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AR Legalization Init Has Enough Signatures, UN Experts Criticize Singapore Drug Executions, More... (7/29/22)

Marijuana seizures at the US-Mexican border are down again, Colombia's Gulf Clan is escalating its attacks on police as it jockeys for position in upcoming negotations, and more.

San Francisco could become the largest US city to decriminalize psychedelics. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Feds Report Significant Year-Over-Year Decline in Marijuana Seizures at the US Border. The amount of marijuana seized at the US-Mexico border has dropped dramatically this fiscal year, with seizures averaging 408 pounds a day, down from an average of 874 pounds a day during FY 2021, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Other drug seizures at the border are up, but the decline in marijuana seizures is part of a consistent downward trend in recent year. As the DEA has noted, "In US markets, Mexican marijuana has largely been supplanted by domestic-produced marijuana."

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Set to Qualify for Ballot. State officials have confirmed that a marijuana legalization initiative from Responsible Growth Arkansas has submitted enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. But the state Board of Election Commissioners must first approve the popular name and ballot title of the measure. It would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over, but not home cultivation. It would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

Psychedelics

San Francisco Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution Filed. Supervisors Dean Preston (D) and Hillary Ronen (D) have filed a resolution to decriminalize psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. The resolution also calls for broader statewide reform. If the resolution is passed, San Francisco would be the most populous city in the country to decriminalize psychedelics.

International

Colombia's Gulf Clan Trafficking Group Stepping Up Attacks on Police. The Gulf Clan, the country's most powerful drug trafficking organization, is stepping up a campaign of violence against police that began in May, when its leader, Dario Antonio Usuga, known as "Otoniel," was extradited to the United States to face trafficking charges. But now, as the country approaches the transfer of power from conservative President Ivan Duque to leftist former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, is ratcheting up the violence, apparently in a bid to bolster its prospects in potential negotiations with the new government. At least 25 police officers have been killed by the Gulf Clan, 12 of them in the last month, and three in just the past week.

UN Experts Call for Immediate Moratorium on Singapore Executions for Drug Offenses. UN experts have condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug-related charges. There has been a sharp rise in execution notices issued in Singapore this year.

Nazeri Bin Lajim was arrested in April 2012 and convicted for trafficking 33.39 grams of diamorphine under the 1973 Misuse of Drugs Act in September 2019. The mandatory death penalty was subsequently imposed in his case and enforced on 22 July 2022. "Under international law, States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the 'most serious crimes', involving intentional killing," the experts said. "Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold."

The experts reiterated that, as per the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's report on arbitrary detention relating to drug policies andits subsequent jurisprudence, imposing the death penalty for drug-related offenses is incompatible with international standards on the use of the death penalty.

More Fentanyl Than Heroin Seized at Border Last Year, Marijuana Legalization Bills in Maryland and South Dakota, More... (1/4/22)

It's January, and state legislatures are gearing up to deal with marijuana, a New York state inspector general's report unearths serious problems with prison drug testing, and more.

Part of a 254-pound shipment of fentanyl seized at the border. (CBP)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Lawmaker Pre-Files Legislation to Place Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization on State's 2022 Ballot. Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), chairman of the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup that formed last summer to study adult-use legalization in Maryland, has pre-filed House Bill 1. If approved by three-fifths of the state House and Senate, the bill would ask voters the following referendum question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Maryland?" The bill will be formally introduced when the legislative session opens on January 12.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures, Has Only Days Left. The secretary of state's office has informed the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that it had gathered only 119,825 valid voter signatures when it needed 132,887 to get to the first stage of the "initiated statute" process. That means the Coalition now has until January 13 to come up with 13,062 more valid voter signatures. If the campaign meets that hurdle, the legislature would have four months to address the underlying marijuana legalization legislation. If the legislature fails to act or rejects it, supporters can collect another 132,887 signatures to place it on the statewide ballot, likely in November 2022. The initiative would allow people 21 and older to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

South Dakota Lawmakers Have Marijuana Legalization Bill Ready to Go. With the legislative session set to open next week, state legislative leaders are ready to advance a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, that was drafted by a marijuana working group and approved by the legislative leadership. The bill would restore the will of the voters, who approved legalization at the ballot box in 2020 only to have it thrown out as unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. Legalization isn't the only marijuana-related item on lawmakers' minds; of 38 pre-filed bills, 25 deal with marijuana, mostly with medical marijuana, which voters already approved last year and which the state has moved ahead on.

Drug Testing

New York State Inspector General Investigation Determines Hundreds of Incarcerated New Yorkers Denied Due Process and Endured Severe Punishment as a Result of Egregious Administrative Failure in Drug Testing Program. State Inspector General Lucy Lang announced Tuesday that incarcerated people across the state were subjected to internal penalties including solitary confinement, had their sentences lengthened, parole hearings delayed, family visitation privileges revoked, and suffered other punishments, based upon a highly flawed drug testing program between January and August 2019 administered by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

Lang's investigation found that these sanctions, which impacted more than 1,600 people during that eight-month period, were based upon preliminary positive results for the presence of the opioid buprenorphine, without obtaining confirmation by more specific alternative tests as was required by the instructions provided by the manufacturer, Microgenics Corporation. DOCCS then failed to properly investigate the reason for a significant spike in positive test results after the implementation of the new tests or take prompt corrective action upon being presented with scientific evidence that many of the results were false positives.

The investigation also found that representatives from Microgenics frustrated the efforts of the incarcerated people who attempted to challenge their charges at administrative hearings by providing false or misleading information about the tests' reliability. Changes are being made as a result of the investigation, including an end to the use of solitary confinement for failing a drug test.

Opioids

US Customs and Border Protection Seized More Fentanyl Than Heroin at the Border Last Year. In Fiscal Year 2021, which ran from October 2020 to September 2021, US Customs and Border Protection seized more at least 11,200 pounds of fentanyl at the border, more than double the 5,400 pounds of heroin seized. CBP also seized 319,447 pounds of marijuana, 97,638 pounds of cocaine, 190,861 pounds of methamphetamine, and 10,848 pounds of ketamine, for the fiscal year 2021. The seizure figures come as fentanyl is implicated in about two-thirds of the record wave of drug overdose deaths plaguing the US this year.

Chronicle Book Review: The Dope [FEATURE]

The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade by Benjamin T. Smith (2021, W.W. Norton, 462 pp, $30 HB)

This past weekend, top-level American officials were in Mexico City meeting with their Mexican counterparts to discuss rebuilding cooperation in the endless struggle against Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The meeting comes nearly 15 years after then-President George W. Bush and then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon initiated the Merida Initiative to fight drugs, crime, and violence. In 2007, when the Merida Initiative began, there were about 2,300 drug-related deaths in Mexico. Fifteen years and $1.6 billion in US security assistance later, the annual Mexican death toll is north of 30,000, American overdose deaths largely linked to Mexican-supplied fentanyl are at an all-time high, and despite killing or capturing dozens of "kingpins," the so-called "cartels" are more powerful than ever.

In The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade, Mexico historian Benjamin T. Smith relates the story of another meeting between American and Mexican officials more than 80 years ago. It was at the League of Nations in 1939, and Mexican diplomat Manuel Tello was trying to sell the assembled narcotics experts on a novel approach to opioid addiction: Post-revolutionary Mexico had just passed a new drug law that allowed for state-run morphine dispensaries. Doing that could treat addiction and allow users to get their fix without resorting to a black market, he argued.

That proposal, one much in vogue in harm reduction and public health circles these days, was shot down by none other than Harry Anslinger, head of the American Federal Bureau of Narcotics and self-appointed dope cop to the world. He made it clear to the Mexicans, who had also irked him by challenging his Reefer Madness propaganda, that no such nonsense would be tolerated. That encounter, Smith's narrative makes clear, is emblematic of the US-Mexico relationship when it comes to drugs. The US, with its insatiable appetite for mind-altering substances, has for decades leaned on Mexico to repress the trade its citizens demand, and the results have for decades been dire.

As Smith shows, US pressure on Mexico to ramp up its anti-drug efforts, particularly in the 1940s and 1970s, produced temporary results but also long-term pathologies. Where Mexican authorities had been happy to manage the trade rather than repress it, Washington demanded strict enforcement and aggressive action. Harsher enforcement, including the resort to torture and murder (with the knowledge, encouragement, and sometimes the participation of DEA agents), produced a meaner criminal underworld. Smith especially notes the American insistence on a broad strategy of relying on informants as an aggravating factor in escalating trafficker violence, as traffickers turned on each other for revenge or to protect themselves from potential rats.

Smith also clarifies that the drug trade has always been seen not just as a scourge but as a resource by elements of the Mexican state. Early on, a post-revolutionary governor in Sinaloa taxed the opium traffickers and used the proceeds for public works. Governors in border states like Baja California and Chihuahua followed suit, taxing the trade, protecting favored traffickers and making exemplary busts of those without favored status to please the Americans. Although, as he notes, the politicians increasingly tended to forget the public works and just pocket the money themselves.

Smith described the structure of the relationship between the Mexican state and the drug traffickers as more a "protection racket" than an adversarial one Prior to the 1970s, the racket was carried out at the state level, with the governors and the state police forces providing the protection. Levels of violence were generally low, but likely to spike when a change of administration meant a new set of players in the racket and a new set of favored and disfavored traffickers. The favored traffickers could get rich; the unfavored ones could get jailed or killed as sacrificial lambs to appease the Americans.

In the 1970s, though, both the repression and the protection racket went national, with the mandate to fight the drug trade (and the license to manage it) going to the dreaded federales and their masters in the Ministry of Justice and the presidential palace. The levels of violence increasingly dramatically as the federales and the armed forces pleased the Americans by arresting, torturing, and killing marijuana- and opium-growing peasants as well as traffickers. Traffickers who could once accommodate themselves to the occasional exemplary short prison sentence now fought back when faced with death or years behind bars.

But in this century, thanks largely to fabulous profits from the cocaine trade, the drug traffickers have flipped the script. They no longer work for the cops; the cops now work for them. It's a process Smith refers to as "state capture," even if the state function that is being captured is illicit. Now, cops and politicians who don/t understand who is charge end up in unmarked graves or starring in horrid torture/murder videos.

The Dope is a fascinating and sobering tale, full of colorful characters like Dr. Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, the crusading post-revolutionary physician who argued that marijuana was harmless and whose government office was behind the morphine dispensary plan, and La Nacha, Ignacia Jasso, the dope queen of Ciudad Juarez for decades, along with a veritable rogue's gallery of traffickers, cops, spooks, and politicians, all of whom vie for control of the trade and its incredible profits.

It also reveals some broad findings. First, economics is the driving force of the drug trade, and the economic opportunity it has provided (and continues to provide) to millions of Mexicans means it is not going away, Second, as noted above, authorities have sought to harness income from the drug trade, with the result that they are now harnessed to it. Third, aggressive anti-drug policies are driven more by moral panics, the need for bureaucratic fundraising, and scapegoating, and "are rarely implemented for their effectiveness." Nor do they work, even on their own terms, as our current overdose death numbers shout out. Fourth, the causes of violence originate "not from inside the drug trade, but inside the state," particularly with the churning of protection rackets with the arrival of new political leadership. "The other principal cause of violence has been the war on drugs itself."

There is an extensive mythology around the Mexican drug trade. Benjamin T. Smith has gone a long way toward dispelling those myths by providing an accurate, in-depth, well-sourced history of the trade and the domestic and international politics around it. To understand today's fearsome Mexican drug cartels, start here.

Booker & Warren Call on DOJ to Deschedule Marijuana; US & Mexico Meet to Forge New Relations on Crime & Drugs, More... (10/12/21)

California's governor vetoes a "contingency management" drug treatment bill, a pair of progressive senators call on the Justice Department to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) send letter to DOJ seeking marijuana descheduling. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Booker, Warren Call on DOJ to Decriminalize Cannabis. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter last Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the Federal controlled substances list. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), the Attorney General can remove a substance from the CSA's list, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), based on the finding that it does not have the potential for abuse. Decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level via this descheduling process would allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit, begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.

"While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis," wrote Booker and Warren. "We urge the DOJ to initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis. Doing so would be an important first step in the broader tasks of remedying the harmful racial impact of our nation's enforcement of cannabis laws and ensuring that states can effectively regulate the growing cannabis industry, including by assisting small business owners and those most harmed by our historical enforcement of cannabis laws."

Drug Treatment

California Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Paid People to Stay Off Drugs. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has vetoed a bill that would have made California the first state to embrace "contingency management," the drug treatment program in which users are paid money to stay sober, receiving increasing payments for each drug test passed. Such a program has been underway with military veterans for years, with research showing it is an effective way to get people off stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, for which there are no pharmaceutical treatments available. Newsom had asked the federal government to allow the state to use federal tax dollars to pay for it through Medicaid, but still rejected Senate Bill 110 without explanation.

Foreign Policy

US, Mexico Meet to Restore Cross-Border Cooperation on Drugs, Crime. Leading Biden administration officials including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Attorney General Merrick Garland met with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City Saturday to try to create a new framework for cooperation on drugs, crime, and border issues. The high-profile meeting comes after months of quiet talks to rebuild relations that grew especially fraught after DEA agents arrested a retired former senior Mexican military officer for alleged links to drug traffickers. That prompted the Mexicans to demand -- and obtain -- his release and to pass a law limiting the involvement of the DEA inside Mexico. The new framework appears to signal a break with Plan Merida, the more than decade-old security agreement under which billions of dollars in US security assistance went to help Mexico fight drug traffickers, but which also saw drug-related killings rise to record levels.

SAFE Banking Act House Floor Vote Today, Texas Governor Wants Cartel Terrorist Designation, More... (4/19/21)

Another poll reaffirms marijuana legalization's popularity, the push for legalization in Connecticut has hit a roadblock over social equity, a bill to allow smokable medical marijuana advances in Louisiana, and more.

US Capitol (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Pew Poll Has Nine Out of Ten Americans Supporting Some Form of Marijuana Legalization. A new Pew poll has 91% of Americans in favor of legalizing either recreational marijuana or medical marijuana or both. Sixty percent favored legalizing both, while another 31% said they supported legalizing only medical marijuana.

House to Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Today. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, House Resolution 1996, will get a House floor vote on Monday. This will be the first floor action on any marijuana-related legislation this session.

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Hits Roadblock Over Social Equity. Efforts to legalize marijuana this year are in danger after Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and key lawmakers reached an impasse over social equity provisions that the legislators say Lamont's bill is lacking. They said last week they could not support Lamont's bill without stronger social equity provisions. Lamont, for his part, appears ready to wait until next year if necessary. "I think [legalization is] in the best interest of public health and I don't want to surrender this to the underground market and I don't want to surrender it to outside markets. That said, if you get a bill that you think doesn't meet some basic requirements, you'll put it off another year just like they have for many years in the past. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," he said Friday.

Wisconsin GOP Senate Leader Rules Out Action on Marijuana Legalization. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said last Thursday that the Republican-controlled state legislature will not legalize recreational or medical marijuana. "We don't have support from the caucus. That's pretty clear, that we don't have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it," LeMahieu said. He added that states should not pass laws that are "in conflict with the federal government."

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill to allow and tax smokable marijuana for medical marijuana patients, House Bill 514, passed the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously last Friday. The measure would apply the state's 4.45% sales tax to such products. The bill is now ready for a House floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Texas Governor Demands Biden Add Cartels to Terrorist List but Didn't Demand the Same of Trump. Governor Greg Abbott (R) has accused the Biden administration of just "standing by" as Mexican cartels "terrorize" South Texas and is demanding that President Biden add the cartels to the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. In doing so, he cited the November 2019 killing of nine US citizens in a cartel attack in northern Mexico, which occurred during the Trump presidency. Abbott never made any such demand of Trump, nor did he complain when Trump, who had threatened such a move, backed down under pressure from Mexico.

MD Lawmakers Pass Major Police Reforms Through Veto Override, Tijuana Travel Warning Issued, More... (4/12/21)

An American citizen in Dubai faces three years in prison after testing positive for marijuana, Delaware marijuana legalization activists urge boycott of dispensaries that testified against legalization bill, and more.

Tijuana street scene. The State Department has issued a travel warning because of cartel violence. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Delaware Marijuana Activists Stage Boycott of Medical Dispensaries That Testified Against Legalization Bill. Marijuana legalization advocates have called a boycott of four medical marijuana dispensaries after their representatives testified against a marijuana legalization bill last month. The four companies are Columbia Care, Fresh Delaware, CannTech and EZY Venture. They testified that allowing legalization would oversaturate the market, with some even talking about how it could hurt their bottom lines. The Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition accused the companies of "simply obstructing the progress of adult-use legislation" and added that "some patients are now staging a boycott of the regulated dispensaries."

Drug Testing

Mississippi Ban on Sale of Urine, Fake or Real, to Beat Drug Tests Signed into Law. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed into law Senate Bill 2569 last Friday. The bill makes it a crime to sell, market, or give away real or fake human urine to produce negative results on a drug test. A first offense can earn up to six months in jail, with a second offense earning up to a year and a third offense earning up to three years in prison.

Law Enforcement

Maryland Passes Sweeping Police Reform Legislation. Overriding a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), the legislature last Saturday passed a package of three bills -- Senate Bill 71, Senate Bill 178, and House Bill 670 -- that restrict the use of no-knock warrants, limits police officers' use of force, and repeals the country's first Bill of Rights for law enforcement. Passage of the package was impelled by the nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd in police custody. "This is what the community wants -- they want reform, they want transparency, and they want accountability," said Caylin A. Young, public policy director of the ACLU of Maryland, which was part of a coalition of 90 groups that had backed the bills. "There needs to be a reimagining of what policing in Maryland looks like."

International

US Citizen Detained in Dubai for Marijuana-Positive Drug Test. An American man who was hospitalized in Dubai for an attack of pancreatitis and who subsequently tested positive for marijuana at the hospital has been detained for violating the drug laws of the United Arab Emirates, which consider a positive drug test as equating with possession. Peter Clark, 51, had smoked marijuana in Las Vegas before flying to Dubai. He was jailed for three days in foul conditions before being released to a hotel. He is facing up to three years in prison.

State Department Issues Travel Alert for Tijuana, Mexicali Valley. The US Embassy in Mexico City has issued a security alert warning citizens to take care when traveling in Tijuana and the nearby Mexicali Valley because of violent conflict between drug trafficking groups in Tijuana. "Travelers should exercise extra caution when traveling in and around Mexicali, the Mexicali Valley, and the western part of the state of Sonora due to the potential for increased violence between rival cartel factions. Members of the embassy community have been warned to avoid the Mexicali area until further notice," the US embassy said. The Sinaloa Cartel is attempting to fend off a takeover attempt of the Tijuana plaza by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has recently threatened the state governor and members of his cabinet.

Border Meth Seizures Surge, VT Lawmakers Aim for Accord on Legal Marijuana Sales, More... (8/19/20)

Vermont legislators look to reconcile House and Senate legal marijuana sales bills, UN officials in Colombia denounce an increasing number of massacres, and more.

methamphetamine (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Lawmakers Meet to Advance Legal Marijuana Market. A group of lawmakers are meeting today to try get a bill approved that would allow for legal marijuana sales in the state. The House approved a bill with a 20% sales tax in February; the Senate approved a bill with a 16% sales tax last year. Now, a conference committee of lawmakers will try to iron out the differences. Some nonprofits and small businesses are opposing the current Senate bill, S.54, because they say it fails to provide opportunities for Black people to participate and it fails to include local families and small businesses.

Methamphetamine

US Border Officials See Methamphetamine Resurgence. Meth seizures on the border are rising, US officials say, pointing to the seizure earlier this month of nearly 800 pounds of meth valued at $16 million on the Pharr International Bridge near McAllen, Texas. Days later, another 650 pounds of meth was discovered in a semi-truck crossing the border at San Diego. According to Customs and Border Patrol statistics, its officers have seized 59 tons of meth in the fiscal year beginning last October. That's one and a half times the amount seized in the previous fiscal year, and we still have two months to go.

International

UN Peace Mission Condemns Spike in Colombia Massacres. The UN's peace mission in Colombia, set up to monitor adherence to the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, is condemning what it calls spiraling violence around the country. The mission says it has documented 33 massacres so far this year. It also said it was investigating the killings of 97 human rights defenders since then and that at least 41 former FARC combatants had been killed. In the past week alone, at least 13 people were killed, including eight gunned down at a birthday party in Narino department and five Afro-Colombian teenagers whose bodies were found in a field outside Cali. The UN defines a massacre as the killing of three or more people in the same event by the same group.

MO Pot Legalization Campaign Falls Victim to COVID-19, Border Smugglers Have to Innovate, More... (4/16/20)

The Show Me State won't be able to show us legal weed this year, the DEA says meth and heroin prices are going up, and more. 

How the US-Mexico border used to look. Now, reduced traffic because of COVID-19 is forcing drug smugglers to innovate. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Legalization Campaign Killed by Coronavirus. The marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Missourians for a New Approach is no more. While activists with the campaign had sought alternative avenues for signature gathering, they have now conceded that is impossible. The campaign needed more than 160,000 valid voter signatures and only has 80,000 raw signatures now.

Law Enforcement

DEA Says Meth, Heroin Prices Going Up. Dante Sorianello, the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in the San Antonio district, says meth and heroin prices are going up even though there's been no let up in drug trafficking across the border. "We have seen an increase in the price of narcotics domestically. Now does that mean there’s a shortage of the narcotics here, that could be an indicator of that. Could it also be price gouging by some of the traffickers? It could be that, also using the virus as an excuse," said Sorianello.

Reduced Border Traffic Forcing Cartels to Innovate. Mexican drug cartels are sitting on large stockpiles of synthetic drugs, but international travel restrictions have greatly reduced traffic at border ports of entry, allowing Customs and Border Patrol officers more time to search vehicles for drugs, which in turn is leading to large seizures and forcing drug traffickers to innovate, mainly by returning to old smuggling tactics, such as sending drug mules across the desert or having them swim across the Rio Grande River, Customs and Border Patrol says.

Chronicle AM: KY House Passes MedMJ Bill, DEA Announces New Anti-Meth Operation, More... (2/21/20)

A new poll shows Florida voters strongly support marijuana legalization, the DEA announces Operation Crystal Shield, the drug czar announces this year's version of a border strategy, and more.

The DEA announces a new operation targeting meth "transport hubs." (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of North Florida Public Opinion Lab and First Coast News has support for marijuana legalization in the Sunshine State at 64%. The poll asked whether respondents would support allowing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to be legally purchased, possessed, transported, displayed and used. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats supported legalization, and even a majority (52%) of Republicans did, too.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Approves Medical Marijuana. The House voted 65-30 Thursday to approve HB 136, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, but not in smokable form. The bill must pass the state senate and be signed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D) before it becomes law.

Methamphetamine

DEA Announces Launch of Operation Crystal Shield, Will Target Meth Transport Hubs. DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon announced Thursday that the DEA will direct enforcement resources to methamphetamine “transportation hubs” — areas where methamphetamine is often trafficked in bulk and then distributed across the country. While continuing to focus on stopping drugs being smuggled across the border, DEA’s Operation Crystal will target eight major methamphetamine transportation hubs: Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, and St. Loius. Together, these DEA Field Divisions accounted for more than 75% of methamphetamine seized in the U.S. in 2019.

Drug Policy

White House Releases National Drug Interdiction Plan, Border Strategies. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll on Thursday released the National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP), which outlines the Trump Administration’s interdiction strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the United States. The plan includes both a southwestern border strategy and a northern border strategy. "Almost all of the drugs killing thousands of Americans originate from outside the United States. The Plan demonstrates how close coordination across Federal, State, territorial, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies is crucial to stopping these deadly drugs from coming into our country and making their way into our communities," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Chronicle AM: Trump Delays Border Shutdown Over Drugs, Migrants; NH House Approves Legal Pot, More... (4/5/19)

Trump pushes his threat to close down the border into the future, migrant workers in the state-legal marijuana industry are being denied citizenship, New Hampshire is one step closer to marijuana legalization, and more.

The US-Mexico border. No shutdown this year, Trump now says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Legal Marijuana Industry Workers Are Being Denied Citizenship. At least two immigrant workers in Colorado's state-legal marijuana industry have been denied citizenship under a US Citizenship and Immigration Services policy that automatically denies citizenship to immigrants working in a business that involves a Schedule I drug. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) has sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr (R) advocating for a change in the policy.

Arkansas Decriminalization Bill Stalled. A bill to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana an administrative infraction instead of a misdemeanor failed to advance out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. Instead, bill sponsor Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) pulled HB 1972 after the committee requested more research instead of passing it.

New Hampshire House Approves Legalization Bill. The House voted 200-163 Thursday to approve HB 481, which would legalize marijuana in the Granite State. The bill's tax structure was amended in the House. Instead of a $30 an ounce tax as originally proposed, the bill now contains a 5% tax at the wholesale/cultivation level and a 9% tax at the retail level. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats hold a 14-10 majority. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) remains opposed to legalizing marijuana.

Washington Bill Would Change Penalty for Sales to Minors from Felony to Misdemeanor. A bill to drastically reduce the penalty for sales to minors has passed the House and is now before the Senate Rules Committee. Under current law, any sales to minors is a felony, but HB 1792 would take that penalty from a felony down to a misdemeanor—unless the seller knew the buyer was a minor.

The Border

Trump Gives Mexico a Year to Stop the Flow of Drugs, Migrants. Retreating from his vow to shut down the US-Mexico border this week President Trump now says he will give Mexico a year to end the flow of migrants and illicit drugs across the border. If the problem persists, he said, he will impose auto tariffs, and if that doesn't work, he will then shut the border. "You know I will do it. I don’t play games. ... so we’re doing it to stop people. We’re gonna give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. ... and if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border," Trump told reporters at the White House. That is a significant retreat from his vow on March 29 to close the border "next week."

Drug War Issues

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