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Manchin and Rubio File Anti-Crack Pipe Bill, New Overdose Memorial Site, More... (2/14/22)

Oregon goes after water haulters in a bid to repress illicit pot grows, the Utah House approves a psychedelic study task force bill, and more.

Joe Manchin apparently doesn't like harm reduction. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Bill Targets Water Haulers in Bid to Clamp Down on Illicit Marijuana Grows. A bill aimed at reining in rampant illicit marijuana production in the southern part of the state, House Bill 4061, would do so by imposing new record-keeping requirements on water haulers and imposing civil and even criminal penalties for haulers who violate the rules or sell to illicit marijuana growers. The bill would also make it a crime to pump ground water to supply illicit marijuana grows without a water right. Farm groups have raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences, and legal marijuana growers object to proposed additional licensing requirements. Bill sponsors said they will attempt to amend the bill to address those concerns.

Psychedelics

Utah House Approves Psychedelic Study Task Force Bill. The House last Thursday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 0167, which would create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances and to develop possible regulations for their lawful use. The bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Bill Would Reform State Asset Forfeiture Laws but Federal Loophole Would Remain. The House Judiciary Committee has introduced an asset forfeiture reform bill, House Bill 2648, which would end civil asset forfeiture (without a criminal conviction) in most cases and addresses "policing for profit" by directing all seizures go to the general fund instead of going to the law enforcement agency that made the seizure, as is the case under current state law. But the bill does not address a loophole that allows state and local law enforcement to get around state asset forfeiture laws by turning cases over to the federal government, which under its equitable sharing program then returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the seizing agency. Instead, it specifically allows police to "transfer the custody or ownership to any federal agency if the property was seized and forfeited pursuant to federal law." The bill gets a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Harm Reduction

Public Health Group Vital Strategies Launches Online Drug Overdose Memorial Site, Harm Reduction Media Campaign. The public health organization Vital Strategies launched a new, interactive, online memorial on Monday to honor those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose -- more than one million in the past two decades in the US -- far surpassing car crashes and firearm fatalities combined. Inspired by the AIDS quilt, the digital mosaic allows anyone to commemorate a loved one lost to overdose and calls for urgent action in their name.

The memorial's launch is accompanied by the largest-ever national advertising campaign promoting harm reduction, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times featuring 200 real people working in harm reduction, on the front lines of the overdose crisis. Three video ads featuring overdose prevention advocates whose own lives were saved by harm reduction will air 6,000 times in and around Washington, DC on a range of channels including: CNN, BET, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu and various podcasts, totaling 37 million impressions.

Manchin, Rubio File Bill to Block Federal Government from Buying Crack Pipes. US Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sought to score political points around last week's federal "crack pipe" controversy by a filing a bill last Friday to bar the use of federal funds to buy and distribute devices used to consume drugs, such as glass pipes used for smoking crack and meth and syringes. Their bill is the cutely acronymed Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems Act, or PIPES Act.

"Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021," Manchin said. "While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution." But the provision of supplies such as clean syringes and "smoking kits" that include rubber stoppers, screens, cleaning dowels, vaseline, and scouring pads are a proven harm reduction intervention aimed at reducing overdoses and the spread of infectious disease, as well as improving overall user health.

Senate Dems Seek Input on Marijuana Legalization Bill, Senate Groups Calls for Police Reform Efforts by Biden, More... (2/11/22)

Chuck Schumer is trying to get his marijuana legalization bill finalized, an Illinois bill would fix a bizarre situation around expungement of past marijuana offenses, and more.

Ten senators have asked the Biden administration to get moving on demilitarizing the police. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Top Senate Democrats Seek Input on Finalizing Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have sent a letter to their fellow senators inviting them "into the drafting process as we work to finalize this legislation." The senators called on committee chairs and ranking members of relevant committees, as well as senators from legalization states to provide input. The letter comes after Schumer announced this week that he is working to introduce a bill in the spring. He, Booker, and Wyden released a draft of their proposed bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last July.

Illinois Bill to End Drug Test Requirement for Marijuana Expungement Advances. It is a bizarre situation: In a state where marijuana is legal, people who hope to get their marijuana arrest records expunged must first pass a drug test showing that they are not using marijuana. A bill that would fix that, House Bill 4392, was filed by Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), and passed out of the House Judiciary Criminal Committee Thursday on a partisan 11-8 vote. However, Ammons plans to hold the bill on second reading and bring it back to the committee when the amendments are ready.

Harm Reduction

Drug Policy Alliances Criticizes Biden Administration Over "Crack Pipe" Kerfluffle. In response to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of National Drug Control Policy's statement that they will no longer be allowing federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies, the Drug Policy Alliance criticized the administration for "backtracking" in the face of rightwing social media firestorm.

"Backtracking on providing critical evidence-based resources that could greatly improve the health of people who consume drugs through smoking is a huge missed opportunity that will disproportionately be felt in Black and Indigenous communities, especially as these communities have experienced some of the sharpest increases in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine," said DPA executive director Kassandra Frederique. "Despite nearly identical rates of drug use in Black and white communities, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have long been disproportionately criminalized and treated with handcuffs and rap sheets -- as we remember all too well from the 80s and 90s with the 'rack epidemic' -- instead of the public health tools they need to live healthier and more stable lives."

"Health policy must be driven by evidence, not by clickbait," Frederique continued. "We applaud the Biden administration for the steps they have taken to advance harm reduction and advocate for the funding needed to supply needed resources and save lives, but they must stand firm against misinformation and continue the course to deploy all evidence-based solutions, including all forms of safer smoking supplies, to save lives now."

Law Enforcement

Senators Urge Biden to Step Up Efforts to Demilitarize Police. Led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), a group of 10 senators has released a letter urging the Biden administration to step up efforts to demilitarize the police. "We urge you to prioritize the demilitarization of law enforcement by limiting the transfer or purchase of certain military equipment for federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local law enforcement agencies," the senators wrote in their letter to the president. "This should include reforms to the Department of Defense's (DoD) program to transfer surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies -- known as the '1033 program' -- as well as DoD's program to allow law enforcement agencies to purchase military equipment -- known as the '1122 program.' Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer. Now is the moment to make these necessary reforms."

In their letter to the president, the senators cite reports showing that police militarization fails to reduce rates of violent crime or change the number of officers assaulted or killed. Instead, arming police departments with military equipment has led to an increase in officer-involved shootings and civilian deaths.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A small-town Georgia cops gets caught slinging weed from his patrol car, a corrupt killer Puerto Rican cop heads for decades in prison, and more. Let's get to it:

In Warwick, Georgia, a Warwick police officer was arrested last Thursday for selling marijuana while on duty and in uniform. Officer Leon Mitchell, 32, went down after investigators with Southwestern Regional Drug Enforcement Office (SWRDEO) that he was slinging weed, and undercover agents began buying marijuana from him. After he was arrested, marijuana, scales, and plastic baggies were found in his police cruiser. He's facing two counts of sale/distribution of marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, three counts of violation of oath of office, and last but not least, two counts of use of a communication device during the commission of a felony.

In Kokomo, Indiana, a Howard County corrections officer was arrested Tuesday after she was caught smuggling drugs into the county jail. Guard Emily Harvey, 32, went down after detectives received a tip that a guard was bringing in drugs and they then watched her enter a unit to which she was not assigned and meet with an inmate. A search of the inmate's cell yielded a vape pen, and a search of Harvey's vehicle in the parking lot turned up six grams of suboxone and "additional contraband." She is charged with dealing in a schedule I, II or III substance; two counts of trafficking with an inmate; official misconduct; and possession of a controlled substance.

In New York City, a former Puerto Rico Police Department officer was sentenced last Thursday to 30 years in federal prison for agreeing to help a drug trafficking organization that shipped drugs from Puerto Rico to New York City, where they were distributed from a Bronx daycare. William Vazquez-Baez had pleaded guilty earlier to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy and one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Prosecutors alleged that Vazquez-Baez conspired with the La ONU group, which sold thousands of pounds of cocaine and used violent methods to protect its operation. Vazquesz-Baez was on salary with the gang and provided it with intelligence obtained from the police narcotics unit and helped protect its shipments while in transit. Vazquez-Baez also informed gang members that a local resident, Freddy Mendez-Rivera, was complaining to police about drug dealing in his are, which led to his kidnapping and murder. And he was involved in two other murders for the gang.

In Warwick, Georgia, a Warwick police officer was arrested last Thursday for selling marijuana while on duty and in uniform. Officer Leon Mitchell, 32, went down after investigators with Southwestern Regional Drug Enforcement Office (SWRDEO) that he was slinging weed, and undercover agents began buying marijuana from him. After he was arrested, marijuana, scales, and plastic baggies were found in his police cruiser. He's facing two counts of sale/distribution of marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, three counts of violation of oath of office, and last but not least, two counts of use of a communication device during the commission of a felony.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Michigan detective cops to dealing dope, a Missouri deputy was crazy for prescription pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Marietta, Georgia, a Cobb County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for bringing drug contraband into the Adult Detention Center. Deputy Dyimond Johnson, 30, went down after an internal investigation at the jail. He is charged with "crossing guard lines with a controlled substance," violating his oath of office, making a false statement, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He is now a former deputy.

In Hillsboro, Missouri, a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing prescription drugs both on and off duty. Now-former Deputy Michael Filsinger, 35, used his access to the department's report management system to find reports involving prescription drugs, then reached out to people named in those reports claiming to be a detective following up on previous investigations and stole drugs during some of those interactions. He is charged with four counts of felony stealing, one county of misdemeanor stealing, and one count of misuse of official information by a public servant.

In Darlington, South Carolina, a Darlington County jail guard was arrested Tuesday after getting caught with contraband including marijuana, a cellphone, and pocket knife inside the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center. Devonte Rashawn Harrell is charged with misconduct in office and possession of marijuana. He has now been fired.

In Highland Park, Michigan, a former Highland Park police detective pleaded guilty last Friday to dealing fentanyl-laced heroin. Tiffany Lipkovitch, 46, a 10-year veteran of the department, worked together with another woman on drug deals, which the FBI recorded. In one deal, Lipkovitch introduced a drug buyer to her partner in crime to score dope, for which she received $300. Lipkovitch pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances and is now looking at up to 40 years in prison.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sticky-fingered former Kentucky sheriff is in trouble, a former Connecticut cop gets nailed for helping out a target of a DEA drug investigation, and more. Let's get to it:

In Covington, Kentucky, a former Greenup County sheriff was arrested last Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 in cash that had been seized from drug suspects. Former Sheriff Keith Cooper, 68, is accused of making cash withdrawals from the agency's asset forfeiture fund, which holds proceeds from properties seized in drug investigations and can only be used for law enforcement purposes. But Cooper used the money for personal ends and "otherwise unauthorized uses as he deemed fit," according to the federal indictment. He also had deputies try to falsify records once he realized an investigation was happening. He is facing one count of mail fraud and one count of theft of property from a federally funded agency.

In East Haven, Connecticut, a former East Haven police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he used his official position to access a law enforcement database on behalf of a suspect in a DEA drug investigation. Jason Andino, 30, went down when a DEA wiretap picked up a phone conversation where a man associated with the DEA target asked if there was anyone inside the department who could provide information about police activity near his home. Andino was allegedly the person who could -- and did -- provide the information. He is charged with two counts of felony third-degree computer crimes for the alleged illegal use of law enforcement databases.

In Mobile, Alabama, a former Escambia County Detention Center guard was sentenced last Friday to 18 months in prison for smuggling contraband including drugs into the jail. Lakerdra Shanta Snowden, 31, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and admitted taking cash payments totaling more than $5,000 for her efforts. She also copped to bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, providing contraband to a federal prisoner, and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms got some attention in Seattle, Oklahoma City and Richmond this week. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Republicans File Bills to Decriminalize Psilocybin, Encourage Research on Medical Benefits. State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin.

Virginia House Committee Pushes Back Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill to Next Year. The House Courts of Justice Subcommittee has voted to delay consideration of a bill to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics, House Bill 898, until 2023. The move came even after the bill was amended by its sponsor, Del. Dawn Adams (D), to only apply to medical practitioners and people using psychedelics with a practitioner. The object for the delay is to build support and try again next year. A similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 262, remains alive.

Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council on Monday night approved a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline. It was already Seattle policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession, but this resolution further protects the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants for reasons of "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices."

Harm Reduction

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill that would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. Under current law, the overdose prevention tool is considered drug paraphernalia. At least one public health initiative, Vivent Health (formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), has already distributed nearly 46,000 test strips anonymously, with no questions asked.

San Francisco Allowing People to Use Drugs Inside New Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center. The city is turning a blind eye to drug use in an outdoor area of the mayor's new Tenderloin Linkage Center in United Nations Plaza. At the center, the city offers basic hygiene services, food, clothing, and referrals to treatment and housing services inside the building. The drug use is going on in a fenced-in area outside the building. Critics have accused the city of running an "illicit drug consumption site," but a spokesman for Mayor London Breed (D) said that the "emergency initiative is about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction, and getting them connected to services and treatment. As part of that, the linkage center is serving as a low-barrier site to bring people off the street."

International

Thai Narcotics Control Board Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Wednesday that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the removal of marijuana from the country's list of controlled substances. The delisting will next be formally singed by Charnvirakul and will go into effect 120 days after notice is published in the government gazette. The move definitely clears the way for the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and hemp, but it was unclear is marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense.

SD House Votes to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, MN Usual Suspects Form Anti-Marijuana Coalition, More... (1/25/22)

Life just got a bit easier to Empire State medical marijuana patients, a Wisconsin GOP lawmaker wants to reinstate drug testing of some welfare recipients, and more.

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will not be able to grow this at home under a bill that just passed the House. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Groups Unite to Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The usual suspects are at it again. Faced with a renewed push for marijuana legalization by Democratic lawmakers, the state's police and peace officers association, the state Catholic Conference, and business interests have formed a coalition to oppose any such move. Calling themselves Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization, the coalition is warning of truck drivers driving under the influence amid a lack of roadside drug tests and workers failing drug tests, thereby exacerbating worker shortages because of the pandemic.

Medical Marijuana

New York Medical Marijuana Program Expands. The State Office of Cannabis Management launched a new certification and registration system for the state's medical marijuana program on Monday, expanding patient access and eligibility as it did so. Now, doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners can recommend medical marijuana for any condition if they think it will benefit a patients instead of being limited to a list of specified conditions. The office has also doubled the amount of medical marijuana patients can obtain and it permanently waived patient and caregivers registration fees.

South Dakota House Votes to Override Will of Voters, Ban Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The House on Monday voted 41-29 to approve House Bill 1004, which bans the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients and caregivers. The vote directly contravenes the will of the voters, who approved Initiated Measure 26 legalizing medical marijuana with home cultivation with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Republican Files Bill to Require Drug Testing for Welfare Beneficiaries. State Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) has released a bill that would reinstate drug testing and work requirements for people receiving benefits under the state's FoodShare program. The measure is part of a larger package of legislation introduced by Republicans that seeks to undo an expansion of welfare benefits during the pandemic. The state already had such requirements for some welfare recipients, but Democratic Governor Tony Evers waived those requirements until September, saying the state doesn't have enough jobs for those seeking them. Born's bill, LRB 5571, would require Evers to begin implementing the existing work and drug testing requirements, including withdrawing any waiver or suspension of the requirements.

MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

Colombian coca farmers will not have to worry about having toxic herbicides dumped on their fields. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill to Lower Possession Limits, Then Passes It. The House on Wednesday approved the Senate's medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095, but only after amending it to lower the amount of marijuana flower patients can possess each month from 3.5 ounces to 3 ounces. The Senate had previously lowered the limit from 4 ounces to 3.5 in a bid to soothe the concerns of Governor Tate Reeves (R), who has expressed worry that the bill allowed patients too much marijuana. The bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate rejects the House's amended limit, the bill would then go to conference committee to hash out the differences.

Asset Forfeiture

Marijuana Services Company Sues Cops in California and Kansas Over Seizures of $1.2 Million in Cash. Empyreal Logistics, a company that uses armored cars to transport cash to and from marijuana businesses, has had its vehicles stopped and cash seized on five separate occasions since last May by sheriff's deputies in Kansas and California. The stops resulted in no citations or criminal charges, but the deputies seized $1.2 million in cash under state civil forfeiture law.

Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Empyreal has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the seizures violate state law, federal law, and the US Constitution. In a complaint it filed last Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Empyreal says it is "entitled to protection from highway robberies, regardless of whether they are conducted by criminals or by the Sheriff and federal law-enforcement agencies acting under color of law."

In both California and Kansas, local sheriffs handed the seizures over to the DEA in a bid to circumvent state laws limiting seizures and who profits from them. The lawsuit charges that the DEA's involvement violates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a spending rider that bars the Justice Department (which includes the DEA and the FBI) from using any of its funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Because the DEA violated that restriction, the company says, it also violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. And because the seizure was motivated by the prospect of financial gain, the lawsuit says, it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

Drug Policy

Arizona Bill Would End Restriction on Food Stamp Benefits to Drug Felons. A bill that would remove requirements that people with past felony drug convictions agree to random drug testing and to taking part in a drug treatment program in order to access the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) has passed its first hurdle. Sponsored by Rep. Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), the measure, House Bill 2060, was approved unanimously on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Missouri Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine. The measure, House Bill 2469, would make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine or participation in a drug treatment program if ordered by a court. The bill would decriminalize up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine. The bill also lowers charges for possessing some quantities greater than personal use from felonies to misdemeanors. It currently has no hearing scheduled.

International

Colombia High Court Blocks Government Plan to Spray Coca Crops with Toxic Herbicide. The country's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the administration of conservative President Iván Duque cannot spray the herbicide glyphosate on coca crops without the consent of rural communities. That effectively blocks the proposed renewal of spraying. The ruling came after rural black and indigenous communities sued to block the plan, saying the herbicide causes disease, destroys traditional crops and pollutes the water.

The court imposed a one-year deadline for agreement to be reached to allow spraying, effectively blocking the Duque administration, which leaves office in August, from moving forward before then. Spraying the coca crop with glyphosates was done in the past but blocked by the Constitutional Court in 2015. President Duque has spent the four years of his administration trying to get it going again.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An NYPD sergeant made a bad choice of a boyfriend, a Houston constable made a bad choice to escort what he thought was a load of dope, and more. Let's get to it:

In Houston, a former deputy constable pleaded guilty January 6 to escorting a tractor-trailer he thought was filled with drugs with his marked constable vehicle. Alexander Reyes, 49, got $6,000 for the escort job, but it was actually an undercover sting with fake cocaine. He copped to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. He is looking at up to life in prison when sentenced in March.

In New York City, a former NYPD sergeant was sentenced last Thursday to probation for being a courier for a heroin operation run by the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. Arlicia Robinson, 41, got a lenient sentence of four years' supervised release after she was busted in a reverse sting operation when the sentencing judge said she had turned her life around. She was a girlfriend of one of the gang members.

In San Diego, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to three years in prison for smuggling drug and cellphones into the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. Anibal Navarro, 43, had pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges and admitted to smuggling phones, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and other contraband into the prison. He went down after the inmate who recruited to deliver drugs in return for cash was busted and named him. He admitted to smuggling more than 500 grams of drugs into the prison and was paid between $1,000 and $2,000 per delivery.

Overdose Surge Hits Black Men the Hardest, Austin No-Knock Raid Ban and Decrim Inits, More... (1/19/22)

The prospects for home marijuana gardens in the Garden State grow dim, black men are bearing the brunt of the fatal overdose crisis, and more.

Black men are dying of drug overdoses at a rate higher than any other demographic group. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Unlikely to Allow Home Marijuana Cultivation. Marijuana legalization proponent and incoming state Senate President Nick Scutari (D) has signaled that home cultivation of marijuana will not be allowed once the state's adult-use market launches. That launch date was originally set for the middle of next month but is now running behind schedule.

Scutari said he "did not see (home cultivation) happening right now" because it would only further the illicit marijuana market. "I'm not against marijuana being grown at home for medical purposes and maybe even just recreational purposes," Scutari said. "But we've got to let this industry… it's not even off the ground yet."

The issue of home cultivation is creating a divide between activists and marijuana businesses, with legal operators interested in minimizing home grows and protecting market share, while activists argue that medical marijuana patients in particular should have the right to grow their own.

Austin Marijuana Decriminalization, No-Knock Raid Ban Initiative Approved to Go Before Voters in May. The Austin City Council on Tuesday approved an activist-led initiative to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock police raids. That was the final obstacle on the path to putting the issue before city voters in municipal elections in May. The council could have adopted the measure as an ordinance, which activists said they would have preferred, but it instead deferred, leaving the call to the voters.

"The City Council's vote to schedule an election on the Austin Freedom Act is a testament to the incredible work of our organizers and volunteers who are fighting for progressive change in their community," Mike Siegel, political director of Ground Game Texas, said. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, voters will have the opportunity in May to end the criminalization of marijuana possession and the dangerous practice of no-knock police raids."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Medical Marijuana. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are teaming up in a bid to make it more difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana-related products, and they are aiming at Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. Delta-9 THC is the most potent psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but Delta-8 also produces psychoactive effects and is considered legal under federal law because it has never been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Sponsored by Reps. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), House Bill 679 would increase regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The bill would prohibit Delta-8 sales to people under 21, limit advertising toward children, create evaluation procedures for new products, and prevent medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profit.

Harm Reduction

Recent Overdose Surge Has Hit Black Men the Hardest. The Pew Research Center reports that amidst a record surge in drug overdose deaths, "while overdose death rates have increased in every major demographic group in recent years, no group has seen a bigger increase than Black men. As a result, Black men have overtaken American Indian or Alaska Native men and White men as the demographic group most likely to die from overdoses." Black men die of drug overdoses at a rate of 54.1 per 100,000, overtaking Native American men (52.1) and white men (44.2). Latino men died at a lower rate of 27.3 per 100,000, with Asian American men bringing up the rear with a rate of 8.5.

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