WV Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed, CO Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed, More... (1/18/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1203)
Consequences of Prohibition

A bill to broadly legalize drug test strips advances in West Virginia, DOJ releases FY 2021 arrest and imprisonment stats, and more.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

West Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Evan Hansen on Wednesday filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 4873. The measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over, as well as envisioning a system of taxed and regulated marijuana production and sales.

The state Department of Taxation would be charged with promulgating rules and regulations for the industry, as well as taxation.

The bill has been referred to the House Health and Human Resources Committee for consideration.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Approves Bills Warning Medical Marijuana Patients They Cannot Legally Buy Guns. The House on Tuesday approved House Bill 1024, which would "require that an application for a medical marijuana registry identification card include a notice and acknowledgement of federal law regarding firearms and the unlawful use of a controlled substance."

"All this bill (HB1024) would require on the application for a medical marijuana card is the same language used on the federal form (to purchase a firearm)," Jensen said.

The House also approved a companion bill, House Bill 1036, which would "require that a dispensary post notice of the federal law regarding possession of a firearm and the use of marijuana and to provide a civil penalty." HB1036 would require a marijuana dispensary to post language similar to the federal firearm application that a medical cannabis cardholder cannot purchase a gun.

Jensen said to comply, all a dispensary would need to do is print out the language on a sheet of paper and post it near the cash register or the door.

The bills now head to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Colorado Bill Would Require Criminal Conviction Before Asset Forfeiture and Further Opt State Out of Federal Program. A pair of GOP lawmakers,, Reps. Ken DeGraaf and Mark Bailey, have filed a bill that would require a criminal conviction before the state could proceed with the asset forfeiture process in most cases. The enactment of this legislation would also further opt the state out of a program that allows police to circumvent more strict state forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds. The measure is House Bill 1023.

The bill provides that the state must file a forfeiture proceeding within 90 days after the property is seized, and the state establishes that the seized property is an instrumentality of, or proceeds derived directly from, the crime for which the owner is convicted. The bill specifically stipulates that all proceedings in the forfeiture action would be stayed until a criminal conviction is obtained.

The passage of HB1023 would further opt Colorado out of a federal program known as "equitable sharing" that allows state and local police to get around more strict state asset forfeiture laws.

The bill also addresses the "policing for profit" motive inherent in civil asset forfeiture by requiring the state treasurer to deposit 25 percent of forfeiture proceeds into a "forfeiture defense fund" instead of the law enforcement grant fund. Under the current law, police departments can keep up to 50 percent of forfeiture proceeds with another 25 percent going to the law enforcement grant fund.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Harm Reduction

West Virginia Senate Committee Approves Xylazine Test Strip Legalization Bill. The state has already legalized fentanyl test strips, but test strips for other drugs still run afoul of the state's drug paraphernalia law. The Senate Judiciary Committee has now acted to address this problem by approving Senate Bill 269, which would exclude any drug testing strip from the state's drug paraphernalia law.

The impetus for the bill has been the presence of non-opioid sedative xylazine ("tranq") in the state's drug supply. Unlike fentanyl and other opioids, xylazine does not respond well to opioid overdose reversal drugs such as naloxone.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, House Bill 4429 awaits action in the House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Data Shows Drug Offenses Accounted for One out of Five Federal Arrests in FY 2021. Federal law enforcement agencies made 96,857 arrests during fiscal year 2022, up 24 percent from the 78,068 arrests in FY 2021 (the lowest number in 2 decades), the Bureau of Justice Statistics found in its new report Federal Justice Statistics, 2022. Federal arrests had gradually risen from FY 2000 to FY 2013, before decreasing from FY 2014 to FY 2017. Arrests then increased sharply, reaching a 20-year high of 206,630 in FY 2019, before falling in FY 2020 and FY 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Immigration offenses (illegally entering or reentering the United States, failing to leave when ordered or illegally transporting or harboring non-US citizens) accounted for 24 percent of all federal arrests in FY 2022. About 23 percent of arrests were for supervision violations (violating bail or probation or failing to appear in court), and 21 percent involved drug offenses (manufacturing, importing, exporting, distributing, or dispensing a controlled or counterfeit substance or possessing it with intent to manufacture or distribute).

"The Drug Enforcement Administration reported 26,233 drug arrests in fiscal year 2022, 7 percent fewer than the 28,224 reported in FY 2021. In FY 2022, 31 percent of DEA arrests involved methamphetamine, the most commonly reported type of arrest, with 20 percent of arrests involving opioids including fentanyl, oxycodone or hydrocodone," said BJS Acting Director Kevin M. Scott, PhD. "In FY 2022, convictions were obtained in 98 percent of immigration cases, 94 percent of weapons cases and 92 percent of drug cases," Dr. Scott noted.

A total of 50,655 persons were admitted to federal prison in FY 2022. Of these, 40,194 had entered on a US district court commitment and 10,461 were admitted for other reasons, such as for violating conditions of probation or parole. A total of 19,518 persons entered federal prison for a drug offense, most of whom (15,824 or 81 percent) had been sentenced to more than one year. Among persons released from federal prison in FY 2022, those incarcerated for nonregulatory public order offenses, including sex offenses, served more time (66 months) than those imprisoned for violent offenses (56 months) or drug offenses (53 months).

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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