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Chronicle AM: Mexico Legal Pot Bill Set to Move, Los Angeles DA Clears 66,000 Pot Convictions, More... (2/14/20)

The clock is ticking on getting marijuana legalization done in Mexico, a Pennsylvania patient fights for the right to have access to public housing, the LA DA clears 66,000 old pot convictions, and more.

Marijuana legalization draws ever nearer in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Announces Planned Marijuana Legalization Bill. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D), who filed an unsuccessful legalization bill last year, has announced in a letter to colleagues that he will try again this year. Wheatley's bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, with a 10% wholesale tax on business-to-business transactions and a 6% retail sales tax that would rise to 12% after two years and 19% after another two years. The bill would also expunge past marijuana convictions and promote social equity and restorative justice.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Clears 66,000 Marijuana Convictions. District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday that she had secured the dismissal of some 62,000 felony marijuana convictions and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions. Her announcement came after she filed motions last week to erase those convictions and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Samuel Ohta signed the order on Tuesday.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Patient Fights for Right to Stay in Public Housing. Medical marijuana patient Mary Cease has no criminal record and a low income, but the Housing Authority of Indiana County has twice denied her application for Section 8 housing because Section 8 is a federal program and federal law considers marijuana to be illegal, period. She sued and lost in the Court of Common Pleas last April, but has appealed, and on Thursday, a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges heard oral arguments in her case. Her attorneys asked them to reverse the lower court decision and order Indiana County to give her access to Section 8 housing. No decision is expected for weeks, and final resolution of the case could take months.

International

Key Mexican Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Be Approved This Month. Sen. Julio Menchaca of the ruling MORENA Party and head of the Senate Justice Committee said a bill to legalize marijuana was "already circulated to members" of key legislative panels and that "we hope to get it out in the Senate this month." Under a Supreme Court ruling, the Congress has until April to get it done. If the bill indeed passes the Senate this month, it would still have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies.

Chronicle AM: Trump Anti-Drug Budget Released, MT and ND Legal Pot Inits See Changes, More... (2/11/20)

The president praises authoritarian governments that quickly execute drug dealers, the White House releases the annual anti-drug budget, a North Dakota pot legalization initiative extends its signature gathering drive, and more. 

President Trump has a soft spot for authoritarian countries that execute drug dealers. (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Initiative Committee Removes Medical Marijuana Changes from Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, which is proposing a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, has revised one of them after state officials raised concerns that its statutory initiative provision lowering the tax on medical marijuana would violate the rule that initiatives only deal with a single subject. New Approach has now removed that language; the changes are reflected in the current version of the initiative.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Shifts from June Ballot Effort to November. The North Dakota Freedom of Cannabis Act campaign, which seeks to pass a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment has announced it will no longer seek a place on the June ballot, but is now aiming at November. The move came Tuesday, the final day to hand in signatures to qualify for the June ballot. By shifting to the later election date, the campaign gives itself an additional four months to come up with more signatures. It needs 26,904 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot and only had 18,000 raw signatures so far.

Medical Marijuana

Trump's FY 2021 Budget Would Remove Protection for Medical Marijuana States. As part of its just released fiscal year 2021 budget, the Trump administration is proposing an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department meddling. Since 2014, Congress has approved a rider in the department's appropriations bill that blocks it from spending funds to do so, but the Senate failed to approve it last year.

Drug Courts

Alabama Report Calls for Statewide Standards for Drug Courts. The legal advocacy group Alabama Appleseed has released a report that examined diversion programs in the state, including the resort to drug courts, and recommends that lawmakers establish uniform statewide standards for such programs, which the report found varied wildly from county to county. "We hope this report will provide a road map for tackling some really tough issues in a smarter way. We hear so much about the opioid crisis, and it is real and it devastates family and communities. We hear so much about the horrors and the violence in our prisons," said Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder. "If more people could be treated outside of prison for substance use issues, we could find a way to make these opportunities work for the people who need them most. It could make a difference in two huge and sometimes seemingly overwhelming issues in this state."

Drug Policy

Trump Praises China's "Powerful" Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. At a meeting with US governors at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump responded to a question about fentanyl imported from China by praising Chinese President Xi Jingping's decision to criminalize the drug and execute drug dealers. "Now they've put it into their criminal statutes. And criminal in China for drugs by the way means that's serious, they're getting a maximum penalty," said Trump. "And you know what the maximum penalty is in China for that, and it goes very quickly." He then praised countries that execute drug dealers after "fair but quick" trials: "It's interesting. Where you have Singapore, they have very little drug problem. Where you have China, they have very little drug problem," Trump said. "States with a very powerful death penalty on drug dealers don't have a drug problem. I don't know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty... with a fair but quick trial, they have very little, if any drug problem."

Trump Drug Budget Continues to Grow; Treatment and Prevention Funds Barely Exceed Enforcement and Interdiction Funds. The White House has released the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Drug Control Budget, which requests $35.7 billion for counter-drug efforts, an increase of $94 million from the previous year. The request includes $18.6 billion for prevention and treatment efforts, and $17.1 billion for domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international drug control efforts. 

Chronicle AM: House Resolution Condemns Racist Drug War, Prison Racial Disparities Shrink, More.... (12/10/19)

Michigan legal pot sales are off to a hot start, a House resolution demands Congress apologize for racist drug war, a new report finds declining racial disparities in incarceration, and more. 

The Wolverine state is embracing legal marijuana if early sales figures are any indication. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Major League Baseball on Verge on Okaying Marijuana Use. The league has already abandoned testing for marijuana for the major leagues, but now it and the players' union have reportedly agreed to remove it from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers as well as part of a wider deal involving opioid use in baseball. Until now, minor league players had been subject to a 25-game suspension for the first positive pot test, 50 games for the second, 100 games for the third, and a lifetime ban for a fourth offense. This isn't a done deal yet, but both sides said they hoped it would be by year's end.

Michigan Legal Marijuana Sales Off to Roaring Start. After only eight days of legal marijuana sales, Michiganders have bought more than $1.6 million worth of weed. And that's in only five retail shops already open in the state. Three of those shops either sold out their inventory or had only limited supplies of marijuana products. That $1.6 million in sales brought in more than $270,000 for the state in the form of marijuana excise and sales taxes. The state House Fiscal Agency estimates that once the legal marijuana market is fully established, sales will approach $950 million annually, with the state taking in $152 million in pot taxes each year.

Drug Policy

Lawmakers File Resolution Demanding Congress Apologize for Racist War on Drugs. House members led by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced a House resolution on Friday calling on Congress to admit that the war on drugs has been a racially biased failure, provide justice to those negatively impacted by it and apologize to communities most impacted under prohibition. The resolution says "the House of Representatives should immediately halt any and all actions that would allow the War on Drugs to continue." It has 20 sponsors, including Karen Bass (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

Sentencing Policy

Racial Disparities in Incarceration Narrow, But Black People Still More Likely to Be Imprisoned, Study Finds. A new report from the Council on Criminal Justice finds that racial disparities in incarceration rates shrank between 2000 and 2016, but that blacks were still five times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. The black-white imprisonment ratio dropped from 8.3-to-1 in 2000 to 5.1-to-1 in 2016. On a less positive note, black defendants are getting longer state prison sentences even as the number of arrests or incarcerations among black people steadily decreases.

Chronicle AM: Bernie's Pot Policy, Beto's Drug Policy, Castro's Drug Policy, More... (10/25/19)

Democratic presidential contenders talk drug policy, a new California marijuana legalization initiative is approved for signature gathering, a Massachusetts judge partially lifts a pot vaping ban, and more.

Democratic candidates are rolling out far reaching plans for drug policy reform. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Calls for Marijuana Legalization, Investment in Communities Harmed by Drug War. Vermont senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders on Thursday released a sweeping plan for marijuana legalization that includes a $20 billion grant program for entrepreneurs of color, legalization by executive order within 100 days of taking office, and the expungement of past convictions. The proposal also envisions restricting marijuana businesses to be more like nonprofits and less like corporations, and bans tobacco companies from participating in the industry.

California Marijuana Legalization Expansion Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. An initiative that would broaden and deepen the legalization of marijuana in the state has been approved for signature gathering. The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative would free some state marijuana prisoners, protect personal users from regulatory and licensing requirements, limit commercial regulation to that imposed on liquor and wine, and limit retail sales tax to 10%. State analysts estimate that passage would result in reduced state and local tax revenues to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Massachusetts Judge Partially Lifts Vaping Ban to Allow for Vaping Buds. A state district court judge has altered Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) van on vaping to allow for the sale of crushed marijuana buds to resume. The move came after hearing testimony from medical marijuana patients and advocates.

Drug Policy

Beto O'Rourke Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Safe Injection Sites In New Plan. Democratic presidential contender Beto O'Rourke on Thursday rolled out a drug policy plan calling for the embrace of harm reduction strategies, including safe injection sites, and decriminalizing drug possession. He said the country needs to move away from a criminal justice model and toward a public health model to deal with substance use and addiction.

Julián Castro Calls for Marijuana Legalization and Expungements in New Criminal Justice Plan. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Democratic presidential contender has called for marijuana legalization and expungement of prior pot arrests as part of his criminal justice plan. He is also calling to "end the War on Drugs" and "address the opioid crisis and other challenges of drug addiction as primarily public health issues, not seek to further harm the and communities suffering addiction."

Drug Testing

Oklahoma Court Holds That Positive Marijuana Drug Test Did Not Prove That Marijuana Caused Accident. A machine operator whose hand was crushed at work is entitled to workmen's compensation even though he tested positive for marijuana because that test does not prove that marijuana use caused the accident, a state court judge has ruled.

(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.)

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization This Year May Not Be Dead After All [FEATURE]

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he wanted marijuana legalized. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said he wanted it, too, and Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) was also on board. But the state's most powerful politicians couldn't get their act together enough to actually get marijuana legalization passed earlier this year, and despite all the initial excitement, it seemed like New Jersey was doomed to endure another year of pot prohibition.

Now, though, it's looking like Garden Staters may end up enjoying an unexpected Christmas present after all. Last week, both Sweeney and Murphy were making noises about reviving the stalled legalization effort before year's end.

"I'm not going to give up trying. I would love to do it. We'll make one more run at it," Sweeney told NJ.com last Wednesday. He added that he believed an agreement among himself, Coughlin, and Murphy on the language in the bill would be enough to get it through the legislature.

That prompted a quick expression of support from Murphy, who campaigned on marijuana legalization in 2017 and once vowed to get it done by the end of 2018.

Last Thursday, Murphy told the PhillyVoice that he was "happy to hear" Sweeney wanted to move again on legalization. "I was encouraged to see that, and count me all in to try and work toward that," he said. "Getting something to happen sooner if we have a real shot at it, I'd be all in for that."

Sources close to Sweeney said the renewed push to get legalization through would come after the November elections, most likely during the lame duck session between Election Day and January.

That's a real turnaround for Sweeney, who announced in May that he was ending efforts to pass the bill because he didn't have the votes for it. At the time, he said the most likely path to legalization was for the state's voters to decide the issue in a November 2020 ballot referendum. But that would mean another year of prohibition.

Sweeney and Murphy were also at odds over investigations by the administration into whether corporations misused tax breaks in the past. One of the companies being scrutinized is owned by state Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, a Sweeney ally. Once the investigations got underway, negotiations between Sweeney and Murphy over the pot bill stalled.

What has prompted Sweeney to change his mind now and whether he has the five votes he lacked in May remains unclear, but the Senate leader is definitely signaling he's ready to try to push the bill though.

It would be the popular thing to do. A February Monmouth University poll had support for legalization at 62 percent, with just 32 percent opposed. The people of New Jersey are ready; now, it's up to the politicians to get it done.

If New Jersey does legalize it this year, it will become the 11th state to do so and the second one to do so this year, after Illinois. And it will beat neighboring New York across the finish line.

Chronicle AM: CO Hits $1 Billion in Cannabis Taxes, Pompeo Doubles Down on Colombia Crop Spraying, More... (6/13/18)

Colorado has raked in a billion dollars in cannabis tax revenues, Cincinnati decriminalizes, Bonaroo harm reduction protest, Pompeo pushes Colombia coca crop spraying, and more.

Is this truck driver "an illicit drug user"? A trucking group says hundreds of thousands are. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Hits $1 Billion in Marijuana Tax Revenues. The state Department of Revenue reported this week that tax revenues from marijuana sales since legalization in 2014 have now topped the one-billion-dollar mark. The department reported tax, license, and fee revenues of $1.02 billion on sales of $6.5 billion. It also reported that the state now has 2,900 licensed marijuana businesses employing 41,000 people.

Nevada Becomes First State to Bar Employers from Refusing to Hire Marijuana Users. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last week signed into law AB 132, which bans employers from refusing to hire people who test positive for marijuana on a drug test, making Nevada the first state to do so. "It is unlawful for any employer in this State to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a screening test and the results of the screening test indicate the presence of marijuana," the law says. There are exceptions for some public safety-related positions. The law goes into effect on January 1.

Cincinnati Decriminalizes. The Cincinnati city council voted 5-3 Wednesday to decriminalize the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana -- as long as it is not being used in public. There will be no fines, either.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Idaho Governor Signs Executive Order on Opioids and Substance Abuse. Gov. Brad Little (R) on Thursday signed into law an executive order aimed at combatting opioid and substance misuse in the state. The order creates an advisory group to study diversion policies for first-time drug offenders, prescription monitoring programs, treatment options, educating the medical community, and a public awareness campaign around opioids.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law SB 191, which does not end civil asset forfeiture in the state but requires that law enforcement report on its asset forfeiture activities.

Foreign Policy

Secretary of State Pompeo Doubles Down on Backing Aerial Coca Spraying in Colombia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Tuesday that the US still strongly supports the resumption of the aerial spraying of the pesticide glyphosate on coca fields in Colombia. He neither acknowledged global criticism of the use of glyphosate -- the Colombian constitutional court banned it in 2015 -- nor any other strategy for reducing coca cultivation. Instead, he said spraying is "an important tool they need" to reduce coca production.

Harm Reduction

Harm Reductionists Protest at Bonaroo Over Harassment of Drug Checking Kit Providers. Tennessee's Bonaroo music festival has been plagued by drug overdoses in recent years even though authorities had allowed harm reduction groups such as DanceSafe and the Bunk Police to hand out drug checking kits. But for the past couple of years, police have forced the groups out of the festival, so the Bunk Police have organized a protest Thursday and Friday afternoons to raise awareness of the issue. "We're trying to bring attention to the issue and have them join us and showing that there's a problem and that Bonnaroo could, you know, take action and allow this harm reduction effort, which could allow for a safe environment for the patrons," the Bunk Police said.

Transportation Policy

Trucking Group Demands Purge of 300,000 Truck Drivers as "Illicit Drug Users." Addressing Congress on Thursday, a trucking group composed of some of the industry's largest carriers said it had data indicating as many as 300,000 truck drivers are "manipulating" urine drug testing protocols and should be removed from the nation's highways. The Trucking Alliance told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that "thousands of commercial truck drivers are illicit drug users" and that they have the drug testing data to back up their claims. They based their data on the number of drivers who passed urine drug tests but either failed or refused to undergo hair drug tests, which can detect the presence of substances for months -- long after they would have any influence on drivers. There is a chronic shortage of drivers in the industry, which other groups testifying attributed in part to the spread of marijuana legalization.

Chronicle AM: Colombia & Luxembourg Move on Marijuana Legalization, Oakland Cuts Marijuana Taxes, More... (5/23/19)

Oakland slashes pot taxes for small businesses, Colombia congressmembers plot a marijuana legalization bill, Luxembourg ministers outline their plans for marijuana legalization, and more.

Luxembourg Justice Quarter
Marijuana Policy

Oakland City Council Votes to Cut Marijuana Taxes for Small Businesses. In a bid to protect small marijuana businesses in the city, the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to lower the gross receipts tax on marijuana businesses that make $500,000 or less a year. The current rate is 10%, one of the highest in the state; the new rate will by 0.12%, a dramatic reduction. Whether bigger pot businesses will get a tax cut, too, will be taken up by the Council next month.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Senate Unanimously Approves CBD Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. In a surprise move, the Senate voted to approve HB 3703 Wednesday. The bill would expand the states limited Compassionate Use program to allow CBD cannabis oil to be used for a number of new specified disorders, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and autism. The bill now goes back to the House, where it has already passed, for changes to be approved or ironed out in conference committee.

International

Luxembourg Ministers Outline Proposals for Marijuana Legalization Bill. Justice Minister Feliz Braz and Health Minister Etienne Schneider have elaborated on the government's plans to legalize marijuana, which were announced in November. They said they plan to allow people 18 and older to possess up to 30 grams in public, while teens possessing less than five grams would not face charges. They also envision a strictly regulated marijuana market, with THC content limited. (THe limit is not set yet.) Also, only Luxembourg residents will be allowed to purchase marijuana there. They said they planned to present a preliminary bill to parliament by August.

Colombian Congress Preparing Marijuana Legalization Bill. Lawmakers from a wide range of parties have begun working on new legislation that would legalize the production and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. The initiative to legalize weed is led by opposition Senator Gustavo Bolivar (Humane Colombia) and would be coauthored by the opposition, the Liberal Party and lawmakers from center-right parties like Radical Change and the U Party. The 12 lawmakers working on the legislation plan to present the bill on July 20, the first day after summer recess.

Chronicle AM: Marijuana Descheduling Bill Filed, Model West African Drug Law Presented, More... (5/22/19)

A federal marijuana descheduling bill picks up some cosponsors who want to be president, the California Senate approves a bill to allow special banks to deal with state-legal pot businesses, the drug czar announces a new initiative, and more.

There is getting to be an awful lot of marijuana bills floating around the Capitol these days. Now, there's one more. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Four Democratic Presidential Contenders Sign on to Federal Descheduling Bill. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) are all cosponsors of companion marijuana rescheduling bills filed Monday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). The bills would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and use some funds from marijuana taxes to help socially disenfranchised individuals find a role in the legal industry.

California Senate Approves Special Banks for Marijuana Retailers. The state Senate voted 35-1 Tuesday to approve a bill that would allow people to start banks and credit unions that could accept cash from state-legal marijuana businesses. SB 51 would allow those banks to issue special checks to retailers that could only be used for certain purposes, such as paying state taxes and state-based vendors. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

New Jersey Decriminalization, Expungement Bills Held Up. A last-minute move to pass decriminalization and expungement bills after legalization was stifled in the legislature is itself now stalled. A vote that was set for Thursday has been canceled after Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said he was not in favor of the legislation.

Hemp

Louisiana Hemp Bill Advances, But Is Encumbered by Regulations. A bill to legalize hemp farming in the state, HB 491, has passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, but only after committee chair Sen. Francis Thompson (R), an avowed hemp skeptic, tacked a series of amendments on the measure that imposes a "tremendous amount" of regulation, according to Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who supports the bill. The measure has already passed the House and now goes to the full Senate. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk.

Drug Policy

ONDCP Director Carroll to Convene Emerging Threats Committee. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Director Jim Carroll announced Tuesday the formation of an Emerging Threats Committee to identify and respond to evolving and emerging drug threats in the United States. "The drug threats facing the United States are constantly changing and more complex than ever before. It is critical we not only meet the challenges of today, but also prepare to address the threats of tomorrow. By bringing together those people on the front lines of this fight, we can position ourselves to proactively respond to these threats, and preserve the safety and security of American citizens," Carroll said. The committee consists of 14 representatives from National Drug Control Program agencies, state, local and tribal governments, and non-governmental agencies.

Foreign Policy

House Committee Votes to Increase Colombia Anti-Drug Aid. The House Appropriations Committee has approved a $40 million increase in development and counternarcotics assistance to Colombia. That would make next year's package worth $457 million, far more than the $344 million the Trump administration requested in its budget. "The committee is inclined to continue its partnership with Colombia and to build on the progress of recent years made possible by the adoption of the peace accord. The agreement, combined with a renewed initiative to fight illegal crop cultivation and drug trafficking, offers great hope for the social, economic and political future of the country," the committee said in a statement. $189 million of the funds would go to anti-drug efforts.

International

Model Drug Law for West Africa Presented to Health Ministers on Sidelines of 72nd Session of the World Health Assembly. The West Africa Commission on Drugs, UNAIDS and the Global Commission on Drug Policy presented the Model Drug Law for West Africa to ministers of health of the Economic Community of West African States on Wednesday. The model drug law provides concrete templates that countries can adapt to reform their drug laws -- legal provisions and how they relate to international legal obligations -- as well as useful commentary that explains different options and reasons for choosing the proposed legal solutions. The model drug law offers a measured way for decriminalizing drug use and possession for personal use by introducing thresholds, thereby allowing people who use drugs to access health services and seek support. The model drug law acknowledges that barriers must also be removed so that the millions of people in need of health services, including people living with cancer or with HIV, can access the treatment and care they need.

(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: Legal Pot Bill This Week in NJ, Global Drug War Human Rights Guidelines Issued, More... (3/18/19)

A New Mexico pot legalization bill dies and the governor says she will take it up next year, Minneapolis will quit charging small-time pot offenders, UN bodies and member states issue drug war human rights guidelines, a federal prisoner sues for access to methadone treatment, and more.

The state of New Jersey is banking on marijuana tax revenues. Now, to get that bill passed. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Democrats Unveil Legalization Package. A group of House Democrats held a press conference last Thursday to unveil a proposed package go bills to allow marijuana to be grown, processed, and sold to consumers in the state. The draft bills include a pilot plan for adult sales, but do not include letting people grow their own.

New Jersey Legalization Committee Votes Begin Today. The compromise legalization bill agreed to by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders is due for committee votes Monday, with an eye toward final passage next Monday if all goes well. The bill would allow adults to possess up to an ounce, but not grow their own. It would also expunge records of past pot offenses and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

New Mexico Decriminalization Bill Goes to Governor, But Legalization Bill Dies. In last minute action this past weekend, the legislature passed a pot decriminalization bill, SB 323, and sent it to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). That’s some small consolation for the failure of a legalization bill, HB 356, which passed the House but died in the Senate Finance Committee.

New Mexico Governor Adds Marijuana Legalization to 2020 Agenda. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Sunday she will add marijuana legalization to the agenda of next year’s 30-day short session. The move comes after a bipartisan marijuana legalization bill managed to pass the House this session, only to be stalled in the Senate until the session expired on Saturday.

Minnesota’s Most Populous County Won’t Charge Small-Time Pot Offenders. Prosecutors in Hennepin County, the home of Minneapolis, will no longer prosecute people caught with small amounts of pot, County Attorney Mike Freeman said last Thursday. Under state law, possession of up to 42.5 grams is a misdemeanor, but possession of as little as 45 grams can be charged as a felony. Freeman said he will no longer charge anyone caught with less than 100 grams; instead, defendants will be considered for a diversion program.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Posts Draft Rules for Medical Marijuana Program. The Department of Health and Senior Services released more drafts of rules for the state's emerging medical marijuana system last Thursday. The rules cover marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities and medical marijuana establishments in general. Click on the link for a detailed analysis of the proposed regulations.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Rules into Law.  Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last Thursday signed into law new regulations for the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry. The legislation sets guidelines for inventory testing and tracking, advertising, and packaging and labeling, among other things. It also allows employers to fire medical marijuana users in certain safety-sensitive positions, such as fire fighters and heavy machinery operators.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Moving. A bill to legalize hemp production, HB 122, passed out of a pair of committees last Thursday and is now headed for a House floor vote. The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp production, and 41 other states have already legalized hemp production.

Psychedelics

Oakland Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative in Planning Stages. A coalition of advocacy groups in hosting a series of meetings in coming months aimed at building support for an initiative to decriminalize not only magic mushrooms but all “entheogenic plants, fungi, and natural sources.” The campaign is called Decriminalize Nature.

Drug Treatment

Incoming Federal Prisoner Sues Over Policy Banning Methadone Treatment. A Massachusetts woman who is about to enter federal prison and will not be permitted to continue methadone treatment for opioid addiction under prison rules has filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons over the policy. Stephanie DiPierro has to do a year for collecting disability benefits and food stamps without reporting income from a job and has been on methadone since 2005.

Massachusetts Bill Would Block Courts from Jailing Defendants in Treatment Who Fail Drug Tests. After the state’s highest court ruled last year that judges could order jail time for defendants who violate probation by using drugs, legislators have responded with S. 397, which would bar judges from incarcerating people who are in treatment and fail mandatory drug tests while on probation. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Human Rights

UN Member States, UN Bodies, and Human Rights Groups Launch International Legal Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy. A coalition of UN Member States, UN entities and leading human rights experts meeting at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on Monday launched a landmark set of international legal standards to transform and reshape global responses to the world drug problem. The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy introduces a comprehensive catalogue of human rights standards. They are a guide for governments to develop human rights compliant drug policies, covering the spectrum of cultivation to consumption. Harnessing the universal nature of human rights, the document covers a range of policy areas from development to criminal justice to public health.  

International

Philippines Quits International Criminal Court Over Drug War Investigation. A year after the Philippines told the United Nations it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal because it is investigating human rights abuses in the bloody war on drugs led by President Rodrigo Duterte it has now officially withdrawn from the International Criminal Court. Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 into President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure. However, the ICC said its preliminary investigation into Filipino drug war abuses would continue.

Chronicle AM: AK Okays Pot Social Consumption, Trump Slashes Drug Czar Budget, More... (3/13/19)

Alaska gives final approval for on-site consumption at pot shops, San Francisco approves pot smoking at events where people like to smoke pot, President Trump ponders designating Mexican cartels as terrorists, South Dakota legislators come up short in a bid to override the veto of a hemp bill, and more.

The drug czar's office is on the budgetary cutting block again.
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Social Consumption Gets Final Approval. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) Tuesday signed off on new regulations allowing on-site marijuana use in retail pot shops, the final step in approving social consumption in the state. This makes Alaska the first state to approve such use statewide. Consumers can’t bring their own but will have to purchase the pot on-site and consumption areas will have to be ventilated and separated from other parts of the store. The first on-site consumption should come by mid-July, state officials said.

New York Black Lawmakers Won’t Vote for Legalization Without Racial Equity. Black lawmakers are demanding that racial equity provisions be written into any legalization bill or they won’t vote for it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mentioned racial injustice in pot law enforcement in calling for legalization, but lawmakers representing minority communities say his proposal doesn’t go far enough in addressing how racial inequities would be repaired.

San Francisco to Allow Pot Smoking at Events Where People Like to Smoke Pot. Seems like common sense. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a special permit to allow people to sell and smoke marijuana at public events that have traditionally seen a lot of pot smoking, such as the 4/20 celebration on Hippie Hill and the Outside Lands music festival, both in Golden Gate Park. The ordinance gives the Office of Cannabis the authority to grant temporary waivers to the city’s tough no-smoking laws.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers Fall Short on Bid to Override Hemp Bill Veto. After Gov. Kristi Noem (R) vetoed a bill to legalize industrial hemp production over the weekend, lawmakers sought to override the veto. In votes Tuesday, the House supported the override on a 55-11 vote, but the Senate came up short, voting 20-13 to override when it needed 24 votes to be successful.

Drug Policy

Trump’s Drug Budget Again Slashes Funding for Drug Czar’s Office. For the second year in a row, the White House’s proposed drug budget for Fiscal Year 2020 virtually zeroes out funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar’s office). Congress restored the funding for ONDCP last year, allotting it slightly more than $120 million, about the same as the previous year. But this year’s proposed budget allocates only $14.9 million.

Foreign Policy

Trump Thinking “Very Seriously” About Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as Terrorists. In an interview published Tuesday in Breitbart News, President Trump is thinking “very seriously” about designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorists. "We are. We are," Trump said. "We're thinking about doing it very seriously. In fact, we've been thinking about it for a long time. . . . As terrorists - as terrorist organizations, the answer is yes. They are."

Harm Reduction

North Carolina Senate Approves Good Samaritan Expansion Bill. The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill, SB 106, that would clarify the state’s 2013 Good Samaritan law to specify that the people who actually suffer drug overdoses have the same legal immunity from criminal charges as the people who call for help. The bill now heads to the House.

Drug War Issues

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