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Ballot Measures

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Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(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.)

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Defeated [FEATURE]

Voters in Oklahoma resoundingly rejected the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative Tuesday in an election where it was the only thing on the ballot. With 99 percent of the vote in, it was losing 38.3 percent to 61.7 percent.   

Because marijuana was the only item on the ballot, the number of people voting was much smaller than in lost November's general election. Then, more than 1.1 million people cast ballots, but this week, only 566,000, or about half as many voters, turned out.

The initiative should have been on last November's general election ballot. The group behind the measure, Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, turned in 69,000 more signatures than needed in a timely fashion, but private contractors hired by the Secretary of State's office took an excessive amount of time to verify the signatures.

Between that and questionable legal challenges from opponents, approval of the measure was so delayed that the state Supreme Court ruled weeks before the election that the measure would have to wait for the 2024 general election or until the governor or legislature calls a special election. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) then announced the March 7 date.

The measure would have allowed people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates and grow up to six plants and six seedlings at home. It also would have protected parents from losing custody or visitation rights solely because of marijuana use and states that parolees and probationers cannot be punished for marijuana use. Nor could the odor of marijuana or burnt marijuana be used as probable cause for police to infer that a crime had been committed. And it included a provision for the expungement of some past marijuana offenses.

The measure would have up a system of taxed, licensed, and regulated marijuana commerce, but for the first two years, marijuana business licenses would go only to existing medical marijuana businesses that have been operating for at least a year. The state is now also under a moratorium on new grower, processor and dispensary licenses until August 2024, meaning any potential new pot business operators would have had to wait awhile to get in the game.

The state's robust—some would say Wild West—medical marijuana system may have convinced some voters that further moves were not necessary. Under Oklahoma law, medical marijuana can be recommended for just about any condition, and the state has nearly 400,000 enrolled patients—about 10 percent of all adults in the state. There are also already some 12,000 licensed medical marijuana businesses, some of which have been in the news for unsavory reasons.

Tuesday's defeat may embolden marijuana critics in the state legislature to move to tighten controls on the state's medical marijuana program.

"The anti-revolutionary forces want to return Oklahoma to their dream of this bygone era," said Lawrence Pasternack, a legalization advocate who’s written extensively about marijuana in the state.  "They see marijuana as anathema to that dream."

Those forces would include Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and most of the state's Republican political establishment. Also prominent in the opposition camp was former Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent, who headed the "no" campaign.

"Oklahoma is a law and order state," Stitt said after Tuesday's vote. "I remain committed to protecting Oklahomans and my administration will continue to hold bad actors accountable and crack down on illegal marijuana operations in our state."

It's been a tough run for marijuana legalization initiatives lately. Last November, Maryland and Missouri approved legal weed, but Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota did not. And now Oklahoma has joined that red state rejectionist club, and the Republicans are casting the hairy eyeball on the existing medical marijuana system. 

DE House Approves Marijuana Legalization, Anti-Cartel Resolution Filed in House, More... (3/8/23)

The Oklahoma marijuana legalization initiative gets crushed at the polls, a bipartisan federal bill to ease the rescheduling of therapeutic psychedelics gets filed, and more.

A congressional resolution would authorize the use of military force against Mexican cartels on the Mexican side of the border.
Delaware House Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill; Marijuana Regulation Bill Pending. The House on Tuesday gave final approval to House Bill 1, which legalizes the possession of up to an ounce by adults. Bill sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski (D) is also sponsoring House Bill 2, which would set up a regulatory system for marijuana commerce. That bill has passed out of committee and is awaiting a House floor vote. Last year, Osienski took a similar bifurcated path, with the legalization bill passing but the regulatory bill failing. Gov. John Carney (D) then vetoed the legalization bill. This year, the legalization bill passed with a veto proof majority.

Hawaii Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 669. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 30 grams, allow for the home cultivation of up to six plants, expunge past possession convictions, and reduce penalties for unlicensed cultivation and sales. The bill also contemplates the existing medical marijuana industry morphing into a full-fledged adult use marijuana market under the aegis of a Hawaii Cannabis Authority. The bill is now before the House.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Defeated. Voters on Tuesday decisively defeated a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 820 by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. See out feature story later today for full coverage.

Psychedelics-                                                                                          

Bipartisan "Breakthrough Therapies Act" Updated and Filed. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) on Thursday filed the "Breakthrough Therapies Act," which would streamline the federal rescheduling of drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA for therapeutic purposes. The bill would amend the Controlled Substance Act to create a pathway for current Schedule I drugs that could be deemed breakthrough therapies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to qualify for a waiver under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and be moved to Schedule II, which is reserved for drugs with "currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions."

Missouri Therapeutic Psychedelic Bill Advances. The House Veterans Committee on Tuesday approved House Bill 1154, which would promote research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics such as ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin. The bill passed out of committee on a unanimous vote. The bill now awaits a possible House floor vote, which is yet to be scheduled.

Foreign Policy

.Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Tim Walz (R-FL) on Monday filed a resolution, HJ Res. 18 "to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for trafficking fentanyl or a fentanyl-related substance into the United States or carrying out other related activities that cause regional destabilization in the Western Hemisphere." The resolution is cutely titled "Authorization for the Use of Military Force to Combat, Attack, Resist, Target, Eliminate, and Limit Influence Resolution" or the "AUMF CARTEL Influence Resolution." The bill specifically lists nine Mexican drug trafficking organization to be targeted, including the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, and Los Zetas. 

DOJ Now Accepting Pot Pardon Applications, OR House OKs Naloxone Expansion, More... (3/7/23)

The Justice Department signals it will appeal a federal court ruling invalidating the federal ban on guns for pot users, Colombia calls for coca leaf decriminalization, and more.

Naloxone opioid overdose reversal kit. The Oregon House has voted to expand access to them. (hr.org)
Marijuana Policy

Justice Department Now Accepting Applications for Pardons for Federal Marijuana Possession Offenders. Nearly five months after President Biden called for pardons for federal marijuana possession offenders, the Justice Department has begun accepting applications for those pardons. The move comes after a series of friendly public statement from the administration about the drug from both Attorney General Garland and the president. Last week, Garland said that Justice is working on a review of marijuana policy, and just days before that, President Biden mentioned the pardons in a Black History Month speech, saying "too many minorities are in prison" for marijuana use.

Justice Department Appeals Federal Court Ruling Striking Down Gun Ban for Marijuana Users. The Justice Department last Friday filed paperwork in US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma informing the court that it intends to appeal a judge's ruling there that found unconstitutional the federal prohibition on gun ownership for marijuana users. The Friday filing did not make a substantive argument but served primarily as a notification that an appeal was coming. In that district court ruling, Trump-appointed Judge Patrick Wyrick held that a recent Supreme Court ruling where the high court created a higher standard for policies that aim to restrict gun rights made the ban on gun possession unconstitutional.

Oklahoma Votes on Marijuana Legalization Today. In an election with no other issues or races on the ballot, voters will decide whether or not to approve a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 820. The measure is opposed by law enforcement and most of the state's Republican political establishment. It would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates and grow up to six plants and six seedlings at home. It also protects parents from losing custody or visitation rights solely because of marijuana use and states that parolees and probationers cannot be punished for marijuana use. Nor could the odor of marijuana or burnt marijuana be used as probable cause for police to infer that a crime had been committed. And it includes a provision for the expungement of some past marijuana offenses. It also sets a 15 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. In a narrow vote, the House on Monday approved Senate Bill 1, which expands the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use to include people afflicted with cancer, epilepsy, MS, ALS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, aids, and HIV. The bill has already passed the Senate, but must go back for one more concurrence vote because it was modified in the House. If it wins that vote, it would then go to the desk of Gov. Kristi Noem (R).

Harm Reduction

Oregon House Approves Bill to Expand Naloxone Access. The House has approved a bill to more widely distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), House Bill 2395, on a vote of 48-9. The bill declares a health emergency and will make overdose reversal kits available in libraries, churches, and other public buildings. It also allows police, firefighters, and EMTs to distribute the kits to drug users and their friends and family members, and it decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Colombia Vice President Calls for Coca Leaf Decriminalization at UN. Vice President Francia Marquez used an address at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to petition for the decriminalization of the coca leaf in the country's indigenous territories. "The time has come to sincerely put the debate on decriminalizing the use of coca leaf in ethnic and indigenous territories, continuing to criminalize the use of coca leaf will not allow Colombia to achieve total peace," she said. "Because we know that it has been this criminal, racial policy that has us as peoples suffering terrible humanitarian crises, it is the drug trafficking imposed from that criminal policy that today is generating armed conflicts in ethnic territories." Colombia will join Bolivia in petitioning the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove coca leaf from its list of prohibited substances. 

BC Company Awarded License to Make and Sell Cocaine, Voting Underway for OK Pot Initiative, More... (3/3/23)

A Florida marijuana legalization initiative is about halfway home on signature gathering, Arizona politics is roiled by an unsubstantiated charge that the Sinaloa Cartel is bribing state and county officials, and more.

A BC company has been awarded a license to make and distribute cocaine. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Nears Halfway Point on Signature Gathering. Smart & Safe Florida, the group behind a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, is nearing the halfway point in signature gathering, according to the state Division of Elections. The campaign had 420,000 valid voter signatures as of the end of February; it needs 891,589 valid voter signatures by February 1, 2024 to qualify for the 2024 ballot. That is, provided that the initiative passes muster with the state Supreme Court. In January, the campaign handed in enough signatures to trigger a Supreme Court review to ensure that the text does not violate the state's single subject rule and does not mislead voters. That analysis is still pending.

Early Voting Now Underway for Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Early voting is now underway for the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative. Election Day itself is next Tuesday. SQ 820 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates and grow up to six plants and six seedlings at home. It also protects parents from losing custody or visitation rights solely because of marijuana use and states that parolees and probationers cannot be punished for marijuana use. Nor could the odor of marijuana or burnt marijuana be used as probable cause for police to infer that a crime had been committed. And it includes a provision for the expungement of some past marijuana offenses.

Politics

Bizarre Charge That Arizona Governor, Other State Leaders Are Taking Bribes from Sinaloa Cartel. Last week, the Joint Elections Committee led by Republican election conspiracy theorist Sen. Wendy Rogers heard completely unsupported testimony from a local insurance agent that Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, Democratic Attorney General Adrian Fontes, and the Republican-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors were among state officials taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. Since then, even Republican officials have been distancing themselves from the charge, while Democrats are blasting Republicans for turning the legislature into a "circus show" that provides a forum for outrageous election fraud conspiracies. "It is dangerous," Hobbs said. "It makes the legislature, quite honestly, a laughing stock, and Arizona by extension, and I hope folks are held accountable for this."

International

Health Canada Issues License to British Columbia Company to Make and Sell Cocaine. Health Canada has issued a license to a British Columbia company, Adastra Labs, to produce, sell, and distribute cocaine. The agency said Adastra is licensed to use cocaine for "scientific and medical purposes only" and that it "cannot sell products to the general public." Last week, Adastra announced that it had received approval to "interact with" up to 250 grams of cocaine and to import coca leaves to manufacture and synthesize the drug. It said it is exploring "commercialization" of cocaine to provide a safe supply of the drug. But Health Canada said Adastra can only sell cocaine to other controlled drug dealer's license holders, such as pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, or researchers. The province has decriminalized the possession of up to 2.5 grams of cocaine and other drugs, but BC's decriminalization does not envision legal cocaine sales. 

Medical Marijuana Update

A North Carolina medical marijuana bill is moving, an Idaho initiative campaign is not, and more.

Idaho

Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Kind Idaho, the group behind an effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2024 ballot, announced Wednesday that it had come up short on signatures. The group said it had managed to collect only about 10 percent of the nearly 70,000 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. It cited organizational problems and a lack of national support for the effort.

Kansas

Kansas Senate Committee Will Hold Informational Hearing on Medical Marijuana This Week. The Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs will hold informational hearings Wednesday and Thursday on the legalization of medical marijuana. No bill has been filed yet this session, but pressure is mounting with neighboring Missouri having legalized recreational marijuana last November and neighboring Oklahoma set to vote on recreational legalization next month. "You know, Kansas, sometimes we're kind of behind on things and, you know, we hear about it all the time where people are going across the state line to purchase those items," said medical marijuana supporter Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

North Carolina

North Carolina SenateGives Initial Approval to Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate on Tuesday voted to approve  Senate Bill 3, the North Carolina Compassionate Use Act, on a second reading. It still needs to be approved in a third reading before being sent to the House, and that is expected to happen within a few days. House leaders said they were positioned to pass the bill, too, despite having blocked a similar bill last year. The bill would allow patients with a specified list of ailments to use medical marijuana and buy it from licensed dispensaries. The bill contains neither home cultivation nor social equity provisions.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania GOP State Senator Pushes State to Reconsider Gun Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Patients. In the wake of a federal judge's recent ruling that the federal government's ban on gun ownership for marijuana users is unconstitutional, state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R) is calling on state law enforcement to protect the rights of medical marijuana patients by bringing state policy in line with that ruling Currently, the state bars people from obtaining a gun license if they acknowledge being "an unlawful user" of marijuana, and even medical marijuana use in states where it is legal remains technically illegal under federal law. "I believe Pennsylvania can take a measured approach to lifting the prohibition on otherwise qualified medical cannabis users from obtaining their license to carry," Laughlin wrote. Since the federal court ruling, it is time for "reconsideration of the question on these forms."

NH Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Vote; Bolivia, Colombia Seek UN Move on Coca, More... (2/23/23)

An Idaho medical marijuana initiative didn't get past the signature gathering stage, US correctional populations declined in 2021, and more.

Chewing coca leaf in Bolivia. Bolivia and Colombia want the UN to remove coca from prohibited drug list (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Initial House Vote. The House voted 234-127 Wednesday to send a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 639, to the House Ways and Means Committee, clearing a path for it to win final passage in the House. The bill would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce with the Liquor Commission in charge. Cultivation would be taxed at 15 percent, with most revenues going toward reducing the state's pension liability and the state's education trust fund. The House has repeatedly passed legalization bills in recent years, only to see them die in the Senate. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has also been an opponent; he says he does not expect a legalization bill to reach his desk this year.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Kind Idaho, the group behind an effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2024 ballot, announced Wednesday that it had come up short on signatures. The group said it had managed to collect only about 10 percent of the nearly 70,000 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. It cited organizational problems and a lack of national support for the effort.

Psychedelics

Minnesota Lawmakers File Bills to Create Psychedelics Task Force to Plan for Legalization. Lawmakers have filed identical bills in the House and Senate that would create a task force to study the potential legalization of substances such as ibogaine, MDMA, and psilocybin. Senate File 1954 and House File 1884 would establish a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force to "advise the legislature on the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state." The task force "survey existing studies in the scientific literature on the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic medicine in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, and any other mental health conditions and medical conditions for which a psychedelic medicine may provide an effective treatment option." The bill says the number of substances under its purview "may include but is not limited to the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, bufotenine, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 2C-B, ibogaine, salvinorin A, and ketamine."

Sentencing

US Correctional Population Continued to Decline in 2021. The total correctional population in the United States fell 1 percent from yearend 2020 to 2021, according to statistics in Correctional Populations in the United States, 2021 – Statistical Tables and Probation and Parole in the United States, 2021, two reports released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of persons held in prison or jail or supervised in the community on probation or parole decreased by 61,100, down to an estimated 5,444,900. Overall, an estimated 1 in 48 U.S. residents age 18 or older were under correctional supervision at yearend 2021, down from 1 in 47 in 2020. Over the 10-year period from 2011 to 2021, the U.S. correctional population declined 22 percent. A drop in the number of persons supervised in the community on probation accounted for 65 percent of this overall change, while decreases in the number of persons incarcerated in state and federal prison accounted for 26 percent of the change.

In 2021, the U.S. incarceration rate increased for the first time in 15 years. However, the rate was still lower than the pre-COVID-19 pandemic rate of 810 per 100,000 in 2019. The increase in the incarceration rate was driven by a 16percent growth in the number of persons housed in local jails, which held an additional 87,200 persons from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, the community supervision rate fell to a 21-year low of 1,440 persons on probation or parole per 100,000 adult U.S. residents, after declining each year since it peaked at 2,240 persons per 100,000 in 2007. At yearend 2021, an estimated 3,745,000 adults were under community supervision, down 136,600 persons from January 1, 2021.

Changes in the demographic characteristics of the US correctional population were small from 2020 to 2021 but were greater than 20 percent over the decade from 2011 to 2021. The number of males in the total correctional population declined less than 1 percent (down 28,300) from 2020 to 2021, while the number of females decreased 3 percent (down 32,800). Compared to 2011, the number of males under correctional supervision in 2021 declined by 21percent and females decreased 25 percent. Over that same decade, the number of black persons under correctional supervision decreased more than 27 percent, while the number of Hispanic persons declined 21 percent and whites declined 20 percent.

International

Bolivia and Colombia Ask UN to Remove Coca from List of Prohibited Narcotics. The government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Wednesday that it and the government of Bolivia will jointly ask the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to drop coca leaf from its list of prohibited substances and acknowledge the plant's traditional uses in Andean culture. "Bolivia and Colombia consider it is the moment to once again put this issue on the table," said Colombian vice-minister for multilateral affairs Laura Gil. "To remove the coca leaf - the leaf, not cocaine - from the prohibited substances list," she said. Bolivian President Luis Arce said last month that his government would seek for coca leaves to be removed from the list so they can be commercialized. 

Medical Marijuana Update

They're trying again in North Caroliina, a Florida group wants to put a home grow initiative on the ballot, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Legislative Committee Kills Medical Marijuana Expansion. A bill to expand access to medical marijuana was shot down by the first committee to consider it on Thursday. The measure, Senate Bill 81, sought to increase the amount of medical marijuana concentrate a patient can buy per day and allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana via virtual telehealth appointments for some patients, among other changes. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee killed the bill at the request of bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Van Winkle (R), who said he was not able to reach agreement with opponents to move the measure forward. Van Winkle said he would be back to try again.

Florida

Florida Campaign Seeks to Put Medical Marijuana Home Grow Initiative on 2024 Ballot. A group calling itself the WISE and Free Florida Committee is getting a campaign underway for a constitutional amendment initiative that would allow "caregivers and adult qualifying patients 21 years or older to cultivate marijuana for medical use" and would note that cultivation would be "limited to the cultivator’s home." To clear the first hurdle on its path, the campaign must come up with more than 291,000 valid voter signatures, which would then trigger a review by the state Supreme Court. If okayed to move forward by the court, the campaign would then have to come up with an additional 891,589 valid voter signatures to meet the next hurdle. A separate campaign committee calling itself Smart and Safe Florida, which wants to get a marijuana legalization amendment on the ballot, has already met that first signature goal.

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Advances in Senate. A year after the Senate approved a medical marijuana bill only to see it die in the House, the bill, Senate Bill 3, is back and moving again. The measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The bill now heads to two more committees, the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Rules and Operations Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. Although the House last year declined to take up the measure, the Republican House Speaker, Rep. Tim Moore, has suggested that the bill could pass with "the right restrictions." The bill would allow medical marijuana for a list of specified medical conditions and an advisory board could expand that list.  

MD Maryland Regulation Bill Poised to Advance, FL MedMJ Homegrow Initiative, More... (2/20/23)

A package of civil asset forfeiture bills is filed in Georgia, a psilocybin research bill advances in Arizona, and more.

A proposed Florida initiative would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own medicine. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Marijuana Regulation Bill Poised to Advance After Hearing. A bill that aims to set regulations for the state's legal marijuana industry, House Bill 556, appears poised to advance after a lengthy hearing last week in the House Economic Matters Committee. While some amendments were suggested, no one really complained about the broad contours of the bill, which would expand the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission into the Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission and create a new regulation and enforcement division within the commission. It also sets a retail marijuana tax at six percent, which could increase to 10 percent by 2028. It also includes social equity provisions, including creating a new Office of Social Equity within the commission to promote participation from communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs. No vote was taken, and the committee will meet again on Wednesday to take up any amendments offered.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Campaign Seeks to Put Medical Marijuana Home Grow Initiative on 2024 Ballot. A group calling itself the WISE and Free Florida Committee is getting a campaign underway for a constitutional amendment initiative that would allow "caregivers and adult qualifying patients 21 years or older to cultivate marijuana for medical use" and would note that cultivation would be "limited to the cultivator’s home." To clear the first hurdle on its path, the campaign must come up with more than 291,000 valid voter signatures, which would then trigger a review by the state Supreme Court. If okayed to move forward by the court, the campaign would then have to come up with an additional 891,589 valid voter signatures to meet the next hurdle. A separate campaign committee calling itself Smart and Safe Florida, which wants to get a marijuana legalization amendment on the ballot, has already met that first signature goal.

Psychedelics

Arizona House Panel Approves Psilocybin Research Bill. A bipartisan bill to support research into the potential medical benefits of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, has advanced through its first committee. The House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee approved House Bill 2486 last week. The bill would provide up to $30 million in grants to study psilocybin's effect on a number of specified medical conditions, including depression, substance misuse disorders, PTSD, and symptoms of long COVID. The bill passed the committee on a unanimous vote.

Asset Forfeiture

Georgia Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Package Filed. State Reps. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain) and Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) have filed a trio of bills, House Bill 106, House Bill 109, and House Bill 110, that address problems with the state's civil asset forfeiture laws. HB 106 would allow people whose vehicles have been forfeited to get them back if it was used without the owner's consent in the commission of a crime. HB 109 would exempt homesteads, currency less than $541, and motor vehicles worth less than $5,000 from being forfeited. HB 110 would mandate the establishment of a civil asset forfeiture tracking system and publicly accessible database. 

CA Bill Would Allow Fresh Food Sales at Cannabis Cafes, Peru Police Attacked in Coca Hotspot, More... (2/13/23)

The Louisiana legislature sees a marijuana legalization bill for the third year in a row, coca production is expanding in Guatemala but without signs of cocaine production, and more.

Seven cops were ambushed and killed in the heartland of Peruvian cocaine production. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill Would Allow Cannabis Cafes That Sell Fresh Food. Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has filed a bill that would allow licensed marijuana retailers to also sell non-intoxicating foods and beverages. The measure, Assembly Bill 374, would  amend state law to allow such sales, as well as allowing shops to put on live musical performances and sell tickets to them. "Many people want to consume cannabis socially while having a sandwich or listening to music," Haney said. "We should allow that." Current state law allows marijuana consumption lounges, but they are not allowed to sell freshly prepared food—only prepackaged food and beverages.

Louisiana Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. For the third year in a row, a marijuana legalization bill has been filed in the state legislatures. House Bill 17, sponsored by Rep. Candace Newell (D), would create a taxed and regulated marijuana industry in the state. Under the bill, 10 licenses would be issued for cultivation, processing, and manufacture of marijuana and 40 for retailers. A separate bill from Newell, House Bill 24, would decriminalize possession and distribution of marijuana upon legislative enactment of a regulatory system and the establishment of a tax on recreational sales. "I separated it because I know what state I live in," Newell said. "It’s been a challenge."

International                 

Guatemala Coca Production Expands, But No Sign of Cocaine Production. The planting of coca leaf appears to be on the rise in the Central American nation, with authorities reporting the destruction of more than 4 million coca plants last year, more than double the 1.7 million eradicated in 2021, and another 1.2 million already this year. Authorities also dismantled five labs for producing coca base, the first stage of cocaine production, but no labs capable of producing cocaine hydrochloride, or powder cocaine. While the number of plants eradicated appears large, it is a tiny fraction of the number of plants grown in major coca producing countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. All the plants eradicated in Guatemala last year amount to about 70 acres, while the amount of coca eradicated in Colombia alone amounted to about 175,000 acres.

Peru Police Ambushed in Cocaine Hotspot, Seven Officers Dead. Seven police officers were shot and killed in an ambush attack in the town of Natividad, deep in the remote Andean region known as the VRAEM (the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers), the center of coca and cocaine production in the country. The VRAEM accounts for 75 percent of Peruvian cocaine. While police did not point a finger at any one group for the attack, the region has a strong presence of drug trafficking groups who are allied with remnants of the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla army whose rebellion in the 1980s left nearly a hundred thousand dead across the country. 

Drug War Issues

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