Andean Drug War

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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."

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.

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."

San Francisco Deprioritizes Natural Psychedelics, UK Blocks Bermuda Pot Legalization, More... (9/8/22)

Prisoners and advocacy groups call on the Bureau of Prisons to clean up its act, Colombia's new president has some words for the US, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro continues to push against the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

San Francisco Effectively Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. The city's Boad of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that effectively decriminalizes natural psychedelics. The resolution includes the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being," and includes ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin. The resolution also allows for the "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" those substances and provides no limits on quantities that may be possessed. The resolution effectively decriminalizes these substances by designating them the lowest law enforcement priority, but they remain illegal under state and federal law. San Francisco now joins Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among California cities that have embraced such measures. A dozen other citizens around the country have, too.

Incarceration

Incarcerated People and Advocacy Organizations Urge Reform of US Bureau of Prisons. In a letter Tuesday to federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters, current and former federal prisoners and an array of sentencing, drug policy, and other advocacy groups called on her to "bring the Bureau into compliance with federal law and to lead the Bureau toward a more humane future grounded in transparency and accountability." The letter cited a number of issues and concerns, including unsafe and inhumane prisons, the need for the Bureau to use its power to seek compassionate release, the need for the Bureau to comply with the First Step Act (there are chronic delays in releasing people who qualify), and the pervasiveness of abuse, corruption, and misconduct. In addition to individual signers, the letter was endorsed by the ACLU, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Drug Policy Alliance, Fair and Just Prosecution, Federal Public and Community Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Council of Churches, and the Sentencing Project, which organized the campaign.

Foreign Policy

Colombian President Warns US Drug War Has Failed, Change Must Come. President Gustavo Petro warned the US on Wednesday the he believes the US-led war on drugs in his country is a failure and called for substantial changes in drug policy. The statement came after he met with the commander of the United States Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.  "We were now talking at length with General Laura Richardson … about the failure of the anti-drug policy. I think it should be called without fear: the policy that (Richard) Nixon had in the time It was called the War on Drugs, has failed here," said Petro from the presidential palace. "It is our duty before the United States, but also before the world, to not only say this, but to propose alternatives that will not kill more than a million Latin Americans."

Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, and Petro said that his own country is "the biggest culprit" because rural poverty makes drug cultivation and trafficking an attractive livelihood. Petro has moved to restrict the aerial spraying of herbicides and limited the resort to forced eradication of coca crops, promoting voluntary crop substitution instead. He is also proposing changes in the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US to allow those who cooperate with Colombia to avoid extradition to the US.

International

United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda from Legalizing Marijuana. In a rare move, the UK's Governor for Bermuda, who, as the queen's representative typically provides pro forma assent to the Bermudan government's actions, has intervened to block marijuana legalization in the British Overseas Territory. Even as incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss was vowing to "stand up for freedom and democracy around the world," her government was directing the governor to block the marijuana legalization bill. "I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted," the governor said. "The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda"under international anti-drugs conventions dating back to 1961. Liz Truss was foreign secretary until Tuesday when she became prime minister. In a statement, the Bermudian government said the move was "disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions. The Bermudian government said it would continue to move forward on marijuana legalization, which could put the country on a collision course with the UK. "The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment." Bermudian Premier David Burt has not commented on this move, but warned earlier that: "If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom."

CA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, FL Sets MedMJ Rules, More... (9/30/22)

Residents of La Paz, Bolivia, are growing weary of coca grower clashes, Colombia's new president calls for a regional assembly to plot alternatives to the war on drugs, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro at the Andean Presidential Council in Lima Monday. (Presidency of the Republic, Peru)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 1598, which er decriminalizes the possession of fentanyl test strips. The bill from Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) amends the state's controlled substances law by removing drug testing equipment from its definition of drug paraphernalia. Similar bills have passed in numerous states this year. 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Spurs Protests by Residents Tired of Clashes. Activists and residents of the La Paz neighborhoods of Villa El Carmen, Villa Fatima, and Periferica were set to hit the streets to day to demand an end to the coca grower conflict that has disrupted normal life there for nearly the past month. The conflict pits two factions of the Adepcoca coca growers union, one pro-government and one anti-government, against each other and has resulted in weeks of clashes on the streets of the capital, especially around a disputed coca market in Villa El Carmen. Residents were planning to stage protests and erect roadblocks in all three neighborhoods today. They are demanding the government resolve the coca grower dispute.

Colombian President Seeks Regional Assembly to Rethink Drug Policy. At the Andean Presidential Council in Lima on Monday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for a regional assembly to come up with alternatives to what he called the "failed" war on drugs. "We have failed in something called the war on drugs and its toll is a million dead Latin Americans, most of them Colombians, and more and more Mexicans and Central Americans," he said. “If we project further forward, we would have another million Latin Americans killed by homicide, millions of Latin Americans and North Americans in prison, most of black race, and there would be 2,800,000 Americans dying of overdoses from something we don't produce: fentanyl," he warned. Instead Petro proposed convening an assembly of Latin American countries to discuss alternative drug policies. In addition to the Colombian president and his Peruvian host, the leaders of two of the world's largest coca and cocaine producing countries, the Lima meeting was also attended by the presidents of Ecuador an Bolivia, the third largest coca and cocaine producer. 

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics, Odd SD Pot Poll, More... (8/25/22)

Colombia's new president says he will not extradite drug traffickers who quit the trade and comply with surrender conditions, a California bill to protect employees who use marijuana off-the-job is moving, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Employees Awaits Senate Floor Vote. A measure that would ban employers from firing or punishing workers who use marijuana outside of work hours has already passed the Assembly and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Assembly Bill 2188, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would bar the use of hair, urine, and other bodily fluid tests for marijuana for employment purposes, with exemptions for workers subject to federal regulations or in safety-sensitive positions. The bill would, however, allow for saliva testing, which picks up the presence of active THC, not the inactive metabolites detected in hair and urine tests. If the bill passes, it is not clear Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would sign it; he is subject to competing pressures on the topic, with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and retail groups opposing it.

South Dakota Poll Suggests Marijuana Legalization Could Lose in November. A new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy has the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative with the support of only 43.8 percent of respondents, with 54.4 percent opposed to legalization. But the poll of 500 registered voters is raising some eyebrows, given that just two years ago, voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote (only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court).

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, pointed to some anomalous findings, such as support in the Sioux Falls metro area being 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.

"When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me," said Schweich. "Some of the numbers don't really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we've seen. I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard," Schweich said. "I'm not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it's a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it's gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like."

Psychedelics

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA is moving to place two obscure psychedelics on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, despite little evidence regarding addiction or other harms. The two substances are DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), first synthesized by psychedelic researcher Alexander Shulgin. Little research has been done on the hallucinogens, but they are said to have subjective effects similar to LSD but lasting longer. DEA says the two drugs have "potential" for abuse, but also says "To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature" and "The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature. DEA also notes that in the past 17 years there has been one death of someone using DOC, but that was "in combination with other drugs."

International

Colombia's President Says Will Not Extradite Drug Traffickers Who Fulfill Deals with the Government. President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday said that drug traffickers who abandon the trade and comply with government surrender conditions will not be extradited to the United States. He also said his government, which was sworn in this month on a vow to bring "total peace" to the country, was reaching out to various armed groups who want to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The US views extradition as a vital tool against the drug trade, but Petro has questioned its effectiveness, and it has been a sore point for many Colombians. "Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States," Petro said after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. "Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited," he said.

Psychedelic Use Increasing in US, Colombia Looks to Cocaine Decriminalization, More... (8/22/22)

A Swiss pilot program allowing legal marijuana sales will begin in three weeks, Colombia's president plans a drug decrime move, and more.

LSD blotter paper (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million US Adults Use Hallucinogens. Hallucinogen use has increased since 2015, overall, and particularly among adults 26 and older, while use decreased in adolescents aged 12 -- 17 years, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. An estimated 5.5+ million people in the US used hallucinogens in the past year, in 2019, which represents an increase from 1.7 percent of the population aged 12 years and over, in 2002, to 2.2 percent, in 2019. LSD use between 2002 and 2019 increased overall and in all age groups, with the past 12-month rate increasing from 0.9 percent in 2002 to 4 percent in 2019 for those 18-25 years of age. PCP use between 2002 and 2019 decreased, as did the drug Ecstasy since 2015. The study is the first to provide formal statistical analyses of trends in the prevalence of hallucinogen use overall and by age groups during the last two decades. The findings are published online in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction.

International

Colombia's New President Set to Move on Cocaine Decriminalization. The government of new President Gustavo Petro is now proposing an end to "prohibition" and the beginning of a government-regulated cocaine market. Working through both national legislation and alliances with other leftist governments in the region, the Petro government hopes to make the country a laboratory for drug decriminalization. Felipe Tascón, Petro's drug czar, said Colombia hoped to take advantage of the new regional power configuration, where leftists control the governments of the trio of cocaine producing countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru) and plans to meet with his regional counterparts on the issue with an eye toward forging a unified regional bloc to take on the international drug conventions at the United Nations. Tascón also said the administration would back legislation to decriminalize both cocaine and marijuana, as well as ending aerial spraying and manual eradication of coca crops. He said that regulating cocaine sales would allow the government to wrest control of the market from drug traffickers and armed groups.

Swiss Pilot Project on Regulated Marijuana Sales Begins Next Month. A pilot project that will see marijuana sold through pharmacies to some 370 study participants is set to begin September 15. The "Weed Care" program will allow participants to legally buy marijuana from nine shops in Basel. Health officials hope the trial will help address political questions about marijuana regulation. Study participants are all current marijuana users who must fill out surveys throughout the 30-month study. "It's not about full legalization -- but regulation -- where consumption is possible in a protected setting. That's what we want to test now," said Lukas Engelberger, medical director for Basel.

Cheaper and More Accessible Naloxone In the Works, Colombian Drug War Critic is Now President, More... (8/8/22)

A Congressional Research Service report zeroes in on the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Remedy Alliance is easing naloxone bottlenecks, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro (Creative Commons)
Harm Reduction

Naloxone Access About to Get Easier. Thanks to an informal buyers' club for naloxone that has morphed into an entity known as the Remedy Alliance, access to inexpensive naloxone -- the opioid overdose reversal drug -- is getting easier. The Alliance credits two major developments for the urgently needed breakthrough. First, they have managed to reach agreements with drug manufacturers to get the drug at a discount rate, and second, they have restructured to a system that allows local harm reduction groups to order the drug through an online store, getting around a labyrinthine web of federal regulations that has bottlenecked the flow of the drug amidst the ongoing overdose crisis.

"We think this will totally change the landscape of naloxone in the United States," said Nabarun Dasgupta, the nonprofit's board president and a scientist at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The group, formerly known as the Opioid Safety and Naloxone Network Buyers Club, has already reversed thousands of opioid overdoses and distributed 1.3 million doses of naloxone last year. Now, the Alliance expects to distribute 2 million doses this year.

International

Ex-Leftist Rebel, Drug War Critic Assumes Office as Colombia's President. Gustavo Petro, a former member of the leftist M-19 guerrilla army, was sworn into office Sunday, helping to cement an emerging leftist bloc around the region, consisting of Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and, most likely, Brazil after its October election. He said Colombia was getting a "second chance" to fight violence and poverty. He also said he was preparing to start peace talks with various armed groups around the country, and he called on the United States to change its prohibitionist approach to drug policy. "It's time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed," he said. "Of course, peace is possible. But it depends on current drug policies being substituted with strong measures that prevent consumption in developed societies."

Jalisco New Generation Cartel Present in 27 of Mexico's 37 States, Congressional Report Finds. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the country's most powerful, now operates in 27 states and Mexico City, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The report, "Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations," says that the CJNG is the dominant criminal force in six states: Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Guerrero, Mexico, and Veracruz. It is weakest in Mexico's northwest, where the Sinaloa Cartel still dominates. CRS described the CJNG as an "extremely powerful cartel" that has a "reputations for extreme and intimidating violence." It also noted that the DEA "considers the CJNG a top US threat and Mexico's best-armed criminal group."

"The CJNG built its dominance internationally first through extending its presence through a rapid expansion inside Mexico," CRS said. "In 2016, many analysts maintained the CJNG controlled a territory equivalent to almost half of Mexico. The group has battled Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel factions in Tabasco, Veracruz, and Guanajuato, as well as the Sinaloa… [Cartel] in the Baja Peninsula and Chihuahua." The CJNG's ambitious expansion campaign was characterized by high levels of violence, particularly in Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana.

By taking over key ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the CJNG has consolidated "important components of the global narcotics supply chain," the CRS said. "In particular, the CJNG maintains reported control over the ports of Veracruz, Manzanillo, and Lázaro Cárdenas, which has given the group access to precursor chemicals that flow into Mexico from China and other parts of Latin America," the report said. As a result, according to some analysts, the CJNG has pursued an aggressive growth strategy underwritten by US demand for Mexican methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl… Despite leadership losses, the CJNG has extended its geographic reach and maintained its own cohesion while exploiting the infighting among factions of the Sinaloa organization."

AR Legalization Campaign Sues to Get Back on Ballot, Honduras Coca Production, More... (8/5/22)

Coca grower factions continue to clash in Bolivia, Colombia's new president will move to decriminalize drugs, and more.

A coca lab in Honduras (HSDN)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Campaign Sues to Get Initiative Back on the Ballot. Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group behind a marijuana legalization initiative, has filed suit against the State Board of Election Commissioners after the board earlier this week declined to certify the measure for the November ballot even though it had surpassed the required number of valid voter signatures. The board contended that the ballot title and description did not adequately describe the initiative, but Responsible Growth Arkansas says the board made an "incorrect" decision and "denied the wishes of hundreds of thousands of Arkansans to have the opportunity to vote on the Amendment."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. Competing coca grower union factions, one affiliated with the government of President Luis Arce and the other opposed, continued to clash in La Paz this week. Adepcoca, which is the nation's largest coca union, is divided, with one faction now calling for the resignation of Minister of Rural Development Remmy Gonzales. And they are demanding the closure of a "parallel market" administered by coca union leader Arnold Alanez, whom the government recognizes as the leader of Adepcoca, and have filed a lawsuit against the government to force its closure. There are only two recognized coca markets, the Adepcoca market in La Paz and the Sacaba market in Cochabamba, and the Adepcoca growers say the third market is "illegal."

Colombia's Incoming Government Will Move to Decriminalize Drugs. The incoming administration of leftist President-elect Gustavo Petro is preparing drug policy proposals including drug decriminalization as it faces record cocaine production and violence from illegal armed groups and traffickers involved in the trade. Petro takes office on Sunday. His drug policy coordinator, Felipe Tascon, said that Petro also wants to end forced eradication of coca crops and instead concentrate on developing the rural economy. Tascon added that Petro will "speak up louder internationally" to explain that the problem is not drugs but "the problems drug prohibition created" and that "Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, if Lula wins, as progressive countries affected by narcotics can propose it as a block."

Honduras Sends in Military to Stop Illegal Coca Production. Honduran soldiers this week were on a mission to destroy a 75-acre coca field in the rugged mountains of Colon department. It's part of an effort by leftist President Xiomara Castro to prevent the country from becoming a cocaine producer. "In the operation, we are carrying out [they have seized] around 42 manzanas of coca bushes, with an approximate yield of one million 600 plants," the military said. There were also "eight nurseries with 50,000 plants ready for transplanting, six drug laboratories" and "three blocks of marijuana." More than 2.6 million coca plants have been seized this year, the military said. "We already have problems with being a transit and consumer country, but being a producer country would generate a criminality that we could not possibly control," it added.

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