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Pell Grants for Prisoners Are Coming Back Next Year, OK Legal Pot Initiative Signature-Gathering Begins, More... (5/3/22)

Signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization inititiave is underway in Oklahoma, the courts block a San Francisco effort to enact broad bans on alleged drug dealers in the Tenderloin, and more.

San Francisco. The courts are blocking the city's effort to ban alleged drug dealers from the Tenderloin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Files Preemptive Lawsuit Over Whether It Will Appear on November Ballot. Anticipating an effort by Republican lawmakers to keep their marijuana legalization initiative off the November ballot, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed a lawsuit last Friday to block the expected move. Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) submitted petitions to the legislature on January 28, giving it until May 28 to approve the petitions calling for legalization, after which, the coalition could then do another round of signature-gathering to put the question directly before voters in November. But Republican legislative staffers have argued that because the petitions were not submitted to the legislature 10 days before the start of the session, as required by the state constitution. But the preemptive lawsuit argues there is state Supreme Court precedent for allowing a November vote.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Begins Signature-Gathering. Marijuana legalization advocates have begun signature gathering for State Question 820, which would legalize adult use marijuana and levy a 15 percent excise tax on retail purchases to fund the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Campaigners will need 95,911 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot and have until August 1 to do so. Another pair of initiatives could also appear on the ballot. State Question 818 would create a State Cannabis Commission that would replace the OMMA and guarantee patients' medical cannabis access in the Oklahoma Constitution, while State Question 819 would legalize adult-use marijuana and guarantee medical and adult-use marijuana access in the Constitution. Because these two questions would change the state constitution, they face a higher signature-gathering threshold than State Question 820, which would only make statutory changes. The threshold for constitutional questions is 177,958 valid voter signatures.

Drug Policy

California Appeals Court Blocks San Francisco Bid to Ban Drug Dealers from Tenderloin, SOMA. In a case that began when the city sued 28 alleged drug dealers in the Tenderloin and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods and banned them from a 50-square-block area in those neighborhoods, which are rife with open drug dealing and drug use, a state appeals court has upheld a lower court decision last year blocking the bans from taking effect. In its ruling last Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeals held that while local governments may be entitled to narrowly target ban orders in some limited circumstances, but not such a broad one. The lower court decision held that the ban was so broad it would violate the constitutional right to travel, and that state law did not appear to authorize it.

The appeals court largely agreed: "We are mindful of, and sympathetic to, the challenges faced by the city in addressing the issues of illegal drug sales, drug use, and the drug-related health crisis and its effects on the people who live and work in the neighborhood," Justice Marla Miller wrote in Friday's 3-0 ruling. But, she continued, "although the city contends these defendants have no reason to ever even be in the 50-square-block Tenderloin neighborhood except to sell drugs there was evidence that many community resources and government agencies are located in the Tenderloin." The lower court judge was entitled to believe statements from the four people "that they were interested in taking advantage of the employment, treatment, housing, and health services available in the 50-square-block neighborhood," the appeals court added. The city said it was "disappointed" with the ruling, but had yet to decide whether to appeal.

Education

Pell Grants Will Be Available for Prisoners Again Beginning Next Year. Once upon a time, incarcerated Americans were able to try to advance themselves by using Pell Grants to pay for college tuition and textbook costs -- just like other students -- but when Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, it barred prisoners from accessing that financial aid. In 2020, though, Congress restored the eligibility for both state and federal prisoners. In the fall of 2021, the Department of Education begin developing rules for the expansion of Pell Grants to prisoners and has now announced that application forms for imprisoned students will be available on October 1 for the 2023 academic year.

International

British Virgin Islands Premier Asserts Immunity in Cocaine Case, Demands Immediate Release. British Virgin Islands (BVI) Premier Andrew Fahie, who was arrested last week in a US government sting in Miami, argued in court Monday that as the elected head of government, he is immune from prosecution and should be released immediately. No word yet on when a federal judge will decide that question, and in the meantime, Fahie remains in custody. Fahie and his ports director, Oleanvine Maynard, were busted at the Miami airport where they met what they thought were Mexican drug traffickers but were actually DEA agents seducing them into a scheme to import cocaine from South America through the BVI. Back home, Fahie already faced allegations of deep corruption, and his arrest may help propel a push to temporarily suspend the constitution and return to rule from London in an effort to clean up the government. Busting a head of state is a big deal and would have required approval at the highest levels of the Justice and State departments.

We Just Won an Old Fight

Dear reformer,

One never knows when something good is going to happen. Last night, with the signing of the budget and stimulus bill, the drug conviction question on the federal college aid form was finally done away with -- students will no longer lose financial aid because of drug convictions, at least not automatically or in many cases. Congress also restored Pell Grant eligibility to prisoners.

Barney Frank led the fight in Congress for many years. He and nine other congresspersons spoke at our 2002 press conference.
Our fight to repeal that law -- section 1091(r) of the Higher Education Act -- began in 1998, after the law passed and before it took effect. The effort was multifaceted and long-term. We circulated a resolution adopted by student governments. We founded the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), which worked actively through most of the '00s. Through this campaign, we founded the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an independent organization that plays an important role in drug policy reform. We even created a scholarship fund for students losing financial aid because of drug convictions.

All of these efforts drew attention from the media and from Congress. News stories appeared in all the major US outlets, through a campaign we carried out in partnership with SSDP. Most of the news inquiries, by design, were steered to our student partners. But we did some too -- here's a New York Times story I was quoted in. The voices of people affected by the law were key to driving public attention and to gaining more allies. Our first student spokesperson was Marisa Garcia, whose story appeared publicly for the first time in Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone went on to donate advertising space for the campaign.

Now former US Rep. Barney Frank led the fight in Congress for many years, sponsoring the Removing Impediments to Students' Education (RISE) Act. He and his office energetically recruited other members of Congress to cosponsor the bill. We worked with them on several press conferences, including one in 2002 at the "Triangle" area of the US Capitol where ten members of Congress spoke, as well as representatives of leading civil rights and higher education groups. We also held a series of forums and fundraisers for the John W. Perry Fund, with members of Congress and other notable personalities. The Perry Fund supported about twenty students who'd lost their federal aid, and was covered by news outlets including BET.

Marisa Garcia in Rolling Stone magazine, 2001
In 2006, Congress scaled back the law, limiting its reach to drug law violations committed while a student was in school and receiving federal financial aid. Then in 2009, a further reform limiting it to sales convictions passed the House of Representatives. That was included in a Senate higher education bill too. The section of that bill that included the reform got stripped from the final legislation, after Democrats combined their student aid bill with the health care reform bill as part of their strategy to pass both in 2010.

What's interesting about what almost happened in 2009/2010 was that by that time, our work had already put the provision solidly on the radar of members of Congress. It was congressional staffers who contacted lobbyists who were active with the coalition that time, not the other way around, to tell them they were already planning to take it up and had figured out what they could do. We'd also been successful in communicating our message that partial changes to the law were good but not enough.

Changes in Congress made it less clear after that, when the next chance to repeal the law would be. It had also become clear to us that further work had to be done by groups with full-time legislative staff who could lobby on other issues too. We continued to contribute as we could to the effort, but we mostly left the lead to groups in education and drug policy and criminal justice who are funded in that way. I'm thankful that some of them did so and that this was able to happen.

I'm also grateful to people who supported our campaign, and to the many past staff of our own organization who poured themselves into it through the years. One of them called the news of the law's repeal "a random ray of light." But the unexpected usually isn't random -- it was made possible in part through work done by him and others. I'm especially grateful to the students and would-be students who agreed to our publicizing their stories. More of the history can be found on the web site for the campaign, RaiseYourVoice.com.

the language eliminating the drug conviction question
We have continued to do our work in much the same way as we did on our Higher Education Act campaign. We pick issues that are important but where there are important roles not already being played by other organizations. We organize coalitions. We do targeted work like media-worthy events and lobbying selected members of Congress. We find the pressure points where the smaller resources can make a larger impact. We support and build up our partners and allies, so their strength can be brought to bear on these efforts too. And we reach out for new allies, as the new issues we take on present those opportunities.

The last few years a lot of this work has been on the international policy front. We've organized nine events at official international meetings. The latest, on the International Criminal Court and the murderous drug war in the Philippines, was covered in that country's media last week. Our work before a major UN drug meeting was covered by the Washington Post and other media.

Click here, here and here to read about our work on human rights in the drug war, democracy and rule of law, the issue of marijuana legalization within the UN drug treaties, and other drug policy issues at the UN.

We continue to raise funds for our end-year $10,000 matching grant, on which we have $4,000 left to go. I hope if you haven't contributed recently that you might do so over the next few days. A donation to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation is tax-deductible, and can be done online here by credit card, PayPal or ACH. Note that even if you don't itemize your taxes, under pandemic rules you can deduct up to $300 total above-the-line for charitable gifts in 2020.

A non-deductible contribution to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network would also count toward the matching grant, and can be made here. This would support our congressional outreach, legislative action alerts, and the technical publishing costs for our newsletter.

You can also send a check or money order, if you prefer, to us at P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016. Please make sure to indicate whether it's tax-deductible for DRCNet Foundation, or non-deductible for Drug Reform Coordination Network. There's also info on how to donate stock shares on our web site here.

Thank you for your support, and the work continues.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016
https://stopthedrugwar.org

Congress Restores Financial Aid for Students with Drug Convictions, CA Fentanyl Task Force Bill Filed, More... (12/22/20)

Cook County's new State's Attorney is talking the progressive talk.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids

California Bill to Create Law Enforcement Fentanyl Task Force Filed. State Senator Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has reintroduced a bill, Senate Bill 75, that would establish a "Southern California Fentanyl Task Force" chaired by the attorney general to heighten law enforcement agency coordination, recommend changes to state laws and bring a state-wide caliber of expertise to the issue. The task force would focus on Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Cosponsors include one Democrat and two Republicans. The bill is also supported by Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

Psychedelics

Sheri Eckert, Co-Petitioner for Oregon Psilocybin Therapy Initiative, Dies Suddenly. One of the architects of the pioneering Oregon psilocybin therapy initiative, Measure 109, which was approved by voters last month, has died. Sheri Eckert and her husband Tom were the impetus behind the measure. She died last Thursday night of an apparent heart attack. She was 59.

Drug Policy

Illinois' Cook County State's Attorney Wants to Expunge Marijuana Dealing, Heroin & Cocaine Possession Convictions. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Cook County (Chicago) State's Attorney Kim Foxx advocated for the automatic expungement of pot dealing convictions and, going a step further, for expunging heroin and cocaine possession convictions, too. Her office has already automatically wiped out the records of more than 2,200 pot possession convictions, and she said she wants to use that bureaucratic infrastructure to find and expunge pot dealing convictions. "No, they didn't have a license. And no, it wasn't legal. But it was the only economy that they had," she said, noting that legal marijuana firms are now "doing the exact same thing and making a ton of money." She also said she would advocate for expunging heroin and cocaine possession convictions as part of a progressive approach to handling problematic drug use. "If we recognize substance abuse disorder as a health condition, then we must modify our justice system to treat it as such," Foxx said. "Criminalizing health is not in the interest of public safety."

Higher Education

Congressional Spending Bill Restores Financial Aid for Students with Drug Convictions. The massive spending bill approved by both the House and Senate Monday would eliminate the provision that disqualifies some students from obtaining federal financial aid because of past drug convictions. It does so not with any new language, but simply by eliminating the clause in the law that created the drug provision and accompanying question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The bill also restores Pell Grant eligibility to prisoners.

Chronicle AM: Drug Policy Alliance Names New Leader, HI House Passes Drug Defelonization Bill, More... (3/4/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance has a new executive director, Mexico's effort to legalize marijuana stalls in the Senate, the Oklahoma House moves to regulate kratom, and more. 

Kassandra Frederique is the new executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. (DPA)
Kratom

Oklahoma House Passes Bill to Regulate—Not Ban--Kratom. The House on Monday passed House Bill 2846, which would regulate kratom. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Drug Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Names Kassandra Frederique as New Executive Director. Ten-year Drug Policy Alliance veteran Kassandra Frederique has been named executive director of the group following the resignation of Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno earlier this year. Frederique was managing director of policy, advocacy, and campaigns before being named executive director. "Kassandra is well suited to lead DPA," the group said in a press release. "Kassandra started at DPA a decade ago as an intern. Her exemplary work propelled her meteoric rise through the organization... In New York, she ran the campaign that reduced marijuana arrests in NYC by 84%. Through strategic advocacy, she shifted the politics around the issue, even bringing skeptic Gov. Cuomo around to the point that New York is now poised to legalize. Kassandra is the architect of innovative campaigns to roll back mass criminalization and expand the debate around overdose. Her voice leads national conversations about the complex interplay between race and the overdose crisis."

Hawaii Senate Approves Drug Defelonization Bill. The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that turns low-level drug possession felonies into misdemeanors. House Bill 2581 would create a new fourth degree misdemeanor category for people caught with less than two grams of a controlled substance. Currently, possession of any amount of drugs except marijuana is a felony. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

Idaho House Passes Bill Relaxing Mandatory Minimums for Heroin, Enacting Them for Fentanyl. The House on Monday passed House Bill 469, which relaxes mandatory minimum sentences for heroin, but added them for fentanyl. In the last two legislative sessions, the House voted to end mandatory minimums, but those bills never moved in the Senate. Now, we'll see if this one does.

International

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Stalled in Senate. With less than two months to meet a Supreme Court deadline to legalize marijuana, legislation to get it done has stalled in the Senate. That's according to opposition Senator Miguel Angel Mancera, who said there is no consensus between the parties. “[Legislation for] recreational use is not moving. It’s more difficult than outsourcing,” the former Mexico City mayor said, referring to a congressional battle over outsourcing last year.

Fentanyl Trade Fuels Cartel Battle in Central Mexico. Five competing drug trafficking groups are fighting over control of the fentanyl trade in the north-central state of Zacatecas, and it's leaving a toll of dead. The number of killings in the state reached 666 last year, more than double the figure from a decade ago. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel dominate the trade, but three other groups are trying to muscle in. They are the Gulf Cartel and two offshoots of the Zetas, known as the Talibanes and the Northeastern Cartel.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Drug Policy and Sustainable Development: Goals 4, 8 and 16 on Education, Work and Rule of Law

Drug Policy and Sustainable Development: Goals 4, 8 and 16 on Education, Work and Rule of Law


side event, UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
Church Center of the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza (1st Avenue & 44th Street), 10th Floor
Thursday July 11, 2019, 4:15‐6:30pm ET

RSVP to [email protected] (requested but not required)
Snacks will be Provided

Panel 1: Challenges people recovering from criminal justice involvement face

accessing work and education (4:15‐5:15pm) 
  • Darrell Bennett, former IMPACT Leadership Program Director, Exodus Transitional Community
  • Megan French‐Marcelin, Fair Hiring Project Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA
  • David Sheridan, Director of Financial Aid, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
Panel 2: International justice to counter disinformation and promote humanrights, in the Philippines and elsewhere (5:30‐6:30pm)
  • William Pace, Convener, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 1995‐2019
  • video: Davey Alba for BuzzFeed, "How Duterte Used Facebook to Fuel the Philippine Drug War
  • video: Pamela Combinido, "Architects of Networked Disinformation: Behind the Scenes of Troll Accounts and Fake News Production in the Philippines"
  • others speakers TBA

moderated by David Borden, Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org

PDF flyer here

Chronicle AM: CA Acts to Boost Struggling Cannabis Industry, WV Students Face Drug Tests, More... (6/17/09)

California officials are cutting legal operators some slack in a bid to boost the marijuana industry, Virginia's attorney general calls for marijuana decriminalization, West Virginia is demanding students seeking free community college tuition undergo drug testing, and more.

State officials are easing up on permitting to give the legal industry some breathing room. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

In Bid to Boost Legal Cannabis Industry, California Plans to Extend Provisional Permits for Growers and Sellers. State officials plan to extend the period that marijuana growers and sellers can operate with provisional licenses by five more years, giving them more time to get in compliance with stricter rules required for regular permits. The state's legal industry is having a hard time getting off the ground in the face of high taxes and stiff regulatory hurdles. Only 208 growers have obtained regular, annual licenses and another 1,532 are operating with provisional permits. That's a tiny fraction of all marijuana growers in the state. Similarly, only 39 marijuana retailers have regular licenses, with another 2,751 operating on provisional or temporary permits.

Virginia Attorney General Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization and Expungement, and Eventual Legalization. Attorney General Mark Herring has called for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, as well as expungement for old marijuana offenses, with an eye toward eventual legalization. "The human and social costs are enormous, in addition to the millions of dollars it costs Virginia taxpayers," Herring wrote in an op-ed Saturday. "And the negative consequences of the current approach fall disproportionately on African Americans and people of color."

Medical Marijuana

Gallup Poll Finds Americans Want CBD OTC. Americans familiar with CBD want it sold over the counter without a prescription by a margin of 61% to 33%, according to a Gallup poll released last Friday. More than a third (36%) of respondents were not familiar with CBD. When they are included, the figure for support for OTC CBD declined to 39%.

Drug Policy

California's Santa Clara County Will Stop Prosecuting People for Minor Drug Offenses. The Santa Clara County (San Jose) District Attorney's Office announced last Friday it will stop prosecuting most minor drug offenses. Only people who already have two drug offenses will be prosecuted under the new policy. "We are drawing a line between public health and public safety," said Brian Buckelew, a Supervising Deputy District Attorney. "If there's no other criminality, if someone is arrested with a meth pipe, or personal use methamphetamine, that person needs treatment. But should that person get treatment in the criminal justice system at great expense to the taxpayers? We have concluded they should not."

Drug Testing

West Virginia Students Will Have to Pass Drug Test to Get Free Tuition at Community Colleges. Students who are expecting free college tuition under the West Virginia Invests program will be required to pass drug tests in order to be eligible. That's after the state Community and Technical College System's board approved the move at a meeting last Thursday. While the law creating the program demanded drug testing, it did not specify which drugs should be tested for. The board decided to test for THC, marijuana's high-inducing ingredient, alongside opiates, oxycodone, hydrocodone, cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs. The policy went through no public comment period, and even one board member questioned why marijuana was on the list.

Chronicle AM: CT Legalization Could Get Vote Soon, Chinese Fentanyl Will Keep Coming, More... (5/16/19)

A federal bill to protect immigrants working in the marijuana industry gets filed, the Oregon Senate approves a marijuana interstate commerce bill, the San Antonio DA is no longer prosecuting picayune drug possession cases, RAND says China will have a hard time stopping fentanyl, and more.

A deadly dose of fentanyl. China won't be able to stop exports, a RAND report says. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Congressional Bill Aims to Resolve Marijuana Industry Border Issues. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday filed a bill which would clarify that using marijuana in compliance with state or foreign law, or working in the legal industry, wouldn't disqualify people from entering the US. The legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections for Legal Entry (MAPLE) Act, updates a bill Blumenauer filed in December to protect Canadians working in the marijuana industry from being denied entry to the US. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Connecticut Could See Marijuana Legalization Vote in Next Three Weeks. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Wednesday that the legislature could vote on legalizing marijuana in the next three weeks instead of pushing it into a special session. The regular session ends on June 5. Aresimowicz said the General Law Committee is making progress is melding together multiple bills into a single measure. "It looks as though we may have a bill that could be ready for action," Aresimowicz said. "We have the entire next week to do all these major bills and get them up to the Senate in a time that would be appropriate for action."

Oregon Senate Approves Marijuana Interstate Commerce Bill. The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow the governor to negotiate agreements with other states to export and import marijuana products across state lines. SB 582 now goes to the House.

Hemp

Texas Senate Unanimously Approves Hemp Bill. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved HB 1325, which would legalize the farming of industrial hemp in the state. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Higher Education

Senate Democrats File Bill to Protect Students with Drug Convictions from Losing Federal College Aid. Four Senate Democrats, including presidential contenders Cory Booker (NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) have filed a bill to streamline the federal student financial aid application process, which would also remove the question about prior drug convictions. The drug conviction question has cost thousands of students access to loans and grants since it was added to the form in a 1998 reform of the Higher Education Act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Investigation into Fatal Botched Drug Raid Now Goes to Prosecutors. The Houston Police Department has ended its investigation into a January drug raid that left a middle-aged couple dead after a Houston narcotics officer apparently lied on a search warrant that a heroin buy had taken place at their home. Police found no heroin, and only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Two of the officers involved have already resigned. "The Houston Police Department has completed the criminal investigation and the officer-involved shooting investigation regarding the incident at 7815 Harding Street on January 28, 2019," Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Today, each of these separate investigations have been turned in to the Harris County District Attorney's Office."

San Antonio DA Has Quit Prosecuting Miniscule Drug Possession Cases. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzalez has confirmed that his office is no longer prosecuting drug possession cases where the amount involved is less than a quarter gram. The policy has been in place since early this year. "I've got to make the decision as the top law enforcement officer in this county to make the best uses of the manpower that I have and the limited resources that I have," said Gonzales.

International

China Unlikely to Curb Fentanyl Exports in Short-Term. A new RAND Corporation report that examines China's pharmaceutical industry warns that it is unlikely to be able to curb fentanyl exports in the near future. "China's leaders recognize that they have a problem and appear committed to seeking solutions," report coauthor and Rand analyst Bryce Pardo said. "But it is unlikely that they can contain the illicit production and distribution of fentanyl in the short term because enforcement mechanisms are lacking. Producers are quick to adapt, impeding Chinese law enforcement's ability to stem the flow to global markets."

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Make Their Own Cocaine, Colombia Says. Colombian police report that drug traffickers are now exporting not just refined cocaine but also cocaine base, which they say means Mexican drug cartels must be operating their own laboratories to refine the drug themselves. The move comes after the Colombian government imposed tighter restrictions on precursor chemicals for refining raw coca into cocaine. Mexican authorities say they have seen no evidence of cocaine labs, though.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: MS MedMJ Petitioning On Track, Kamala Harris on Pardons for Drug Prisoners, More... (4/25/19)

Texas decriminalization gets walked back a step, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative already has lots and lots of signatures, Kamala Harris talks pardons for drug war prisoners, and more.

The Texas decriminalization bill just became a misdemeanor and expungment bill.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Modified to Not Quite Decriminalization. Ahead of House floor debate set for today, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), the author of the decriminalization bill, HB 63, has rewritten the measure so that possession of an ounce or less remains a misdemeanor, but with a near automatic expungement of any criminal record if the person completes probation. "Without leaving some criminal component in it, I probably couldn't get the bill through the process and across the governor's desk," Moody said. "I didn't want to come this far and make perfect the enemy of good."

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering in Good Shape. Medical Marijuana 2020, the group behind a state medical marijuana initiative campaign, has already collected 96,000 raw signatures with months to go. The campaign needs 86,000 verified voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign will likely need to collect several tens of thousands more signatures, in order to have that many left after the inevitable disqualifications. But things appear to be on track.

North Dakota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Package. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed into law four bills related to the state's medical marijuana program: HB 1417 will allow greater amounts of marijuana for cancer patients; HB 1519 expands qualifying conditions to include (among others) anorexia, bulimia, and brain injury; HB 1119 provides for the removal of social security numbers from program documents and declares an emergency to do so; and HB 1283 amends parts of the written certification requirements.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Defends Administration Opioid Policy. Addressing the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta Wednesday, President Trump said his administration had made "tremendous progress" on the issue in the face of critics who argue that the drug czar's office (ONDCP) has done little to combat the crisis and that a law passed last year did not adequately fund drug treatment.

Pardons and Commutations

Kamala Harris Says She Will Pardon Low-Level Drug Prisoners If Elected. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said Wednesday she would pardon low-level drug prisoners if she becomes president. "Absolutely," she said when asked about using the power of commutation. "We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them… for what is essentially a public health issue." Her remarks came at a She the People town hall in Houston.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: MA Legal Pot Rules Set, New Effort to Delete HEA Drug Question, More... (3/7/18)

Bay State regulators have finalized their rules for the legal pot industry, red states are in CBD fights, the Israeli decriminalization bill advances, a new move to get rid of the HEA's drug question is set, and more.

The outline of Massaachusetts' marijuana industry has been set. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Legal Pot Regulations Are Set. The state's Cannabis Control Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to finalize the rules that will govern its newly legal industry. Among the highlights: No social consumption or home delivery for now, medical marijuana dispensaries transitioning to adult sales must set aside 35% of their product for the next six months for registered patients, cultivators are capped at 100,000 square feet, and people convicted of trafficking hard drugs are essentially barred from the industry.

Wyoming Edibles Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill clarifying state law that possession of marijuana edibles may be charged as a felony. Senate File 0023 was amended to make possession of more than 36 ounces of edibles a felony. The version approved earlier by the Senate set that amount at only three ounces. The bill now heads for the House floor, but will have to go back to the Senate if approved as amended. 

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Senate Vacates Controversial Vote That Killed CBD Bill. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday vacated Monday's vote killing a CBD cannabis oil bill, House Bill 577. The move to vacate come from committee Chair Lee Heider (R), who admitted that the vote in his office Monday violated the state's open meeting law. But it's not clear if Heider will allow another vote on the bill.

Indiana Senate Passes CBD Bill. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve House Bill 1214, which would allow for the legal purchase and sale of CBD cannabis oil. Another CBD bill, Senate Bill 52, has already passed the Senate. The two bills will likely be consolidated and debated again in conference committee.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Law Enforcement Opposition. In a second day of hearings on a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 166, law enforcement stepped up to speak out against the bill. The local prosecutors' association warned allowing medical marijuana would worsen the state's drug problems; the state Narcotics Officers' Association also opposed it, citing a provision that would allow patients to grow up to 12 plants. No vote was taken.

Higher Education

New Push to End HEA Drug Provision to Get Underway. At least one Democrat on the Senate Education Committee will move to end the inclusion of a question about prior drug convictions when the Higher Education Act is reauthorized this year. About a thousand students a year lose access to financial aid because of the question, and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says he will reintroduce legislation to kill it this year.

International

Israeli Knesset Gives First Approval to Pot Decriminalization Bill. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed unanimously in its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday. Legalization supporter MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said passing the bill marks "another important step on the road to our victory," adding that it is "far from perfect, but it is a foot in the door on the way to a policy of full legalization."

Chronicle AM: WV "Free College" Bill Requires Drug Testing, NM MJ Init Bill Moves, More... (2/2/18)

It's a longshot, but New Mexican could get a chance to vote on marijuana legalization this fall, an Iowa bill to lower pot penalties advances, so does a New Jersey hemp bill, and so does a West Virginia bill that would make community college free -- but only if students first pass drug tests.

Marijuana Policy

Florida Legalization Initiative Comes Up Short on Signatures. Regulate Florida, the group behind an effort to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, says it doesn't have nearly enough signatures to qualify this year. The group needed 300,000 signatures to qualify, but has only gathered 40,000. The group says it is now eyeing 2020.

Iowa Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill lowering the penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Senate File 432, sponsored by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) would classify a first offense for possession of five grams or less of marijuana as a simple misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 30 days in jail and a fine of $625.

New Mexico Legalization Initiative Bill Advances. The Senate Rules Committee on Friday approved Senate Joint Resolution 4, which if passed by the legislature would place the question of marijuana legalization before the voters in November. But there are only two weeks left in the session, and the bill must still get through the Senate Judiciary Committee, the full Senate, and the House before then.

Oregon US Attorney Holds Summit on Pot Surplus, Issues Subtle Threat. Oregon US Attorney Billy Williams convened a marijuana summit Friday with state, law enforcement, and tribal and industry leaders about how to address what he says is surplus marijuana that has ended up in the black market. He also warned that how state actors address this issue could influence his prosecutorial decisions: "I have significant concerns about the state's current regulatory framework and the resources allocated to policing marijuana in Oregon," Williams wrote in The Oregonian, adding that the summit and the state's response to his concerns would "inform our federal enforcement strategy."

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Sees a Second Medical Marijuana Bill. Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) has filed Senate Bill 118, which would allow patients with certain specified medical conditions to use any form of marijuana. A companion bill has been filed in the House. Last month, Democratic Secretary of State Allison Grimes filed another medical marijuana bill, House Bill 166.

Texas Sees First Delivery of CBD Cannabis Oil to Patient. A six-year-old boy suffering from epilepsy became the first patient in the state to receive CBD cannabis oil Thursday -- more than two years after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a law legalizing its use. The delivery came from Knox Medical in Schulenburg.

Hemp

New Jersey Hemp Bill Advances. The Assembly Agriculture Committee voted Thursday to approve a bill that would allow farmers to grow hemp. The measure, Assembly Bill 1330, is sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer County).

Drug Testing

West Virginia Bill for Free Community College Would Require Drug Testing of Students. The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 284, which would create a benefit to cover community college education costs not covered by Pell grants or other student aid. But there is a catch: Prospective students would have to pay for, take, and pass, a drug test before they would be eligible. The bill now goes to the House.

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