Three Weeks. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Wednesday that the legislature could vote on legalizing marijuana in the next three weeks instead of pushing it into a special session. The regular session ends on June 5. Aresimowicz said the General Law Committee is making progress is melding together multiple bills into a single measure. "It looks as though we may have a bill that could be ready for action," Aresimowicz said. "We have the entire next week to do all these major bills and get them up to the Senate in a time that would be appropriate for action."

Oregon Senate Approves Marijuana Interstate Commerce Bill. The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow the governor to negotiate agreements with other states to export and import marijuana products across state lines. SB 582 now goes to the House.

Hemp

Texas Senate Unanimously Approves Hemp Bill. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved HB 1325, which would legalize the farming of industrial hemp in the state. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Higher Education

Senate Democrats File Bill to Protect Students with Drug Convictions from Losing Federal College Aid. Four Senate Democrats, including presidential contenders Cory Booker (NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) have filed a bill to streamline the federal student financial aid application process, which would also remove the question about prior drug convictions. The drug conviction question has cost thousands of students access to loans and grants since it was added to the form in a 1998 reform of the Higher Education Act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Investigation into Fatal Botched Drug Raid Now Goes to Prosecutors. The Houston Police Department has ended its investigation into a January drug raid that left a middle-aged couple dead after a Houston narcotics officer apparently lied on a search warrant that a heroin buy had taken place at their home. Police found no heroin, and only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Two of the officers involved have already resigned. "The Houston Police Department has completed the criminal investigation and the officer-involved shooting investigation regarding the incident at 7815 Harding Street on January 28, 2019," Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Today, each of these separate investigations have been turned in to the Harris County District Attorney's Office."

San Antonio DA Has Quit Prosecuting Miniscule Drug Possession Cases. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzalez has confirmed that his office is no longer prosecuting drug possession cases where the amount involved is less than a quarter gram. The policy has been in place since early this year. "I've got to make the decision as the top law enforcement officer in this county to make the best uses of the manpower that I have and the limited resources that I have," said Gonzales.

International

China Unlikely to Curb Fentanyl Exports in Short-Term. A new RAND Corporation report that examines China's pharmaceutical industry warns that it is unlikely to be able to curb fentanyl exports in the near future. "China's leaders recognize that they have a problem and appear committed to seeking solutions," report coauthor and Rand analyst Bryce Pardo said. "But it is unlikely that they can contain the illicit production and distribution of fentanyl in the short term because enforcement mechanisms are lacking. Producers are quick to adapt, impeding Chinese law enforcement's ability to stem the flow to global markets."

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Make Their Own Cocaine, Colombia Says. Colombian police report that drug traffickers are now exporting not just refined cocaine but also cocaine base, which they say means Mexican drug cartels must be operating their own laboratories to refine the drug themselves. The move comes after the Colombian government imposed tighter restrictions on precursor chemicals for refining raw coca into cocaine. Mexican authorities say they have seen no evidence of cocaine labs, though.

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Drug War Issues

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