Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Report on Options for Safe Injection Sites, Berkeley Could Decriminalize LSD, More... (11/28/22)

Irish opposition parties are talking drug reform, the Congressional Research Service issues a report on how to get around legal proscriptions on safe injection sites, and more.

LSD in blotter acid form. There is a proposal in Berkeley to decriminalize it. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Berkeley Ponders Becoming First City to Decriminalize Not Just Natural Psychedelics But LSD, Too. A proposed ordinance to decriminalize natural psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms that has been under study in the city for the past three years may be expanded to include the synthetic hallucinogen LSD as well. A pair of Berkeley community health commissioners are promoting the move, saying that LSD meets the definition of a psychedelic and that "nobody deserves to go to jail for having a psychedelic experience." They have now rewritten the 2019 proposed ordinance to include LSD, prompting Decriminalize Nature, the original sponsors o the ordinance to now oppose it. The Community Health Commission is set to vote Tuesday on whether to refer the rewritten ordinance to the city council. At least 15 towns or cities across the US have passed natural psychedelic decriminalization or lowest priority ordinances, but Berkeley's would be the first to include LSD.

Harm Reduction

Congressional Research Service Provide Options for Allowing Safe Injection Sites The service, a nonpartisan agency that provides information on all kinds of issues to Congress, has issued a report highlighting the "uncertainty" of the federal government's position on safe injection sites, but also pointing out that the facilities could operate securely if Congress passed legislation barring the Justice Department from interfering with them, similar to actions it has taken to allow state medical marijuana laws to be implemented. The Trump administration Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block a Philadelphia safe injection site from opening, and the Biden Justice Department has so far shown much less enthusiasm for attacking the harm reduction facilities, but their fate remains uncertain. While the Biden administration is evaluating the legality of the facilities, CRS said: "Congress could resolve that uncertainty by enacting legislation. If Congress decided to allow supervised consumption sites to operate, it could consider the breadth of such authorization. One option would be to exempt supervised consumption sites from CSA control entirely" Or Congress could approve a temporary spending bill rider "to exempt from federal prosecution facilities operating in compliance with state and local law, as it has done with state-sanctioned medical marijuana activities." A third option "would be for Congress to impose specific registration requirements for supervised consumption sites under the CSA, as it has done for entities that administer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction," CRS continued. The report is Recent Developments in Opioid Regulation Under the Controlled Substances Act.

International

.Two opposition parties are championing major reforms in drug policy, albeit with two distinct proposals. People Before Profit's Gino Kenny has filed a private members' bill to decriminalize the possession of up to seven grams of marijuana, while the Labor Party is proposing a broader drug decriminalization bill. Kenny said marijuana prohibition is "a waste of time and resources" and that "there is a groundswell of opinion for a different narrative and a different status quo." The Labor Party, meanwhile is set to file its drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, with proponents arguing again that persecuting drug users was a waste of the police and the courts' time. But Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan said that the current government follows a drug strategy that embodies a "health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use," it has no plans to decriminalize any drugs. 

Letter to House Leaders Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Colombia Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (11/23/22)

A New Hampshire coalition begins laying the groundwork for another try at marijuana legalization, Rhode island adult use marijuana sales at existig dispensaries are set to begin next week, and more.

Adult use marijuana sales will begin December 1 in Rhode Island. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Coalition Prepares to Try Again with Legalization Bill. A bipartisan coalition is preparing to once more try to push a marijuana legalization bill through the legislature, ending the state's status as an island of pot prohibition in a New England sea of states that have already legalized it Among the groups joining efforts are the conservative Americans for Prosperity, as well as the New Hampshire Cannabis Association, the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Marijuana Policy Project,  and the House Democratic Cannabis Caucus. The coalition is conferring with lawmakers from both parties and says its bill will have bipartisan sponsorship. In past sessions, including this year, bills have passed the House only to be die in the Senate.

Rhode Island Set to Commence Adult Use Marijuana Sales on December 1. Governor Dan McKee (D) and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced Tuesday that five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1. Pursuant to the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McKee in May, a call for applications for “hybrid retail licenses,” which allow licensed compassion centers to sell both medical marijuana as well as safe, well-regulated and competitively priced marijuana products to Rhode Island adults over the age of 21, was issued in early October. The five compassion centers that have received state approval to commence adult use sales are Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls), Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence), Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket), Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth), and RISE Warwick (Warwick).

Drug Policy

Human Rights Watch Organizes Joint Letter to House Leadership Urging Passage of Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill. Dozens of racial justice, social justice, drug policy, criminal justice, public health, harm reduction and other advocacy groups have cosigned a letter to the House leadership calling for "ending criminal penalties for the possession of personal-use amounts of drugs." The letter noted that of more than 1.15 million drug arrests in 2020, 86 percent were for simple drug possession, even though "we have an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that drug arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration have had no substantial effect on ending problematic drug use or curbing the illegal drug supply in the United States." The letter called for passage of the Drug Reform Act of 2021(HR 4020), stating "to begin meaningfully addressing our country's mass incarceration and overdose epidemics, we urge Members of Congress to commit to support comprehensive legislation that decriminalizes drug possession and centers health, equity, autonomy, and justice."

International

Colombia Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill supported by the government of President Gustavo Petro that has already advanced in the Chamber of Representative has now won a Senate committee vote and heads for a Senate plenary vote. The bill would legalize the possession and use of the plant by people 18 and over and support "the right of the free development of the personality, allowing citizens to decide on the consumption of cannabis in a regulated legal framework." Justice Minister Nestor Osuna told the Senate Monday, "The national government supports this draft legislative act for the adult use of cannabis. We believe that it is very important that this step be taken towards a responsible market—a responsible regulation that allows us to overcome this prohibitionist atmosphere."

OR Pot Pardons, Deadly Colombia Cocaine Clashes, More... (11/22/22)

A new Pew poll has a supermajority for medical marijuana, New York rolls out its first three dozen pot shop licenses, and more.

The black market cocaine trade continues to drive violence in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll Finds Supermajority for Medical Marijuana, Strong Majority for Legalization. A new Pew poll finds continuing strong support for both medical marijuana and broader marijuana legalization. Support for legalization for adults was at 59 percent, while an additional 30 percent also supported legalization for both medical and recreational use, bringing its level of support for medical marijuana to 89 percent. Only 10 percent said marijuana should remain illegal. The findings are largely unchanged from a Pew poll in April 2021. People in every age group indicated majority support for recreational marijuana except for those 75 and over. Only 30 percent of that group supported recreational legalization. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats supported recreational legalization, while only 45 percent of Republicans did. Among racial groups, Blacks were most supportive at 68 percent, followed by Whites at 60 percent, but neither Hispanics (49 percent) or Asians (48 percent) reported majority support for recreational legalization.

New York Award First Three Dozen Legal Pot Licenses; They Go to Social Equity, Non-Profit Applicants. State regulators awarded 37 licenses to legally sell marijuana on Monday. The licenses went to people with prior marijuana convictions and non-profits, including the anti-poverty Doe Fund and Housing Works. The move comes a year and a half since the state approved marijuana legalization. In the meantime, unlicensed sales have proliferated, especially in New York City. The state's Office of Cannabis Management also approved eight new licenses for marijuana processors, bringing the total to 32, and three new licenses for testing lab, bringing that total to seven. The retail pot shop licensees will be able to open up to three shops with each license.

Oregon Governor Issues More Than 47,000 Pardons for Marijuana Possession Convictions. Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday that she has issued pardons for 47,144 marijuana possession convictions affecting some 45,000 people. The pardons are for people caught with less than an ounce of pot who were at least 21 at the time of their arrest and go up to July 2016, when marijuana became legal in the state. The pardon action also forgives more than $14 million in fines and fees associated with the busts. "No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon." Issuing the pardons represents an effort "to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession," she added.

South Carolina Poll Has Supermajority Support for Medical Marijuana, Majority Support for Legalization. A new Winthrop poll has support for medical marijuana at a whopping 78 percent and support for marijuana legalization at 54 percent. The poll comes months after a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate only to die in the House. One GOP congresswoman described legislators who blocked reform as being "on the wrong side of history." On medical marijuana, 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans were in favor, but when it comes to full legalization, two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats were in favor, but only 39 percent of Republicans were.

International

Clashes Between Colombian Cocaine Traffickers Leave 18 Dead Near Ecuador Border. Rival drug trafficking groups engaged in a shoot-out last Saturday in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador, leaving a toll of at least 18 dead. On one side were holdouts from the former rebel army FARC who have rejected a 2016 FARC truce with the government. On the other side was a drug trafficking group known as Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commando), who also include former FARC fighters as well as remnants of a rightist paramilitary group that traffics cocaine to Ecuador and Brazil. The two groups have been fighting over control of the trade in the area for at least three years. The rebel FARC faction, also known as the Carolina Ramirez Front, has held exploratory talks with the government of President Gustavo Petro aimed at a truce, but nothing has come of that yet. 

Biden to Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, Texas GOP Rep's Cartel Bill, More... (11/21/22)

A German provincial official seeks to scuttle the federal government's marijuana legalizattion plans, the first marijuana reform legislation passed by Congress is about to be signed into law, and more.

A conservative Texas congressman files yet another punitive bill aimed at the border. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Will Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, White House Says. A bill to remove hurdles to marijuana research that passed the House two months ago and the Senate last week will be signed into law this week, the White House said. The bill, HR 8454, is the first marijuana reform legislation to ever pass Congress. The bill will create a more efficient pathway for researchers seeking large quantities of marijuana and will require that the attorney general act withing 60 days to either approve an application or seek more information from the applicant. The bill will also allow researchers to grow their own marijuana.

Law Enforcement

Texas GOP Representative to File Bill to More Harshly Punish Cartels. Conservative Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is set to file a bill that would significantly ramp up penalties for people involved with Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The "Declaring War on the Cartels Act" (not yet available on the congressional website) would make crimes related to drug trafficking, human smuggling, sex trafficking, violence, fraud, and immigration offenses committed by cartel members punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. It would also bar cartel members and their families from admission to the US and allow for the revocation of naturalized citizenship and green cards for people convicted of such activity. It would also allow for the seizure of cartel funds, with those monies going into a special fund to increase enforcement against them. This is just the latest border bill Crenshaw has filed. He has also filed bills to allow for the longer detention of immigrant minors, ban asylum claims except at ports of entry, and to increase the number of ICE prosecutors.

 

International

Colombian Coca Grower Communities in Caqueta Declare Humanitarian Siege to Protest Forced Eradication. Coca growing communities in Caqueta state have mobilized to protest violent forced coca eradication and the national government’s failure five years after peace accords were signed to implement agreements for voluntary coca eradication and alternative development. More than 22,000 families signed up for that program, which is stalled. Peasants pointed to violent eradication campaigns in the Solano, Milán, La Montañita and El Pajuil areas in Caquetá. Peasant groups are calling for dialog to resolve issues that are pitting the peasantry against the military. The Colombian military claimed in August that forced eradication had ended, but the communities in Caqueta beg to differ.

 

Bavarian Health Minister Asks EU to Scuttle Germany’s Marijuana Legalization Plan. Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek met in Brussels with the European Union’s director-general for migration and home affairs last week in a bid to block the German federal government’s proposal to legalize marijuana. Holetschek is a member of the center-right Union bloc and strongly opposes Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s legalization blueprint. As part of that plan, the German proposal is being sent to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to ensure it is compatible with EU and global drug laws. The German government says it will only move forward with legalization if the plan is approved by the EU. Holetschek warned that "the German government’s planned cannabis legalization doesn’t just endanger health, but I am convinced that it also violates European law."

More Than 300,000 Pot Arrests in 2020, FDA Points Toward OTC Naloxone, More... (11/17/22)

Congress passes a marijuana research bill, a bipatisan pair of senators file a psychedelic research and rescheduling bill, and more,

The FDA is moving to make the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone over-the-counter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Despite Legalization in Nearly Half the Country, More Than 300,000 People Were Arrested for Marijuana in 2020. Some 317,79 people were arrested on marijuana charges in 2020, according to the FBI. That is a 36 percent decline from 2019, but it still the equivalent of arresting every resident of a mid-size city such as Orlando, Corpus Christi, or Riverside, California. The marijuana arrest figure is also for the first time not the most common cause for a drug arrest, with 36 percent of drug arrests for stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, compared to 27 percent for arresting marijuana. Black Americans continued to bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement, accounting for 38 percent of all pot arrests despite making up only 13 percent of the population.

Congress Passes Marijuana Research Bill. With a final vote in the Senate Wednesday, both houses of Congress have approved the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454). The bill now goes to the desk of President Joe Biden (D). If he signs it, it will open the way to further research into the medical benefit of marijuana and CBD. Under the bill, the DEA must allow registered entities to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess marijuana for research purposes. "There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits. Our bill will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications,: said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who introduced the bill along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) introduced the bill in the House.

Harm Reduction

FDA Announces Preliminary Assessment that Certain Naloxone Products Have the Potential to be Safe and Effective for Over-the-Counter Use. The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued a Federal Register notice, Safety and Effectiveness of Certain Naloxone Hydrochloride Drug Products for Nonprescription Use, that may help facilitate the development and approval of certain nonprescription naloxone drug products, including through the switch of certain naloxone drug products from prescription status to nonprescription status. Naloxone is a medicine that can help reduce opioid overdose deaths and when administered timely, usually within minutes of the first signs of an opioid overdose, can counter the overdose effects. "Today’s action supports our efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis by helping expand access to naloxone," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. "The agency will keep overdose prevention and reduction in substance use disorders as a key priority and area of intense strategic focus for action as rapidly as possible."

Psychedelics

Cory Booker, Rand Paul File Bill to Reschedule Psychedelic Breakthrough Therapies and Remove Research Barriers. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed a bill on Thursday that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer breakthrough therapies like psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule I to II, while also removing research barriers for strictly controlled substances, the Breakthrough Therapies Act. The move came on the same day that House lawmakers announced the formation of psychedelic caucus aimed at promoting new treatments from currently controlled substances. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create a procedure where current Schedule I drugs could be designated as breakthrough therapies could be transferred to a lower schedule that would make it easier to research them and promote drug development.

Colorado Becomes Second State to Approve Natural Psychedelic Reforms [FEATURE]

Three years after voters in Denver opened the door to psychedelic reform by approving a municipal initiative that made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, voters statewide have approved an initiative that decriminalizes plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics and creates a program for the therapeutic administration of such substances.

Magic mushrooms and other natural entheogens are now decriminalized in Colorado. (Creative Commons)
On Election Day, voters approved Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, with 53.55 percent of the vote. To win, the initiative organizers, Natural Medicine Colorado had to overcome opposition not only from prohibitionists but also from sectors of the state's contentious psychedelic community, such as Decriminalize Nature Colorado, whose competing initiative failed to qualify for the ballot.

Last week's victory makes Colorado the second state to enact reforms decriminalizing a natural psychedelic and setting up a program for therapeutic use. Oregon voters led the way on that by approving Measure 109 in 2020.

Proposition 122 has two main prongs: First, it decriminalizes the personal use, possession, and cultivation by people 21 and over of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn, as well as providing for the sealing of conviction records of people who have completed sentences for the use or possession of those substances. The measure sets no personal possession limits.

Second, it creates a "natural medicine services" program for the therapeutic administration of the specified psychedelics and creates a rubric for regulated growth, distribution, and sales of those substances to entities within the program. Only psilocybin and psilocin would be okayed for therapeutic use until 2026. Then regulators could decide on whether to allow the therapeutic use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.

As part of the "natural medicine services" program, Proposition 122 will also create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to craft rules and regulations for implementing the program. The board can also make recommendations to the Department of Regulatory Agencies on adding additional substances.

With the help of more than $3.825 million in funding from the New Approach PAC, which has bankrolled numerous drug reform initiatives across the country, Natural Health Colorado zipped through signature-gathering in a quick three months and qualified for the ballot back in June.

That irked groups such as Decriminalize Colorado and the Society for Psychedelic Outreach Reform and Education (SPORE).

"I do not personally align with I-58 [Proposition 122] and the heavy out-of-state influence calling the shots in Colorado," said Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of the Decriminalize Nature initiative. "What happened with cannabis is happening with mushrooms. Folks from marginalized communities, People of Color are being left out -- once again. With all the inequality and rolling back of freedoms that exist today, let us not create new industries that will cater and serve the rich and wealthy while opening the floodgates for anyone able to buy Colorado 'healing center' licenses. I am opposed to the corporate takeover of sacred earth medicines and psychedelics written in I-58 [Proposition 122]."

"While this may sound like a good thing to people who want to see increased access to psychedelics, this initiative is designed for corporate control, largely restricting access to corporate-owned healing centers Frankly, the NMHA is not a step in the right direction. It is a leap in the wrong direction," said Matthew Duffy, cofounder of SPORE. "The NMHA is a corporate power grab, setting a corrupt foundation for the future of medicine stewardship in Colorado."

But Natural Health Colorado and its backers beg to differ, and they are emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of the measure as they bask in the glow of victory.

"This is a truly historic moment. Colorado voters saw the benefit of regulated access to natural medicines, including psilocybin, so people with PTSD, terminal illness, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can heal," Natural Medicine Colorado said in a post-election statement. "We look forward to working with the regulatory and medical experts and other stakeholders to implement this new law."

"The Natural Medicine Health Act puts the well-being of patients and communities first," added Josh Kappel, chair of the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign. "It was purposefully designed, with a multi-phase implementation process that sets clear safety rules, while allowing the details of the regulatory structure to be developed by the community and regulators working together."

For David Bronner, CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner's soaps, which endorsed the initiative, it combines two important means of access to the mind-altering substances. "I see what [Proposition 122] does as one seamless policy: making natural medicines -- psychedelic plant and fungal medicines containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline (peyote) -- available to all adult Coloradans in two powerful healing modalities: via a regulated access model in a therapeutic context; and the self-regulating community healing model in a decriminalized context," Bronner said.

Now that the voters have spoken, it is time to begin ensuring that Proposition 122 in practice more resembles the vision of its proponents than its opponents.

KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on the Hill Tuesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing Tuesday on marijuana legalization. Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the committee examined "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level," using a joint memo published last Friday to lay out the main points of discussion.

Witnesses included Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts), Amber Littlejohn (Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce), and Jillian Snider (Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties). Among topics covered were the failed war on drugs, the need for state-level action to accompany President Biden's marijuana pardon announcement, veterans' access to medical marijuana, and hemp's potential as a building material. No votes were taken.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Some Residents to Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing patients who meet certain requirements to use and possess medical marijuana. Those eligible must suffer from one of 21 specified medical conditions. The medicine must be purchased in a state where it is legal (and keep your receipt!) and will be limited to eight ounces. Patients must get a letter from a physician certifying that they suffer from one of the specified conditions. The plan goes into effect on January 1.

Harm Reduction

AMA Reiterates Call for Harm Reduction Measures to Attack Overdose Problem. At its annual interim meeting this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution encouraging the use of harm reduction practices to reduce overdose deaths in the county. The resolution called on city and state medical societies to advocate for harm reduction policies that create immunity for "drug paraphernalia" used in harm reduction, such as fentanyl test strips. "Fentanyl test strips are a point-of-care test that identifies fentanyl contamination in a drug supply with a specificity of 87.5% and a sensitivity of 95.2%," the resolution notes, but also notes that "possession of fentanyl test strips is explicitly legal in only 22 states."

But it is not just fentanyl test strips that the AMA wants to see: "The AMA has strongly supported increased use of a broad array of harm-reduction efforts to reduce death and other harms from nonmedical use of drugs, including for people who inject drugs," the group said. "These efforts include greater access to naloxone, syringe services programs and pilot programs for overdose prevention sites/supervised injection-use facilities. Fentanyl strips are part of this effort, and we urge states to take steps to help a vulnerable population."

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Legislation in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) held a ceremonial signing Wedmesday for a new law (Act 111) that legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips and other forms of drug checking to prevent overdose deaths. The legislation passed the state House and Senate unanimously before going to the Governor's desk. The most recent data show Pennsylvania had the third highest number of overdose deaths of any state in the country for the 12-month period ending May 2022. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to easily test the drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

CA Local Voters Approve More Legal Pot Shops, Filipino Drug War Continues, More... (11/15/22)

The Gallup organization looks at which groups support or oppose marijuana legalization, most Oregon residents will be ale to access nearby psilocybin therapy centers, and more.

More store fronts like this will be coming to Southern California soon. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Draws Links Between Marijuana Views and Ideology, Religiosity, and Age. In its latest poll of attitudes toward marijuana, taken in October, Gallup finds that support for legalization remains steady at 68 percent. The polling organization also combined data from the last five years to examine which demographic, social, and political groups strongly support it or strongly oppose it.

Subgroups whose support for legalization exceeds the national average by at least 10 points include those with no religious preference (89%), self-identified liberals (84%), Democrats (81%), young adults (79%) and those who seldom or never attend religious services (78%). Subgroups whose support for legalization was more than 10% below the national average include those who attend church weekly (46%), conservatives (49%), Republicans (51%), older adults (53%) and Hispanic adults (56%).

California Voters Approve Ballot Measures to Expand Pot Shop Sales. Voters in a localities across the state voted last week to approve 12 ballot measures that will either expand or create legal retail marijuana markets. The victories, mainly in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, should result in 70 new retail marijuana sales licenses, along with opportunities for ancillary businesses. Los Angeles County should see 25 new retail licenses, while San Diego County should see 20 more. But while 12 communities approved expansions, another half-dozen rejected them. The votes to ease access to adult use marijuana comes as the state's legal marijuana sector struggles to expand amidst high taxes, local bans and hindrances, and a black market that refuses to go away.

Psychedelics

Oregon's Rural Voters Reject Therapeutic Psilocybin Centers but Most Oregonians Will Have Access. On Election Day last week, 27 counties and 114 cities and towns asked voters to approve moratoria or bans on psilocybin therapy centers, which were approved by voters statewide last year. In almost every instance, voters rejected the therapy centers, but those areas account for only a small fraction of the state's population, and most Oregonians will have local access to such facilities. , Nearly three out of four of the state's 4.2 million residents live in localities where the centers are approved, including 17 of the state's most populous cities and 11 counties, including all of the most populous ones.

International

Philippine Police Force Lowballs Drug War Killings in Post-Duterte Era. The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday that they have arrested more than 22,000 people in a new drug crackdown under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. claimed that police had made efforts to reduce the use of lethal force and that only 46 people had been killed in their anti-drug operations since Marcos took office at the end of June. That figure is belied by numbers from the DAHAS database of drug war killings, which puts the death toll at 127 since Marcos took office, including 29 in October and seven more in the first week of November alone.

While the numbers reported killed under Marcos are a substantial reduction from the pace of killings under Duterte -- human rights groups estimate more than 30,000 people were killed during his bloody war on drugs -- they still represent an unacceptably high level of state violence directed at drug users and sellers. Still, Azurin patted himself and his police force on the back, claiming his reported death toll was "very minimal."

MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

Main Justice (DOJ headquarters). A coalition wants the attorney general to allow legal pot sales in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Broad Coalition Calls on Attorney General Garland to Adopt Non-Enforcement Policy Around DC Marijuana Sales. Although District of Columbia voters legalized marijuana in 2014, congressional riders have blocked the District from allowing taxed and regulated marijuana sales ever since. Now, a coalition of state, local, and national advocacy groups has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) asking him to break the logjam by adopting a formal policy of non-enforcement. The letter asks the attorney general to treat the situation in DC as "functionally equivalent to the non-enforcement approach it has traditionally taken with respect to the states that have reformed their laws allowing for the taxation and regulation of the adult use of cannabis." As things now stand, DC "is only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation."

Missouri Could See Legal Marijuana Sales as Early as January. Elections have consequences, and sometimes they have them in a hurry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Friday that existing medical marijuana companies will be able to apply for adult use ("comprehensive") sales licenses as early as December 8 and that sales could begin ahead of a 60-day post-election deadline on February 6. Some of those licenses could be completed "before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed," the agency said. "We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion."

Plans for Kansas City-Area Entertainment Complex with Marijuana Lounges Announced. That didn't take long. One day after voters approved marijuana legalization in the Show Me State, a Kansas City-area hospitality group has announced plans for a new metro area entertainment district project that will include marijuana consumption lounges. The Besa Hospitality Group announced a new entertainment district along the Missouri River about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City in the village of River Bend. It will be known as the Smokey River Entertainment District.

The Besa Hospitality Group is partnering with BesaMe Wellness, a medical marijuana company, which give it an early shot at procuring an adult sales retail license, and has a target opening date of 4/20/23. "We have an opportunity to showcase cannabis and the acceptance of cannabis in our everyday lives. We're normalizing cannabis through hospitality," says Joey Pintozzi, Vice President of Operations and Marketing. "This is an entertainment venue first and foremost. Cannabis just happens to be part of that experience. People will be free to legally consume in some of the venues and enjoy being themselves."

Psychedelics

Evanston, Illinois, Lawmaker Sponsors Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. Councilmember Devon Reid of the Chicago suburb of Evanston is sponsoring an ordinance that would make possessing, cultivating and delivering entheogenic substances like psilocybin punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. That fine could be waived for people who complete a drug treatment program or "reasonable public service work."

The ordinance also includes lowest priority language regarding the "investigation or arrest of anyone for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or engaging in practices with or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds." The legislation lists four examples of psychedelics that would be covered -- psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote and ayahuasca -- but it also says decriminalization would not be "limited to" those psychedelics.

Global Commission on Drug Policy Calls for Colombia Legalization, More... (11/11/22)

A federal judge throws a wrench in the works as New York tries to get legal pot shops open, Houston cops and prosecutors have dozens of tainted drug cases but still want to keep seized money from them, and more.

Asset forfeiture remains tempting for cops. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Blocks Marijuana Licenses for Several New York Regions. Marijuana retail licenses are on hold in several regions of the state after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from issuing them in response to a lawsuit from a Michigan company that had been denied approval to operate in the state. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe issued the injection after the company, Variscite, challenged the social equity provision in the state law that requires that licenses be awarded to people who have been affected by drug laws in the state. The primary owner of Variscite was convicted of a marijuana-related offense, but in Michigan, not New York. The injunction impacts five regions where Variscite had sought a license to operate: Finger Lakes, Central New York, western New York, the Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn. The injunction comes as the state Office of Cannabis Management was preparing to issue an initial round of licenses by the end of the year.

Asset Forfeiture

New York's Albany County Comptroller Finds Sheriff's Use of Seized Funds Violated State Law. County Comptroller Susan Rizzo has released an audit that finds that Sheriff Craig Apple's use of asset forfeiture funds violates the state comptroller's opinion guiding how the money should be spent. This is the second audit in a year to find problems with how forfeited funds are being used in the county. The new audit finds that "state and federal forfeiture funds were donated to community based organizations, sports programs and town events which do not meet the criteria for law enforcement or criminal prosecution purposes." The sheriff defended his spending decisions saying, "I see the need to fund youth sports, programs and organizations that promote positive youth engagements."

Houston PD Drops Cases Tainted by Corrupt Narcotics Officers but Decides It Can Still Keep Seized Cash. In the wake of a notorious 2019 drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and resulted in the indictment of 11 narcotics officers, Houston prosecutors dropped dozens of cases and prosecutions, but they are refusing to return seized cash from the questionable raids and arrests. "Prosecutors are currently reviewing several cases related to Squad 15 to determine if they involve assets that should be returned to members of the community," said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. These include cases where the charges have been dropped but police have refused to return money to the victims of police misconduct. The city has retained at least $75,000 seized in operations that are now viewed as too problematic to allow criminal prosecutions to go forward, but that figure represents only a fraction of the monies seized by tainted dope squad members.

International

Global Commission on Drugs Report Calls for Decriminalization and Regulation of All Drugs in Colombia. At a forum in Bogota Thursday, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its new report, "Drug Policy in Colombia: The Path to Fair Regulations," which calls for drug legalization in the country and lays out five recommendations for getting there: move to legal regulation of currently illicit drugs, prioritize human rights, decriminalize drug possession and consumption, decrease funding for military budgets and increase funding for civil authorities, and strengthen institutions to create a strong human rights approach.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A South Texas cop goes down for escorting drug shipments, a Colorado prison guard gets nailed carrying pens full of dope, and more. Let's get to it:

In Canon City, Colorado, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Tuesday to two years' probation for trying to smuggle meth and opioids into the Fremont prison. Kyle Gotham Tatro, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of felony contraband after authorities stopped him on his way to work and seized four plastic pens. One contained 6 grams of meth, two contained 20 grams of opiates, and one contained nine blue oxycodone pills. Tatro admitted being paid $250 to deliver the drugs.

In Bessemer, Alabama, a guard at the William Donaldson Correctional Facility was arrested last Wednesday for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs, cell phones, and other contraband into the jail. Wilson Brian Clemons, 32, faces one count of conspiracy and one count of using a facility in interstate commerce in furtherance of an illegal activity. He is accused of taking bribes to facilitate the smuggling and using a fake name to create an account on Cash App so he could accept bribes anonymously. Clemons went down in November 2021 after he tried to bring cell phones, marijuana, Xanax, cigars, and scales into the facility. Clemons also agreed to forfeit the money he made from the conspiracy. He's looking at up to five years in state prison.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Brownsville police officer was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison for providing protection for what he thought was a load of methamphetamine being transported through the city. Jose Salinas had earlier pleaded guilty to trafficking at least one kilogram of meth over a March 2020 incident where he took $2,500 in cash for escorting drugs from a car lot he owed to a stash house he provided. He had parked a city police car in front of the stash house to protect the shipment.

WI City and County Votes for Legal Marijuana, FDA Warns on Animal Tranquilizer in Drug Supply, More... (11/10/22)

The Treasury Department is using an executive order to go after dark web drug suppliers, the FDA is warning health care workers to watch out for an animal tranquilizer that appears to be getting into the illicit drug supply, and more.

The veterinary tranquilizer and pain reliever xylazine is showing up in the illicit drug supply.
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Towns and County Vote for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. The cities of Kenosha and Racine joined Milwaukee County Tuesday in voting in favor of non-binding referenda showing community support for marijuana legalization. The measure was approved by 76 percent of voter in Racine, 74 percent in Milwaukee County, and 72 percent in Kenosha. The state lacks an effective initiative process, and the Republican-controlled legislature has blocked consideration of even medical marijuana, let alone adult use marijuana.

Adulterants

FDA Warns Health Care Workers to Watch Out for Potentially Lethal Animal Sedative in Illicit Drug Supply. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday issued a warning to health care workers to watch out for patients who may have been exposed to a potentially deadly animal sedative through illicit drug use. The sedative in question is xylazine, which is showing up in fentanyl, heroin, and other illicit drug supplies after being diverted from the legal animal drug supply or produced illegally, the FDA said. The drug, known as "tranq" on the street is approved as an animal tranquilizer and pain reliever, but not approved for use in humans.

"FDA is aware of increasing reports of serious side effects from individuals exposed to fentanyl, heroin, and other illicit drugs contaminated with xylazine," the agency announced in a news release. Those serious side effects can resemble those linked to opioid use, making it difficult to determine whether one is facing an opioid overdose or xylazine exposure.

Moreover, naloxone, which can reverse the effects of some opioid drug overdoses, may not have the same effect on xylazine, the agency said. FDA still advised health care workers to continue administering naloxone if they suspect an opioid overdose.

Dark Web

Treasury Sanctions Internet-based Suppliers of Illicit Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Drugs. Acting in conjunction with the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two Dutch nationals, Alex Adrianus Martinus Peijnenburg, Martinus Pterus Henri De Koning, and one British national, Matthew Simon Grimm, and nine entities pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059 for supplying illicit fentanyl, synthetic stimulants, cannabinoids, and opioids to US markets through internet sales and a host of shell companies.

The action represents the first use of E.O. 14059 to target those involved in the sale of illicit drugs purchased online and via darknet marketplaces. "The Treasury Department will continue to deploy its counternarcotics authorities to disrupt those involved in the fentanyl global supply chain," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. "Treasury is identifying over 50 virtual wallet addresses associated with this network's drug trafficking activities as we take further action to counter the abuse of virtual currency. I would like to thank our Dutch and UK partners and US law enforcement counterparts for their partnership and for enabling today's action."

CO Magic Mushroom Initiative Leading, La Paz's Itinerant Cocaine Bar, More... (11/9/22)

Five Texas cities pass marijuana decriminalization local measures, the National Park Service is asking tourists to not lick Sonoran desert toads in search of an hallucinogenic high, and more.

The Sonoran desert toad. The National Park Services asks people not to lick them to get high. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Five Texas Cities Vote to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Voters in five Texas cities chose overwhelmingly to approve local ballot measures to effectively decriminalize small-time marijuana possession. The group Ground Game Texas pioneered the tactic in Austin earlier this year and expanded it to the five cities for the general election. The measure, which bars using city funds and staff to test for the presence of THC, passed with 82 percent of the vote in San Marcos, 75 percent in Elgin, 70 percent in Denton, 69 percent in Killeen, and 60 percent in Harker Heights.

Psychedelics

Colorado Magic Mushroom, Natural Psychedelic Initiative Leading, But Still Too Close to Call. An initiative todecriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring hallucinogen and require the state to create a regulated system for accessing natural psychedelics for people 21 and over is narrowly ahead but has yet to officially called. Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, has 51.07 percent of votes, with 48.93 percent opposed. Results are in from every county in the state, but not all votes have yet been counted in all counties.

National Park Service Tells Visitors to Please Stop Licking Hallucinogenic Toads. The National Park Service is warning visitors to stop licking the Sonoran desert toad in search of a high. The toad has glands that secrete a toxin that can create a hallucinogenic experience, but the Park Service is warning that touching or licking it can make people sick. The toad is known for producing hallucinations and euphoria, but the Park Service warns that it can also cause anxiety, nausea, seizures, and, rarely, death. "As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking," the service said in a Facebook post.

International

Cocaine Bar in Bolivia's Capital City Stays Open by Staying on the Move. The world's first cocaine bar, Route 36, is managing to stay open in the Bolivian city of La Paz by repeatedly changing its location and requiring potential customers to do some research to hunt it down. But don't count on Google; the reporting is that you are more likely to find its current location by asking a local cab driver. The cab driver is likely the only local you will encounter once you get to the bar, which operates primarily as a tourist destination with a $5 cover charge and sells grams of quite pure cocaine for $15.

Five Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Were on the Ballot, Two Passed [FEATURE]

Tuesday's election brought decidedly mixed results for marijuana legalization advocates with three out of five state-level campaigns going down in defeat, according to unofficial results early Wednesday morning.

Provided the results hold, Maryland and Missouri will become the 20th and 21st states to legalize marijuana, along with the District of Columbia. But Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota will not be joining those ranks after voters in those three states gave legalization a thumbs down.

In Maryland, Question 4 was winning with 65.5 percent of the vote. The measure would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

This is an amendment that came not from the people but from the legislature, which passed it as House Bill 1 in April. The legislature that same month also passed implementing legislation to go into effect if the measure passes. The legislation, House Bill 837, which would set legal possession limits at 1.5 ounces and allow for the home cultivation of two plants. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be legal if the measure passes.

The amendment contains no language about regulation or taxation. That will be left up to the legislature.

"The result of Maryland's cannabis legalization measure is monumental," said Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, which played a key role in building support for the measure. "With each state that successfully legalizes cannabis, we are one step closer to dismantling the federal prohibition of cannabis."

In Missouri, despite multi-sided opposition not only from the usual suspects in law enforcement and the political establishment but also from civil rights groups and marijuana industry insiders, with 89 percent of the vote counted, Amendment 3 was winning with 53.1 percent of the vote. The measure will allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones.

It also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses and "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022, the group behind the effort.

The initiative will tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote. It will also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The news from Arkansas and the Dakotas was grimmer. The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment garnered only 43.8 percent of the vote, while North Dakota's Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 managed only 45.1 percent, and South Dakota's Initiated Measure 27 came up short with only 46.6 percent of the vote.

The South Dakota defeat was especially bitter, given that just two years ago, voters there approved a broader marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote only to see it invalidated by the state Supreme Court.

That is it for a somewhat disappointing 2022 election, but there is already one state lined up and ready to vote on marijuana legalization next year. Organizers in Oklahoma gathered enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot this year, but delays in signature counting by state contractors left it unable to be certified by the official deadline for Tuesday's ballot. It will get a vote either in a special election or the next general statewide election.

CO Magic Mushroom Initiative, Call for Biden Pot Pardons to Include Immigrants, More... (11/8/22)

The use of asset forfeiture funds to buy armored vehicles for the cops creates controversy in Norman, Oklahoma, a plan to create a "narco museum" in El Chapo's Mexican home town creates controversy too, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are on the ballot in Colorado today. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Immigration, Civil Rights Groups Call on Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons. More than 130 immigration and civil rights groups have sent a letter to President Joe Biden (D) asking him to include immigrants in his marijuana possession pardon proclamation. People who are not citizens or legal permanent residents were not included in the pardon proclamation announced last month.

The groups said they welcomed the pardon move as a "much-needed first step toward mitigating the harm" of the war on drugs. "However, as organizations working on racial justice, human rights, and immigrant rights issues, we are grimly disappointed at the explicit exclusion of many immigrants and at the absence of affirmative measures to ensure that all immigrants get meaningful relief from the immigration consequences that can follow marijuana convictions," the groups wrote. "Cutting people out of criminal policy reforms simply because of their place of birth casts a shadow over the White House's efforts to address the over-policing and mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities."

"Moving forward, we urge you to ensure that every step taken to remedy racial injustice includes relief to impacted immigrant communities," they continued, adding that the first thing Biden should do is "extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and to take necessary steps to ensure that immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions."

Psychedelics

Colorado Voters to Consider Legalization of Psychedelic Mushrooms. It is not just marijuana on the ballot this Election Day. Voters in five states will decide on whether to free the weed, but Colorado voters will be voting on an initiative, Proposition 122, the "Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022," that would decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring hallucinogen and would require the state to create a regulated system for accessing natural psychedelics for people 21 and over.

A poll last week had the measure under 50 percent but in a statistical dead heat, with 43 percent of respondents supporting it and 44 percent opposed. That means the measure must pick up the support of slightly more than half of the 13 percent undecided to get over the top.

Asset Forfeiture

Norman, Oklahoma, Controversy Over Use of Asset Forfeiture Funds to Purchase Armored Police Vehicle. A plan to use moneys from the "State Seizures and Restitution Fund" to purchase new equipment for the police department, including $353,000 for a large BearCat SWAT vehicle designed for military and law enforcement use was on hold after city council members expressed concern over the use of asset forfeiture funds for the purchase and a lack of public discussion. Another $700,000+ was to be used to buy tactical vests, helmets, gas masks, ballistic shields and other protective equipment for bomb threats.

Councilors for Ward 1 and 2, Brandi Studley and Helen Grant, respectively, took issue with the absence of committee and public discussion. "I am concerned with the lack of transparency and discussion with council and the public regarding any of the equipment," Studley said. Grant said more information about the department's needs and the city council's priorities was needed. "The public made it pretty clear in feedback about our failed water rate increase that they wanted us to focus on affordable housing and homelessness first, as 24% of respondents ranked it as a priority," Grant said. "Police and Fire along with a nebulous category called "other" came in second at 15% respectively."

Other council members accused the pair of having "a complete disregard for the safety" of community members, but then agreed to pull the proposal for further study.

International

Mexican Town's Plan for Narco Museum Stirs Controversy. Badiraguato, Sinaloa, in the hills outside of the state capitol, Culiacan, is the birthplace of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and now, the current mayor has stirred up controversy by proposing that the town build a "narco museum" dedicated to the history of drug trafficking in the state.

Mayor Jose Paz Lopez said that Badiraguato needs to preserve its history, and that the museum be an economic boon for the town, attracting tourism and sharing an anti-drug message. He said it would include weapons, vehicles and other belongings from drug lords, and perhaps life-size wax figures of them. But Gov. Ruben Rocha Moya was not down with the idea, saying he emphatically opposes it.

In addition to El Chapo, Badiriguato is also the birthplace of famed cartel leaders Rafael Caro Quintero and current Sinaloa Cartel leader Israel "El Mayo" Zambada.

NY Legal Pot Shops Set to Open by Year's End, Irish Decrim Recommendation, More... (11/7/22)

A federal judge throws out a lawsuit seeking gun ownership rights for medical marijuana patients, competing Bolivian coca grower factions prepare to clash again this week, and more.

marijuana seized in New York City (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

New York Recreational Marijuana Sales Licenses Coming Soon. The chief of staff of the state's Cannabis Control Board said last Thursday that the first set of Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will likely be issued at the board's next meeting on November 21. Axel Bernabe said the state was "in position" to issue the licenses then. He said the board had scored applications and will recommend that applicants representing the "top of the class" will be recommended for approval. Bernabe's comments were echoed by board chair Tremaine Wright, who said "we are on target" to open the first shops before year's end.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Lawsuit on Medical Marijuana Patients' Gun Rights. A federal judge last Friday rejected a lawsuit from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) that challenged the federal ban on medical marijuana patients' ability to buy and possess firearms. The Biden Justice Department had moved to dismiss the case last month, arguing that people who use medical marijuana are violating federal law and thus can be denied the right to have guns.

Judge Allen Winsor agreed, telling plaintiffs they "have standing but their claims fail on the merits." The judge acknowledged a congressional rider blocking federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana patients, but said that does not alter his decision. "Regardless of whether Plaintiffs are prosecuted (or whether Congress allocates funds for their prosecution), possession of marijuana remains a federal crime," Winsor held. "The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment at best precludes prosecution now; it does not forever bless Plaintiffs' actions."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. A coca grower union faction that is demanding the closure of an unofficial coca market linked to a different, government-backed grower faction has announced plans to stage street demonstration and roadblocks in various areas of La Paz beginning today. The faction said the protests would continue indefinitely and that it would not announce roadblock locations in advance. The conflict has festered for months and has resulted in various bouts of street fighting between the factions and between the factions and security forces. In one incident, the "parallel" market linked to the pro-government faction was burned to the ground by the anti-government faction.

Irish Task Force Recommends De Facto Decriminalization for Addicts, Mentally Ill. A high-level task force examining mental health and drug addiction has recommended that police be given the discretion to ticket some drug users instead of arresting and jailing them. People who are addicted to drugs or who suffer from mental illness would be eligible for the diversion from the criminal justice system provided their drugs are for personal use.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the government is willing to work through the plan, but warned it could be tricky to implement. "We have, as a government and not just this governmengovernments, agreed to look at this from a public health perspective in trying to work with and support people who have addiction problems," said McEntee. "Really this is just another iteration of that. It is not straightforward. "How do you differentiate and how do you look at people who have addiction problems and then other issues as well? But it is something we will work through as part of the recommendations."

PA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Ecuador Drug Gang Violence Spikes, More... (11/4/22)

A late poll has good news for the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative, drug gangs rampage in Ecuador, and more.

Sen. Tom Hickenlooper (D-CO) files a bill to set up a framework for federal marijunana legalization. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Sen. Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Develop Federal Marijuana Legalization Framework. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday announced a plan to roll out legislation to create a framework for federal marijuana legalization. His proposed bill, the PREPARE Act, would create a "Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis," which would make recommendations related to marijuana policy, but would not be empowered to set policies itself. "This bill will provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis," Hickenlooper's office wrote in a summary of the bill.

New Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Winning. Polling on the fate of the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative has been all over the place, with two recent polls showing it losing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote. But a third recent poll had it winning with 62 percent of the vote. That poll was from SurveyUSA, and now that polling organization is out with a new poll, again having the initiative winning, this time with 61 percent of the vote. Twenty-eight percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided, with those undecideds evenly split between potential supporters and opponents.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1393, which decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. It does so by no longer defining the test strips as drug paraphernalia under the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act of 1972. Pennsylvania thus becomes the latest of a number of states that have passed similar legislation this year in a bid to reduce the rising incidence of fentanyl-involved fatal drug overdoses. "Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste, and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is nearly impossible for an individual to know if it has been laced with fentanyl," said Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. "We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, individuals have an additional tool to fight the overdose crisis. This legalization is a big win in the harm reduction space."

International

Ecuador State of Emergency Declared as Drug Gang Violence Spikes. President Guillermo Lasso declared a new state of emergency Tuesday and a 9:00pm curfew in the Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country after an outbreak of gang violence that included two headless bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards taken hostage by inmates, a series of nine car bomb explosions in two coastal cities, and the shooting deaths of five police officers. President Lasso said the violence was "a declaration of open war" and that he was "prepared to act harshly" to suppress it.

Lasso added that soldiers and police had raided jails and seized weapons, included thousands of explosive and dynamite sticks, and arrested 28 people. Still, fresh clashes were reported in prisons in Guayaquil. Analysts say the local gangs are emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate authorities.

"In certain areas, the state has been displaced," said Col Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador's military intelligence, referring to parts of Guayaquil and Ecuador's Pacific coast. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence."

Bad Poll for AR Pot Initiative, British MP Calls for "Monkey Dust" Rescheduling, More... (11/3/22)

Colombia and the Czech Republic are both moving toward marijuana legalization, late polling doesn't bode well for the Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

"Monkey Dust," a synthetic cathinone causing a drug panic in Great Britain (mn.us)
Marijuana Policy

New Arkansas Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative Trailing. A new Arkansas Poll has the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment (Issue 4) losing next week with only 41 percent of the vote and 59 percent opposed. Earlier polls from Talk Business and Politics-Hendrix College showed the initiative with 59 percent support in early October but only 51 percent in late October. We now have three data points showing declining support for the measure; we will see how accurate they are by this time next week.

International

British Call to Reclassify "Monkey Dust" at Most Dangerous Drug Schedule. Fortified by sensationalistic media accounts of a user who "ate through" a glass window after using the substance, MP Jack Brereton is calling for the synthetic cathinone methylenedioxyprovalerone to be moved from Class B to the more serious Class A drug schedule. Known colloquially as "monkey dust" or "zombie dust," the drug has also been associated with violent behavior and erratic and irrational thoughts and behaviors, including jumping off buildings and running into traffic. Brereton represents Stoke-on-Trent, which has developed "an unenviable reputation" as a hotspot for the drug's use. It is the same drug that was falsely linked to "face eating" incidents in Florida in 2012.

Czech Republic to Move on Marijuana Legalization. The country has already legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana for adult use, but the country's center-right governing coalition has now begun the process of a drafting a full marijuana legalization bill. "Despite the previous decriminalization, we still have a black market, there is no official production and no quality control, just as there is no control of sales to young people under 18," said Jindrich Voboril, the Czech drug commissioner. The issue was pushed by the Czech Pirate Party, the smallest member of the governing coalition, which said legalization would "make the Czech Republic a freer country" and "bring billions into public budgets." Voboril said the Czech Republic is coordinating with Germany, which is also moving toward legalization, on the issue.

Colombian Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes First Hurdle. A bill that would legalize marijuana won an initial vote in the Chamber of Deputies in mid-October by a margin of 105 to 33. The bill is not an initiative of President Gustavo Petro, but is supported by a multiparty group that is part of his governing coalition. Two cabinet ministers have also publicly supported it. But this is the first step on a long parliamentary journey. Because it would require changes in the constitution, it will have to clear at least eight legislative votes before final passage. But there are friendly majorities in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Pentagon cop gets nailed peddling cocaine, a Memphis cop goes to prison for ripping off and torturing alleged drug dealers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lamesa, Texas, a prison guard was arrested October 10 after being caught trying to smuggle liquid PCP and liquid fentanyl into the Lamesa state prison. Guard Gilma Paredes was caught with 17.5 ounces of liquid PCP and 21 ounces of liquid fentanyl as she arrived at work, and authorities found an additional 30.5 ounces of liquid PCP and five ounces of liquid fentanyl in her vehicle.

In Vidalia, Louisiana, a former jail guard was arrested October 13 for smuggling drugs into the Concordia Parish Jail. Now former Correctional Officer Anthony Godbold, 35, is charged with two counts of malfeasance in office, two counts of introducing contraband into jail two counts and possession of schedule I controlled substances with intent to distribute.

In Chickasha, Oklahoma, an Oklahoma City police officer was arrested October 21 on drug dealing charges. Officer Dean Yancy Forbes was booked into the Grady County Jail on unspecified multiple charges, as was his wife, Sandra Joy Forbes. He is now on administrative leave with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

In Easley, South Carolina, a now former Greenville County sheriff's deputy was arrested October 24 on marijuana distribution charges. Deputy Nicholas Craig Ison, 22, went down after providing weed to a confidential informant and was immediately fired as well as arrested. He was booked into the Pickens County Jail.

In Arlington, Virginia, a Pentagon police officer was arrested Monday after narcotics detectives watched him picking up a shipment of cocaine. Officer Eric Welch, 33, went down after Arlington detectives received a tip that he was selling cocaine and caught him as he was restocking his supply. He faces charges of possessing at least 2.5 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute and while carrying a firearm. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In Richland, Washington, a former state prison guard was sentenced October 4 to 46 month in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the Benton County Jail. Former guard Eric Christian, 34, had pleaded guilty in December 2021 to conspiracy to provide prohibited objects to an inmate of a prison in exchange for bribes. Christian and six codefendants conspired to introduce multiple cell phones, methamphetamine, heroin, suboxone strips, and other contraband into the Benton County Jail. As part of the conspiracy, Christian and his co-conspirators also provided access to dangerous offenders and gang members so that they could identify, assault, and retaliate against cooperating defendants as well as inmates charged with certain types of offenses.

In Columbus, Ohio, a former Columbus vice officer was sentenced October 6 to 18 months in federal prison for planting cocaine on the owner of a strip club. Former Officer Steven Rosser, 46, had been convicted in February of violating the civil rights of club owner Armen Stipanyian by searching him and his vehicle without a warrant and then falsely claiming he found cocaine residue on a desk in Stipanyian's office and arresting him. The planted cocaine amounted to .017 grams. After fraudulently arresting Stipanyian, Rosser falsified documents to conceal his misdeeds. The strip club investigation was an outgrowth of the arrest of adult film star Stormy Daniels at another strip club in the city, and it was FBI agents looking into the Daniels arrests that turned up Rosser's misbehavior. The vice unit that Rosser belonged to was disbanded in 2019 after the Stormy Daniels debacle.

In Machias, Maine, a former Calais police officer was sentenced October 15 to four years in state prison on drug and gun charges after originally being arrested for giving opioid pain pills to a teenage girl in a high school parking lot. The pills were meant for the girl's mother. Jeffrey Bishop, 55, was arrested less than a week after retiring from the department. It is not clear what the exact charges he was convicted of are.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a former Memphis police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison for his role in a police gang that robbed and beat alleged drug dealers. Former Officer Sam Blue, 63, conspired with others from 2014 to 2018 to rob drug dealers and provided his coconspirators with information such as the home addresses of their targets obtained from restricted law enforcement sources, as well as police badges and dashboard blue lights.

In one case, the gang targeted Eric Cain, surveilling him and putting a GPS tracker on his vehicle. Blue provided the gate code needed to get access to Cain's apartment complex, and the rogue crew stopped him on the pretext he was being arrested, handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to another house in Memphis, where they beat him and burned him on his arms, neck, and head while demanding he tell them where his money was. Cain escaped and went to authorities after spending a week in the hospital for his injuries. Blue pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to violate civil rights by using force, violence, and intimidation, and conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce.

Biden Pot Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Afghan Opium Crop Up, More... (11/2/22)

A Colorado psychedelic initiative needs just a bit more support to get over the top next week, the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative is in the same boat, and more.

freshly harvested opium resin in Afghanistan (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Marijuana Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Poll Finds. A new Monmouth University poll finds broad public approval of President Joe Biden's (D) decision to issue blanket pardons to anyone convicted of simple federal marijuana possession charges. The poll also found broad public support for marijuana legalization, with 68 percent in favor, just one point less than the number of those who supported the Biden pardons. "Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years. Biden's action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative Leading but Under 50 Percent. The Missouri marijuana polling muddle continues. One recent poll had Amendment 3 with 43 percent of the vote -- not a majority, but a higher figure than those who said they opposed it -- while another poll had the initiative cruising to victory with 62 percent support. Now, the latest poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill -- the same folks who had the 43 percent poll just weeks ago -- has the initiative again leading but under the 50 percent required to win. This time the poll had support at 48 percent support, with 35 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. While initiative campaigns would like to see support at 60 percent or so going into the election, or at least above the 50 percent needed to win, if these latest poll numbers are accurate, the campaign would need only to peel away about one out of five undecided voters, and keep the supporters it has now, to emerge victorious next week.

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psychedelic Initiative Under 50 Percent. The initiative to legalize the possession of psychedelics and create licensed "healing center" where people can use psilocybin under therapeutic supervision, Proposition 122, is trailing slightly according to a new poll, but has gained support since the same poll queried voters in September. The measure has 43 percent support, up from 36 percent in September, but opposition remains higher, increasing from 41 percent in September to 44 percent now. That is a statistical dead heat between "yes" and "no" votes, but still has the initiative below the 50 percent needed to win. Nearly 13 percent of voters remain undecided; the initiative will need to get a majority of those undecideds to get over the top next week.

International

Afghan Opium Crop Up One Third Despite Taliban Ban, UN Says. The 2022 opium crop in Afghanistan is the most profitable in years with cultivation up by nearly a third amid soaring prices, and despite the multiple humanitarian and economic crises facing the country and its Taliban rulers, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Tuesday. The authorities banned all cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics under strict new laws, in April 2022. This year's harvest was largely exempted from the decree, said UNODC, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the Taliban will enforce the ban. Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November this year.

"Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated," said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. "The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world."

These Five States Could Legalize Marijuana on Election Day [FEATURE]

It is now less than a week until voters across the country head to the polls for Election Day 2022, and by the time the smoke clears, five more states could add themselves to the ranks of the legal marijuana states. Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota have all qualified legalization initiatives for the next week's ballot.

If all five efforts were to succeed, the number of legal marijuana states would jump from 19 to 24, but with four of the five states being among the most conservative in the country, victories are likely to be hard-fought and narrow.

Organizers in a sixth state, Oklahoma, also gathered enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but delays in signature counting by state contractors left t it unable to be certified by the official deadline for the November ballot. It will get a vote either in a special election or the next general statewide election.

Here is what we are looking at in each of the five states:

Arkansas

The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment from Responsible Growth Arkansas would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and create a system of licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail sales. It would also allow existing medical marijuana infrastructure (dispensaries, grow operations, etc.) to be integrated into the new adult use market. The Arkansas Beverage Control Board would be the regulatory agency.

Retail sales would face normal sales taxes plus an additional 10 percent tax. Fifteen percent of tax revenues would go to law enforcement, 10 percent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, five percent to fund drug courts, and the remainder to go into the general fund. There are no provisions for home cultivation or to promote social equity, although there is language deferring a criminal background check for people owning less than five percent of a marijuana business.

Recent polling from Talk Business and Politics-Hendrix College showed the initiative barely winning with 51 percent of the vote in a late October poll. The same outfit had the initiative at 59 percent in an early October poll, with the decline in support reflecting a rejection by Republican voters as Election Day draws nearer, partisan divides sharpen, and the state's Republican leadership attacks marijuana legalization.

Maryland

Question 4 would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

This is an amendment that came not from the people but from the legislature, which passed it as House Bill 1 in April. The legislature that same month also passed implementing legislation to go into effect if the measure passes. The legislation, House Bill 837, which would set legal possession limits at 1.5 ounces and allow for the home cultivation of two plants. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be legal if the measure passes.

The amendment contains no language about regulation or taxation. That will be left up to the legislature.

A March poll had support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent and a Baltimore Sun Media and University of Baltimore poll released Monday showed that support was remarkably stable over time, with 63 percent now approving the initiative, including 54 percent of Republicans.

Missouri

Sponsored by Legalize Missouri 2022, Amendment 3 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones. The measure also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

The initiative also "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022.

The initiative would tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote.

It would also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The measure had drawn organized opposition from within the cannabis community, with critics saying it does not do enough to promote social equity, that it favors existing operators, and that because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have little say.

In the final days of the campaign, the initiative is being attacked from all sides and is generating polling that is all over the place. Of three polls in the last six weeks, two had the initiative failing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote, while a third had it winning with 62 percent. Somebody is right, but it will take an actual election to find out who.

North Dakota

Sponsored by New Approach North Dakota, Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

The measure includes specific child custody protections for parents who use marijuana in accord with state law, but employers could continue to prohibit marijuana use and there is no provision for expungement. New Approach North Dakota says it intends to address that in the legislature next year. The measure would also allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses.

The initiative also creates a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of marijuana with the Department of Health and Human Services (or a different agency designated by the legislature) developing rules and regulations and overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses. Regulators would have until October 1, 2023, to come up with rules for advertising, labeling, packaging, security, and testing standards.

There would be no new tax for marijuana, but the state's 5 percent retail sales tax would apply to marijuana sales. Those tax revenues are not designated for any particular fund. Commercial cultivators would have to pay an annual $110,000 registration fee and retailers would have to pay an annual $90,000 fee.

The number of retailers would be limited to 18 and the number of grow facilities limited to seven. In a bid to reduce monopolistic tendencies in the industry, no one person or entity could own more than one grow facility or four retail stores.

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but that was a more wide-open measure. There is no recent polling data for this measure.

South Dakota

Two years ago, voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote, only to see it thrown out in the state Supreme Court for violating the state's one-subject rule for initiatives. (It legalized marijuana and contained tax and regulatory provisions). Initiated Measure 27 seeks to get past that hurdle by not establishing a tax or regulatory structure for commercial sales. Instead, it would those issues for the legislature to decide.

It would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over. It would also legalize the home cultivation of up to three plants -- but only in localities where there is no retail marijuana outlet, and there will not be any retail marijuana outlets unless and until the legislature acts to allow them.

An August poll had the initiative failing with only 44 percent of the vote, but that poll may be a fluke. It had support in the state's most liberal and populous region, the Sioux Falls metro area at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent. Still, a late September-early October poll also had the initiative losing with only 47 percent of the vote. Given that voters approved a more expansive legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, these poll numbers are real head-scratchers, but we will know next week how accurate they are.

Opiate Treatment Program (OTP) Barriers, Schumer Says Progress on SAFE Banking Act +, More... (11/1/22)

There's a drug crackdown going on in India's Punjab, Afghan drug prices are rising despite questions about whether the Taliban ban is actually happening, and more.

An Aghan opium poppy field. It is almost planting time again. Will the Taliban ban actually take place? Stay tuned. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Says Senate Close to Passing Marijuana Banking, Expungements Bill After Talks with Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that Congress is "very close" to filing and then passing the SAFE Banking Act + bill, which includes provisions including banking protections for state-legal marijuana businesses and expungements of past marijuana convictions. Schumer cited progress he had made in talks with a "bunch of Republican senators."

Schumer had blocked earlier efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which has passed the House seven times, but now appears ready to move on it as prospects for a broader legalization bill fade. "We are getting very close," Schumer said. "I am working in a bipartisan way with Democrats and Republicans to take the SAFE Banking Act, which allows financial institutions to involve themselves in cannabis companies and lend money to them -- but it also does some things for justice, such as expunging a record. So, expunging the records is important, and we're getting clos We may be able to get something done rather soon. I'm working with a bunch of Republican senators, a bunch of Democratic senators, to get something passed."

Drug Treatment

State Opioid Treatment Program Regulations Put Evidence-Based Care Out of Reach for Many. Opioid treatment programs (OTPs) are the only health care modalities that can offer methadone as well as buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone to patients. They are the only facilities that can offer methadone, but federal and state rules not based on evidence are curtailing access to high-quality OTP care, the Pew Trust reports in new research.

Among barriers to OTP treatment, Pew found that 20 states require a new OTP to seek state approval baed on demonstrating a need for services before opening, seven states impose restrictive zoning rules on OTPS that don't apply to other health are facilities, 10 states don't allow clients to take medication home in the first 30 days of treatment, 48 states allow OTPs to throw patients out of the program for not being abstinent from opioids or other drugs, and 23 states specify a counseling schedule for patients rather than providing individualized care. Click on the link for methodology and a full data set.

International

Afghan Drug Prices Soared After Taliban Ban, Despite Little Evidence of Enforcement. Illegal drug prices have skyrocketed in Afghanistan since the Taliban banned the drug trade in April, even though there is only limited evidence that the militants are enforcing the ban. Opium prices have increased more than 50 percent, while methamphetamine prices have also risen, according to countrywide data gathered by the private, UK-based satellite imagery company Alcis. While analysts said the ban is not yet widely enforced, prices are rising based on fears of a future crackdown. A new opium poppy planting season is about to get underway, and it is unclear to what degree local Taliban commanders intend to or even can enforce a ban on poppy production. Satellite data, though, has shown a crackdown on ephedra (used to manufacture meth) markets and meth labs already underway.

But any crackdown would come in the face of a massive nationwide economic crisis that could drive people away from supporting the Taliban. "The things that people used to survive on in the face of a drugs ban -- in terms of joining the [army], working in the cities in construction -- those options are gone," David Mansfield, a researcher on the report and expert on Afghanistan's drugs trade, said. "Do local Taliban... press on this and risk increasing a humanitarian crisis, alienating a population, or do they let it ride because of the fear of resistance?"

India's Punjab Police in Massive Drug Crackdown. Police in the Punjab have arrested 6,997 drug smugglers since July and registered 5,436 FIRs (first information reports -- the initial report of a possible criminal offense), of which 580 are for possessing large quantities of drugs. The crackdown is part of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's "war against the drug menace plaguing the state."

Between roadblocks and other searches, police have seized nearly 260 kilograms of heroin, as well as an additional 147.5 kilograms seized at the ports of Gujarat and Maharashtra. They also seized 300 kilograms of raw heroin, 197 kilograms of marijuana and nearly three million pills, capsules, and vials of pharmaceutical opioids. State police chief Gaurav Yadav has called on police to investigate all leads in every case no matter how small and to aggressively seize the assets of drug suspects.

MD Legalization Question Polls Well, Afghan Shisha Ban, Australia ACT Decriminalizes Drugs, More... (10/31/22)

A Nevada judge orders marijuana removed from the state's Controlled Substances Act, the Germans roll out a marijuana legalization plan, British cops plan a crackdown on recreational drug users, and more.

Famartin via Wikimedia
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. A new poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization referendum at 63 percent, with only 25 opposed and 12 percent undecided. The poll results are in line with a pair of September polls, one of which had support at 59 percent and the other of which had support at 72 percent. Voters will be asked "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?" and if the measure passes, it would automatically implement an already approved bill that would create basic rules and regulations for an adult-use marijuana program.

Nevada Judge Orders Marijuana Removed from State List of Controlled Substances. A judge in Clark County (Las Vegas) ruled last Wednesday that the state pharmacy board lacks the authority to regulate marijuana and marijuana derivatives under state law since voters legalized the substance and ordered the board to remove marijuana from the state's controlled substances list. If the board "designates a substance as a 'controlled substance' but the designation falls outside the authority delegated by the ​​Legislature, the designation is invalid," wrote District Court Judge Joe Hardy. That same judge ruled in September that classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance was unconstitutional because voters had legalized medical marijuana in 1998. "The Board exceeded its authority when it placed, or failed to remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives on its list as Schedule I substances," Hardy wrote in that case.

International

Afghanistan Bans Hookahs, Fruit-Flavored Tobacco. The Taliban has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning the smoking of fruit-flavored tobacco (shisha) and the hookahs (water pipes) used to smoke it. The Taliban considers shisha as an intoxicant. The ban was announced in western Herat province earlier this month, and it is not clear whether it extends to the whole country. The Herat Café Owners Association said the ban had cost some 2,500 jobs in the province, which already faces a dire economic situation. But Azizul Rahman Mohajer, the provincial head of the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said hookahs are "against Sharia" and smoking shisha "harms our bodies and causes tobacco addiction, which can spread widely in society."

Australian Capital Territory Decriminalizes Drug Possession. A drug decriminalization measure introduced as a private member's bill by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson won in the territorial legislature last week. The new law will not be implemented for a year to "allow for appropriate police training." Under the new law, people caught with personal use amounts of drugs will face a referral to drug treatment or a maximum $100 fine instead of time in prison.

British Cops to Target Recreational Drug Users in Holiday Enforcement Blitz. Police in Dorset have announced Operation Scorpion, a winter drug enforcement operation that will see a shift in focus from dealers to recreational users of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA. Police in Avon & Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucester will be joined by British Transport Police for a series of crackdowns on the night-time economy. Police will focus on city and town centers across the region. "Illegal drug use is just that -- illegal -- and the partners of Op. Scorpion will continue to work together - targeting criminality, taking drugs off our streets, sharing intelligence, protecting the vulnerable and putting a ring of steel around the South West," police said. They are also taking a hard line on marijuana, arguing that "cannabis is not the benign drug those seeking to make a profit would have you believe."

Germany Unveils Marijuana Legalization Plan. The health ministry last Wednesday rolled out a marijuana legalization plan that includes the decriminalization of the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana as well as allowing for the sale of marijuana to adults in a regulated marketplace. The German government will also consult with the European Union's executive commission to ensure that the legalization plan. Berlin will check with the European Union's executive commission to ensure it complies with EU laws and will move forward "on this basis" only if whether the plan approved by the German government is in line with EU laws and would proceed with legislation "on this basis" only if the EU approves.

"The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima," side event at UN Human Rights Council, Geneva and Online

On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, we held our first side event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The event featured a statement by prerecorded video from Senator Risa Hontiveros of the Philippines. Father Albert Alejo, a leading human rights advocate from the Philippines who is currently based in Rome, hosted the event in person. Vicente de Lima, brother of imprisoned Philippine former Senator Leila de Lima, spoke live.

News coverage we know about:

Statement of Senator Hontiveros:

full event footage:

Human Rights in the Philippines: The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima

side event for the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Room XXV, United Nations Office at Geneva, and online
Tuesday 4 October 2022, 3-4pm CET / 9-10pm PHT / 9-10am ET

online via Zoom, registration at https:/stopthedrugwar.org/global/or https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMocOyupj4qE9INDq4OqGL71jsyyRFjvVIQ

live streaming on Facebook and YouTube

speakers:

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Republic of the Philippines (prerecorded video)
Vicente de Lima, brother of Leila de Lima
Father Albert Alejo, S.J., faculty at Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome

moderated by:

David Borden, Executive Director, DRCNet Foundation AKA StoptheDrugWar.org
Marco Perduca, Associazone Luca Coscioni and former Senator, Italy

The "Broken Chair," United Nations Office at Geneva
Last 24 February, Senator Leila de Lima marked five years of incarceration in the Philippines. Under the administration of recently-elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., de Lima remains jailed, despite not being convicted of a crime, and despite the recantations of three key accusers, who say they provided testimony because of pressure.

In the meanwhile, the extrajudicial drug war killings begun by former President Rodrigo Duterte continue. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court, after pausing its investigation following a Duterte administration treaty motion, has sought court authorization to resume. But the Marcos administration has rejected the investigation and said it will not cooperate.

In "The Continuing Detention of Senator Leila de Lima," speakers will review her case, and the larger human rights situation in the Philippines.

This is a side event organized for the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council. It is organized by DRCNet Foundation, a US-based NGO in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, with cosponsor Associazone Luca Coscioni. Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/globaland https://stopthedrugwar.org/philippines for information on our international programs. Email [email protected]or call +1 202-236-8620 for further information about this event.

-- END --

Geneva
Switzerland

DC Voters Still Like Marijuana Legalization, Native Plans to Sue Feds Over Reservation Pot Raid, More... (9/28/22)

Pot prohibitionists are backing a marijuana research bill, the Philippine DEA says it is okay with medical marijuana, and more.

Washington, DC (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pot Prohibitionists Get Behind Effort to Pass Federal Marijuana Research Bill. As the Senate turns toward considering marijuana banking reforms in the form of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking or a SAFE Plus bill, researchers associated with the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) are instead urging Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to move on a bill that would greatly expand marijuana research. The House has already passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR8454), but the bill has seen no action in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act Plus includes a marijuana research provision, but the SAM researchers want to see the standalone bill passed instead, saying it was "vital" to pass it because marijuana use rates are rising.

DC Voters Support Marijuana Legalization, Oppose Crackdown on Gifting Grey Market, Poll Finds. Eight years after voters in the District of Columbia approved marijuana legalization, they still approve, a new poll finds. The poll from Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies found support for legalization at 72 percent. While DC legalized pot, it has been barred from implementing legal recreational sales by Congress, resulting in a thriving grey "gifting" market. DC residents want a regulated market, not a crackdown, the poll found, with 76 percent supporting a regulated market and only 19 percent supporting shutting down the informal market.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Plans to Sue Feds Over Raid on Tribal Land. Pueblo of Picuris tribal member Charles Farden is preparing to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) over a raid on his medical marijuana garden on tribal land last year. The raid destroyed nine plants he was growing. Now, he has filed a tort claim indicating he intends to sue the federal government, charging that the raid was carried out without a warrant and that it unveiled a federal double standard that discriminates against Native people. A congressional rider blocks the Justice Department from interfering in state-legal medical marijuana programs, but no such rider applies to the BIA, leading Native people uniquely vulnerable to federal marijuana efforts.

International

Philippine DEA Not Opposed to Medical Marijuana. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is ready to legalize medical marijuana, its director, Wilkins Villanueva, told a Senate committee hearing. But the island nation's other drug control body, the Dangerous Drug Board, said its position would be determined by its member health experts. "We have members from the Department of Health who are experts in these medical matters, so we defer to the position and recommendation of the DOH and the Philippine Medical Association," the board said. Medical marijuana is currently available for "compassionate use," but only at great expense. A bill to make medical marijuana available to all who need it is currently pending in the legislature.

Drug War Issues

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