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Singapore Hangs Man for Two Pounds of Weed, CO Senate Passes Psychedelic Regulation Bill, More... (4/26/23)

A bipartisan bill addressing xylazine gets filed, Texas Republican senators block a fentanyl test strip bill, and more.

Fentanyl test strips. Texas GOP senators are blocking a bill to decriminalize them. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Colorado Senate Advances Psychedelic Regulation Bill Without Local Ban Authority. The Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 23-290, which amends the regulatory framework created by the voter-approved Natural Medicine Act. The bill creates regulations for unlicensed psychedelic facilitators, restrictions on home mushroom and natural medicine cultivation, and criminal penalties for the unlicensed sale of those substances. Under the bill, the Department of Revenue, which already oversees the state's liquor, marijuana, and gambling industries, would regulate licensed psychedelic manufacturing, distribution, and other business activities. The bill does not include language allowing local governments to ban psychedelic businesses. The bill now goes to the House, where it first heads to the House Finance Committee.

Drug Policy

Senators Cruz and Welch File Bill Targeting Xylazine. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT) on Wednesday filed the Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act to address the rapid rise of the veterinary tranquilizer as a drug used in conjunction with street narcotics. The Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) designated xylazine mixed with fentanyl as an "emerging threat" earlier this month.

While xylazine has some opioid-like properties, it is not an opioid and is not responsive to opioid overdose reversal drugs. It is also linked to physical ailments such as necrosis, which can result in the loss of limbs.

The TRANQ Research Act "directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to take steps to enhance understanding of tranq and other novel synthetic drugs, develop new tests for detection, and establish partnerships with front-line entities that are often the first points of contact with new street drugs." It does not contain any criminal provisions. Companion legislation has also been filed in the House.

Harm Reduction

Texas Fentanyl Test Strip Decriminalization Bill Stalled in Senate. Even as the state faces a fentanyl overdose crisis, Senate Republicans are blocking action on a bill to decriminalize fentanyl test strips, House Bill 362, that has already passed the House. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said Republican members of the committee fear that the move will encourage drug use. "It's just illogical, but there's a belief by some members that it might safeguard the use," he said Tuesday. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) supports the legislation, and the legislative session still has a few more weeks left, so supporters continue to hope it can still pass this year.

International

Singapore Ignores International Appeals, Executes Man for Two Pounds of Marijuana. Singapore hung Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, on Wednesday after he was convicted of conspiring to traffic two pounds of marijuana. The execution came despite an international campaign to spare his life, including an appeal from the UN Human Rights Commission and another from Global Drug Policy Commission member Richard Branson. While many other countries, including some of Singapore's neighbors are moving towards a more lenient approach to drugs and rejecting the death penalty, Singapore remains unmoved. "Tangaraju was accorded full due process under the law and had access to legal counsel throughout the process," the Central Narcotics Bureau said, adding without a hint of irony that the death penalty is "part of Singapore's comprehensive harm prevention strategy."

MN House Votes to Legalize Cannabis, with Singapore Set to Hang Man for Two Pounds of It, More... (4/25/23)

Another year of no marijuana legalization for Louisiana, the European Union sanctions Syrian officials and entities for trafficking in a Middle Eastern amphetamine, and more.

The Middle Eastern amphetamine Captagon. The EU sanctions Syrian officials for their role in the trade. (narcanon.us)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed in Committee. A bill that would have legalized marijuana, House Bill24, is dead after failing to win support in the House Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday. The measure garnered only three "yes" votes in the committee. Bill sponsor Rep. Candace Newell (D-New Orleans) has introduced the bill for the last several sessions and has vowed to continue filing it until it passes.

Minnesota House Votes to Legalize Marijuana; Senate Vote Coming Friday. The House on Tuesday gave final approval to a marijuana legalization bill, House File 100, on a vote of 71-59. The Senate is set to vote on its version of the bill on Friday. There are some differences between the two bills which will have to be ironed out in conference committee if and when the Senate bill also passes.

Drug Testing

Missouri Measure to Outlaw "Drug Masking Products" Gets Senate Committee Hearing. A measure that has already cleared the House as part of a larger crime bill, House Bill 1108, would make it harder to cheat on drug tests by criminalizing the distribution and sale of synthetic urine or any other "drug masking product." The bill would make the offense a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum one year in jail and $2,000 fine. The bill get a hearing Monday in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, where it heard testimony from a lobbyist for Quest Diagnostics, the largest drug testing company in the country. No vote was taken.

International

UN Asks Singapore to Halt Execution of Man for Two Pounds of Marijuana. The United Nations Human Rights Office called Tuesday for Singapore to "urgently reconsider" the looming Wednesday execution of a man convicted of abetting a conspiracy to distribute two pounds of marijuana. Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to death in 2018. Under Singapore law, crimes involving more than one pound of marijuana merit the death penalty.

"The death penalty is still being used in a small number of countries, largely because of the myth that it deters crime," the UN Human Rights Office said. "We have concerns around due process and respect for fair trial guarantees. The UN Human Rights Office calls on the authorities not to proceed with his execution," it added.

British billionaire Richard Branson, who sits on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, has also called on Singapore to halt the execution, prompting the Singapore Home Affairs Ministry to push back, saying Branson showed "disrespect for Singapore's judges and our criminal justice system with such allegations." Singapore resumed executions in March 2022 after a hiatus of more than two years. If Tangaraju is hanged, it would be the country's first execution in six months. Eleven executions were carried out last year, all for drug offenses.

Council of Europe Sanctions Syrian Officials, Companies over Captagon Trafficking. The Council of Europe, the executive organ of the European Union, has issued sanctions against 25 individuals and eight entities for their role in the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, notably Captagon, an amphetamine popular in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The trade in amphetamine has become a regime-led business model, enriching the inner circle of the regime and providing it with revenue that contributes to its ability to maintain its policies of repression against the civilian population," the Council said. "For this reason the Council designated various members of the Assad family - including multiple cousins of Bashar al-Assad, leaders and members of regime-affiliated militias and businesspeople with close ties to the Assad family, as well as persons associated with the Syrian army and the Syrian military intelligence."

Sanctions on Syria were first introduced in 2011 in response to the violent repression of the civilian population by the Assad regime. EU sanctions in place regarding Syria target the Assad regime and its supporters, as well as sectors of the economy from which the regime was making profit.

WA Drug Sentencing Fix Fails, SC 4/20 Pot Pardon Bill Filed, More... (4/24/23)

Dispensaries are finally coming to Georgia (though product choice is limited), a trio of 4/20 week polls show continuing strong support for marijuana legalization, and more.

Washington state lawmakers can't agree on how to replace the state's drug felony law. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Three New Polls Show Continuing Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. Polls from CBS News, YouGov, and Civic Science released during 4/20 week all show continuing strong support for marijuana legalization. CBS News had 64 percent of respondents wanting marijuana legalized in their states, including 73 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and even 53 percent of Republicans. YouGov had support for legalization in the respondents' state at 58 percent, while Civic Science had 64 percent supporting legalization.

South Carolina Bill Would Pardon One-Fifth of Marijuana Possession Inmates Each Year. Introduced on informal marijuana holiday 4/20, a bill from Rep. JA Moore (D-Berkeley, Charleston), House Bill 4358, would pardon one fifth of people convicted of simple marijuana possession each year on 4/20. Under state law, simple possession is possessing less than an ounce and typically involves a jail sentence of no more than 30 days, but a second offense can garner up to six months. "We need to make sure that people that are doing petty crimes, like simple possession of marijuana, aren't filling up our justice system; we need to save those spaces for violent criminals or people that are victimizing our community," Moore says. The state has the second-highest marijuana possession arrest rate in the country, and Black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for it.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Finally Coming, Maybe Next Month. Nearly eight years after the state first approved a medical marijuana program, dispensaries are finally set to open their doors within weeks, as early as late May. But the state's 26,000 registered patients will be limited in their purchases to "low THC oil" with less than 5 milligrams of THC. Buds, edibles, and vaping cartridges are banned under the state's limited program. The state issued production licenses to two firms last September, but legislators and regulators have been slow to pass laws to implement the program. Under rules approved in January, the state will eventually license up to six companies to make and sell the oil.

Sentencing

Washington Drug Sentencing Deal Fix Falls Apart. After the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law, legislators had until July to come up with a replacement. They thought they had one in Senate Bill 5536, which would have made simple drug possession a gross misdemeanor, but the bill unexpectedly failed in the House Saturday night as several Democrats joined 40 Republicans in voting no. The dissident Democrats felt that the bill was too harsh, while the Republicans thought it was too soft. Now, with no chance of passing the bill before the regular legislative session ends, pressure is mounting on Gov. Jay Inslee (D) to call a special session to clean up the mess. Without legislative action, the state would no longer have a uniform policy on drug possession, leaving localities to set their own laws.

MN Legalization Pot Bill Set for House Floor Vote, Federal Criminal Justice Reform Bills Filed, More... (4/21/23)

There will be no marijuana law reform in Alabama this year, senior senators introduce a package of criminal justice reform bills, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro was at the White House Thursday to discuss drug policy, among other topics. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Legislative Leaders Dismiss Any Action on Marijuana Legalization. Even as the Alabama Cannabis Coalition demonstrated outside the capitol on Thursday to call for marijuana law reform, Republican House and Senate leaders made clear that reform bills filed this year are going nowhere. "I have zero interest in that legislation coming up," Sen. President Pro Tem Greg Reed said, adding "I don't see any appetite for the legislature being able to modify or change expanding anything associated with marijuana in this session." House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter also said those bills won't come up in the House. Indeed, they have not even been scheduled for committee.

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets House Floor Vote Monday. After a final committee vote in the House Ways and Means Committee this week, the House version of the state's marijuana legalization bill, House File 100, is set for a House floor vote Monday. The Senate version of the bill is also nearing the finish line, with just one more committee vote remaining before it, too, heads for a floor vote. The bills are expected to pass in both chambers and then be signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz, who also supports legalization.

Criminal Justice

Durbin, Grassley Reintroduce Criminal Justice Reform Bills. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the lead sponsors of the landmark First Step Act (FSA), reintroduced three pieces of criminal justice reform legislation today to further implement the FSA and advance its goals. The First Step Act, which was signed into law in 2018, is bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation designed to make our justice system fairer and our communities safer by reforming sentencing laws and providing opportunities for those who are incarcerated to prepare to reenter society successfully. On Thursday, Durbin and Grassley reintroduced the First Step Implementation Act, the Safer Detention Act, and the Terry Technical Correction Act.

The first bill allows courts to apply the FSA sentencing reform provisions to reduce sentences imposed prior to the enactment of the FSA and broadens the safety valve provision to allow courts to sentence below a mandatory minimum for nonviolent controlled substance offenses, if the court finds the defendant's criminal history over-represents the seriousness of the defendant's criminal record and the likelihood of recidivism. The second bill would reform the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program and compassionate release by clarifying that good conduct credits should be included in the calculation of time served and expanding eligibility to include nonviolent offenders who have served at least 50 percent of their terms of imprisonment. The third bill clarifies that all offenders who were sentenced for a crack cocaine offense before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 can apply for its retroactive application under Section 404 of the First Step Act, including individuals convicted of the lowest level crack offenses.

Foreign Policy

US and Colombian Presidents Issue Statement After White House Meeting. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of the United States and President Gustavo Petro Urrego of the Republic of Colombia met Thursday to advance bilateral cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including climate change, clean energy transition, migration, drug trafficking, and peace. President Biden reiterated his support for President Petro's peace efforts, and for rural and agricultural development in Colombia, as essential to effectively advance the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement in its international accompaniment of the accord's Ethnic Chapter.

On drugs, Biden and Petro committed to a holistic approach to address the harmful impacts of drug use and drug trafficking on both our peoples' health, safety, the environment, the economy, rule of law, and the strength and transparency of democratic institutions. They vowed to redouble efforts in terms of demand reduction through science-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support. They did not address Petro's oft-stated critique of US prohibitionist drug policy.

DEA Head Under Investigation Over No-Bid Contracts, CA Fentanyl Sentencing Ballot Measure, More... (4/19/23)

A federal veterans' medical marijuana bill gets refiled, an Oklahoma fentanyl test strip bill advances, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Military Veterans Refiled. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 12 bipartisan cosponsors refiled the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act Wednesday. The bill would legalize medical marijuana for military veterans. The bill would amend federal law to allow vets to legally possess and use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws and with a doctor's recommendation. It would also allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana. Earlier versions of the bill were filed in the last three Congresses.

Harm Reduction

Oklahoma Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill to legalize fentanyl testing strips by declaring that they are no longer considered drug paraphernalia, House Bill 1987, has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a unanimous vote and is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The bill has already been approved by the House by a vote of 58-22.

Law Enforcement

DEA Head Investigated for No-Bid Contracts to Past Associates. In the latest scandal to rock the DEA, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General is investigating whether DEA Administrator Anne Milgram improperly awarded no-bid contracts worth millions of dollars to past associates. Under scrutiny is $4.7 million the agency spent for "strategic planning and communication," much of which went to people Milgram knew in her capacity as New Jersey's attorney general and as a New York University law professor and who were paid at far higher rates than government officials.

Also under scrutiny is a $1.4 million contract given to a Washington, DC, law firm to review the DEA's scandal-plagued foreign operations. That review was widely panned for downplaying agent misbehavior. It was written by Boyd Johnson, a former assistant to former New York City US Attorney Preet Bharara, one of Milgram's closest friends.

Federal contracting is not supposed to bypass the government hiring process and is supposed to take place without preferential treatment for anyone. If the Inspector General finds wrongdoing, it could lead to administrative or even criminal charges.

Sentencing Policy

Push for California Ballot Initiative to Increase Penalties for Fentanyl Dealers Gets Underway. An Orange County group calling itself Fentanyl Solution has $2.2 million in initial funding and plan to draft a ballot initiative that would increase sentences for people convicted of fentanyl distribution. The groups says it will begin with a public opinion poll on the issue to help figure out the best way to draft the proposed initiative.

"We want to let the legislators, who voted against every form of penalty for these drug dealers, know that we are holding them accountable," said Janice M. Celeste, President & CEO of Fentanyl Solution.org. "We believe that drug dealers who sell fentanyl and murder their customers must pay the price for their actions. The Poll-to-Prop initiative is a crucial step in our efforts to raise awareness about the need for stricter penalties for these criminals."

It's a long way from here to an initiative qualifying for the 2024 ballot. Once an initiative is approved by state officials, backers will have 180 days to come up with more than half a million valid voter signatures, but that must happen by July 2024 to get on the November 2024 ballot.

Trump Tries to Blame Pot for Mass Shootings, AR Governor Signs Dealer Murder Bill, More... (4/17/23)

Canada's Supreme Court upholds a Quebec ban on home marijuana cultivation, the Illinois Senate approves bills deepening marijuana legalization, and more.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signs a bill creating lengthy mandatory minimums around fentanyl. (ar.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Candidate Trump Suggests "Genetically Engineered" Marijuana May Be Linked to Mass Shootings. During a campaign speech before America's most powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), former President Donald Trump suggested that "genetically engineered" marijuana could be behind some mass shootings. But marijuana is just one of the blame agents Trump pointed to instead of addressing the proliferation of weapons in the country. "We have to look at whether common psychiatric drugs, as well as genetically engineered cannabis and other narcotics, are causing psychotic breaks" that lead to gun violence, he said. He would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate, he added. He also pointed a finger at "transgender hormone treatments and ideology," Above all, he argued, don't blame the guns: "This is not a gun problem. This is a mental health problem," he said. "This is a social problem. This is a cultural problem. This is a spiritual problem."

Illinois Senate Approves Marijuana Search, Probation Bills. The Senate has passed a pair of bills aimed at deepening marijuana legalization in the state. Senate Bill 125 would bar police from searching a vehicle based solely on the odor of marijuana, while Senate Bill 1886 would allow some people on probation to consume marijuana and alcohol. Both bills now await action in the House.

South Dakota Poll Suggests Marijuana Legalization Could Win in 2024. A South Dakota State University poll released Monday had support for marijuana legalization at 49 percent, with 41 percent opposed. State voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative in the 2020 election by a margin of 54-45 only to have the measure overturned by the state Supreme Court. Legalization was on the ballot again last year, only to be defeated 53-47. The pollsters noted that 2022 turnout was much lower than 2020 and that a higher turnout in 2024 could lead to another marijuana legalization victory.

Psychedelics

Nevada Senate Committee Approves Bill to Create Psychedelic Working Group. The Senate has approved Senate Bill 242, which would create a working group to study psychedelics and create a plan to allow for access for therapeutic purposes. The bill originally would have legalized psilocybin and promoted research on it, as well as MDMA, but was significantly narrowed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Now, instead of legalization, the bill would create a Psychedelic Medicines Working Group to examine the use of the substances "in medicinal, therapeutic, and improved wellness." The bill now awaits a Senate floor vote.

Sentencing Policy

Arkansas Governor Signs Bill Allowing for Drug Sellers to Be Charged with Murder in Cases of Overdose Death. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) has signed into law House Bill 1456, popularly known as the "Death by Delivery" bill. Under the bill, people who sell a drug that leads to an overdose death face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The same sentence applies to those who package fentanyl in a way that "entices" minors or who sell to minors, regardless of whether a fatal overdose takes place.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Committee Amends Overdose Prevention Bill to Include Drug-Checking Sites. The Senate Health Committee has amended an overdose prevention bill, House Bill 222, to include a statewide network of drug-checking sites where street drugs can be tested for deadly concentrations of illicit drugs. Approved by the committee last Friday, the amendment would grant immunity from arrest and prosecution for people running the sites and collecting samples, as well as the drug users who bring their stashes to be tested. If the bill now passes the Senate, it will have to go back to the House for a concurrence vote on the new language.

International

Canada Supreme Court Rules Quebec Ban on Home Marijuana Cultivation Can Stand. Under federal marijuana law, people can grow up to four plants at home, but the province of Quebec barred home grows in 2019. Now, after a Quebecer challenged the ban, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that the provincial ban is constitutional. "The Quebec legislature saw the possession and personal cultivation of cannabis not as a social evil to be suppressed, but rather as a practice that should be prohibited in order to steer consumers to a controlled source of supply," the court held. That controlled source of supply is held by the state -- in this case, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), the government agency that operates cannabis stores in the province.

The court also held that even though the federal law permits growing up to four plants at home, there is no "positive right to self-cultivation," writing that: "It is true that, in everyday language and even in the speeches of some parliamentarians, the creation of exceptions or exemptions under a scheme of criminal offences is often described as a 'legalization effort,'" the ruling reads. However, this way of speaking is incorrect and falsely suggests that positive rights authorizing particular conduct have been granted to the public."

Taiwan Reaffirms Strong Opposition to Marijuana Legalization. Responding to street demonstrations calling for marijuana decriminalization, the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice on Saturday reaffirmed the government's strong opposition to marijuana legalization. The reformers, organized as Wave Green, rallied in front of the presidential office in Taipei Saturday, urging the Justice Ministry to "stop the war against cannabis." But the ministry said prohibition would remain and is aimed at keeping people healthy and keeping society safe and stable. It asserted that long term marijuana use damages people's health and causes other harm to them. Under current law, marijuana use is punishable by up to three years in prison, while growers and sellers face up to life in prison and a $491,000 fine.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Germany to Legalize Pot But Not Pot Shops, NM Governor Vetoes Sentencing Reforms, More... (4/13/23)

Houston's DA tells the cops not to jail people for less than four grams of drugs, Washington's House votes to keep drug possession a misdemeanor, and more.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham Lujan (D) has vetoed two sentencing reform bills. (nm.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Senate Approves Bill to Ban Car Searches Over Marijuana Odor. The Senate has approved Senate Bill 125, which bars police from conducting car searches based on the smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle. Now, state residents will no longer have to store their weed in an odor-proof container as they travel the state's roads and highways. "People -- especially people of color -- are unnecessarily pulled over far too often," said bill sponsor Sen. Rachel Ventura (D). "The odor of cannabis alone shouldn't be one of those reasons. Cannabis is legal in Illinois and it's a pungent scent that can stick to clothes for extended periods of time."

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma House Committee Approves Package of Medical Marijuana Bills. The House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee on Wednesday approved eight different medical marijuana bills, including one that would limit the THC content of edibles. Senate Bill 440 would limit Delta-9 THC content to 1,000 milligrams per package. Among other bills, Senate Bill 437 would force the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to rebid its contract for seed-to-sale technology. Senate Bill 645 would require packaging of all products, including flower. Senate Bill 801 would allow authorities to monitor water and power usage of grow facilities. Senate Bill 913 would require grow operators to post a $50,000 bond unless they've owned the property for at least five years.

Texas House Passes Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would add people with chronic pain to the state's list of people eligible to use medical marijuana, House Bill 1805. Texans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, ALS, cancer and epilepsy already qualify under the program.

Drug Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Reacts to Biden Administration Designating Fentanyl Combined with Xylazine as an Emerging Threat. In response to the White House today designating fentanyl combined with xylazine as an emerging threat, Maritza Perez Medina, Director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:

"We, too, are concerned about xylazine and agree that more public health tools are urgently needed. This should include public education, evidence-based treatment and harm reduction, xylazine test strips and other life-saving overdose prevention services, such as overdose prevention centers. And because xylazine is most often combined with opioids, we should continue to double down on increasing access to naloxone and medications to treat opioid use disorder, like methadone and buprenorphine. We should also fund further research into xylazine, its potential harms and benefits, and possible antagonists that could reverse xylazine-involved overdoses, similar to the way naloxone can reverse opioid-involved overdoses.

"Yet, in order for these to be fully effective, the Biden Administration must learn from the mistakes of the past and not push more supply-side interdiction policies. They are incredibly counterproductive and lead to a more unknown and potentially more potent drug supply. Crackdowns on prescription opioids and heroin created the conditions for fentanyl analogues to flourish and overtake the drug supply. And now history is once again repeating itself, with newer, potentially more harmful substances -- like xylazine -- popping up and already overtaking some markets. Make no mistake, focusing on supply-side interdiction will only dig us deeper into this crisis and inevitably result in more loss of life."

New Mexico Governor Vetoes Two Sentencing Reform Bills. In a nod to law enforcement, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has vetoed two sentencing reform bills saying prosecutors needed tools to "encourage" defendants to get drug treatment. Senate Bill 187 would have no longer allowed courts to count a drug possession charge or a DWI charge from another jurisdiction when considering sentencing someone as a "habitual offender." Senate Bill 84 would have revised the state's probation and parole system and tied punishments to the severity of the violation -- rather than the crime that originally sent them to prison.

Washington House Votes to Keep Drug Possession a Misdemeanor. The House voted early Wednesday morning to keep drug possession a misdemeanor, which it had been temporarily since the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law in 2021. Senate Bill 5536 will allow police to arrest drug possessors on a first offense, but also give them full discretion to divert offenders. The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is one year in jail. The bill also allows drug charges to be wiped from someone's record if he commits no new offenses in a year, even if they have not completed drug treatment. Efforts to decriminalize or re-felonize drug possession both came up short.

Law Enforcement

Houston DA Tells Police Not to Jail Small-Time Drug Offenders. Harris County (Houston) District Attorney Kim Ogg (D) has sent a memo asking local law enforcement to not take people into custody for possessing less than four grams of drugs. Citing a backlog of criminal cases in the county, Ogg said the move will shorten the time between case filing and the final disposition of the case. "This means people will not languish in jail as long, cases will not crowd up dockets as long, and we will continue to prioritize the serious violent crimes over those cases,"said Ogg. "If there's a public safety threat, there's an exception to the policy."

Psychedelics

Washington House Passes Bill Setting Framework for Psilocybin Use. The House on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 5263, which would allow the state to establish an advisory board and task force to provide advice and recommendations on developing a regulatory framework for access to psilocybin. If ever legalized, only Washington residents who are 21 and older would be able to access the drug. The Senate has already approved the bill, but because the House amended it to add a pilot program psilocybin to serve veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance use disorder, it must now go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

International

Germany Waters Down Marijuana Legalization Plan After Talks with European Union. After discussions with the European Union, the German government says it now plans to legalize the possession and private cultivation and distribution of marijuana but not widespread sales in pot shops. The legislation does include a pilot project for a small number of licensed pot shops to evaluate the effect of a commercial marijuana supply chain on public health, the black market, and the protection of minors. Under the plan, possession of up to 25 grams would be legal. The government gave no time line for moving the legislation.

Fentanyl-Xylazine Mix Declared "Emerging Theat," AZ Governor Vetoes Fentanyl Mandatory Minimums, More... (4/12/23)

A Maryland bill blocking police searches based on the odor of marijuana is on the governor's desk, a Delaware bill to end civil asset forfeiture reform is filed, and more.

Xylazine is used to accentuate the fentanyl high, but has serious side effects. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Legislature Approves Bill Blocking Police Searches Based on Marijuana Odor. With a final House concurrence vote just minutes before the legislative session ended money, lawmakers approved House Bill 1071 that bars police from using the smell or possession of marijuana alone as the basis of a search. The bill had passed the House last month, but was revised in the Senate Monday, necessitating the final House vote. Police "may not initiate a stop or a search of a person, a motor vehicle, or a vessel" based only on the smell of burnt or unburnt marijuana, the possession of a personal use amount of marijuana or the presence of money near marijuana without additional evidence of intent to distribute. The bill also lowers the fine for public pot smoking from $250 to $50. The bill now joins the broader marijuana commerce bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Wes Moore (D).

Asset Forfeiture

Delaware Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. House Democrats last week filed a bill aimed at reining in asset forfeiture in the state, House Bill 115. The bill from Rep. Kim Williams (D) would require that property owners be convicted of a crime before seizure could occur. The bill would also create stricter guidelines for civil asset forfeiture and tighter legislature oversight over civil asset forfeiture revenues. In the three-year period between 2018 and 2021, the state saw more than 2,500 cases of civil asset forfeiture, including 170 where property owners were not even arrested, let alone convicted of a crime.

Drug Policy

Biden Administration Designates Fentanyl Combined with Xylazine as an Emerging Threat to US. On Wednesday, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), has officially designated fentanyl adulterated or associated with xylazine as an emerging threat to the United States. Xylazine is a non-opioid tranquilizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for veterinary use but not human use. This designation comes after careful review of the impact of xylazine on the opioid crisis, including its growing role in overdose deaths in every region of the United States.

"As a physician, I am deeply troubled about the devastating impact of the fentanyl-xylazine combination, and as President Biden's drug policy advisor, I am immensely concerned about what this threat means for the Nation," said Dr. Gupta. "That's why the Biden-Harris Administration is using this designation authority for the first time since it passed Congress in 2018. By declaring xylazine combined with fentanyl as an emerging threat, we are being proactive in our approach to save lives and creating new tools for public health and public safety officials and communities across the Nation. To parents, loved ones, community leaders, and those affected by xylazine use: I want you to know that help is on the way."

But not a safe drug supply.

Arizona Governor Vetoes Fentanyl Mandatory Minimums Bill. Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) on Tuesday vetoed Senate Bill1027, which would have placed a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on the first offense, and 15 years on the second offense, for anyone convicted of possessing, distributing, transferring, selling, or manufacturing heroin, fentanyl, or fentanyl analogs. "Last week, I signed a bill continuing Arizona's Good Samaritan law," Hobbs wrote in her veto message. "I fear this bill, particularly Section 2, would undermine the purpose of that law. I encourage the legislature to send me a narrower bill that focuses on the manufacture of fentanyl."

Congressional Progressives Urge Biden to Expedite Pot Scheduling Review, NV Fentanyl Bills, More... (4/11/23)

A drug policy think tank releases a "toolkit" for avoiding a corporate takeover of the marijuana industry, the Texas House approves a fentanyl test strip legalization bill, and more.

Mr. President, expedite the marijuana scheduling review, progressive congressmembers urge. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Progressive Caucus Urges Biden to Expedite Marijuana Scheduling Review. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has released its 2023 Executive Action Agenda, and it includes a provision calling on President Joe Biden (D) to direct federal agencies to "expedite" an ongoing marijuana scheduling review, as well as reinstating Justice Department guidance that protects state-legal marijuana programs from federal prosecution. The caucus, which numbers more than a hundred congresspeople, called on Biden to "expedite the review of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance and publicly document the progress and planned timeline for rescheduling or descheduling.

Marijuana Equity Advocates Release Anti-Monopoly Toolkit to Shape Legalization Laws. The Parabola Center for Law and Policy, a drug policy think tank that seeks to prevent the monopolization of the legal marijuana industry, has released the "Anti-Monopoly Toolkit," which presents state and federal policy priorities for preventing corporatization and consolidation from driving small businesses out of the industry. Among other points, the toolkit calls for licensing limits to focus on individual owner limits rather than overall caps, avoiding vertical integration in the industry, not letting major tech platforms dominate the market, allowing people with prior drug convictions to participate in the industry, and allowing for home cultivation.

"I was inspired by Lizzie Magie, the progressive feminist who invented the game of Monopoly as an educational tool, because she thought philosophy and academic writing weren't enough in the early 1900s," said Parabola Center Founder and Director Shaleen Title. "Just like in her era, we're in a critical time period that calls for large-scale and drastic action."

Drug Policy

Nevada Bills Would Increase Fentanyl Sentences. Lawmakers are considering five bills that respond to the fentanyl crisis by seeking heightened felony charges for people guilty of selling or distributing the drug. A pair of Democratic-sponsored bills, Senate Bill 35 and Senate Bill 343, got a hearing Monday in the Democratic-controlled legislature. The former would create the crimes of mid- and high-level fentanyl trafficking and lowering the threshold for prosecution for selling the drug, while the latter would create the crime of low-level trafficking and distinguish fentanyl from other Schedule I controlled substances.

Under the bills, low-level trafficking of 4 to 14 grams would be punishable by one to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000; mid-level trafficking of 14 to 28 grams would be punishable by two to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000; and high-level trafficking of 28 grams or more would be punishable as a category A felony, meaning life with the possibility of parole or 25 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000. Under existing law, trafficking of100 to 400 grams is punishable by two to 20 years imprisonment.

Three other bills seeking greater penalties for fentanyl possession were not included in the hearing. These are Senate Bill 128 and Senate Bill 197 from Republicans; and an omnibus crime bill from Gov. Joe Lombardo, Senate Bill 412, which proposes to criminalize possession of the drug in any amount by one to six years imprisonment.

Harm Reduction

Texas House Votes to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips. The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve a bill that legalizes fentanyl test strips by removing them from the state's list of illicit drug paraphernalia, House Bill 362 by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress). "Overdose deaths continue to skyrocket as fentanyl floods across our southern border, and we need a way to combat the crisis," Oliverson said on the floor of the House on Monday. "Decriminalizing test strips is one way to do that." The bill now goes to the Senate.

Another Fed Court Rules Marijuana Gun Bans Unconstitutional, WA Drug Sentencing Bill Advances, More... (4/10/23)

Maryland is just the governor's signature away from having a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, Minnesota lawmakers fold a psychedelic task force bill into a must-pass healthcare omnibus bill, and more.

A Washington state bill would allow jail terms of up to a year for drug possession (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Another Federal Court Rules Banning Marijuana Consumers from Possessing Guns is Unconstitutional. The US District Court for the Western District of Texas has ruled that banning marijuana users from possessing firearms is unconstitutional. The decision comes on the heels of a February ruling in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that also found the gun ban unconstitutional.

Both decisions come in the wake of a controversial Supreme Court ruling last year that makes it more difficult to restrict gun access. The Justice Department is already set to argue a similar case in the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Texas case involves a woman who was charged with firearms offenses after she admitted being a marijuana consumer, but who was never charged with a marijuana offense.

"The longstanding prohibition on possession of firearms by felons requires the Government to charge and convict an individual before disarming her," the court held. "In short, the historical tradition of disarming 'unlawful' individuals appears to mainly involve disarming those convicted of serious crimes after they have been afforded criminal process," the ruling continues. "Section 922(g)(3), in contrast, disarms those who engage in criminal conduct that would give rise to misdemeanor charges, without affording them the procedural protections enshrined in our criminal justice system. The law thus deviates from our Nation's history of firearm regulation."

Maryland Marijuana Legal Sales Bills Go to Governor. Both the House and the Senate have now passed bills that would launch a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce in the state. The bills are now on the desk of Gov. Wes Moore (D), who is expected to sign them. The bills set a marijuana retail sales tax at 9 percent and directs most of the revenues to communities damaged by the war on drugs. It also sets fees for medical marijuana businesses to convert to recreational marijuana licenses, limits the number of licenses a business can own, and sets terms for social equity applicants, who will be able to obtain licenses when a second round is awarded in January.

Psychedelics

Minnesota Lawmakers Include Psychedelic Provisions in Omnibus Health Bill. Lawmakers have folded a bill that would create a psychedelics task force to prepare the state for possible legalization, House File 1884, into a larger, must-pass omnibus health care bill. The action was taken last week by the House Health finance and Policy Committee, which adopted an author's amendment to the omnibus bill that added a revised version of the psychedelics measure. If the bill passes, the Psychedelic Medicine Task Force would be charged with advising lawmakers on "the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state." The omnibus bill must still be approved the Ways and Means Committee before heading for a House floor vote.

Drug Policy

Washington Bill to Make Drug Possession a Gross Misdemeanor Wins House Committee Vote. After a 2021 state Supreme Court decision invalidated the state's felony drug possession law, the legislature has scrambled to come up with an alternative, and now, a bill that would make simple drug possession a gross misdemeanor, Senate Bill 5536, has passed the Senate and won a vote in the House Appropriations Committee. The bill will allow police to arrest drug possessors on a first offense, but also give them full discretion to divert offenders. The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is one year in jail. The bill also allows drug charges to be wiped from someone's record if he commits no new offenses in a year, even if they have not completed drug treatment.

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