VA Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances, UK's First Drug Checking Service Opens, More... (1/26/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1204)
Consequences of Prohibition

A pair of congressional Democrats file a bill to allow marijuana use in public housing, the mayor of Amsterdam calls for legal cocaine use and sales, and more.

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

Norton, Booker Introduce Bill to Permit Marijuana Use in Federally Assisted Public Housing. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act Thursday to permit the use of marijuana in federally assisted housing, including public housing and Section 8 housing, in compliance with the marijuana laws of the state (including the District of Columbia) where the property is located.

Under current federal law, users of drugs that are illegal under federal law, including marijuana, are prohibited from being admitted into federally assisted housing. Federal law also allows landlords to evict residents of federally assisted housing for illegal drug use. Adult-use marijuana, medical marijuana or both are currently legal in DC, New Jersey and 37 other states, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana.

"Individuals living in federally funded housing should not fear eviction simply for treating their medical conditions or for seeking a substance legal in their state," Norton said. "Increasingly, Americans are changing their views on marijuana, and it is time that Congress caught up with its own constituents. With so many states improving their laws, this issue should have broad bipartisan appeal because it protects states' rights."

For the last several years, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prevent jurisdictions from implementing their medical marijuana laws. This bill would similarly allow individuals to use marijuana in federally assisted housing in compliance with the state's marijuana laws and would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop regulations that restrict smoking marijuana in federally assisted housing in the same manner and to the same locations as HUD restricts smoking tobacco in federally assisted housing.

The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Virginia Bill to Allow Recreational Marijuana Sales Advances. The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee has approved one of a pair of competing bills that would pave the way for adult use marijuana sales in the state. The committee approved Senate Bill 448, introduced by Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach), favoring it over Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, (D-Alexandria).

The Rouse bill would allow retail marijuana sales to begin in up to 400 stores starting January 1, 2025, while the Ebbins bill would have had a staggered opening, with medical marijuana producers allowed to begin selling recreationally in July while allowing others to open up only in January.

"My bill is certainly one to provide a framework for Virginians, and small business owners, and those who want to start a business in the cannabis industry -- without being drowned out by the big guys," Rouse said.

The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee before it can go for a Senate floor vote.

Asset Forfeiture

West Virginia Bill Reform State Asset Forfeiture Process, Take Step to Opt State Out of Federal Program. Del. Mike Pushkin (D) has filed House Bill 4531, which would reform the state's asset forfeiture process to require a conviction in most cases. The enactment of this bill would also take a step to 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 passage of HB4531 would also take a step toward opting West Virginia out of a federal program that allows state and local police to get around more strict state asset forfeiture laws. This is particularly important in light of a policy directive issued in July 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the Department of Justice (DOJ) that remains in effect today.

The bill would address the "policing for profit" motive inherent in the asset forfeiture process by requiring all forfeiture proceeds to go into the general fund after reimbursement of allowable expenses. Under current law, police departments in West Virginia can keep up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds.


United Kingdom's First Regular Drug Checking Service to Open in Bristol. The harm reduction group The Loop is set to open the United Kingdom's first officially sanctioned drug checking service in Bristol before the month ends. The service, operating with a license from the Home Office, will offer free drug checking and health advice in a bid to reduce overdoses, drug-related medical incidents, and hospital admissions.

The Loop is working closely with health professionals, the Bristol Drugs Project (BDP), and the universities of Liverpool and Bath to provide the services, which will only be available on the last weekend of each month for now.

Clients will hand over a small amount of the drugs to be tested at BDP headquarters where a mobile lab will check them for contents and potency, and an hour later, the client will receive the results, along with a tailored harm reduction conversation with health professionals.

"This is a landmark moment for harm reduction," said The Loop founder Professor Fiona Measham, Chair of the Criminology Department at the University of Liverpool. "After 12 years of preparations, evaluations and negotiations, it is fantastic news that The Loop can start the UK's first regular drug checking service. With more cities due to follow soon, this launch represents the start of a new era for drug checking and it could not come at a more important time. The risks from adulteration of the illegal drug market have never been greater."

Amsterdam Mayor Calls for Legal Cocaine Use and Sales. Mayor Femke Halsema is calling for the legal, regulated sale and use of cocaine in a bid to undermine organized crime.

"Let us conclude that hundreds of years of discouragement and repression have achieved very little," Ms. Halsema said, calling the war on drugs "perverse and counterproductive."

Authorities in the Netherlands seized a record 60 metric tons of cocaine last year, compared to only nine tons the year before, reflecting an upward trend with no end in sight.

"About 80 percent of our police capacity is spent on drug-related crime. In the Netherlands and Belgium, street prices for coke have been exactly the same for years. So you can only conclude that the incredible amount of efforts have no effect on the market," she said. "I am part of a growing group of scientists and administrators who say that the international war on drugs has such perverse effects that it causes more suffering than the drugs themselves."

Halsema is a member of Groenlinks, a green leftist political party formed in 1989 from a merger of the Netherlands Communist Party, the Pacifist Socialist Party, the Political Party of Radicals, and the Evangelical People's Party.

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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