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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Colombia President's Drug War Heterodoxy Draws Critics, Belgian Drug Trafficker Threats, More... (9/27/22)

Singapore arrests its citizens for doing drugs outside the country, Colombian President Petro's frank talk about the need for a new model drug policy is activating critics, and more.

Cocaine prohibiion is getting some renewed attention these days. (Pixabay)
Foreign Policy

Pair of GOP Senators Question Colombian President's Commitment to Cooperating with US on Drugs. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP -- the drug czar's office), expressing their concerns with Colombian President Gustavo Petro's drug policy changes and intentions to modify extradition policy with the United States. They are upset that Petro has initiated peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which they specify is "a left-wing Foreign Terrorist Organization" and that he has resumed diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela, or "the Maduro narco-regime," as they put it.

"Petro's favorable actions toward actors working closely with drug traffickers in our hemisphere call into question the Colombian president's commitment to cooperating with the United States to prevent the flow of drugs crossing our border," they charged. They also took issue with Petro's proposal to limit extradition to people who refused to cooperate with the Colombian state, saying it "incentivizes criminals to avoid extradition by bribing or coercing the sitting political regime."

The Colombian president has vocally called for an end to the US's current drug policy in Colombia and his government is considering -- but has not yet enacted -- significant drug policy reforms, such as decriminalizing small-scale coca production.

Colombia Ex-President Warns Petro's Call to Change Course in Drug War Could Make Country a "Narco-State." Ivan Duque, the rightist predecessor to current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, has warned that Petro's call to make a radical change in the war on drugs could turn the country into a "narco-state" that could threaten the security of the US and other countries in the region.

"Now, what worries me is that there is now the possibility of getting into the permission, or the legalization of cocaine and consumption," said Duque. "I think that it will be very bad for Colombia and that will be very bad for the countries in the hemisphere, and I think that could generate also a major security threat to the United States. So by no means I'm in favor of the legalization of the cocaine trade… But I also have to say it, Colombia cannot turn into a narco state. I think the world now has unified in the concept of prohibition, and I think if just one country, let's say Colombia, decides to legalize cocaine, it'll turn itself into a narco state."

The Petro government has so far rejected cocaine legalization, but it is considering the decriminalization of small-scale peasant coca cultivation.

International

Belgian Prime Minister Condemns Threats Against Justice Minister from Drug Traffickers. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday condemned serious threats against the country's justice minister as "totally unacceptable" after a car containing firearms was found near his home. Belgian media says the threats could involve kidnapping by drug traffickers, who have been angered by a recent ramping up of Belgian enforcement activity after an unprecedented flare-up of violence among traffickers this summer. Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands are the main European hubs for cocaine trafficking, with 90 tons of the drug being seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp last year.

Singapore Arrests Citizens for Using Drugs in Other Countries. The city-state's Central Narcotics Bureau announced Saturday that authorities had arrested 41 citizens so far this year for using drugs outside the country. Under Singaporean law, citizens who use drugs outside the country face the same punishment as those caught using drugs inside the country. A first offense can garner up to 10 years in prison, but most people charged with the crime are sent to rehabilitation if there are no other charges against them. The policy is in line with the city-state's draconian drug policies, which include the death penalty for trafficking as little as 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of marijuana.

OK Legalization Init Won't Be on November Ballot, House Committee Advances Marijuana Bills, More... (9/22/22)

Jockeying over marijuana reform legislation in Congress continues, the Oklahoma Supreme Court says a marijuana legalization initiative won't be on the November ballot but can be voted on later, and more.

Marijuana remains a hot topic on Capitol Hill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says Schumer Reaffirms Commitment to Passing It. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the House sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1996) says he spoke recently with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about passage of his bill in the upper chamber and Schumer said he is "working on it" and is "going to get going" on the measure. "Whether that was just lip service or reality, there is momentum," said Perlmutter. "We're going to get this done. It probably won't happen until the lame duck session after the elections, but I've always felt confident that commonsense will prevail and we'll get this finished, and I think we will." The SAFE Banking Act has repeatedly been passed by the House, only to have consideration in the Senate blocked by Schumer, who has been holding out for a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill. But that bill is now not expected to move this session because it does not appear to have 60 votes in the Senate to get past a Republican filibuster.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Criminal Justice Bills, Including Sealing Records of Federal Marijuana Offenses. The committee led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has approved a number of criminal justice measures, including bipartisan proposals to expunge records for prior federal marijuana offenses (HR 2864), provide funds for states that create systems of automatic expungements (HR 5651) and write into law retroactive relief for people imprisoned because of the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity (HR 5455). The move comes as expectations increase that the Senate will soon see a package of modest marijuana reforms after prospects for the passage of a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill sponsored by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fade.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Keeps Marijuana Legalization Initiative Off November Ballot. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative will not be on the November ballot. The court held that it could not be printed on ballot in time to comply with the deadline for mailing them to voters. The initiative met signature-gathering requirements, but got bogged down by a new state law requiring state officials to verify signatures in addition to counting them. But the initiative will eventually go before the electorate. The question "will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or Legislature," the court ruled.

The Public Stands Behind Oregon's Drug Decrim and Addiction Funding Law [FEATURE]

It has been nearly two years since Oregon voters approved Measure 110, a sweeping drug decriminalization and public health services funding initiative, and it still has strong public support. That could be because it is producing the kinds of results Oregonians want to see.

Measure 110 is bringing addiction recovery services not just to Portland, but to places like this, too. (Pixabay)
In voting for Measure 110, Oregonians sought to move the emphasis of drug policy from law enforcement to a public health approach, and that is what they are getting. Drug possession arrests, which had already dropped by half in 2020 because of the pandemic, significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, falling another 65 percent from the 2020 levels in the first six months of 2022.

And Measure 110, which tapped into marijuana tax revenues to fund a broad spectrum of addiction services -- from low-barrier drug treatment and peer support and recovery to overdose prevention and housing and employment support (but not drug treatment covered by Medicaid or insurance) -- is setting the stage for a massive expansion of those services by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the field.

Late last month, the Oversight & Accountability Council, the body tasked with overseeing the distribution of the funding, approved the remainder of the initial $302 million made available under Measure 110, and on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it had finished awarding that money to more than 237 service providers in the form of grants.

With the state suffering more than a thousand overdose deaths in the past year, there is criticism that authorities have moved too slowly. Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen acknowledged as much, saying the agency had learned it needed to give more support and technical assistance to the volunteer committee tasked with grantmaking decisions.

"We understand the frustration this caused in our communities," Allen said. "When you do something for the first time you're going to make mistakes."

But now the money is out there, and it will help fund 237 service providers in 36 Behavioral Health Regional Networks (BHRNs), aimed at ensuring that help is available in even the most remote rural corners of the state. That includes 111 groups providing screening and behavioral health needs assessments, 112 groups doing individual intervention planning, 113 groups doing low-barrier drug treatment, 172 groups doing peer support and mentoring, 88 groups providing housing services, 84 groups providing harm reduction services, and 51 groups doing job support.

The money is going to allow these groups to expand their services by hiring and training new staff, securing additional facilities, buying vehicles for mobile support services, and even purchasing housing.

"Measure 110 changes the system so that there is no wrong door to access services," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Thanks to Measure 110, you don't have to get arrested before you are maybe offered help. Measure 110 is changing the addiction recovery service landscape so that regardless of the path, supportive services will be more readily available closer to home."

"It's been a long road, but we're ecstatic to see all of the Measure 110 funding for the 2021-2023 biennium finally being approved and going out to service providers to expand critical addiction services in Oregon communities. This is the first step in ensuring Oregon delivers on its promise of replacing a criminal legal approach to drugs with a public health approach and offering the rest of the country a glimpse of what is ultimately possible when we offer people support instead of punishment," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was a key supporter of Measure 110 and which is partnering with the Health Justice Recovery Alliance on implementation.

Even with the slow rollout, Oregonians are liking what they are seeing. A poll released this month by Data for Progress found majority support for Measure 110 in every region of the state -- even the conservative eastern an southwestern areas -- and a strong bipartisan majority who agree that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

When asked whether Measure 110 should remain in place, 58 percent said yes. That included 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents, but only 31 percent of Republicans.

The polling suggests that tying drug decriminalization to the expansion of recovery services is key to getting it over the finish line. When asked about individual components of the program, 91 percent supported peer mentoring, 90 percent supported employment help, 86 percent supported funding addiction recovery, 84 percent supported housing assistance, but only 62 percent supported harm reduction measures and only 61 percent supported decriminalization itself.

It is almost as if Oregonians made a bargain with themselves: Give us strong measures to aid recovery and we will grudgingly accept such vanguard measures as harm reduction and decriminalizing drugs. These pollsresults should send a clear message to people contemplating future decrim initiatives about how to broaden support for them.

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