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OD Deaths Hit Record High During Pandemic, Campaign to End Crack Cocaine Sentence Disparity, More... (4/14/21)

Washington's governor commutes some drug possession sentences after the state's Supreme Court voids its felony drug possession law, the St. Louis County Council votes to decriminalize pot possession, the Orleans Parish prosecutors is not going to try most drug possession cases anymore and more.

There's a move afoot in Congress to finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Finds Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization, Expungement. As legislators ponder whether to make Connecticut the next state to legalize marijuana, a new poll from Sacred Heart University shows strong popular support for the move. The poll had support at 66%, with 62% saying that if marijuana is legalized, those with prior marijuana convictions should have their records expunged.

St. Louis County Council Votes to Decriminalize Pot Possession. The council Tuesday night approved a resolution reducing the penalty for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana to a fine of less than $100. The previous penalty had been up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.The Maplewood City Council also passed legislation Tuesday night to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A medical marijuana bill with bipartisan has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill 711, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, would protect doctors and patients from civil and criminal penalties for using or recommending medical marijuana and would allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

Drug Policy

Orleans Parish District Attorney Will No Longer Charge Small-Time Drug Possession Offenses, Except for Heroin and Fentanyl. The Orleans Parish District Attorney's office has adopted a policy of refusing to prosecute charges for possession of small amounts of drugs. New Orleans police may continue to arrest people for small-time possession, but they will not be prosecuted for "an amount intended for personal use." But there is one big exception: Heroin and fentanyl charges will continue to be prosecuted.

Pardons and Commutations

Washington Governor Commutes Sentences After Felony Drug Possession Law Thrown Out. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision voiding the state's felony drug possession law, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Tuesday that he had commuted the sentences of 13 prisoners who were incarcerated on drug possession charges. More commutations are coming, his office said.

Sentencing

Coalition Asks Judiciary Committee Chairs to Eliminate Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. More than two dozen think tanks and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have banded together to call on the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees to end the crack-powder cocaine federal sentencing disparity by passing Senate Bill 71, the EQUAL Act. Sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill would eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and make that change retroactive.

Biden Administration Supports Temporary Extension of Ban on Fentanyl Analogues. The Justice Department said Monday it would support a bill that would extend a temporary ban on fentanyl analogues for another seven months. The Trump-era ban is set to expire next month without action by Congress. The department said it would "work with Congress to seek a clean, seven-month extension to prevent this important law enforcement tool from lapsing." The move has been opposed by criminal justice reform groups some researchers, who worry it could incite mass incarceration and make research more difficult. The department acknowledged these concerns, saying it intends to "address legitimate concerns related to mandatory minimums (prison terms) and researcher access to these substances."

Public Health

Drug Overdoses Hit Record High During Pandemic. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 87,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September. That's the largest number for any year since the opioid epidemic began in the mid-1990s. The biggest jump in deaths took place in April and May, in the depths of pandemic lockdowns and attendant fear and stress.

NM Legalizes Marijuana, Criminal Justice Reformer Named DEA Chief, More... (4/13/21)

A simple policy change causes a massive drop in pot arrests in San Antonio, the Maryland legislature has approved the legalization of drug paraphernalia, Vancouver sets proposed drug decriminalization quantities, and more.

New Mexico becomes the latest state to legalize marijuana, and the third in the past few weeks. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances Again. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, passed a fifth House committee Monday. The bill was approved by the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee on an 11-7 vote. It now heads to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, which is scheduled to take up the measure on Wednesday.

New Mexico Legalizes Marijuana. With the signature Monday of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 2, New Mexico has legalized marijuana, becoming the 17th state to do so, the third to do so in the past few weeks, along with New York and Virginia, and the seventh to do since last November's elections.

San Antonio Pot Prosecutions Down 99% Since 2018. Under a cite and release policy instituted by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales (D), the number of people arrested for marijuana possession has dropped dramatically. In 2018, the DA's office prosecuted 4,515 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, but in 2020, that number had dropped to 15. That's a 99.6% decrease.

Drug Policy

Biden Names Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Anne Milgram to Head DEA. President Joe Biden (D) has selected former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram, a longtime criminal justice system reform advocate, to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the White House said Monday. The agency has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration.

Maryland Legislature Approves Bill to Legalize Drug Paraphernalia. The General Assembly on Monday approved a bill to legalize the possession of drug paraphernalia, Senate Bill 420. The bill has already passed the Senate, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). The House passed the bill by a veto-proof margin, but the Senate tally was one short of the number needed to override a veto.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses Passes Senate. A bill that seeks to end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, Senate Bill 73, passed the Senate Monday on a 25-10 vote. The bill now heads to the California State Assembly.

International

Vancouver Outlines Personal Possession Amounts for Drug Decriminalization Proposal. As part of its application to Health Canada for a federal exemption from federal drug laws to decriminalize drug possession in the city, Vancouver has outlined its recommendations for what amounts should be decriminalized. The city is recommending the decriminalization of one gram or 10 rocks for crack cocaine, 1.5 grams for amphetamines, two grams for opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, and three grams for cocaine. Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Monday the goal is remove criminal penalties and reduce stigma by focusing on a health-centered approach.

NY Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization into Law, Biden White House Sets Drug Policy Priorities, More... (4/1/21)

The Biden administration has filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting an effort to expand sentencing reductions under the 2018 First Step Act, the New Mexico legislature has voted to legalize marijuana, and more.

New York State Capitol
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization, Governor Will Sign Bill. New Mexico has become the second state in as many days to see lawmakers approve marijuana legalization. New York did it on March 30, and with the approval of House Bill 2, the Cannabis Regulation Act, and Senate Bill 2, the Expungement of Certain Criminal Records Act, by legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico got it done on March 31. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) supported the effort and says she will sign the bills into law.

New York Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill into Law. One day after the legislature passed Senate Bill 854, the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed it into law Wednesday. That makes the state the 15th to legalize marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Legislature Approves Asset Forfeiture Reporting Bill. The state Senate on Wednesday approved House Bill 1480, which would impose new reporting requirements for property seized by police. The bill would require more information be provided in courts' forfeiture judgments, including where the seizure took place, the alleged crime, and the outcome of the case. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Doug Burgum (R), who has three legislature days to either sign or veto it.

Drug Policy

Biden Administration Releases First Year Drug Policy Priorities. Citing the nation's "overdose and addiction crisis," the Biden administration on Thursday laid out a set of drug policy priorities for its first year. "President Biden has made clear that addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for his administration… President Biden has also said that people should not be incarcerated for drug use but should be offered treatment instead. The President has also emphasized the need to eradicate racial, gender, and economic inequities that currently exist in the criminal justice system."

Sentencing

Biden Administration Urges Leniency for Harsh Crack Sentences. The Biden administration on Wednesday filed a brief with the Supreme Court endorsing an effort by low-level crack cocaine offenders to obtain reduced sentences. The brief urged the court to widen eligibility for sentence reductions for some drug offenses under the 2018 First Step Act. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, Tarahrick Terry v. U.S., No. 20-10482, on May 4.

NY Legalizes Marijuana, US-Mexico Anti-Drug Cooperation at Standstill, WA Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (3/31/21)

The New York legislature approved marijuana legalization last night and the governor says he will sign the bill, a drug decriminalization bill has been filed in Washington state, North Carolina Republican senators head in the opposite direction when it comes to fentanyl, and more.

President Joe Biden is not leading the way on marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Still Opposed to Marijuana Legalization, Press Secretary Says. In response to a question from reporters about whether President Biden would support a push by Democratic senators to legalize marijuana federally, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the president "believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana" and that his stance opposing legalization "has not changed."

Colorado Bill to Double Legal Possession Quantity Passes House. A bill that would double the amount of marijuana that it is legal to possess, House Bill 1090, passed the House on Tuesday. The bill would make possession of up to two ounces legal, as well as expanding opportunities for people with marijuana records to get those offenses expunged. The bill now heads for a Senate committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance in First Day of Special Session. Marijuana legalization has now been divided into two bills, both of which advanced Tuesday in the first day of special session called to get the legislation passed. The new House Bill 2, which would legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for people 21 and over, passed both the House Taxation and Revenue committee and the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 2 is largely the same as House Bill 12, but has criminal justice provisions, including expungement, stripped out. Those provisions are now embodied in the new Senate Bill 2, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The full Senate will take it up today.

New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Legalization. After hours of debate Tuesday, the state Senate voted 40-23 to approve the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) (Senate Bill 854), which would immediately legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and set the stage for a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market. The House followed up hours later, approving the bill on a 100-49 vote. An embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reached an agreement with legislative leaders on the bill over the weekend and has said he will sign it into law. Tuesday night, Cuomo said he looked forward to signing the bill. "New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy," he said.

Virginia Governor Asks Legislature to Make Marijuana Legal in July, Not 2024. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has asked the legislature to amend the marijuana legalization bill it approved earlier this month by moving up the effective date for the legalization of marijuana possession to this coming July, instead of waiting for 2024. The move came on the last day for the governor to act on the bill. He also wants to move up allowing home cultivation of up to four plants per household as of July 1, 2021. The bill will now go back to the legislature for final approval.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote A Nebraska committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Legislative Bill 474. The bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to possess and purchase up to two and a half ounces of marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It would not, however, allow patients to smoke marijuana. The bill now heads for a final legislative floor vote.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Wednesday to approve a medical marijuana bill, (Senate Bill 150/ House Bill 3361), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote next week. The bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

Drug Policy

North Carolina Republican Senators' Bill to Increase Penalties for Fentanyl Possession Advances. A group of Republican state senators have filed Senate Bill 321, which would make possession of fentanyl a felony. Possession of fentanyl is currently a misdemeanor, but the bill would make it a Class I felony, putting it in the same class as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and will be considered by one more committee Wednesday before being scheduled for a vote in the full Senate.

Washington State Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Senators Liz Lovelett (D) and cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 5476, which would decriminalize the possession of "personal use amounts" of drugs. The state is currently without a felony drug possession law after the state Supreme Court threw out that law earlier this month. The bill is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Foreign Policy

US Investigations into Cartels Paralyzed by Standoff with Mexico. Cooperation between US and Mexican authorities into Mexican drug cartels has come to a standstill since Mexico last December enacted a law requiring US officials to report their law enforcement contacts in the country to Mexican officials, whom they view as largely corrupt. Investigators on both sides of the border have paused cooperation over fears that the new disclosure rules could compromise cases or, worse yet, get Mexican officials helping the Americans killed. Drug raids on Mexican drug labs have largely stopped and US officials are having more difficulty tracking cocaine shipments through Mexico. The Mexican government acted in December after a retired Mexican general was arrested by the DEA in Los Angeles in October, then released after loud protests from Mexico.

NY Gov Says Agreement Reached on Legalization Bill, IL Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (3/25/21)

State legislatures are voting on marijuana all over the place, the Maryland Senate has just approved a bill to legalize drug paraphernalia, and more.

Drug paraphernalia would be legalized under a bill that just passed the Maryland Senate. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150, has passed out of the House Health and Human Development Committee on a party line vote and now heads for the House Appropriations Committee before getting a shot at a House floor vote. Gov. John Carney (D), who has been lukewarm on legalization, says he still has "concerns."

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, was approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. It now heads to the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee before getting a shot at a House floor vote.

New York Governor Announces Agreement on Marijuana Legalization. An agreement has been reached between the governor and legislative leaders on the final shape of marijuana legalization bill, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday. The bill will legalize the possession of up to three ounces and allow the home cultivation of up to six plants, as well as setting up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce with a strong equity component.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed. A marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1420, that won approval in the House has been killed in the Senate on a 37-10 floor vote. That opens the door for another try at legalizing it through the initiative process in 2022.

Drug Policy

Illinois Bill to Lessen Drug Penalties Wins House Committee Vote. The House Criminal Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 Tuesday to advance a bill that would lower penalties for hard drugs, House Bill 3447. The measure is in essence a defelonization bill, making possession of up to three grams of heroin, fentanyl, or methamphetamine a Class A misdemeanor. The same would apply to up to five grams of cocaine and up to 40 oxydocone or LSD pills. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Maryland Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Drug Paraphernalia. The Senate on Wednesday voted largely along party lines to approve Senate Bill 420, which legalizes the possession of drug paraphernalia. Sponsors said it is necessary to protect the health and safety of heroin users. The bill now heads to the House.

Drug Decriminalization is Starting to Show Up at the Statehouse [FEATURE]

With marijuana prohibition mortally wounded and on its last legs in the United States -- only Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska still allow no form of legal marijuana -- the next frontiers are beginning to open up. Last week, we looked at the spread of interest in the loosening of laws around psychedelics, with eight states seeing legislation this year. This week, we will turn our attention to the spread of broader efforts toward drug decriminalization.

The Washington state capitol in Olympia. Lawmakers there and elsewhere are wrestling with drug decriminalization. (CC)
With both psychedelic drug reform and broader drug decriminalization, voters in Oregon led the way, continuing a tradition of pioneering drug reform that began when it became the first state to decriminalize weed back in 1973 and was among the earliest to adopt medical marijuana (1998) and marijuana legalization (2014). Last November, they broke new ground again by approving Measure 109 legalizing therapeutic psilocybin use and Measure 110 decriminalizing the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs.

With Oregon leading the way, legislators in other states are now taking up the cause. As with marijuana legalization, getting bills actually passed will likely prove to be an arduous, multi-year task, but you have to start somewhere, and here's where it's starting this year (with a big tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment, which provides a list of marijuana, psychedelic, and other drug reform bills to its paying subscribers):

Kansas -- Drug Decriminalization with an Authoritarian Twist

Twenty-year-old freshman Rep. Aaron Coleman (D-Kansas City), who ran on a fairly progressive platform, has filed House Bill 2288, which would indeed decriminalize drug possession, replacing a criminal charge with a maximum $100 fine, as well as reducing penalties for drug manufacture and distribution. But the bill also mandates forced drug treatment -- "the county or district attorney shall refer such person for participation in the certified drug abuse treatment program… or another drug abuse treatment program available in the community" -- and creates a new crime of failing to comply with drug treatment. That would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to five days in jail, six months on probation, and a $250 fine. The bill was introduced February 9 and assigned to the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, where it has sat without action ever since.

Maryland -- Decriminalization of Drug Paraphernalia

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of "drug paraphernalia to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled dangerous substance," Senate Bill 0420, was approved by the Senate on March 4. Meanwhile, a companion measure, House Bill 0372, has passed the House, and that bill is now before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

New York -- Drug Decriminalization

State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-The Bronx) has filed Senate Bill 1284, which "[e]liminates criminal and civil penalties for possession of controlled substances; establishes the drug decriminalization task force to develop recommendations for reforming state laws, regulations and practices so that they align with the stated goal of treating substance use disorder as a disease, rather than a criminal behavior." The bill is in the Senate Codes Committee, where it has sat unmoving since it was filed in January. The House version of the bill, Assembly Bill 6583, died on March 24, when its sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), removed her support for it. Maybe next year.

Vermont -- Drug Decriminalization

House Bill 422, which currently has 14 cosponsors, would create a board with the Department of Health to set personal use and personal supply quantities and subsequently decriminalize the possession or supply of amounts under those limits. Violations would be punishable by no more than a $50 fine, which could be waived if the person agrees to a drug screening. It was introduced on March 10 and has been in the Committee on Human Services ever since.

Virginia -- Drug Decriminalization Study

A bill that would have directed "the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the propriety and effectiveness of alternative approaches to the Commonwealth's enforcement scheme for the possession of controlled substances, including decriminalization of the possession of such substances," House Bill 530, was introduced in January but killed in a House Rules Committee subcommittee in February.

Washington -- Drug Decriminalization

In February, the state Supreme Court lobbed a bomb into the criminal justice system when it ruled the state's felony drug possession law unconstitutional on the grounds that, unlike all other state criminal laws, it didn't require defendants to "knowingly" possess drugs. That inspired at least three legislative attempts to remedy the situation: Senate Bill 5471 to decriminalize unknowing drug possession; Senate Bill 5475 to make knowingly possessing drugs a crime but also create a working group to study drug possession laws; and Senate Bill 5468, which would simply refelonize drug possession. But before the court decision and all the bills it has lately inspired was a pure decriminalization measure, House Bill 1499. It's still alive, having passed the House Public Safety Committee in February, and is now before the House Appropriations Committee.

If any drug decriminalization bills in the states actually get passed and signed into law this year, that would be a pleasant surprise, but they are now beginning to pop up like they never did before. Getting things done through state legislatures is a frustrating and time-consuming process, as we see when it gets to trying to pass something as popular as marijuana legalization. With marijuana legalization, the early successes came from the initiative process, not state legislatures. Decriminalization victories may well come first from the voters, as in Oregon, not lawmakers. And that could make the prospects for next year better than this year.

Rahul Gupta Could Be Next Drug Czar, Federal Marijuana Banking & Insurance Bills Filed, More... (3/19/21)

White House staffers get fired or suspended for past marijuana use, NYC mayoral candidates call for safer injection sites, more.

Former West Virginia Health Commissioner Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the ONDCP.
Marijuana Policy

Biden White House Fires Five, Sidelines Dozens of Staffers for Past Marijuana Use. Five White House staffers have been fired and dozens more suspended, asked to resign, or shifted to remote work programs because of past marijuana use -- even in states where it is legal. Some staffers said they felt sandbagged, saying transition officials had told them some past marijuana use would be overlooked. White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to initial reports on this story with this statement: "In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated," Psaki said.

SAFE Banking Act Introduced in House. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) has reintroduced the Safe Banking Act, which would protect financial service institutions doing business with marijuana companies and third-party vendors from federal money laundering prosecutions. The bill was unable to pass in the last Congress, but now Democrats control both chambers, so prospects are looking up.

Bipartisan Marijuana Insurance Bill Introduced in Senate. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have filed a bill that would allow legal marijuana and related businesses to have access to insurance, the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act of 2021. The bill passed the House in September 2019, but was stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Stanton) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150. The measure would legalize marijuana like alcohol, allowing people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and setting up a system of taxed and regulated production, processing, and sales. The bill is now before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. After passing the Senate Judiciary Committee on a narrow 5-4 vote Thursday, a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill12, is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The legislative session ends on Saturday.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Study Bill Advances in House. The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 82, which would authorize funding for a report on medical marijuana. In committee, the bill was amended to send a copy of that report to the Joint Judiciary Committee and the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee during the interim.

Drug Policy

Former West Virginia Health Official Rahul Gupta Emerges as Leading Candidate for Drug Czar. Former West Virginia Health Commissioner and current top health official at the March of Dimes Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), according to "four people with knowledge of the selection process who spoke on condition of anonymity."

Under Gupta's leadership, the WV Bureau of Public Health decertified a well-regarded syringe exchange program that had served the city of Charleston, leading to an HIV outbreak the CDC described as the "most concerning" in the nation. Some advocates have speculated that Gupta's hands may have been tied on the matter, however, and note significant progress for harm reduction in the state during his tenure.

Gupta is an ally of key Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). But whoever is nominated will not be a Cabinet member. President Obama demoted the office from the Cabinet in 2009, and neither he nor President Trump restored it. President Biden is not going to restore it either, his administration has said.

Rhode Island Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Six Democratic state senators have filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, Senate Bill 604. The bill would replace criminal penalties for drug possession with a $100 civil fine. It is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harm Reduction

New York City Mayoral Candidates Call for Safe Injection Sites. A half dozen Democrats vying for the party's mayoral nomination have said they support safe injection sites or "overdose prevention centers" to deal with the city's opioid overdose crisis. Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang each said they would create safe injection sites, though Garcia said she would defer to affected communities. Only one, finance executive Ray McGuire, said he did not support the idea.

NM Marijuana Legalization Deadline Looms, Australia to Fund Psychedelic Trials for Mental Illness, More... (3/17/21)

There are still more than 40,000 marijuana offenders behind bars in the US, Oregon's governor names the members of the state's Psilocybin Advisory Board, Australia moves toward clinical trials of psychedelics, and more.

New Mexico lawmakers are busy at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe as the clock ticks down on the session. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

More Than 40,000 Pot Prisoners in the USA. The Last Prisoner Project, which seeks to free incarcerated marijuana offenders, has been using a figure of 40,000 marijuana prisoners. That's decidedly an approximation -- the numbers readily available are 31,901 in state and federal prisons. But that doesn't include people in jails, juvenile facilities, or immigration detention centers, among others.

New Mexico Legislature Has Only Three Days to Legalize Marijuana. With the legislative session set to end on Saturday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes (D-Dona Ana County) said he's been told by the Senate leadership that one legalization bill, House Bill12, is undergoing changes before it's ready for committee; while another, Senate Bill 288, awaits its committee hearing. Cervantes said he will schedule a hearing as soon as committee members can analyze HB 12, and that even with a hearing as late as Friday, a bill could still pass.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Senate Votes to Tighten Rules on Medical Marijuana. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 340, which would prohibit sales to out-of-state residents who do not have a medical marijuana card issued in New Mexico. But first, it rejected an amendment that would have increased the daily sales limit for medical cannabis patients from three grams to two ounces. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the clock is ticking -- the legislative session ends on Saturday.

Psychedelics

Oregon Governor Announces Membership of Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has named the people she wants to sit on the voter-approved Psilocybin Advisory Board, which is charged with developing rules and regulations to govern the practice of psilocybin therapeutics. Members include doctors, psychologists, harm reductionists, mycologists, and public health experts. The board's timeline includes making recommendations on regulations by June 2022 and beginning the issuance of licenses by January 2023.

International

Australian Federal Government to Fund Psychedelic Drug Trials to Treat Mental Illness. The Australian government will fund clinical trials using magic mushrooms, ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, Assistant Minister for Mental Health David Coleman said Wednesday. Although final approval must come from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (the equivalent to the US FDA), the government is allocating $15 million to get moving. "It's still at an early stage of clinical trials, but the US administration is accelerating their trials, so let's do some trials and further investigate this area because they show some promise," he said.

CA Coerced Treatment Bill Draws Opposition, WY Committee Advances Marijuana Legalization, More... (3/15/21)

New Mexico lawmakers have less than a week to get their act together and legalize marijuana, Republican US senators target drug cartels with a new bill, a fight is brewing over no-knock raids and warrants in the Kentucky House, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are now the lowest law enforcement priority in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Hits Stalemate on Marijuana Legalization. With the legislative session set to end this week, lawmakers remained at loggerheads Monday over two competing marijuana legalization bills. A hearing set for Sunday was called off minutes before it was set to begin, as lawmakers diverge on issues around taxations, licensing, and expungement for past convictions. The two measures under consideration are Senate Bill 288 and House Bill12.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Friday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 209. That is the first time any marijuana legalization effort has advanced in the state legislature. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Deprioritization Initiative Now in Effect. As of Monday, possession or use of a wide range of natural psychedelics is now the lowest priority for law enforcement in the nation's capital. That's because a voter-approved natural psychedelic initiative has gone into effect.

Law Enforcement

GOP Senators File Bill Targeting Drug Cartels. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). "Criminal organizations and drug cartels that terrorize our communities and wage war at our borders ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the US government. This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups-and anyone who helps them-face dire consequences for their actions," said Cotton. The bill is not yet avialable on the congressional web site.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Allow Forced Drug Treatment for Drug Offenders. A bill that would allow a pilot "secured residential treatment program" in Yolo County, near Sacramento, is drawing increasing concern. Assembly Bill 1542, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would "authorize the court to divert an offender to confinement in a secured residential treatment facility if it determines that the crime was caused in whole or in part by that individual's substance abuse." The bill has drawn the ire of critics such as JusticeLA, which warned that "AB 1542 would implement a pilot program in Yolo County that could easily become a statewide model and would jail houseless community members for misdemeanors such as trespassing and minor thefts under the guise of offering treatment," the group warned. "The pilot program tries to sell punishment as treatment. Our communities call for supportive services for people with mental health conditions, including those related to substance abuse -- not a new mode of incarceration."

Kentucky Bill Restricting No-Knock Raids Faces Amendments in House. In the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, which restricted no-knock warrants to cases where there is "clear and convincing" evidence of violent crime and to bar them between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Now the bill faces amendments from House Republicans and former police officers that would instead expand the use of such warrants. At the same time, House Democrats want to amend the bill to make it even more restrictive.

International

Four Mexican Police Officers Killed, Burned in Zacatecas. Presumed drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the north-central state of Zacatecas, killing four officers, then pouring gasoline on their patrol car and burning their bodies. State police said late last Thursday they had captured seven attackers and killed two others. Police also said they discovered a drug cartel camp nearby. The state is increasingly a battle zone as remnant Zetas, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels and the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel fight for control.

Key Democrat Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill, MD House Approves Police Reforms, More... (3/12/21)

A Vermont drug decriminalization bill is filed, Rhose Island's governor rolls out a marijuana legalization plan, Morocco moves toward legalizing hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

The Maryland House has approved sweeping police reforms including limits on no-knock raids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key Congressional Chair Will Refile Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), head of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Thursday that he will reintroduce his bill to legalize marijuana this session. The bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed the House last year, but was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, the Democrats control both houses.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Plan in Budget Proposal. Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Thursday released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes a plan for legalizing marijuana. McKee is calling for 25 retailers to be licensed in each of the first three years of legalization, with five being earmarked for minority-owned businesses, including those owned by women. Legislative leaders filed their own bill to legalize marijuana earlier this week. Both lawmakers and administration officials said they plan to work together to achieve legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Senate Revives Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill Killed by House. After the House on Wednesday killed a bill to substitute for a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, Senate Bill 2765, the Senate moved late Wednesday night to revive it. Although SB 2765 is dead, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-South Haven) successfully amended another bill, House Bill 119, using the exact language in SB 2765.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize hemp, House Bill 126, which has already passed the House, has now been unanimously approved by the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee and is headed for a Senate floor vote. Idaho is the only state where industrial hemp production remains illegal.

Drug Policy

Idaho Bill to Make Legalizing Drugs More Difficult Passes Senate. A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to legalize marijuana or any drug through the initiative process has been approved by the Senate and now heads to the House. Under the bill, the legalization of any drug would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. This bill now needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House. If approved, it would then go before voters in 2022.

Vermont Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Reps. Selene Colburn (P) and Logan Nicoll (D) have filed House Bill 422, which would decriminalize the possession and dispensing of personal use amounts of all illicit drugs. Under the bill, personal use quantities would be set by a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Health Department. Persons caught with personal use amounts of drugs would face a $50 fine, which could be avoided by agreeing to be screened for substance abuse disorder.

Law Enforcement

Maryland House Approves Sweeping Police Reform Bill. The House on Thursday approved an omnibus police reform bill, House Bill 670, that, among other things, would require the use of body cameras by 2025, ban chokeholds and create a duty for police to intervene in the face of misconduct, and would limit but not ban no-knock raids. The Senate has already approved a package of nine bills with many provisions similar to the House bill. The two chambers will meet to attempt to reconcile the bills and send them to Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

International

Morocco Government Approves Bill to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The cabinet has approved a bill that would legalize non-recreational uses of marijuana, i.e. hemp and medical marijuana. The bill will now be submitted to parliament. The country is seeking to establish a regulatory framework for the entire chain of cultivation, production, processing and marketing of marijuana for medical, cosmetic and industrial uses such as textiles or paper. Morocco has long been one of the world's leading marijuana producers and currently supplies Europe with black market hashish.

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