Federal Court Blocks Philly Safe Injection Site, Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed, More... (4/3/24)

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Consequences of Prohibition

A New Hampshire marijuana legalization bill is moving in the House but faces obstacles in the Senate, a Connecticut bill to address remaining marijuana prisoners advances, and more.

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

Connecticut Marijuana Resentencing Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a bill to provide sentencing relief to people still imprisoned for marijuana offenses, Senate Bill 444. The measure from Rep. Josh Elliot (D) would create a pathway for reducing or dismissing sentences for pot offenses that have since been made legal.

People under the supervision of the criminal justice system, whether they are in jail, on probation, or in diversionary programs, for pot possession, paraphernalia possession, or distribution would be eligible to have their sentences reviewed.

Committee co-chair Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D) said the bill's goals were "laudable" and that he allowed a vote to keep the bill alive even though he considered it a work in progress.

"I think we're still struggling with how to actually effectuate this bill -- the intent of this bill -- given the recognition that, frankly, a lot of our drug possession offenses were categorized as the same and it would really take some manual work to go through the records to determine whether someone was charged with, say, possession of cannabis as opposed to possession of heroin or cocaine or some other controlled substance," he said.

Nonetheless, the bill is now headed for a Senate floor vote.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed. Even though a marijuana legalization bill from state Attorney General Anne Lopez (D), Senate Bill 3335, had already passed the Senate and won House committee votes, the Democratic House leadership on Tuesday afternoon killed it dead.

House leaders announced Tuesday that they would not hold any further hearings on the bill, effectively killing it for the session. They cited soft support in the House and the opposition of law enforcement and social conservatives.

House Finance Chair Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D) blamed the Maui fire for the failure to move forward: "We recognize that now is not the opportune time for its implementation, as we navigate the challenges of managing the largest wildfire recovery efforts in Hawaii’s history."

And House Speaker Scott Saiki weighed in with: "This bill requires further consideration of the impact legislation will have on our children, economy, and overall well-being."

Gov. Josh Green (D) said he still thinks marijuana ought to be legal for adults, but he said nothing about introducing similar legislation next year.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Set for House Floor Vote (Again). The House Finance Committee on Tuesday approved an amended version of a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1633, clearing the way for a final House floor vote before the measure heads to the Senate.

The bill would allow 15 pot retailers to open state-wide and strictly limit advertising and marketing -- features demanded by Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Retail customers would pay a 10 percent tax.

Still, the bill is not exactly what Sununu wants and could face problems in the Senate. He favors a state-controlled franchise model, but HB 1633 would create an agency store model, which bill sponsor Rep. Erica Layton (R) describes as "where the state requires agreement and compliance from private businesses granted limited licenses by the Liquor Commission beyond the traditional health and safety regulatory role of government."

The measure now heads for a House floor vote, which must occur before a crossover deadline a week from Thursday.


DEA Agrees to Hold Hearing Before Banning Two Psychedelic Compounds. The DEA has proposed banning two psychedelic compounds, 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) and 2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine (DOC), but now, facing blowback from scientists, it has announced that it will not act before holding a June hearing on the issue.

DEA has proposed making DOI and DOC Schedule I controlled substances with high abuse potential and no medical use, but scientists have disputed that evaluation. The agency received three formal requests for a hearing, prompting it to reconsider the ban until after a hearing.

The two substances are analogs of DOM, already a Schedule I substance, and their effects and pharmacological action are similar to other Schedule I hallucinogens, such as DOM and LSD. This suggests keeping DOI and DOC off of Schedule I is going to be an uphill battle.

DEA has been trying to schedule these substances since 2018 and proposed a similar rule in 2022, only to later withdraw it for further review.

Harm Reduction

Federal Court Blocks Philadelphia Safe Injection Site. In an order released Wednesday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled against the non-profit Safehouse, dismissing its challenge to the Justice Department's decision during the Trump administration to block it from opening a safe injection site in Philadelphia.

The Justice Department relied on the so-called "crack house statute" -- criminalizing the use of a premise that allows drug use -- to block the safe injection site, but Safehouse appealed, arguing that the federal ban violated its religious rights.

While the court held that it is "self-evident" that "noble intentions" to reduce harm were behind the effort, those good intentions were not enough to overcome the law.

The ruling came after Safehouse and the Biden Justice Department spent months attempting to resolve the issue in "good faith" negotiations, but failed to do so. Supporters had hoped the Biden administration, which has promoted harm reduction policies, would retreat from the Trump position, but it has not. And now there will be no safe injection site in Philadelphia.

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