Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Intersecting Issues

RSS Feed for this category

The Top Ten International Drug Policy Stories of 2022 [FEATURE]

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly in international drug policy developments in 2022. (Read about 2022's good, bad and ugly in domestic drug policy here.)

1. The Taliban Bans Opium

With the withdrawal of US and coalition forces and subsequent rapid collapse of the Afghan government in August 2001, the Taliban once again took power in Kabul. During its earlier rule, it banned opium cultivation in 1997 (with little impact) and again in 2000. But after the Taliban was overthrown in late 2001, the country saw two decades of massive opium production, making Afghanistan the world's leading supplier of opium and heroin, accounting for more than 80 percent of global supply throughout this century.

Upon resuming its control of the country, the Taliban once again instituted a ban on opium cultivation, making a formal announcement of a ban in April 2022. Even now, at the end of the year, it is too early to tell how serious the Taliban are or how effective the ban will be, although UN Special Representative in Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva reported in December that there is evidence the ban is being implemented. "Fields planted before and after the declaration have been destroyed," she said. "We will not be able to verify the actual implementation of this ban until early next year but the intention behind it is commendable. Nonetheless, the ban will have a negative effect on the income of individual farmers as few alternative livelihood programs were put in place."

This year, though, the opium crop is "the most profitable in years," the UN reported in November, with cultivation up by nearly a third and prices soaring because of the looming ban. Sowing of the 2023 crop was supposed to be done by November, and it is unclear how much uncertainty about how the ban will be enforced has affected the sowing of the crop. The answer will come in the spring when it is harvest time for the poppy crop.

2. Colombia Elects a Former Guerrilla Drug War Critic as President

In an election that has overturned a decades-long status quo in Colombian politics and threatens to upend US-Colombia relations, former leftist guerrilla and Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro won the presidency in June. He beat his competitor, Trumpian businessman Rodolfo Hernández, by a margin of 50.44% to 47.03%.

Petro is a harsh critic of the US-imposed war on drugs, which he says has cost a million Latin American lives even as the US has spent $20 billion since the days of Plan Colombia to wage a drug war entwined with a vicious counterinsurgency. That spending may have helped drive the leftist guerrillas of the FARC to the negotiating table -- a peace accord was signed in 2016 -- but it has not stopped the coca and cocaine trade, which is now undergoing a boom.

After Petro's election, but before he took office in August, a truth commission appointed as part of the 2016 peace accords called for the government to quit focusing on suppressing illicit drugs and instead take the global lead in moving to "strict legal regulation" of those substances. It recommended a new approach to illicit drug production that focuses more on sustainable development and less on the eradication of coca. The commission's recommendations are non-binding, but Petro has said he will follow them.

Petro has been in office for less than six months, but he already held a first assembly of coca growers and called for a regional assembly to discuss hemispheric drug policy. He has also angered the US by vowing not to extradite drug traffickers, and threatening to move toward cocaine decriminalizationand ban the spraying of coca fields with herbicides.

Cocaine decriminalization is not happening yet, but marijuana legalization is. A legalization bill has passed the House and Senate, clearing the way for final votes early next year. Look for Colombia to continue to steer a course away from drug war orthodoxy as the Petro presidency continues.

3. Duterte Leaves Office but His Philippine Drug War Legacy Lingers

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte became ex-president Duterte in June, having finished his six-year term and leaving a legacy of bloody drug war killings. The Philippines National Police have officially admitted killing more than 6,200, but human rights groups put the total toll of dead in Duterte's drug war at around 30,000, with many killed by shadowy vigilantes.

The widespread drug killings under Duterte were condemned by Western governments and human rights groups and sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court as a possible crime against humanity.

Duterte's successor, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son of the deposed former dictator, is attempting to portray his own drug policies as distinct from Duterte's lethal efforts, but he's made clear that he is not planning to undertake a policy change, his claim to focus on rehabilitation has yet to substantially materialize, and the government's few current "drug rehabilitation" programs are involuntary, coercive, and expose drug users to further stigma.

And Philippines police are continuing to kill people in the name of fighting drugs, albeit at a lower level than during the Duterte era. In November, police tried to claim the death toll was "very minimal," saying only 46 people had been killed since June 30, when Marcos took office. But the government's habit of lying, obstructing, and obfuscating, so well developed under Duterte, appears to remain intact under Marcos. An independent estimate from the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center put the actual number of people killed in drug war incidents at 127, nearly three times the police number.

4. Mexico's Drug War Continues Unabated

Four years into his six-year term, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is having no more luck with his "kisses not bullets" approach to his country's violent drug trafficking organizations than his predecessors did with their various efforts to rein in the so-called cartels. After four years of AMLO, the country has seen 140,000 murders, most of them committed by the cartels. That is a 61 percent increase over the same four-year period under his immediate predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.

AMLO has also scrapped the Federal Police, replacing them with the National Guard, which he wants to fold into the armed forces. In a worrying sign, the military is now shouldering more and more of the overall responsibility for dealing with violent.

And it is not working. The competing cartels periodically take a respite from trying to kill each other and go to work terrorizing the state and its agents, as was the case in August and September, when the cartels and allied gangs rampaged across four states, shutting down roads and businesses, burning vehicles and businesses, and attacking police and troops, including a stunning series of attacks in Tijuana.

Meanwhile, the cartels continue to work away assiduously at their main enterprise: exporting massive amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl into the United States.

5. Canada's British Columbia Wins Approval for Drug Decriminalization

Faced with an intractable drug overdose problem, British Columbia, long a leader in progressive approaches to drug policy, in October 2021 requested an exemption from the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to allow it to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Health Canada granted that exemption in June 2022.

The new measure goes into effect on January 31, 2023 and will extend three years to January 31, 2026. Under the decrim plan, possession of up to 2.5 grams of those drugs (cumulatively) will not result in arrest or confiscation of the drugs. While decriminalization is a first in Canada, activists in Vancouver and throughout the province are critical of the low weight limits and of the fact that minors will continue to be arrested regardless of the weight of the drugs they are carrying.

British Columbia's pending drug decriminalization will be first for Canada, but it's not the first in North America. Mexico decriminalized drug possession in 2009 and Oregon voters decriminalized drug possession in 2020.

6. Saudi Arabia Resumes Death Penalty for Drug Offenses

After halting executions of drug offenders in January 2020, Saudi Arabia suddenly and without warning resumed them on November 10. Two weeks later, it announced that 20 men had been executed for drug offenses. Dozens of people remain on death row for drug offenses and face imminent execution.On November 22, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Saudi government to halt the imminent execution of one drug prisoner and called on the Saudi authorities to adopt an official moratorium on executions for drug-related offenses, commute death sentences for drug-related offences, and guarantee the right to a fair trial for all defendants, including those accused of committing such crimes, in line with the law and its international obligations.

Nearly three dozen NGOS led by the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Harm Reduction International, and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty have called on the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to act on urgent measures in response to the series of drug-related executions carried out by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since November 10.

Globally, 146 countries, including 20 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, have abolished the death penalty. The United Nations does not consider drug offenses to be among the most "serious" crimes that would warrant the death penalty, and resort to the death penalty for such offenses contradicts the standards of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Narcotics Control Board.

7. Pakistan Moves to End Death Penalty for Drug Offenses

At year's end, Pakistan's lower house, the National Assembly, passed the Control of Narcotic Substances Amendment Bill 2022, which abolishes the death sentence for drug dealing and converts it into a life sentence. The bill comes as the country has seen a spate of executions for different sorts of offenses since 2014, when it lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty in the wake of a terrorist attack on an army school that left 132 children dead.

The vote came just weeks after Saudi Arabia's execution of three Pakistani nationals when it suddenly resumed drug executions in November.

Earlier in the year, the Senate Standing Committee on Anti-Narcotics approved keeping the death penalty for certain trafficking offenses, but in September, President Arif Alvia approved the amendment allowing for life sentences instead.

8. Russia Weaponizes Its Draconian Drug Laws to Turn American Athlete Brittney Griner into a New Cold War Political Pawn

Russia has long used its draconian drug laws against its own citizens, including dissidents, but this year the Kremlin was able to deploy them as a means of pressuring the United States when Russian customs officials arrested American women's basketball star on drug trafficking charges as she entered the country to play off-season pro ball a week before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Russia has theoretically adopted the decriminalization of small-scale drug possession, but officers commonly find just enough of a drug to file criminal charges, as was the case with Griner. Although Griner was found with vape cartridges containing less than a gram of medically-recommended cannabis oil, she was charged not with drug possession but with smuggling "a significant amount" of proscribed drugs, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to ten years.

She was duly convicted in a Russian court and sentenced to 9 ½ years in a Russian prison, creating an embarrassment and distraction for the Biden administration, which faced mounting pressure to win her release. After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, a prisoner swap was announced, and Griner was released in December in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison in 2011 (after already serving three years in pretrial detention).

9. European Countries Move Down Path to Marijuana Legalization

Late last year, Malta became the first European country to legalize marijuana, and this year, several other countries have been taking steps along the same path. In June, Luxembourg move to enact marijuana reforms, although it has retreated from "legalization" to "regulation," and is proposing the decriminalization of up to three grams of marijuana and allowing the cultivation of up to four plants at home. The government had originally proposed full-blown commercial legalization back in 2018 and says that still remains its goal.

In October, Germany unveiled its marijuana legalization plan. The health ministry rolled out a 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 complies with EU laws and will move forward "on this basis" only if the EU approves.

And in November, the Czech Republic began drafting a marijuana legalization bill. The country has already legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana for adult use, but the country's center-right governing coalition has now begun the process of a drafting a full marijuana legalization bill. The issue was pushed by the Czech Pirate Party, the smallest member of the governing coalition, which said legalization would "make the Czech Republic a freer country" and "bring billions into public budgets."

10. Thailand Kind of, Sort of Legalizes Marijuana

In June, the Thai government removed marijuana from the country's narcotics list, allowing people to grow all the weed they want and freeing more than 3,000 marijuana prisoners. But the law only legalizes marijuana extracts containing less than 0.2 percent THC, meaning that while people can grow all the plants they want, consuming what they produce will remain technically illegal, as is the case with sales now.

But that has not stopped the use and sale of full-potency marijuana. What began as a flowering of edibles and tinctures shops in June has now morphed into a full-blown recreational marijuana scene, with thousands of dispensaries of dubious legality and the government impotently warning a tide of marijuana tourists they are not welcome.

The government's marijuana moves have been confusing and controversial, and the government is attempting to bring some order to the situation with a 95-article Marijuana Bill that seeks to regulate gray areas around cultivation, consumption, and sales. That bill is expected to be passed before the country's next general in May.

AG Garland Moves to End Cocaine Sentencing Disparities, BC Decriminalization Granted, More... (12/19/22)

Kansas City, Missouri, dismisses open marijuana cases, Colombia Congress advances marijuana legalization bill, more...

Attorney General Merrick Garland (DOJ)
Marijuana Policy

Tennessee Lawmaker Will File Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said last Friday she plans to cosponsor a marijuana legalization bill with Rep. Bob Freeman (D-West Nashville) in the coming session. Previous attempts at passage of such a bill have come up short, but Campbell is ready to try again: "We're filing a full legalization bill," Campbell said. "We are in the process of modifying our last bill and haven't filed it yet."

Kansas City Dismisses Hundreds of Marijuana Cases Following Statewide Legalization Vote. Municipal court workers in the Missouri city have "dismissed over 500" open marijuana cases since statewide marijuana legalization took effect on December 8. Voters statewide approved legalization in the November election. City officials depenalized pot possession in 2020 and had already dismissed over 2,400 marijuana cases. They now report no remaining open marijuana misdemeanor cases in the city.

Opiates and Opioids

Senate Passes END FENTANYL Act in Bid to Reduce Drug Smuggling. The Senate last Thursday passed SB 4460, the "Eradicating Narcotic Drugs and Formulating Effective New Tools to Address National Yearly Losses of Life (END FENTANYL) Act." This legislation would require the Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to update agency policies at least once every three years, and require the Commissioner of CBP to review and update the Office of Field Operations' policies and handbooks at least once every three years. It would also require the Commissioner to report to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives about the changes.

Sentencing Policy

US Attorney General Moves to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities. In a memo to federal prosecutors last Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland instructed them to file charges that avoid mandatory minimum sentences that are triggered by small amounts of crack cocaine in small-time, nonviolent cases. For decades, crack has been treated more harshly in federal sentencing even though there is no scientific basis for it, and that has led to "unwarranted racial disparities," Garland wrote. "They are two forms of the same drug, with powder readily convertible into crack cocaine."

But Garland's move could last only as long a his tenure in office. To permanently end sentencing disparities between the two forms of the drug, Congress would have to act. The House passed such a bill last year, and there are still hopes that the Senate will pass its version of the bill, S.2156, as part of an omnibus appropriations bill before the current session ends.

International

British Columbia Drug Decriminalization to Last for Three Years. The decriminalization of the possession of up to 2.5 grams of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, an cocaine in the Canadian province, which was granted by the federal government as an emergency measure in the face of an overdose epidemic, has now been set to begin on January 31, 2023, and will be extended until January 31, 2026. The BC Coroners Service reports 1,827 fatal drug overdoses so far this year.

Colombia House and Senate Agree on Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Chamber of Representatives and the Senate have both voted to reconcile their differing versions of a marijuana legalization bill, clearing the way for final votes to come early in the new year. The bill must again pass both chambers because it is a constitutional amendment, and a key Senate sponsor of the bill says it should be formally enacted by June. In final negotiations, lawmakers agreed to limit marijuana consumption and marketing in public spaces and near school zones. They also agreed to have the law go into effect 12 months after final passage.

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

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

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

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

Law Enforcement

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

 

International

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychedelics

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

International

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

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

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

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

News coverage we know about:

Statement of Senator Hontiveros:

full event footage:

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

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

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

live streaming on Facebook and YouTube

speakers:

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

moderated by:

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

Geneva
Switzerland

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.

Medical Marijuana Update

A Pennsylvania doctor who is also a medical marijuana patient is suing to be able to purchase a handgun, Oklahoma is prosecuting pregnant women who use medical marijuana, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Lawmakers Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. Lawmakers have created a special task force on medical marijuana with a special emphasis on ways to prevent employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. The task force will also examine options for drug testing workers who use the drug. The task force's first meeting in set for a week from today.

New York

New York Regulators Set Rules for Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday adopted regulations for home grows for medical marijuana patients, opening the way for home cultivation to get underway. Under the regulations, patients can grow up to six plants and caregivers, who can grow for up to four patients, can grow up to 12 plants. The regulations specify that landlords cannot penalize or refuse to lease to patients who grow their own. The regulations came after a public comment period where some advocates argued for higher plant limits to no avail. The board also approved conditional licenses for 19 cultivators and 10 processors.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Is Arresting Pregnant Women for Using Marijuana. At least 26 women have been charged with felony child neglect since 2019 for using medical marijuana. That offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison, although defendants have typically pleaded guilty and received probation. At least eight of those women were registered medical marijuana patients. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, this is the only state to prosecute pregnant women for medical marijuana use. The prosecutions involving medical marijuana are "inconsistent with state law," said Ryan Kiesel, a civil rights attorney and former Oklahoma lawmaker. "Those women are protected as medical marijuana patients under the law," Kiesel said. "It's important to remember, if you have a medical marijuana license, you are under the care of a physician."

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Doctor Who Is Medical Marijuana Patient Sues ATF, FBI After Being Denied Right to Purchase Handgun. Dr. Matthew Roman, a registered medical marijuana patient, was turned down for a handgun purchase after truthfully telling the clerk that he had a medical marijuana card. The clerk, in compliance with federal law, refused to make the sale. Roman has now filed a federal lawsuit against the ATF and the FBI. In 2011, ATF issued a statement clarifying that a 1968 law barring anyone who uses an "unlawful" substance indeed applies to medical marijuana users even in states where it is legal. Roman's suit argues that "this strict, rigid, blanket prohibition violates the fundamental constitutional rights of tens of thousands of nonviolent, law-abiding citizens, and thus violates the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution." In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in a similar case.

State Treasurers Group Renews Call for Marijuana Banking Reform, NY MedMJ Home Grow Regs Adopted, More... (9/21/22)

Indiana lawmakers will meet next week to hear a report on marijuana policy, Louisiana lawmakers have created a task force to look at employment protections for medical marijuana patients, and more.

Marijuana Policy

State Treasures Reaffirm Support for Federal Marijuana Banking Reform at Annual Meeting. The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) has reaffirmed its support for a resolution that calls on Congress to pass legislation to provide access to banks for the state-legal marijuana industry. The move came at its annual meeting Monday. The resolution says the NAST does not take a position on marijuana legalization but does back legislation to ease the industry's banking problems. The group cites the "ongoing conflict between states' laws legalizing cannabis and current federal laws, resulting in the vast majority of financial institutions refusing to provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses." Leaving the industry without access to banking services is "inefficient, expensive, and opaque, making illicit activity more difficult to track and posing a significant risk to public safety by increasing the likelihood of violent crime." The resolution comes as pressure mounts to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has repeatedly passed the House only to be stalled in the Senate by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who continues to hold out for a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Indiana Lawmakers to Meet Next Week to Hear Report on Marijuana Policy. Lawmakers will gather on Tuesday for the presentation of a study by a Public Health Summer Study Committee on the potential health benefits, decriminalization and consequences of Delta-8, Delta-9 and other THC products over the last few months. The study was promoted by reform advocates, who hope it will help lay the basis for medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana legalization. The state Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which opposes both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, will also be present at the capitol to plead its case.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Lawmakers Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. Lawmakers have created a special task force on medical marijuana with a special emphasis on ways to prevent employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. The task force will also examine options for drug testing workers who use the drug. The task force's first meeting in set for a week from today.

New York Regulators Set Rules for Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday adopted regulations for home grows for medical marijuana patients, opening the way for home cultivation to get underway. Under the regulations, patients can grow up to six plants and caregivers, who can grow for up to four patients, can grow up to 12 plants. The regulations specify that landlords cannot penalize or refuse to lease to patients who grow their own. The regulations came after a public comment period where some advocates argued for higher plant limits to no avail. The board also approved conditional licenses for 19 cultivators and 10 processors.

Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers, Peru Coca Crop Up, More... (9/19/22)

California's governor signs another batch of marijuana bills, a Pennsylvania doctor and medical marijuana patient sues over the ban on medical marijuana patients buying handguns, and more.

Peyote buttons. The Native American Church is asking Congress for help to preserve the psychoactive cactus. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Another Batch of Marijuana Bills. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sunday signed into law 10 marijuana bills, including a bill to allow interstate marijuana commerce, a bill to provide employment protections for marijuana users, a bill to make it easier to seal records of prior marijuana convictions, and a bill barring localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries. For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach," Newsom said. "These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Doctor Who Is Medical Marijuana Patient Sues ATF, FBI After Being Denied Right to Purchase Handgun. Dr. Matthew Roman, a registered medical marijuana patient, was turned down for a handgun purchase after truthfully telling the clerk that he had a medical marijuana card. The clerk, in compliance with federal law, refused to make the sale. Roman has now filed a federal lawsuit against the ATF and the FBI. In 2011, ATF issued a statement clarifying that a 1968 law barring anyone who uses an "unlawful" substance indeed applies to medical marijuana users even in states where it is legal. Roman's suit argues that "this strict, rigid, blanket prohibition violates the fundamental constitutional rights of tens of thousands of non-violent, law-abiding citizens, and thus violates the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution." In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in a similar case.

Drug Policy

At Ohio Campaign Rally, Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. The defeated former president used a campaign rally for Ohio Republicans in Youngstown Saturday to reiterate his call to execute drug dealers. Painting an oratorical portrait of a country awash in crime, he said that "much of the crime wave is caused by drug dealers who during the course of their lives, will kill an average of 500 American citizens not to mention the destruction of millions of American families who are so devastated by drugs. It's an invasion of crime," he added. "And remember much of the crime that we talk about is caused by drugs. And I'm calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers." Trump falsely claimed that the death penalty for drug dealers would "reduce drug distribution and crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent. That's in one day

"Every place that has a real death penalty ... they don't have any people dying of drugs. I mean, literally nobody, because these drug dealers are smart," he said. "They say ‘you know what, if I want to keep doing drugs, if I'm going to continue to sell them, I'm not doing them in China. I'll go someplace else like how about the United States of America where nothing happens?’ We would reduce crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent in one hour. In one hour, the day it's passed, it's got to be meaningful, but you would reduce it in one hour," he claimed. "I say it because it's very hard. Nobody ever talks this way. Nobody talks about the death penalty. It's a horrible thing to say. Even for me, it's a horrible thing."

The remarks were met with cheers from the crowd, which also cheered a Q-Anon anthem played at the rally's end and raised their arms in a one-finger Q-Anon salute to it. Trump was campaigning for Republican senatorial candidate JD Vance, who he said was "kissing my ass" to maintain his support It is not clear what Vance's position on the death penalty for drug dealers is.

Psychedelics

Native American Church Leaders Ask Congress for Money to Support Peyote Cultivation and Preservation. Leaders of the Native American Church, whose members can lawfully use the psychoactive cactus peyote, held multiple meetings with members of Congress last week in a bid to garner federal funding for efforts to preserve the limited habitats where peyote can be grown. The supply of peyote is limited and under strain, and Native American Church members want assistance to ensure that it remains available for future generations. Peyote is a slow-growing crop that takes 10 years to mature, and it is stressed by climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices, and increase non-Native use of the hallucinogen.Specifically, church leaders and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are lobbying lawmakers to allocate $5 million in funding from USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program or Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to provide compensation to landowners who agree to convert their property to protected peyote habitats.

International

Peru Reports Coca Crop Grew by 30 Percent Last Year. The area devoted to coca cultivation increased by more than 30 percent last year, reflecting rising coca cultivation in the country ever since 2015. Ricardo Soberon, head of the drug agency DEVIDA, said cultivation had reached 200,000 acres in 19 coca zones, up from 14 in 2020. Soberon said Peruvian producers were responding to high demand from the United States and Europe. "How can we act to reduce the supply if there is a growing demand to buy cocaine," he asked, pointing out that at a kilo of cocaine goes for $1100 in Peru, but nearly $45,000 in London or Paris. 

(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.)

White House Issues Annual Drug Countries List, CA Governor Signs Forced Treatment Bill, More... (9/16/22)

A federal appeals court shoots down yet another effort to move marijuana off Schedule I, new research finds prentant Black women are more likely to be tested for marijuana, and more.

The annual list of naughty and nice drug producing and trafficking nations is released. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. A group of defendants who had been convicted on federal marijuana charges had their bid to have the substance removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act shot down by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of August. They had argued that the scheduling of marijuana had no rational basis because it does not meet the criteria for a Schedule I drug and the court should "strike the offending statutory classification as unconstitutional"and leave reclassification to Congress. But the appeals disagreed, ruling that there is a "conceivable basis" for the classification.

Blacks Disproportionately Drug Tested for Marijuana During Labor, Analysis Finds. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that patients ordered to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Black and are also likely to be on subsidized health insurance plans. The research assessed drug screening practices at one St. Louis hospital and found doctors ordered marijuana-related drug tests in 753 patients out of just under 4,000 deliveries. Seventy percent of those subjected to testing were Black. Marijuana tests were also more likely for those patients who were younger or on public insurance. Most subjected to testing came up negative, but of those who did positive, 90 percent were referred to child welfare authorities, even though there were no statistically significant differences between them and other mothers in terms of preterm birth rates or other indicators of natal health.

"Isolated marijuana use was a poor predictor of other substance exposure in our cohort, but a urine drug screening test result positive for marijuana exposed a historically underserved population that is already subject to pervasive systemic racism in the medical field to further stigmatization without changing outcomes. The utility of using isolated marijuana use as a criterion for urine drug screening appears limited in benefit but rife with inequitable potential to harm and should be carefully reconsidered in labor and delivery units for necessity," the authors concluded.

Drug Treatment

California Governor Signs Forced Drug Treatment Bill. To the dismay of drug reform and mental health advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 1338, the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Act, which create a civil court system in all counties that would force people who are experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health issues to undergo an involuntary court process and treatment plan. Although the CARE Act sailed through the legislature, the proposal was opposed by a wide range of advocates who feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction. It will take away people’s basic right to make their own decisions and force them into court-mandated treatment programs, which have been shown to often exacerbate harms while worsening existing health disparities and the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal legal system. The CARE Act will fail to meet the urgent needs of our communities or offer a path to effective evidence-based treatment, recovery and other health services for Californians who are unhoused, struggling with substance use disorder, or experiencing other mental health issues, they argued.

Foreign Policy

White House Issues Annual List of Major Drug Trafficking and Producing Countries; Contains the Usual Suspects. The White House has released its annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2023 and has identified the following countries as major transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The annual exercise also designated four countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Notably, all four of these countries are political foes of the US, unlike major drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia and Mexico, which are US allies.

Grassley, Whitehouse Lead Senate Caucus in Issuing Report onStrategies to Combat Money Laundering By Drug Cartels. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RR), Chairman of the caucus, havereleased a bipartisan report entitled: Strengthening U.S. Efforts to Attack the Financial Networks of Cartels. The report offers recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by closing loopholes in the U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) framework that enable narcotics traffickers to obscure and access their illicit proceeds.Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and James Risch (R-ID) have also endorsed the report.

Its recommendations include: Help partner nations strengthen their institutions to better defend against corruption and implement justice sector reforms; better track whole-of-government efforts to combat narcotics-related illicit finance;  deploy experts in narcotics-related illicit finance to assist partner nations; authorize innovative and effective programs to combat international money laundering, such as Trade Transparency Units; use regulatory authorities to close loopholes in the U.S. AML framework, including by: ensuring greater transparency in the cross-border transportation of stored value or prepaid access devices, and fully implementing the beneficial ownership requirements of the Corporate Transparency Act; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and pursue the maximum allowable criminal penalties for culpable banks, employees, and executives who fail to timely report suspicious transactions; and address vulnerabilities in the AML framework by swiftly enacting the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance, and Counterfeiting Act. The report does not explain how these proposals to deepen the drug war would lead to any different result than decades of previous prohibitionist measures. 

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School