Reform Groups Call for Descheduling Cannabis, Honduras Busts Another Coca Plantation, More... (3/1/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1206)
Consequences of Prohibition

The Colorado House has approved a bill allowing school bus drivers and students to administer naloxone and drug test strips, Thailand is moving toward banning recreational marijuana, and more.

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Marijuana Policy

Reform Groups Call for Descheduling Marijuana. Representatives of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), and other groups held a press briefing Wednesday to call for descheduling marijuana at the federal level and to warn that rescheduling marijuana falls short of President Biden's promises for reform, leaving communities of color to continue to be harmed by pot prohibition.

The press briefing comes as the DEA is currently reviewing a US Department of Health and Human Services recommendation to move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to the less restrictive Schedule III.

"Rescheduling marijuana without further action would fail to deliver on President Biden's promises to Black and Brown communities and risks leaving the very individuals in communities that have borne the brunt of cannabis criminalization behind," said Cat Packer, DPA director of drug markets and legal. "If President Biden and his administration believed that marijuana reform is a racial equity issue and that criminalization has failed, its agency should be proactively engaged in acknowledging and addressing the racist origins of marijuana criminalization and the resulting harms in racial disparities."

Packer cited Vice President Kamala Harris, noting that Harris has said that marijuana reforms should not be incremental.

"She was right, and yet rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III, the outcome that is anticipated to result from the Biden administration's actions would continue the very criminalization that Biden said that he would end and is the very type of incrementalism that Vice President Harris criticized in 2020," Packer said.

"Descheduling marijuana is not merely a matter of legality, it is a moral imperative," said CRCC chair Dasheeda Dawson. "By removing cannabis from the confines of federal scheduling, we can dismantle the barriers that have hindered our efforts to repair and restore the lives of those most harmed by outdated draconian policies. Deschedule, or do nothing," she said.

[Editor's Note: The suggestion to do nothing, if descheduling can't be done, is deeply misguided. In fact, while rescheduling does stop far short of what we are ultimately looking for, Schedule III would reduce and in some cases end harms for many of the people our organizations advocate on behalf of. For the administration to not take the opportunity that FDA's recommendation of Schedule III presents would be a tragedy. Advocating for descheduling is a good thing, and there are good things that have happened that may have resulted from the advocacy to date, and were certainly made more likely by it. But opposing rescheduling is another thing entirely, and I believe is a mistake and unjustifiable. - David Borden]

Harm Reduction

Colorado House Approves Bil Allowing Naloxone, Drug Test Strips in Schools. The House has approved a bill that would allow school districts to maintain supplies of drug testing strips and the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in schools and on school buses, House Bill 24-1003. The vote was 50-12.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

It would allow trained bus drivers and trained students to administer naloxone to students suffering an overdose. Trained educators are already allowed to do so. It would also allow school boards to fund the supply of naloxone on school buses.


Hondurans Bust Another Coca Grow and Lab. The Honduran military announced Wednesday that it had found and seized more than 150,000 coca plants in the Río Plátano Biosphere. While coca has traditionally been cultivated only in the South American Andes, in recent years, it has begun showing up in Central America and Southern Mexico.

The bust on the nature reserve was conducted by the Armed Forces of Honduras, through the Ecosystem and Environment Management Support Command, First Environmental Protection Battalion, Special Forces and intelligence teams, and the Honduran Air Force (FAH), in coordination with the Forest Conservation Institute (ICF) and the Public Ministry.

"Coca plants were also found in nurseries and a drug laboratory with chemical precursors," the Armed Forces said. "In addition, an area of more than 60 hectares [150 acres] of cleared land was identified, which would be used to grow illicit crops," it added.

No one was arrested, but the military said it was continuing to conduct land and river patrols in the area in search of suspects and further cultivation operations.

Thailand to Ban Recreational Marijuana by Year's End, Health Minister Says. Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said in an interview Wednesday that Thailand will ban recreational marijuana by year's end but will still allow its use for medicinal purposes.

Thailand approved medical marijuana in 2018 and recreational use in 2022, provoking the appearance of tens of thousands of marijuana retailers, which in turn provoked a backlash from the current government. The previous government had failed to push through regulatory legislation before it was replaced, leaving the door open for the new government to act.

The government has drafted a new law to regulate marijuana use, which will go to the cabinet for approval before going to parliament to be approved by year's end.

"Without the law to regulate cannabis it will be misused," Cholnan. "The misuse of cannabis has a negative impact on Thai children," he added. "In the long run, it could lead to other drugs," he claimed, trotting out the long-discredited gateway theory.

Under the new law, illegal marijuana shops will not be allowed to operate and personal marijuana cultivation will also be discouraged, Cholnan said.

"In the new law, cannabis will be a controlled plant, so growing it would require permission," he said. "We will support (cannabis cultivation) for the medical and health industry."

Under the draft law, people caught using recreational marijuana would face a fine of up to $1,700, while those selling weed illicitly face up to a year in jail and fine of up to $2,800.

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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