Marijuana Policy

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Gallup Poll Has Pot Use at All-Time High, DEA Walks Back Proposed Ban on Two Psychedelics, More... (8/29/22)

A trio of marijuana bills are on the California governor's desk, New York City cocaine users are adopting fentanyl test strips, Colombia's new president announces a coca growers' assembly, and more.

Everybody's doing it. Well, not everybody, but more people than ever. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Finds Marijuana Use at All-Time High. A new Gallup poll has marijuana use at a record high—and for the first time, more Americans reported smoking marijuana than smoking cigarettes. The new poll has 16 percent of respondents smoking marijuana within the past week, up from 12 percent a year ago and more than double the historic low of seven percent. The number of people who reported cigarette smoking in the past week was 11 percent. That's down from 16 percent last year and a whopping 45 percent during cigarette smoking's peak in the 1950s.

California Interstate Marijuana Commerce, Other Pot Bills Go to Governor's Desk. Bills to create a framework for interstate marijuana commerce, streamline expungement for past marijuana convictions, and safeguard companies providing insurance to the legal marijuana industry have all passed out of the legislature and are on the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). A passel of other marijuana bills are also advancing as the session end approaches. The interstate commerce bill is Senate Bill 1326, the marijuana convictions bill is Assembly Bill 1706, and the insurance bill is Assembly Bill 2568.

Harm Reduction

Fentanyl Test Strips Are ‘Catching On’ Among Cocaine Users. Rising overdoses are prompting some drug users to make testing their stashes for the presence of fentanyl a regular part of their drug-taking ritual. New York City cocaine users say their fear of overdosing on fentanyl-contaminated cocaine has made them wary of using any cocaine that has not been tested. Dozens of bars, clubs, and restaurants in the city are now offering fentanyl test strips as well. A Lower East Side taco restaurant owner said he began stocking the strips this spring after two people he knew died from fentanyl-adulterated cocaine. "It was a no-brainer for us," he said. "When we first put them out, we had customers say, ‘What is that?’ They were like, ‘Let me get one for my friend,’" Mr Tirado said. "It’s catching on."

New Mexico Now Providing Fentanyl Test Strips. Thanks to a change in the state's Harm Reduction Act, state officials are now distributing fentanyl test strips by the thousands. The Department of Health has handed out 15,000 test strips since May and has already ordered another 30,000. At least 1,215 people in the state have died from an overdose involving fentanyl since 2019, but more than 12,000 people have been saved from overdoses by the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Psychedelics

DEA Walks Back Plan to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA has backed away from plans to place two obscure psychedelics, DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The retreat came after the proposal encountered strong opposition about psychedelic companies and academic researchers. The Panacea company filed a motion requiring the DEA to respond by today, with the possibility of a public hearing to defend its proposal. Instead, the DEA folded without stating any specific reasons.

International

Colombia President Announces First Assembly of Coca Growers.  President Gustavo Petro announced last Friday that the country's first assembly of coca growers will be held in the Catatumbo region in the northwest of the country. "I propose you to get out of that first place (in hectares of coca) last year and build the peace capital of Colombia. That here in Catatumbo the talks of society can be developed and that somewhere talks can begin to leave the weapons behind and move to the era of peace," he said. "I have admitted the idea of carrying out in Catatumbo the first assembly of coca leaf farmers (…) with one intention: to show this government the ways (…) that allow us to achieve that a peasant family that today is dedicated to coca leaf can substitute this for an activity that guarantees them more quality of life", he explained to local residents. Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. 

NY Now Taking Applications for Pot Shops, Bolivia Coca Clashes Continue, More... (8/26/22)

A strike in British Columbia is impacting retail marijuana shops, there is still a sliver of hope for Nebraska's medical marijuana initiataive, and more. 

Will the Cornhusker State get to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Starts Taking Applications for Legal Pot Shops. The state began accepting applications Thursday from people wanting to open legal recreational marijuana retail outlets, and it is making a strong social equity statement by reserving the first 150 licenses for people with past marijuana convictions or their family members. It is a "unique strategy that we’re implementing to try to make sure that those most impacted have real opportunity to participate here," state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said. "It's really about writing a wrong," he added. There is not yet a firm date for when the first shops will open their doors. After this initial batch of licenses is issued, more licenses will be issued, with a focus on people of color, women, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that endured heavy pot policing. The state is seeking to issue half of all licenses to such applicants.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Conflict Continues to Fester. Clashes among competing groups of coca growers and with police in La Paz continued for a third week Tuesday even as pro-government coca union leader Arnold Alanes, who manages a "parallel market" in coca that is not officially sanctioned, filed a complaint against the leader of the rival coca growers, Freddy Machicado, for "public instigation to commit a crime." Both men claim to be leaders of Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) of La Pa, with Alanes assumed to be the legitimate leader of the union but Machicado leading a bloc that considers itself independent—both of the union leadership and the government.  "We have been victims of harassment, violence and dynamite blows and we are presenting (the complaint) in an emergency, given all the violence we have suffered, Alanes said as he delivered the complaint to the local prosecutor's office. The conflict dates back to last September when Alanes was elected leader of Adepcoca and recognized as such by the government. Some sectors of the union rejected him because of those government ties and took over one of the two legal markets for the sale of coca leaves, so the Alanes faction opened a new market near the traditional one in La Paz. The anti-government faction has been mobilizing this past month to pressure the government to close down Alanes' "parallel market," and that is what has been leading to weekly street clashes.

British Columbia Pot Shops Shutting Down Because of Lack of Supply Due to Unrelated Labor Action. The British Columbia General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has been on strike at government distribution warehouses for the past 10 days, and now the province's 400 retail marijuana outlets are facing shortages, with some of them already shutting their doors. The pot shop chain Burb shuttered stores in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody and lay-offs of pot shop workers have already begun. A provincial initiative to let retailers buy directly from BC producers was supposed to start last week, but did not, and the BC Ministry of Finance have not responded to questions about that initiative. The BCGEU, which represents 33,000 workers, agreed Tuesday to resume bargaining at the request of the province. What it will take to reach a settlement isn’t clear. In the meantime, it's hard times for legal marijuana retailers. 

Oklahoma Legalization Init May Miss November Ballot, San Francisco Could Open Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/24/22)

A bipartisan coalition of senators is demanding justice for another American medical marijuana user imprisoned in Russia, a Nebraska senator vows to file a medical marijuana bill next year after an initiative campaign came up short, and more.

Even though Gov. Newsom (D) vetoed a safe injection site bill, San Francisco may move forward anyway. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma's Use of Private Vendor to Count Signatures Could Cause Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Miss November Ballot. Yes on 820, the group behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, is warning that the state's use of a private vendor for the first time to count signatures caused delays that may result in the measure being bumped from the November ballot. The initiative has met the signature threshold to qualify, but the count must now be approved by the state Supreme Court, and after that, a 10-day period for anyone to challenge the signatures. That is running up against a Friday election board deadline, and could keep the initiative off the ballot. "The last petition Oklahomans voted on took 17 days to count 313,000 signatures," Yes on 820 said. "In contrast, we submitted half that amount and it has taken three times as long. This delay means the election board may not receive the green light to print the ballot in time for voters to vote on it in November."

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska State Senator Pledges to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill After Initiative Campaign Come up Short. After a campaign to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot came up short on signatures, state Sen. Jen Day (D-Gretna) vowed to file a medical marijuana bill in the 2023 legislative session. She said she was also exploring the possibility of calling a special session this fail to take up the issue. "We will exhaust every measure possible to get Nebraskans the medical freedom they deserve and want," Day said. "We know that Nebraskans strongly support this."

Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Senators Demand Justice for Another US Citizen Imprisoned in Russia for Medical Marijuana. A bipartisan coalition of senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling on the State Department to classify imprisoned US medical marijuana patient Marc Fogel as "wrongfully detained" in Russia, the same status that has been afforded to WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner. "Mr. Fogel's recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime," the senators wrote. "Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp. As the US highlights Griner's unjust detention, Fogel's case "warrants the same degree of political attention and diplomatic intervention," the senators said.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Could Still Move Ahead with Safe Injection Sites Despite Veto of Bill. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco on Monday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said that he would support a nonprofit opening such a site in the city. "To save lives, I fully support a non-profit moving forward now with New York's model of overdose prevention programs," Chiu said in the statement. New York City has a nonprofit group running two safe injection sites. Two city nonprofits, HealthRight360 and the AIDS Foundation, said they are willing to operate sites, but need a location and funding, either from the city or from private donors, as is the case in New York City.

OK Legalization Init Has Enough Signatures, CA Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/23/22)

Prohibitionists file a legal challenge to a Missouri legalization initiative, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign comes up short, and more.

Marijuana is going to be on the ballot in a number of states, but it is not all set yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hit by Legal Challenge from Prohibitionists. The Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC, a marijuana prohibitionist group, filed a lawsuit Monday against Legal Missouri's marijuana legalization initiative, which qualified for the ballot last week. The lawsuit charges that the initiative violates the state constitution's single-subject rule. It also argues that the initiative did not really collect enough signatures to qualify and that the state wrongly certified the measure. The lawsuit was filed by a staff member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), but on behalf of the Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC. It was filed on the last day of the 10-day window to file challenges. A similar legal challenge to a legalization initiative is already underway in Arkansas.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Make Ballot, But Hurdles Remain. The SQ 820 marijuana legalization has been certified as having collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but hurdles remain before it becomes official. The state Supreme Court still has to approve the signatures and if and when that happens, the secretary of state will put out a notice that opponents then have 10 days to challenge the validity of the petition. Those two things need to be accomplished by the end of September or the measure will not make the November ballot. If it doesn't make the November ballot, voters will take it up at a later election.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiatives Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. An initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state will not go before voters in November because cash-strapped activists came up short on valid voter signatures. Activists had hoped to put a complementary pair of initiatives on the ballot, but the campaign came up short both on the statewide number and on the number of counties where a 5 percent of the voters threshold was met. Each initiative needed 87,000 valid voter signatures, but one came up with only 77,843 and the other with 77,119 valid voter signatures. Both needed to get 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of the state's counties, but one achieved that goal in only 26 counties and the other in 27.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Pilot Program Bill. Despite past comments that he was "very open" to allowing safe injection sites to operate in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would do just that, Senate Bill 57. He cited "concerns" about its implementation. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom maintained that he has "long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies," but was "acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans."

Newson left open the possibility that he could support similar legislation in the future, saying "We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts. Therefore, I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program -- with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively."

Psychedelic Use Increasing in US, Colombia Looks to Cocaine Decriminalization, More... (8/22/22)

A Swiss pilot program allowing legal marijuana sales will begin in three weeks, Colombia's president plans a drug decrime move, and more.

LSD blotter paper (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million US Adults Use Hallucinogens. Hallucinogen use has increased since 2015, overall, and particularly among adults 26 and older, while use decreased in adolescents aged 12 -- 17 years, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. An estimated 5.5+ million people in the US used hallucinogens in the past year, in 2019, which represents an increase from 1.7 percent of the population aged 12 years and over, in 2002, to 2.2 percent, in 2019. LSD use between 2002 and 2019 increased overall and in all age groups, with the past 12-month rate increasing from 0.9 percent in 2002 to 4 percent in 2019 for those 18-25 years of age. PCP use between 2002 and 2019 decreased, as did the drug Ecstasy since 2015. The study is the first to provide formal statistical analyses of trends in the prevalence of hallucinogen use overall and by age groups during the last two decades. The findings are published online in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction.

International

Colombia's New President Set to Move on Cocaine Decriminalization. The government of new President Gustavo Petro is now proposing an end to "prohibition" and the beginning of a government-regulated cocaine market. Working through both national legislation and alliances with other leftist governments in the region, the Petro government hopes to make the country a laboratory for drug decriminalization. Felipe Tascón, Petro's drug czar, said Colombia hoped to take advantage of the new regional power configuration, where leftists control the governments of the trio of cocaine producing countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru) and plans to meet with his regional counterparts on the issue with an eye toward forging a unified regional bloc to take on the international drug conventions at the United Nations. Tascón also said the administration would back legislation to decriminalize both cocaine and marijuana, as well as ending aerial spraying and manual eradication of coca crops. He said that regulating cocaine sales would allow the government to wrest control of the market from drug traffickers and armed groups.

Swiss Pilot Project on Regulated Marijuana Sales Begins Next Month. A pilot project that will see marijuana sold through pharmacies to some 370 study participants is set to begin September 15. The "Weed Care" program will allow participants to legally buy marijuana from nine shops in Basel. Health officials hope the trial will help address political questions about marijuana regulation. Study participants are all current marijuana users who must fill out surveys throughout the 30-month study. "It's not about full legalization -- but regulation -- where consumption is possible in a protected setting. That's what we want to test now," said Lukas Engelberger, medical director for Basel.

Oakland Entheogenic Church Sues Over Raid, Thai Minister Discourages Pot Tourism, More... (8/19/22)

Wisconsin's Republican legislative majority is out of step with the people when it comes to freeing the weed, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign takes a first step, and more.

Magic mushrooms. An Oakland church argues that they are a protected religious sacrament. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Marquette Law School shows support for marijuana legalization in the state at an all-time high of 69 percent of registered voters. That's an eight-point jump since the school's last poll just five months ago. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans said they back legalization in the latest poll. A GOP legislative supermajority entrenched through gerrymandering does not care. It hasn't even approved medical marijuana except for low-THC cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Launch Medical Marijuana Ballot Push for 2024. Activists organized as Kind Idaho have filed a proposed 2024 medical marijuana ballot initiative that is essentially identical to one it filed two years ago but which did not end up qualifying for the ballot. The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy medical marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries or grow up to six plants at home if a dispensary were unavailable or getting to one would impose a hardship on the patient. "Now the waiting game begins," said Joseph Evans, the group's treasurer. "We will be in contact again in five weeks when we come in to pick up and review the changes the [attorney general] suggests."

Psychedelics

Oakland Church That Uses Psychedelic Mushrooms as Sacrament Sues over Police Raid. The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, an assembly of the Church of Ambrosia, has filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations against the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department after police raided the church, which used magic mushrooms as a sacrament, in 2020. The suit charges that the police raid violated its 1st and 14th Amendment rights and that the city's land use code bars them from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments with psychedelics and marijuana inside the church.

Oakland Police say the church was operating as a dispensary, and they acted after receiving a complaint. One officer, John Romero, applied for church membership, signed an agreement acknowledging the church is not a dispensary and bought 3.5 grams of marijuana, which the church says is intended for on-site consumption as part of its sacrament. Romero returned with a search warrant, damaged five safes, seized paperwork, inventory logs, $200,000 worth of marijuana and mushroom inventory, a computer, and $4,500 in cash. The church says it is about spirituality, not dope dealing."This is not just an excuse for selling drugs," church founder Dave Hodges said. "This is a sincere faith, and the work that I personally do with mushrooms is with the really high doses. There's no doubt in my mind that mushrooms were the first way our ancient ancestors understood there was more to this existence. They raided us like we were some kind of crime family they were taking down or a meth house," Hodges said. "They came in guns blazing, which they didn't need to do. They could've accomplished the same thing with two officers without their guns drawn. This was a classic smash-and-grab scenario where they took our sacrament, they took our money and they never filed any charges." The church is seeking a permanent injunction forcing the city to approve its land use application and to exempt religious use of entheogenic plants as part of the application process. "We would like for the Oakland PD to leave us alone and for the city of Oakland to consider us legitimate," Hodges said.

International

Thai Health Minister Says Pot-Smoking Tourists Not Welcome. Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul discouraged people from visiting the country only to smoke weed. "We don't welcome those kinds of tourists," Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors. The comments come just two months after Thailand largely decriminalized marijuana, leading to an influx of tourists and the opening of "cannabis cafes." Marijuana tourism could be a boon to the country's important tourism industry, which was badly wounded by the coronavirus pandemic, but the government says recreational use of the drug is not okay. But that could change, Anutin said: "It might come in the near future."

NYPD Busts Unlicensed Pot Trucks, Meth Use/Arrests/OD Deaths All Up in Recent Years, More... (8/18/22)

Nevada's Supreme Court rules against employees who smoke marijuana, Ireland is about to see its first pilot drug checking program, and more.

The Electric Picnic festival in Ireland. This year, there will be onsite drug checking. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada High Court Rules Recreational Marijuana Is Not "Lawful Off-Duty Conduct." In a decision last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that recreational marijuana use is not "lawful off-duty conduct" in upholding the firing of a Las Vegas casino dealer who tested positive for marijuana. State employment law provides protections for "lawful off-duty conduct," but the court held that since marijuana remains federally illegal, its use can not be considered "lawful off-duty conduct" in the casino dealer's wrongful termination claim. The ruling means that Nevada employers are free to fire or refuse to hire workers who use marijuana.

New York City Cracks Down on Unlicensed Weed-Selling Trucks. The NYPD said it seized 20 trucks used to sell unlicensed marijuana on Tuesday. "If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th Street it is no longer open for business," NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey tweeted. "We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!" The state legalized marijuana in 2021 but has yet to see legal commercial sales. In the meantime, unlicensed vendors have emerged to serve the market. NYPD said the seizures were part of efforts to address quality of life issues, but some New Yorkers may feel their quality of life is reduced if they can't find a place to buy weed.

Methamphetamine

Meth Use, Arrests, and Overdose Deaths Rose Sharply in Recent Years. A new report from the Pew Trusts finds sharply increasing methamphetamine use, arrests, and overdose deaths in the period from 2015 to 2019. Pew said the results "highlight the need for improved responses to a worsening public health problem." Arrests for meth possession jumped 59 percent, meth use was up 22 percent, meth use as a substance-abuse disorder was up 37 percent, and meth-related overdose deaths more than doubled.

"The general response to these trends highlights a reliance on the criminal legal system that has often proved costly and ineffective," Pew said. "Meaningful reductions in drug possession arrests and drug-related deaths may not be achieved without shifting to a public health response that prioritizes evidence-based approaches to treatment and harm reduction." Meth use varies from state, with 16 states reporting at least one in a 100 adults reporting past year use. The states with the highest rates were Arizona, Montana, and West Virginia.

International

Ireland to See Pilot Drug Checking Program at Music Festival, At the Electric Picnic Festival the first weekend of September, the Health Service Executive will operate the country's first pilot drug checking program. Users will deposit drugs in bins for chemical analysis, and if a sample is found to create cause for concern -- say, for unusually high potency or the presence of dangerous adulterants -- authorities will issue warning via social media.

"I am pleased to launch this new project as part of our efforts to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland," says HSE National Clinical Lead, Professor Eamon Keenan. "We are currently very concerned about the emergence of new psychoactive substances and high potency substances which pose a threat to health. This project will provide us with vital information that we otherwise can't access in real time. While this is a progression, the HSE messaging will remain clear, it is safer not to use drugs at all. For those who choose to, they should still follow the practical steps recommended by the HSE to reduce the harms. We will issue a series of health information on social media before and during the event, I encourage the public to follow drugs.ie and engage with our teams at Electric Picnic. It is important to note that our results will only be representative of what is submitted and this will not guarantee the safety of drugs across the drug market."

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot [FEATURE]

And then there were five: With an announcement Monday by the secretary of state that a New Approach North Dakota marijuana legalization initiative had qualified for the ballot, the number of states where legalization is on the ballot climbs to five. The others are Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (Another legalization effort in Oklahoma is awaiting confirmation that it has gathered sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.)

New Approach North Dakota easily cleared the state's signature requirement of 15,582 valid voter signatures, with the secretary of state's office reporting the group had 23,368 valid signatures.

Now officially known as Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1, the initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

The measure includes specific child custody protections for parents who use marijuana in accord with state law, but employers could continue to prohibit marijuana use and there is no provision for expungement. New Approach North Dakota says it intends to address that in the legislature next year. The measure would also allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses.

The initiative also creates a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of marijuana with the Department of Health and Human Services (or a different agency designated by the legislature) developing rules and regulations and overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses. Regulators would have until October 1, 2023, to come up with rules for advertising, labeling, packaging, security, and testing standards.

There would be no new tax for marijuana, but the state's 5 percent retail sales tax would apply to marijuana sales. Those tax revenues are not designated for any particular fund. Commercial cultivators would have to pay an annual $110,000 registration fee and retailers would have to pay an annual $90,000 fee.

The number of retailers would be limited to 18 and the number of grow facilities limited to seven. In a bid to reduce monopolistic tendencies in the industry, no one person or entity could own more than one grow facility or four retail stores.

"Measure 1 is a conservative approach to cannabis legalization based on legislation passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives. It balances personal freedom with personal responsibility," said state Rep. Matthew Ruby (R), a member of the campaign's sponsoring committee. "Adults will no longer be punished for using cannabis -- but only if they do so safely and responsibly. As voters have a chance to review the measure in detail, I'm confident a majority will agree this is the right approach for North Dakota."

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but things will be different this time around, argued New Approach North Dakota campaign chairman David Owen.

"So, the biggest difference between now and Measure 3 of 2018… is this is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana," Owen said.

"I served as a police officer in Bismarck for over five years and have defended those accused of marijuana offenses for the last twenty years, said Mark Friese, an attorney and former police officer who is the campaign treasurer. "There is no public safety benefit from arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana. It is a waste of taxpayer resources and a distraction from serious public safety concerns. Cannabis causes far less harm than alcohol. Many people find therapeutic benefits from it. The government shouldn't be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly."

Up to now, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, and in 11 of them and DC, it was via the initiative process. We are likely to pick up several more in November. In the best-case scenario, when the dust settles after Election Day, half the states in the country will have legalized it.

New Gallup Pot Poll, Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues, More... (8/17/22)

South Korean prosecutors sign on for more, better drug war, a group of French senators makes an urgent call for marijuana legalization, and more.

Pro- and anti-government coca growers in Bolivia clashed for the third straight week. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Support for Marijuana Legalization Remains High, But Americans Are Split on Whether Pot is Good or Bad for Society. In a Gallup poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization was at 68 percent, equaling previous Gallup highs on the question. But Americans were evenly split on whether it is good or bad for society, with 49 percent saying it was a positive and 50 percent saying it was a negative. People who have used marijuana -- nearly half of American adults -- were much more likely to view it positively for both users (70 percent) and society (66 percent). Those who have not used marijuana were more likely to say has negative effects on users (62 percent) and society (72 percent). Some 16 percent of respondents said they currently use marijuana.

International

Bolivia Sees Third Week of Clashes Among Coca Growers. For the third week in a row, hundreds of coca growers from La Paz department marched on Monday to demand the closure of a "parallel" coca market affiliated with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party. Under the country's coca laws, only two markets are recognized -- one in La Paz and one in Cochabamba -- but the "parallel" market has been operating anyway without any government action.

The La Paz coca growers, organized as Adepcoca, marched toward the parallel market in Villa El, where residents put up barricades to protect themselves and their homes from police and protesters. They had suffered damage during street clashes in the past two weeks. Hundreds of police officers protected the market, shooting teargas at the marchers and arresting 24 of them. But more signs of division among coca growers are becoming apparent. The coca growers of the tropics of Cochabamba declared themselves in a "state of emergency" and said it was not possible "to side with the pro-coup right wing." The government, for its part, on Monday sent a letter to the Adepcoca unionists with an invitation for talks to resolve the issue.

French Senators Petition Macron's Government for Urgent Marijuana Reform. Some 31 senators from the Socialist, Ecologist, and Republican group -- a socialist bloc making up about one-fifth of parliament -- published a letter in the Le Monde newspaper calling on the government of President Macron to launch a consultative process to introduce new legislation to legalize marijuana. The senators rejected the half-step of decriminalization, saying it was a demagogic option and would merely "perpetuate the existing ban." In a commentary published with the letter, Le Monde said that marijuana prohibition is "unsustainable" and it is time to "face reality head-on."

South Korean Prosecutors Vow All-Out War on Organized Crime, Drugs. Prosecutors on Tuesday declared all-out war on drugs and organized crime amid a rising number of such offenses. Drug seizures are at an all-time high and drug arrests are up 13 percent over last year. Prosecutors from six district prosecutors' offices met at the Supreme Prosecutor Office (SPO) in Seoul to plot strategies to suppress organized crime and drug crimes. The prosecutors said the increase in drug crimes was because ordinary citizens are using social media to buy and sell drugs. The SPO said it will construct a database on organized crime and drug crime and would strengthen cooperation with international organizations, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It also said it would form a consultative group with police and the state intelligence agency.

ND Legal Pot Initiative Qualifies for Ballot, Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War, More... (8/16/22)

A South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative draws organized opposition, Mexico's week of cartel violence raises questions, and more.

North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Becomes Fifth State to Put a Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the Ballot This Year. The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach North Dakota has qualified for the November ballot. Similar measures have already qualified for the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota, while an effort in Oklahoma awaits a final signature count. The initiative would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over. They would be able to purchase, possess, transport, and distribute up to an ounce and 500 milligrams of THC. There is also a home grow provision allowing for up to three plants. The initiative also envisions a commercial sector licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaigns Sees Organized Opposition Emerge. Even as the sponsors of the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative gear up to free the weed for the second time in two years (the 2020 victory was annulled by the state Supreme Court at the behest of GOP Gov. Kristi Noem), organized opposition is emerging. In late July, a group calling itself Protecting South Dakota's Kids filed paperwork with the state as a statewide ballot question committee. It is led by Jim Kinyon, with Fred Deutsch as treasurer. Deutsch is a Republic legislator who is fiercely anti-marijuana.

"Legal marijuana will destroy our communities," says the group's web site. "Protecting South Dakota Kids is a grassroots coalition made up of concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement, and other professionals." But IM 27 backers don't seem too concerned: "Quite a few politicians, including Governor Noem, have realized that disrespecting the will of the people is not a great political strategy," said campaign spokesman Matt Schweich. "We want to earn every vote we can and we want to exceed the 54% outcome in 2020."

Law Enforcement

Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War. In a Tuesday letter to Dr.Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), a bipartisan group of senators from Appalachian states called for "additional assistance to combat drug-trafficking in the Appalachian region." The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (both R-TN). They want more resources and more designations of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs).

"These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. ONDCP has the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies," the senators said in a press release. "Despite the enormous need, historically the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30 percent of petitions submitted. In the most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA -- which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia -- received the sought-after designation. This fact, juxtaposed with the region's manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding needs to be revisited."

International

Mexico's Week of Cartel Violence Shakes Administration. Last week was a week of chaos as Mexican drug cartels ran amok in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as well as in the states of Coahuila, Guanajauto, and Jalisco, and that has left the government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) looking for answers. AMLO himself suggested the attacks were part of a political conspiracy: "I don't know if there was a connection, a hidden hand, if this had been set up," he said. "What I do know is that our opponents, the corrupt conservatives, help in the black propaganda."

Defense Secretary Luis Crescencio Sandoval claimed the cartels lashed out because they feel they have been weakened. That may be a more plausible explanation than AMLO's. While AMLO took office in 2018 pledging "hugs not bullets" for violent drug trafficking organizations, in the past year his strategy has shifted Last year, Mexican soldiers were criticized for simply sitting in their bases and watching as cartels battled each other, but this year has seen more attempt to capture major traffickers, including the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, and more meth lab busts.

"There has been a change in the strategy in fighting drug cartels. Andrés Manuel has been very much criticized recently for his 'hugs, not bullets strategy," security analyst David Saucedo said. "I think that due to pressure from Joe Biden, he is changing that and agreeing to capture high-profile drug traffickers. The narco-terrorism of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is a reaction to the president's change in strategy," Saucedo said. "If the Mexican president continues with this strategy of capturing high-ranking members of the Jalisco cartel, the Jalisco cartel is going to respond with acts of narcoterrorism in the states it controls as part of its vast empire."

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