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Book Review: Drug Use for Grown-Ups

Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, by Carl Hart (2021, Penguin Press, 290 pp., $28.00 HB)

Dr. Carl Hart is a one-man drug and drug user destigmatization machine. In his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups, the Columbia University psychology professor blasts drug prohibition as both an affront to the American dream of the pursuit of happiness and as a tool of racial oppression. And he makes a strong, informed argument that recreational drug use can be, and usually is, a good thing.

You could hardly find someone more qualified to make the case. Hart has spent years in the trenches of neuropsychopharmacology research, handed out drugs (or placebos) to thousands of research subjects, published numerous scientific papers and popular articles in the field, and risen to the top of his profession along the way. And here is his bottom line:

"[O]ver my more than 25-year career, I have discovered that most drug-use scenarios cause little or no harm and that some responsible drug-scenarios are actually beneficial for human health and functioning. Even 'recreational' drugs can and do improve day-to-day living... From my own experience -- the combination of my scientific work and my personal drug use, I have learned that recreational drugs can be used safely to enhance many vital human activities."

Hart is refreshingly -- and deliberately -- open about his own recreational drug use. Given the stigmatization and persecution of people identified as "drug users," he feels that justice demands privileged partakers come out of the closet and give voice to their own, non-destructive drug use histories as a necessary remedy for that demonization. He certainly does so himself, revealing a disciplined yet curious mind most definitely not averse to sampling various substances.

Those substances include heroin, which he describes as his current favorite drug, one that he's been using episodically for years now: "There aren't many things in life that I enjoy more than a few lines by the fireplace at the end of the day... Heroin allows me to suspend the perpetual preparation for battle that goes on in my head... The world is alright with me. I'm good. I'm refreshed. I'm prepared to face another day, another faculty meeting, another obligatory function. All parties benefit."

But Hart is not quite so mellow when it comes to people and institutions he sees as helping to perpetuate overly negative depictions of various drugs or the persecution of drug users. He rips into Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) over her "addiction is a brain disease" mantra and the rigid ideological control she has over research funding. He rips into journalists for uncritically and sensationally reporting salacious scientific findings about the evils of drugs that he argues are not supported by the evidence they are supposedly based on. He even calls Bernie Sanders "ignorant" (that word shows up more than a few times) for complaining that marijuana shouldn't be in the same drug schedule as "killer drugs like heroin."

Dr. Carl Hart (Columbia University)
Hart doesn't deny the potential dangers of drug use but makes the case that they are dramatically overstated. In that sense, Drug Use for Grown-Ups is a corrective to more than a century of anti-drug propaganda. In a deep dive into opioids, for instance, he notes that most opioid overdose deaths are actually opioid/benzodiazepines/alcohol deaths, and that a large number of them are due to ignorance (there's that word again) -- in that, in the black market that currently exists, drug users do not and cannot know what exactly is in that pill or powder they purchased.

As long as we are in a prohibition regime, the least we can do is widespread drug testing for quality control, as is done at some European music festivals, Hart argues. But that's the only kind of drug testing he's down with; he calls the urine drug testing industry "parasitic," a sobriquet he also applies to the drug treatment industry.

But hang on, he's not done yet. Although he is an advocate for harm reduction practices, he has a bone to pick with the term itself: It's too damned negative! Drug use doesn't typically involve harm, he argues, but pleasure-seeking. As I pondered this, I came up with "benefit enhancement" as an upbeat alternative to harm reduction, but Hart went with "health and happiness."

And he's got a bone to pick with "psychedelic exceptionalism," the notion, dear to folks like Decriminalize Nature, that psychedelics, or better yet, "plant entheogens," are somehow "better" than dirty old drugs like meth or heroin and thus deserve to be treated differently, more gently. He also snarks at the notion that taking drugs for spiritual or religious purposes is of a higher order than taking them for fun and rebels at the notion of having a shaman or guide during a tripping session: "Some people find this comforting. I find it creepy and have never done so myself."

Drug Use for Grown-Ups is bracing, informative, and provocative contribution to the literature. Even the most ardent drug reformers and defenders would benefit from reading it and reexamining their own assumptions. Maybe Carl Hart is onto something.

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Allow Buprenorphine Expansion, Honduran President Target of US Drug Investigation, More... (2/9/21)

A major new marijuana reform coalition has formed, a Hawaii asset forfeiture reform bill advances, so does an Idaho medical marijuana bill, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Major Marijuana Coalition Forms to Coordinate Legalization Push, But Some Key Advocacy Players Are Not Involved. A bunch of industry and advocacy groups have formed a new coalition, the United States Cannabis Council, to press forward on marijuana legalization. But while the group is headed by Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steven Hawkins on an interim basis, it does not include major advocacy groups such as NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance. It does include marijuana enterprises such as Acreage Holdings, Canopy Growth, Columbia Care, Cronos Group, Curaleaf, Eaze, iAnthus Capital Holdings, LivWell Enlightened Health, MedMen, PAX Labs, Schwazze, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Vireo.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state won a vote in the House Health and Welfare Committee Monday. Although sponsored by the committee, the bill was actually written by Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber, a US Air Force veteran with terminal cancer, who testified before the vote Monday. "I'm here to talk with you about my desire for medical cannabis to be legalized here in Idaho, with specific limitations and controls," Kitzhaber said. "I've spent years writing and editing this legislation, to make it something that would allow medical cannabis to reach those who need it, but not necessarily reach those who just want it."

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Senate Advances Asset Forfeiture Reform Measure. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 294, which would end civil asset forfeiture by requiring a conviction on a felony count before seized property could be sold or otherwise disposed of. The bill would also direct proceeds from the sale of seized property to the state's general fund instead of a fund controlled by law enforcement. Gov. David Ige (D) vetoed a similar bill in 2019, citing concerns it would hinder law enforcement.

Drug Testing

Illinois Bill Would Require Drug Screening to Receive Food Stamps. A downstate Republican, Rep. Blaine Wilhour, filed HB 658 last Friday. The bill would require recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to undergo a drug screening upon being approved for benefits. The bill would also require them to agree to random drug screening while they are receiving the benefits. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee.

Drug Treatment

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Back Buprenorphine Expansion. A group of lawmakers led by led by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and joined by four members in the House is calling on President Biden to allow more doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug used for the treatment of opioid addiction. The Trump administration had loosened rules for buprenorphine prescribing, but in an early move, the Biden administration reversed that move, saying it was premature. The lawmakers are now reintroducing legislation to eliminate restrictive rules and are calling on Biden to "deliver on your promise to expand access to medication-assisted treatment."

Foreign Policy

US Prosecutors Are Investigating the Honduran President on Drug Trafficking Charges. In new court filing last Friday in the case of an indicted Honduran drug trafficker, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and other "high-ranking officials" were targets of a drug trafficking investigation. In another filing last month, prosecutors said that by 2013 Hernandez had "accepted millions of dollars in drug trafficking proceeds" and in return had "promised drug traffickers from prosecutors, law enforcement, and extradition to the United States." Hernandez has been a key US ally in the region.

NM Legalization Bills Filed, PA Bill Would Restrict Buprenorphine, More... (2/2/21)

Kansas's governor wants medical marijuana approved to pay for Medicaid expansion, the Mississippi Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case challenging that state's voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bills Filed. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have filed marijuana legalization bills this week. Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D) has filed SB 13, which would have private enterprise control the sale of marijuana and would tax it at 21%. Meanwhile, Senator Cliff Pirtle (R) has filed SB 288, which would also provide for the regulated, taxed sale and manufacturing of retail cannabis. The retail tax would be shared among municipalities, counties, and state governments for law enforcement and behavioral health and substance abuse programs. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is calling for marijuana legalization to pass this year.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Governor Pushes for Medical Marijuana to Pay for Medicaid Expansion. Governor Laura Kelly (D) called Monday for lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana as a means of paying for the expansion of Medicaid in the state. The move comes after Republican legislators blocked Medicaid expansion last year. You have heard many of the comments coming from the opposition have been we can't afford it," Kelly said. "We have just designed a bill that pays for itself and more. There's never been any good argument against expansion other than we can't afford it."

Mississippi Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Arguments in Medical Cannabis Case. The state Supreme Court has set a date of April 14 to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November. Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed the lawsuit, which seeks to invalidate the will of the voters because the state's initiative law is outdated. Under the state constitution, initiative petitioners must collect an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts, but the state now has only four congressional districts, which, Butler argues, makes the initiative vote invalid.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Bill Would Restrict Buprenorphine Access. State Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Crawford County) has refiled Senate Bill 675, which would impose new requirements on buprenorphine prescribers and create new barriers for buprenorphine patients. Buprenorphine is used to maintain opioid-dependent patients. Brooks' bill would require doctors prescribing buprenorphine to pay a fee of up to $500 to get a license from the state. It would also bar opioid use disorder (OUD) patients from being prescribed the drug unless they are enrolled in drug treatment programs licensed by the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Brooks introduced the same bill in 2019, where it passed the Republican-controlled Senate only to die in the House.

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week, Mexico Senate OKS Legal Pot, More... (11/30/20)

Marijuana legalization is on the move in Washington, DC, and Mexico City, Washington state activists push for therapeutic psilocbyin and broader drug decriminalization, British police chiefs call for expanding a heroin maintenance pilot program, and more.

Marijuana legalization has passed the Mexican Senate, and the Chamber of Deputies should soon follow suit. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill This Week. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) said late last week that a marijuana legalization bill, the MORE ACT (HR 3884) would receive a House floor vote this week. First, though, it will go before the House Rules Committee. A floor vote should come between Wednesday and Friday.

Drug Policy

Washington State to See Push for Psychedelics, Drug Decriminalization. In the wake of victories for therapeutic psilocybin and drug decriminalization in Oregon this year, drug reformers in neighboring Washington are now looking to push similar reforms there. One push is for therapeutic psilocybin for end-of-life patients using existing administrative mechanism, while a second is aiming at a statewide drug decriminalization initiative that also legalizes psilocybin for broader therapeutic purposes. Meanwhile, advocates plan on lobbying the legislature for drug decriminalization this year, too.

International

British Police Chiefs Call for Expansion of Heroin-Assisted Treatment Program. The National Police Chiefs Council is calling for heroin-assisted treatment to be rolled out "across the country" after a year-old pilot program reported "very promising" results. Jason Harwin, the drug policy lead for the group, said his colleagues should ponder following that lead. We should look at expanding it across the rest of the country," Harwin. "Not in every place, not everywhere needs it. But where clearly there’s a heroin problem and particularly drug-related deaths and an impact on criminality and organized crime, it’s clearly a solution that actually helps "individuals and the wider communities as well."

Colombia Defense Minister Says Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crops Must Restart. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said last Friday that the country needed to restart spraying coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate in order to shrink cocaine production and shrink the income of illegal. "There is no doubt at all. Colombia needs to reestablish aspersion, aerial fumigation with glyphosate for national security reasons," Holmes Trujillo said. "Logically it needs to be reestablished with assurances for health and the environment." Doing so would cut off resources "for those who commit massacres and kill social leaders," he added.

Mexican Senate Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization bill last Thursday. The bill now goes to the Chamber of Deputies where it is also expected to pass. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has not publicly backed the bill, but his ruling MORENA Party, which supports the bill, holds majorities in both chambers. Under the bill, adults could possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants at home, while a system of taxed and regulated legal sales would also be set up.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Coming, British Heroin-Assisted Treatment Pilot Gets Results, More... (11/11/20)

The odor of marijuana will no longer be the sole grounds for police searches in Virginia after March 1, a bid to legalize marijuana in Colombia has failed, but another remains alive, and more.

Peyote and other psychedelics could be decriminalized under a bill soon to be filed in California. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Law Ending Searches Based on Marijuana Order Goes into Effect on March 1. After lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5029 during a special session, police will no longer be able to conduct searches based solely on the odor of marijuana. The law will go into effect on March 1.

Psychedelics

California Will See Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelics. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics. Weiner is also pushing a broader drug policy agenda that includes legalizing safe injection sites and ending mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses. "The war on drugs has been a disaster, in terms of bloating law enforcement, tearing apart communities, criminalizing addiction and spending enormous amounts of money on prisons," Wiener said. "We need to end the war on drugs. Possession of drugs should just not be a crime."

International

British Pilot Heroin Maintenance Program Celebrates First Year. A heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) program in Middlebrough marked its first anniversary this week and is reporting good results. Half of the 14 people who began the program remain on it and the result has been "low re-offending rates, improved physical and mental well-being, and repaired relationships with family and friends," according to the program's director. The people remaining on the program had committed 541 detected criminal offenses before entering the program, but only three since joining. Participants come twice a day to a clinic to inject pharmaceutical heroin in a supervised setting.

Colombia Shelves Congressional Bill on Marijuana Legalization. A bill that would have legalized marijuana has been defeated in the Chamber of Representatives on a vote of 102-52. Right-wing factions allied with President Ivan Duque defeated the bill. But a second marijuana legalization bill is still alive in the Senate and will be debated by mid-month. To become law, that bill must be fully approved by year's end.

AZ Legalization Initiative a Go, Oakland Cops Raid Mushroom Church, More... (8/21/20)

A British prescription heroin pilot program gets extended after promising first year results, police in Oakland raid a club that was selling magic mushrooms, and more.

Magic Mushrooms. In Oakland, apparently you can have them, but you can't sell them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Legalization Marijuana Legalization Initiative Stays on the Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision that the description on the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative "accurately described the proposition," ending a legal challenge to it and clearing the final hurdle before it can go to voters in November.

Psychedelics

Oakland Police Raid, Close Nation's Only Magic Mushroom Church. Police in Oakland raided the Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants last week, seizing marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and cash after calling firefighters to break open the church's safe. Zide Door was the most prominent "magic mushroom" club in the country and likely the only brick and mortar place where one could purchase the mushrooms. Zide Door was originally a "cannabis church," but added mushrooms to its offerings after the city council approved a resolution making enforcement of laws around certain psychedelic plants law enforcement's "lowest priority." Police say the church went beyond the law by selling marijuana without a license and by selling magic mushrooms. "The council said mushrooms should not be our priority, and they're not," said Oakland Police Captain Randell Wingate, who supervises the unit that conducted the raid. "You can use mushrooms, you can grow your own mushrooms -- but selling mushrooms is still not legal."

International

British Heroin Maintenance Pilot Project Extended for Another Year. The United Kingdom's first heroin prescribing pilot project has been extended for another year after an evaluation found it created reductions in crime and homelessness. The first year's results were "very promising," the evaluation found. The project in Middlesborough led to a a large reduction in reoffending rates and street drug use, and significant improvement in participants' health and quality of life, including seeing initially homeless participants placed in stable housing.

Cartel COVID Curfew in Culiacan, SF Providing Booze, Buds, Butts to Quarantined Drug Users, more... (5/7/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc with global drug markets, the Sinaloa Cartel has imposed a coronavirus curfew on a city of nearly a million people, San Francisco is taking a harm reduction approach to quarantined drug users, and more.

El Chapo may be behind bars in the US, but his sons still rule Sinaloa. (sedena.gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign to Begin Signature-Gathering with New Safety Protocols. New Approach Montana announced Thursday it will proceed with signature-gathering for a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives and that it had drafted internal policies to protect circulators and the public during the coronavirus pandemic. The move comes after the group lost a court bid to be able to do electronic signature-gathering. They need to collectt about 25,000 valid signatures from registered voters for the statutory legalization measure and 51,000 needed for the constitutional proposal concerning age requirements. Those petitions must be submitted by June 19.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Approved for Signature-Gathering. The DC Board of Elections on Wednesday approved a petition to decriminalize psychedelics in the nation's capital. It also approved a motion allowing circulators to sign their own petitions, removing a longstanding obstacle to initiative campaigns.

Drug Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Drug Defelonization Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed into law HB19-1263, which makes the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The move is expected to save the state somewhere between $8 million and $14 million over the next five years, with the savings diverted to fund new drug treatment centers.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Providing Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana to Some People Under Quarantine or Isolation. The city health department confirmed Wednesday that it is providing alcohol, tobacco, medical cannabis and other substances in an effort to prevent a handful of people quarantined or isolating in city-leased hotels from going outside to get the substances themselves. The hotel residents are receiving opioid maintenance medications such as methadone, delivered by methadone clinics. The city says it is using harm reduction to keep these people inside and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

International

UNODC Says Pandemic Pushing Up Price of Illegal Drugs. In a report published Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said pandemic-related border closures, lockdowns, and flight shortages are making drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain around the world. "Many countries across all regions have reported an overall shortage of numerous types of drugs at the retail level, as well as increases in prices, reductions in purity and that drug users have consequently been switching substance (for example, from heroin to synthetic opioids) and/or increasingly accessing drug treatment," the report said.

Mexican City Under Lockdown Imposed by Sinaloa Cartel. Culiacan, Sinaloa, a city of nearly a million people, is under lockdown with a curfew imposed by the Sinaloa Cartel. Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, the sons of imprisoned cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have threatened violators with beatings with boards, arrests or fines. "This is no game, we're not playing," a member of the Sinaloa Cartel reportedly said in one of several videos circulating on social media. "After ten o'clock at night, all the people must be inside their homes due to the coronavirus, otherwise they will be punished, these are orders "from above (from Los Chapitos)," the video said, referring to the brothers. Cartel members have been patrolling the streets in heavily armed convoys to enforce the curfew.

New ACLU Report on Pot Arrests Finds Racial Disparities Persist, UK Loosens Up on Buprenorphine, More... (4/20/20)

Some members of Congress are asking for marijuana businesses to be included in future coronavirus relief packages, the Mexican Supreme Court okays a delay in marijuana legalization until the fall, and more. 

It's Bicycle Day commemorating the day in 1943 when Dr. Albert Hoffman first tripped brains on LSD.
Marijuana Policy

ACLU Report Finds Persistent Racial Disparities in Marijuana Law Enforcement—Even in Legal States. A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on US marijuana arrests between 2010 and 2018 finds that "the racist war on marijuana is far from over." The report found that overall black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses, even though they use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites. That includes states where marijuana is legal. The states with the highest disparities were Montana (9.6 times), Kentucky (9.4), Illinois (7.5), West Virginia (7.3), Iowa (7.3), Vermont (6.1), and North Dakota (5.5).

Members of Congress Formally Request Marijuana Industry's Inclusion in Future Coronavirus Relief Packages. Some 34 members of the House ranging from Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) to Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have signed onto a letter formally requesting House leaders to include the marijuana industry in the next round of bailouts for businesses and people hurt by coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. The letter also asks that marijuana companies also be permitted to receive financial assistance from the government's Small Business Administration (SBA).

Alaska Regulators Approve Emergency Changes to Allow Curbside Pickup from Pot Shops. Last Friday, the state Marijuana Control Board approved emergency changes to allow for curbside pickup of marijuana orders as well as a loosening of transportation rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rule changes will not go into effect until Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) signs off. If approved, the rules will stay in place for up to 120 days.

International

Great Britain Begins Allowing Monthly Buprenorphine Injections for Heroin Addicts During Pandemic. The National Health Service (NHS) has begun providing once-a-month injections of buprenorphine to recovering heroin addicts instead of requiring daily oral medication as part of a move to protect NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic. It is hoped the change will elieve pressure on pharmacy and NHS services by reducing the amount of contact between individuals and frontline staff.

Mexican Supreme Court Again Extends Marijuana Legalization Deadline. The Mexican Supreme Court has accepted a request from lawmakers to postpone an April 30 deadline to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The request came after both houses of the legislature suspended most of their work because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is expected to be approved during the Senate’s next ordinary session period, which starts in September.

MA Judge Upholds Recreational Pot Shop Ban; Mexican Cartels Hand Out Food, Supplies Amidst Crisis, More... (4/17/20)

Sorry, Massachusetts, no legal pot sales for you for now; Mexican drug cartels and El Chapo's daughter are currying favor by handing out food and supplies amidst the pandemic, and more. 

"El Chapo"-branded face masks being distributed in Mexico by a company owned by his daughter. (Facebook)
Massachusetts Judge Upholds State Ban on Recreational Pot Shops. A Suffolk County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Charlie Baker (R) acted within the law when he shut down recreational marijuana businesses as part of a broader stay-at-home order issued to address the coronavirus pandemic. Pot businesses filed suit to overturn the ban, which they argued was arbitrary since Baker's order allowed medical marijuana and liquor outlets to remain open, but Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger agreed with Baker's argument that the shops would attract out of state visitors: "It was reasonable for the governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or [medical marijuana treatment centers] to attract high volumes of customers, including people traveling from other states," Salinger wrote. "The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional."

International

British Columbia Rolls Out Safe Drugs for Street Users. Last month, the Canadian government urged provinces to lower barrier to prescription medications as part of the effort to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, and now British Columbia is becoming the first province to apply those guidelines to people using street drugs. Healthcare providers are increasing the supply of opiate maintenance drugs and even dispensing some of them via a unique vending machine. By providing a safe supply of legal drug alternatives, the province hopes to lower a sudden spike in drug overdose deaths that coincided with the coronavirus outbreak in Vancouver.

Mexican Drug Cartels Hand Out More Coronavirus Aid. One of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's daughters and several Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been handing out aid packages to help poor residents get through the coronavirus pandemic. Guzman's daughter Alejandrina is seen in Facebook videos filling boxes with slick logos and an image of her father with food and toilet paper. The video narrator calls them "Chapo's provisions." The boxes were distributed in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The products are made for El Chapo 701, a legal business run by his daughter. But other active cartels are also handing out goods to local residents in some areas in a bid to gain public support. In one case, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel can be seen handing out packages of food and supplies labeled: "From your friends, CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support." The Gulf Cartel did a similar free distribution of supplies to poor residents of Victoria, Tamaulipas, last week. 

 

 

Call to Ease Access for Opioid Disorder Treatment During Crisis, DC Patients Get MedMJ Delivery, More... (4/15/20)

DC medical marijuana patients can now get home delivery and curbside pickup, Montana activists are suing the state to be able to do electronic signature gathering during the pandemic, calls mount to free a jailed Bolivian coca grower union leader, and more.

Montana activists are suing to be able to do electronic signature gathering for a pair of legalization initiatives. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Legalization Campaign Sues for Electronic Signature Gathering During Pandemic. The campaign manager for New Approach Montana and two in-state political figures have filed a lawsuit against the state charging that prohibiting electronic signature gathering during the coronavirus pandemic is unconstitutional. New Approach Montana is behind a pair of legalization initiatives: a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14)  that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Not allowing for electronic signature gathering would violate the "constitutional rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana to amend the constitution and enact laws by initiative, as well as the rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution," the lawsuit argues.

Medical Marijuana

Washington, DC, Okays Home Delivery, Curbside Pickup. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and the city Department of Health announced an emergency rule Monday that allows medical marijuana patients to have their medicine delivered. The new rule also allows for curbside pickup as a social distancing measure.

Harm Reduction

Activists Call for Big Changes to Ease Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment. The Urban Survivors Union, a national drug user group, is calling on regulators to relax rules around the prescription and dispensing of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. While government agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Medicare and Medicaid recently announcing policy shifts that permit more flexible prescribing and dispensing of MAT, as the union notes, "clinics have been either reluctant or resistant to fully implement them to the extent allowable under the law." The group, along with a lengthy list of signatories, is advocating for no discharging of people from treatment except for violent behavior, allowing people to request larger doses of MAT, coronavirus testing for people in treatment, among other recommendations.

International

Bolivia Faces Mounting Calls for Release of Afro-Bolivian Coca Union Leader. Activists are calling for the release of Elena Flores, the first woman and first Afro-Bolivian leader of the local coca growers' union. She has been behind bars for a month as part of a crackdown on social movements and indigenous groups by the government the rightist interim government that took power late last year after then-President Evo Morales, also a coca grower union leader, was forced from office by street protests and the loss of support of the military and police. Flores is one of three imprisoned Bolivian women, along with the former head of the Supreme Electoral Board and former President Morales' lawyer, whose release is being demanded by more than 160 organization, academics, trade unions, and activists worldwide.

Drug War Issues

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