Andean Drug War

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Senate Democrats Move to Allow Legal DC Marijuana Sales, Ecuador State of Emergency for Drugs, More... (10/20/21)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is confronting drug policy issues as he visits Latin America this week, New York tells employers it can't test workers for marijuana use, and more.

Colombian peasants don't wand to be sprayed with coca-killing herbicides. (DEA Museum)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Democrats Move to Let DC Legalize Marijuana Sales. In a package of spending bills unveiled Monday, Senate Democrats have removed a long-standing rider that has blocked the city of Washington, DC, from implemented legal marijuana sales for the past six years. The House took similar action earlier this summer, even though President Biden kept the rider in his budget proposal to Congress. It is not quite a done deal yet, though: Congress must still pass the budget, which is expected to happen in December. The move won plaudits from the marijuana advocacy group NORML, which said: "The omission of the D.C. rider acknowledges the local will of the residents of the District, who overwhelmingly favor retail marijuana sales. The only reason the District is unable to defy the federal government’s marijuana prohibition policies in the same way that other states have is that it lacks statehood and is under direct oversight from Congress."

New York Employers Cannot Test Workers for Marijuana, State Says. The state Labor Department issued new guidance for employers Tuesday that bans them from testing workers for marijuana—unless the employee appears visibly impaired on the job. "Observable signs of use that do not indicate impairment on their own cannot be cited as an articulable symptom of impairment," the guidance states. The new guidance does not apply to workers, such as commercial vehicle drivers, who are subject to drug testing under state or federal law.

Foreign Policy

Human Rights Watch Letter Urges State Department to Support Human Rights, Oppose Coca Spraying in Colombia. In a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken ahead of his meeting Wednesday in Bogota with Colombian President Ivan Duque, Human Rights Watch called on the US government to support human rights, noting that "President Duque’s administration has pursued several misguided and dysfunctional polices, including on drug policy, and there has been an increase in abuses by armed groups." The group called for "a strong public and private response by the Biden administration" to curb violence by armed groups, police abuses against protestors, and oppose plans to reinstate the fumigation of coca crops with glyphosate. On coca eradication, Human Rights Watch called for the US to "unequivocally oppose plans to reinstate fumigation of coca crops with glyphosate," fully fund crop substitution programs and ensure protection for people involved in them, and "assess US drug and security policies in Colombia to ensure that they help address the root causes of violence by strengthening the presence of civilian state institutions."

International

Ecuador President Declares State of Emergency to Fight Drugs on Eve on US Secretary of State Visit. Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso on Monday declared a 60-day state of emergency to confront drug trafficking and a rising number of killings. Under the emergency decree, the military will join drug and arms confiscation operations in nine of the country's 24 provinces, including Guayas, the home of Guayaquil, the country's primary port and largest city. The crackdown will also see increased police patrols and is "oriented towards and focused on guaranteeing citizens... protection from crime and violence." At a Tuesday press conference, visiting US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he understood that countries must sometimes take such measures but added that democratic norms must be upheld.

Philippines Says It Will Review Thousands of Drug War Killing. Faced with a looming formal investigation into drug war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Philippines Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra said his Justice Department will enlarge its review of more than 6,000 drug killings for which Philippines police have taken responsibility (Human rights groups put the actual number of killings at more than 30,000, many of them conducted by shadowy death squads.) "Time and resources permitting, the DOJ will review these thousands of other cases, too," Guevarra said in an apparent shift from the Duterte government's unyielding defense of its policies but also in an apparent effort to blunt the ICC's investigation. The Duterte government argues that it does not need to cooperate with the ICC because its own justice system is capable of dealing with police huma rights abuses. Guevarra's remarks came as the Justice Department released details of 52 drug war killings.

NE MedMJ Initiatives Get Rolling, Temporary Fentanyl Analog Ban Extended, Ecuador Prison Riot, More... (10/1/21)

The city of Raleigh pays out to people framed and jailed on drug charges, civil rights and drug reform groups criticize the inclusion of fentanyl analog scheduling in a stopgap spending bill, and more.

Afghan opium prices are up as actors worry about a Taliban ban on the poppy. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Advocates Launch Signature Drive for Medical Marijuana Ballot Measures. Activists organized as Nebraska Medical Marijuana on Friday rolled out a pair of medical marijuana initiatives, with signature gathering set to begin Saturday. Supporters will have until next July to gather the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The effort comes after the Republican-led legislature has repeatedly blocked medical marijuana and after the state Supreme Court blocked a medical marijuana from the 2020 ballot even though it had met signature requirements. The court held that initiative violated the state's one-topic rule for initiatives. This time, activists have split the proposal into two initiatives, the Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Act, which would protect patients and caregivers from prosecution, and the Medical Cannabis Regulation Act, which would set up a state regulatory system.

Drug Policy

Civil Rights, Drug Reform Groups Criticize Stopgap Spending Bill for Extending Schedule I Status for Fentanyl-Related Drugs. Civil rights activists and drug policy experts said Friday they were disappointed that the stopgap spending bill passed by Congress Thursday extends the temporary classification of fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs. The measure would "disproportionately impact people of color through harsher criminal penalties and expand mass incarcertation," the groups said, calling for health-centered policies including expanded access to harm reduction and treatment.

Law Enforcement

Raleigh, North Carolina, to Pay $2 Million to People Framed on Drug Charges. The city of Raleigh has agreed to pay 15 plaintiffs $2 million to settle a federal civil right lawsuit that charged officers worked with a confidential informant to frame people on drug trafficking charges. The civil rights lawsuit filed in April sought policy changes and actual and punitive damages from the city of Raleigh, Officer Omar Abdullah and seven of his colleagues, including a sergeant and a lieutenant. The suit was filed by a dozen people who were arrested after the snitch claimed they sold him heroin, and in one case, marijuana, but the drug turned out to be fake. Lawyers for the plaintiffs warned the city that more is coming: "We have informed the City of at least six additional potential plaintiffs who were harmed by this scheme. These individuals are all women and children who were detained or had guns pointed at them during SWAT style raids of their homes," they wrote. "We intend to seek justice for them as well." The original 15 plaintiffs spent a collective 2 ½ years in jail before charges were dismissed.

International

Afghan Opium Prices Rise in Wake of Taliban Take Over, Fears of Ban. The price of opium has tripled in Afghanistan took over last month and announced a possible ban. Farmers at markets in Kandahar province reported the price surge. Buyers are anticipating an opium shortage because of the possible ban "and that's driven up prices," one farmer said. The Taliban banned opium in 2000 in a bid to cultivate Western support, but every year since then, Afghanistan has been the world's leading opium producer. That Kandahar farmer doesn't think the Taliban "can eradicate all opium in Afghanistan," but is enjoying the high prices.

Mexican Drug Cartel Struggle Leads to Deadly Ecuador Prison Riot. At least 116 inmates have been killed in the Litoral prison in Guayaquil in rioting this week linked to a bitter struggle between rival Mexican cartels over cocaine trafficking routes through the country. The prison gangs doing battle with each other with machetes, guns, and grenades inside the penitentiary are linked to either the Sinaloa or the Jalisco New Generation cartels. This is the third major outbreak of prison violence in the country this year, with 79 killed in gang fights in three prisons in February and 22 more killed at Litoral in July.

House Passes Defense Spending Bill With Pot Banking Provisions, AR Pot Init Campaign Gets Underway, More... (9/24/21)

Mississippians may get a medical marijuana program afterall, the House defense spending bill includes marijuana banking provisions, and more.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's amendments restricting Colombia aid are included in the House defense bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Passes Defense Spending Bill with Marijuana Banking Protections. The House on Thursday approved a defense spending bill that includes an amendment providing protections for banks and other financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana enterprises. Such protections have long been sought after by the industry, but still face a difficult path in the Senate, where key senators, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) want to see marijuana legalization prioritized over banking bills. The Senate Armed Services Committee, for its part, released its version of the defense spending bill Wednesday, which does not contain the banking language. That means whether the final bill will contain the banking language will be up to a conference committee once the Senate passes its version of the bill.

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. A group of activists calling itself Arkansas True Grass has a signature-gathering campaign underway to place a marijuana legalization amendment on the 2022 ballot. The group says it supports the cultivation and legalization of the plant "for all purposes," freeing marijuana prisoners, and expunging past marijuana arrests. The group needs 89,101 valid voter signatures by June 2022 to qualify for the ballot. It already has 20,000 raw signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Say They Have Agreement on Medical Marijuana Program, Will Ask Governor to Call Special Session to Enact It. House and Senate negotiators said Thursday they have agreed on a proposed medical marijuana program and are now expected to ask Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a legislative special session to pass it. Voters had approved a medical marijuana initiative last November, but the state Supreme Court invalidated it on technical grounds (the state constitution requires signature-gathering in all five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since 2000). The legislative proposal is more restrictive than the initiative approved by voters, allowing local governments a veto over medical marijuana operations. Because the bill includes tax provisions, it will need a three-fifths majority to pass, but legislative leaders say they are confident they have the votes.

Foreign Policy

House Defense Spending Bill Includes Ban on US Funding Aerial Fumigation of Colombia Coca Crops. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) successfully filed three amendments to the defense spending bill that address relations with Colombia, including an amendmentthat would bar the use of US funds to support aerial fumigation of coca crops. The other two amendments would prohibit the sale of military equipment to Colombia's Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron, which Ocasio-Cortez said was "responsible for egregious abuses during this April's protests" against anti-working class reform and require the State Department to produce a report on the status of human rights in Colombia within 180 days.  

Meth Deaths Were on Rise Before Pandemic, Scotland Moves Toward "De Facto" Drug Decrim, More... (9/23/21)

Violence continues in Colombia's coca producing regions, marijuana researchers appeal a US 9th Circuit Court dismissal of their rescheduling petition, and more.

Meth-related overdose deaths tripled between 2015 and 2019, new research finds. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Researchers Ask 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Failed Classification Appeal. Researchers and veterans seeking to see marijuana federally reclassified have asked the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its dismissal of their petition last month. A three-judge panel in August held that plaintiffs Dr. Sue Sisley and the Scottsdale Institute had not yet exhausted all administrative options to get the DEA to reschedule marijuana. But the plaintiffs argue that controlling Supreme Court precedent holds that federal judges cannot force litigants to pursue all administrative appeal avenues before turning to the courts for redress. The case is Suzanne Sisley et al. v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration et al., case number 20-71433.

Methamphetamine

Meth Deaths Tripled in Years Before Arrival of Pandemic. Methamphetamine-related overdose deaths nearly tripled among adults aged between 18 and 64 from 2015 to 2019, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study pointed to more frequent meth use and mixing of drugs as possible reasons for the increases. The number of people using meth increased by 43 percent, but overdose deaths from stimulant drugs other than cocaine increased by 180 percent during the same period. While meth has traditionally been a drug associated with middle-aged white people, it is now spreading to other groups, such as Native Americans, and Black meth use disorder without injection increased 10-fold during that period.

International

Colombia Drug Traffickers Kill Five Soldiers. The Gulf Clan, Colombia's most powerful drug trafficking group, is being blamed for an attack Tuesday on the armed forces in a coca-growing region of Cordoba department that left five soldiers dead and tree more injured. Soldiers were patrolling in a vehicle when they were attacked with "explosive artifacts by presumed members... of the Gulf Clan." Leftist FARC dissidents, rightist paramilitaries, and criminal drug trafficking organizations all compete for control of the lucrative coca and cocaine business there.

Scotland Moves Toward De Facto Drug Decriminalization. Scottish police can now issue a formal warning for possession of Class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, instead of arresting and prosecuting people caught with personal use amounts of such drugs, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told members of the Scottish Parliament. Conservatives called the move "de facto decriminalization," but it's actually more like discretionary decriminalization since police could still file drug possession charges. Police already are able to issue warnings for possession of Class B and C drugs. Bain said she decided to expand that policy so "officers may choose to issue a warning for simple possession offences for all classes of drugs," and also refer people accused of drug offenses to "diversion," where they are handled by social work teams instead of the criminal justice system. The move comes as the country confronts Europe's highest drug overdose rate and saw more than 1,300 drug overdose deaths last year.

LA House Passes Legal Pot Study Resolution, Peru Coca Zone Massacre, More... (5/25/21)

An Illinois marijuana equity bill heads for a House floor vote, a loosening of medical marijuana regulations during the pandemic may be made permanent in Pennsylvania, the Texas legislature advances bills to reduce penalties for pot concentrates and to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and more.

The Shining Path is suspected of massacring villagers in a coca-producing region of Peru. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Marijuana Equity Licensing Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill designed to get more people from drug war-ravaged communities involved in the legal marijuana industry, House Bill 1443, has passed out of the House Rules Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote.

Louisiana House Passes Marijuana Study Resolution. The House on Monday approved House Resolution 1, which directs the House Criminal Justice Committee to conduct a study of the impact of the use and legalization of marijuana. The move comes after efforts to approve legalization stalled in the legislature last week.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill to Lessen Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates. The Senate has approved House Bill 2593, which would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana concentrates to a class B misdemeanor. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024. The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Methampheamine

Oregon Bill Would Re-Legalize Over-the-Counter Pseudoephedrine Sales. In 2006, Oregon became the first state to ban OTC sales of cold and allergy remedies because they contain pseudoephedrine and could be used in home meth manufacture. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2648, would end the ban and allow anyone over 18 to buy products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription, has been filed. It is currently before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Psychedelics

Texas Senate Approves Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill. The Senate has approved House Bill 1802, which would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of a budget-neutrality amendment passed in the Senate.

International

Peru Coca Zone Massacre Leaves 14 Dead. At least 14 men, women, and children were killed in a massacre in the Ene River Valley, one of the country's most important coca-growing areas. Pamphlets from a Shining Path splinter group were left at the scene, and authorities were pointing the finger at the group. Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired guerrilla group, led a brutal insurgency that left 70,000 dead in the 1980s, but had largely been eliminated since 1992. But remnants remain in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), where they have morphed into coca and cocaine traffickers.

Philippines Senator Lobbies for Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who once led the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, argued that the death penalty for drug offenses should be reinstated Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that aims to toughen the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He complained that imprisoned Chinese drug lords were still running their businesses from behind bars, saying "the frustration of law enforcement is that had these drug lords been executed, we would not have these problems now." But drug reform advocate Dr. Lee Edson Yarcia pointed out that under the proposed bill, the death penalty is not imposed on top drug lords or syndicates: "This was included in the provision about persons who are in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, or meetings," he noted. The House passed a reform bill last year, but the Senate has yet to file one. This was a preliminary hearing.

NC Black Man Killed By Cops Was Fleeing Drug Raid, CA Senate Approves Safe Injection Sites, More... (4/23/21)

US-Mexico law enforcement cooperation in battling Mexican drug cartels is at a standstill, a Montana marijuana legalization implementation bill is heading for House and Senate floor votes, and more.

Andrew Brown. Unarmed man killed by North Carolina police as he fled drug raid. (family photo)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bill. The Senate Select Committee on Marijuana Law has approved House Bill 701, which is aimed at implementing the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization law. The committee approved more than 30 amendments to the bill addressing multiple aspects of legalization implementation. The bill will now head to House and Senate floor votes.

Harm Reduction

California Senate Approves Safe Injection Site Bill. The state Senate on Thursday approved Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco). The bill would legalize safe injection sites as pilot programs in Los Angeles County, Oakland, and San Francisco. The bill now heads to the Assembly, and even if approved there and signed into law, it still faces federal hurdles too.

Law Enforcement

Unarmed Black Man Killed By North Carolina Cops Died Fleeing Drug Raid. Andrew Brown, the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, man killed by sheriff's deputies on Tuesday, died after being shot as he attempted to flee the scene in his vehicle. His killing by Pasquotank County deputies has sparked continuing protests, and the sheriff's office is being pressed to release deputies' body cam footage. Witnesses said deputies began shooting at Brown as he started to drive away from law enforcement. The sheriff said all three deputies on the scene fired their weapons.

US Investigations into Drug Cartels Paralyzed by Standoff with Mexico. Former and current officials in both the US and Mexico told Reuters that the fight against Mexican drug trafficking organizations has "ground to a halt" because of strained relations between the two counties. The freeze came after DEA agents arrested a Mexican general who was later released under pressure from Mexico, but that raid sparked the Mexican Congress to enact a new law requiring US drug agents to report their law enforcement contacts in the country to Mexican officials, whom the Americans regard as corrupt. As a result, investigators from both countries have paused their cooperation out of fear that cases could be compromised or informants killed.

International

Colombia Indigenous Community Attacked for Anti-Coca Stance. An indigenous community in the township of Caldono in Cauca province is under attack from armed leftist and rightist groups tied to the coca and cocaine trade. Last Tuesday, indigenous governor Sandra Liliana Peña Chocue, who opposed coca crops in indigenous lands, was assassinated, and last Thursday, at least 31 members of the community were wounded when one of the armed groups opened fire on them as they manually eradicated coca crops.

Record Support for MJ Legalization in Quinnipiac Poll, CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, More... (4/15/21)

A Minnesota marijuana legalization bill continues to move in the House, the acting drug czar pledges more funds for drug treatment and greater access to overdose reversal drugs, and more.

Coca and cocaine are on the mind of the Colombian government this week. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Quinnipiac Poll Has Record High Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 69%, the highest number ever reported in the poll. That's an increase of 18 points since Quinnipiac first polled the question in 2012. There was majority support for legalization in every demographic group, even people over 65 (51%) and Republicans (62%).

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins 6th Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, won a sixth House committee vote Wednesday in the Judiciary Finance and Criminal Law Committee. It now goes to the State Government Elections and Finance Committee.

Drug Treatment

Acting Drug Czar Pledges to Expand Drug Treatment as Overdose Deaths Rise. Regina M. LaBelle, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) told House lawmakers Wednesday the administration is moving to muster significant federal resources to close gaps in drug treatment availability and make overdose reversing medications more available. She noted that the administration last week submitted its proposed budget to Congress, which included more than $10 billion for addiction programs, an increase of 57% from current funding levels.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Wins Another Committee Vote. The Senate Health Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday to a bill to decriminalize the possession of a variety of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519. The legislation sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

International

Colombia Government Issues Decree Setting the State for Resumption of Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crop. In a joint message this week, Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz and Defense Minister Diego Molano announced Presidential Decree 380, which sets guidelines for the "program for the eradication of illicit crops by aerial spraying." While ministers clarified that the framework "does not automatically reactivate the Program," it is another step in Conservative President Ivan Duque's long-desired effort to reactivate the program, which was halted by former President Juan Manuel Santos in 2015 after the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Colombia Congress Debates Bill to Regulate Coca and Cocaine. The Congress has begun debate on a bill that would regulate coca and its derivatives. The bill is from two opposition parties, the Green Alliance and the Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (MAIS). "Ending the drug trafficking business implies turning drug trafficking into a bad business for the mafias, and this is achieved by regularizing the business by the State. Let's remove it from the logic of violence," said Liberal Senator Luis Fernando Velasco. The debate continues.

NM Legalization Bill Awaits Special Session, Biden Admin Supports Colombia Coca Spraying, More... (3/22/21)

Colorado's governor signs a marijuana socieal equity bill, Arizona's sheriffs and prosecutors don't want to lose civil asset forfeiture, Mexican cartel hitmen gun down 13 cops in Mexico state, and more.

Colombian coca growers face the threat of being sprayed with toxic glyphosate. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) last Friday signed into law SB21-111, which is designed to support social equity licensees in the industry. The bill creates a program in the Office of Economic Development that will provide loans and grants to such licensees and is initially funded with $4 million from the marijuana tax fund.

New Mexico Governor Calls Special Session After Clock Runs Out on Marijuana Legalization Effort. The state's legislative session ended Saturday without a marijuana legalization bill being approved, so Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has announced that she will call a special session to deal with the issue, probably on March 31. "I believe legalization will be one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come," she said. "I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done right." The bill that is still alive, House Bill12, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, but never got a floor vote before the session ended.

New York Groups Call on Legislature to Pass Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act. More than 70 groups representing labor unions, civil rights, immigration reform, faith-based organizers, criminal justice and police reformers, parents, treatment providers, drug reform groups, legal advocates and other organizations from across the state of New York sent a letter Monday to Albany's legislative leaders urging the swift passage of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) to "ensure legalization has justice, reinvestment, and health and social equity at the core." The MRTA (S.854/A.1248) would set a new national model by focusing benefits on those who have been harmed by prohibition, according to the groups.

Asset Forfeiture

Arizona Sheriffs, Prosecutors Urge Governor, Lawmakers to Amend Bill That Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture, Last Friday, nearly two dozen sheriffs and county attorneys urged Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and the state Senate to amend HB 2810 to remove the requirement that a criminal conviction be obtained before seizing currency. The bill overwhelmingly passed by the House bars civil asset forfeiture, but the lawmen want the ban to apply only to seizures of property, not currency. They claim the bill would benefit Mexican drug cartels. The bill must still pass the Senate Rules Committee before heading for a floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Biden Administration Is Supporting Renewed Spraying of Herbicides to Kill Off Colombia's Coca Crop. Earlier this month, the Biden administration made clear that it supports Colombian President Ivan Duque in his bid to restart the spraying of toxic glyphosate on coca crops. In the administration's first annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released March 2, the position was made crystal clear: "The government of Colombia has committed to restarting its aerial coca eradication program, which would be a most welcome development." The World Health Organization warned in 2015 that glyphosate damages the environment and might be carcinogenic.

International

Mexico Cartels Kill 13 Police in State of Mexico Ambush. A police convoy in the central state of Mexico was attacked by presumed cartel gunmen last Thursday, leaving 13 law enforcement officers dead. "The convoy was carrying out patrols in the region, precisely to fight the criminal groups that operate in the area," said Rodrigo Martinez Celis, head of the state Public Safety Department. It is the deadliest attack on Mexican police since October 2019, when 14 officers were killed in an ambush in the western state of Michoacan.

VA Lawmakers Approve Legalization... Three Years from Now, Colombia Goes for More Drug War Militarization, More... (3/1/21)

New Mexico lawmakers work to shrink four marijuana legalization bills down to one, Pennsylvania's governor pardons dozens more marijuana offenders, and more.

Virginia State House (Creative Commons)
New Mexico Legislators Agree to Senate Committee Request to Consolidate Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Saturday asked the sponsors of four competing marijuana legalization bills to get together this week and come up with one bill for the committee to consider and vote on this coming Saturday. That would leave legislators with just two weeks to get to a Senate floor vote before the session ends on March 20.

Pennsylvania Governor Grants 69 More Marijuana Pardons. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Monday announced that he had granted expedited pardons to 69 low-level marijuana offenders, bring his total of pot pardons to 95. He also pardoned another 241 non-marijuana offenders. The move comes as Wolf calls for marijuana legalization and as a bipartisan bill is now before the legislature.

Virginia Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization… Three Years from Now. The House and Senate reached a deal on marijuana legalization Saturday, but in an attenuated way. The measure would not actually legalize marijuana until 2024 and would require the legislature to vote on parts of the bill again next year, both positions that have legalization advocates complaining loudly. The need for additional votes next year exposes legalization to the chance it could depend on Republican majorities in the House and/or Senate or a new Republican governor who would not be as supportive. The bill now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who supports legalization, and now some Democrats are calling on him to amend the bill and send a more complete measure to the statehouse later this year.

Washington, DC, Mayor Filed Bill to Legalize Marijuana Sales. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Friday that she had filed a bill to legalize pot shops in the nation's capital. DC voters approved marijuana legalization in 2014, but have been blocked from setting up a legal, regulated system of marijuana commerce because federal budget provisions bar the District from using funds to regulate and tax still federally illegal marijuana. With Democrats in control of Congress now, advocates that budget rider will now be killed, clearing the way for legal sales. The measure is B24-0114, the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021.

Sentencing Policy

Virginia Legislative Bid to End Mandatory Minimum Sentences Dies. Although both chambers passed bills doing away with mandatory minimum sentencing --HB 2331to end mandatory minimums for drug offenses and SB 1443to end them for all offenses -- House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise, and the bills died as the session ended Saturday.

International

Colombia Launches New Elite Military Unit to Target Coca Crops, Drug Trafficking, Armed Groups. The Colombian government announced last Friday it had launched a new, elite military unit to heighten the fight against coca cultivation, drug trafficking, and the armed groups who benefit from prohibited activities. "The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and -- of course -- any transnational form of terrorism," President Ivan Duque said. The new unit of some 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to Catatumbo region bordering Venezuela and the coca-producing provinces of Cauca and Putamayo.

DC Decriminalizes Drug Paraphernalia; Pot Possession, Cultivation Now Legal in MT, More... (1/4/21)

Illinois has expunged nearly half a million marijuana arrests years ahead of schedule, a New Mexico court rules that people under correctional control can use medical marijuana, and more.

Drug parapernalia is now decriminalized in the District of Columbia. (Creeative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Expunges Nearly Half a Million Marijuana Arrest Records Four Years Ahead of Schedule. State officials announced last Thursday that state police had expunged some 492,129 marijuana possession arrest records, four years ahead of a deadline set by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized marijuana in the state. Governor J.B. Pritzker also announce another 9,219 pardons for marijuana possession, bringing the total number of pot pardon's he has issued to 20,000. "Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color," Pritzker said. "We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward."

Montana Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect. As of New Year's Day, the marijuana-legalizing Initiative 190 has gone into effect. It is now legal for adults 21 and over to use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four plants for personal use. The state is now working on setting up a system of licensed, taxed, and regulated marijuana commerce.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Court Rules Inmates Can Have Access to Medical Marijuana. A district court judge in Albuquerque ruled last week that inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center who are qualifying medical marijuana patients can use the substance while under correctional control. It is unclear whether other state and local jails would voluntarily comply with the ruling, but it has set a precedent for other state courts. The ruling came in the case of man serving a 90-day house arrest sentence.

Asset Forfeiture

Institute for Justice Issues New Edition of Asset Forfeiture Report. The libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice has released the third edition of its report on asset forfeiture laws in the states, "Policing for Profit." The report details each state's laws around civil asset forfeiture. The Institute handed out only one "A" grade in this edition. That went to New Mexico, which banned civil asset forfeiture in 2015.

Paraphernalia

Washington, DC, Decriminalizes the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law B54, the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2019. The bill decriminalizes the possession of drug paraphernalia and will also allow harm reduction and community groups to distribute harm reduction supplies that were previously criminalized under DC law.

International

Colombia Says It Manually Eradicated the Most Coca in a Decade. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced last week that Colombia had eradicated 325,000 acres of coca crops, the highest figure in a decade. Eradicators had uprooted about 240,000 acres in 2019 and 150,000 acres in 2018. "These 130,000 hectares eradicated translate into an affectation of about US$301 million to drug trafficking organizations, if the average price of a hectare of coca is taken as a reference, and represents about 115,440 kilos of cocaine that were no longer produced," Trujillo said as he watched an eradication operation in the company of US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg. The Trump administration has pressed Colombia to do more to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production.

Drug War Issues

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