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Biden to Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, Texas GOP Rep's Cartel Bill, More... (11/21/22)

A German provincial official seeks to scuttle the federal government's marijuana legalizattion plans, the first marijuana reform legislation passed by Congress is about to be signed into law, and more.

A conservative Texas congressman files yet another punitive bill aimed at the border. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Will Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, White House Says. A bill to remove hurdles to marijuana research that passed the House two months ago and the Senate last week will be signed into law this week, the White House said. The bill, HR 8454, is the first marijuana reform legislation to ever pass Congress. The bill will create a more efficient pathway for researchers seeking large quantities of marijuana and will require that the attorney general act withing 60 days to either approve an application or seek more information from the applicant. The bill will also allow researchers to grow their own marijuana.

Law Enforcement

Texas GOP Representative to File Bill to More Harshly Punish Cartels. Conservative Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is set to file a bill that would significantly ramp up penalties for people involved with Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The "Declaring War on the Cartels Act" (not yet available on the congressional website) would make crimes related to drug trafficking, human smuggling, sex trafficking, violence, fraud, and immigration offenses committed by cartel members punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. It would also bar cartel members and their families from admission to the US and allow for the revocation of naturalized citizenship and green cards for people convicted of such activity. It would also allow for the seizure of cartel funds, with those monies going into a special fund to increase enforcement against them. This is just the latest border bill Crenshaw has filed. He has also filed bills to allow for the longer detention of immigrant minors, ban asylum claims except at ports of entry, and to increase the number of ICE prosecutors.

 

International

Colombian Coca Grower Communities in Caqueta Declare Humanitarian Siege to Protest Forced Eradication. Coca growing communities in Caqueta state have mobilized to protest violent forced coca eradication and the national government’s failure five years after peace accords were signed to implement agreements for voluntary coca eradication and alternative development. More than 22,000 families signed up for that program, which is stalled. Peasants pointed to violent eradication campaigns in the Solano, Milán, La Montañita and El Pajuil areas in Caquetá. Peasant groups are calling for dialog to resolve issues that are pitting the peasantry against the military. The Colombian military claimed in August that forced eradication had ended, but the communities in Caqueta beg to differ.

 

Bavarian Health Minister Asks EU to Scuttle Germany’s Marijuana Legalization Plan. Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek met in Brussels with the European Union’s director-general for migration and home affairs last week in a bid to block the German federal government’s proposal to legalize marijuana. Holetschek is a member of the center-right Union bloc and strongly opposes Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s legalization blueprint. As part of that plan, the German proposal is being sent to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to ensure it is compatible with EU and global drug laws. The German government says it will only move forward with legalization if the plan is approved by the EU. Holetschek warned that "the German government’s planned cannabis legalization doesn’t just endanger health, but I am convinced that it also violates European law."

More Than 300,000 Pot Arrests in 2020, FDA Points Toward OTC Naloxone, More... (11/17/22)

Congress passes a marijuana research bill, a bipatisan pair of senators file a psychedelic research and rescheduling bill, and more,

The FDA is moving to make the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone over-the-counter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Despite Legalization in Nearly Half the Country, More Than 300,000 People Were Arrested for Marijuana in 2020. Some 317,79 people were arrested on marijuana charges in 2020, according to the FBI. That is a 36 percent decline from 2019, but it still the equivalent of arresting every resident of a mid-size city such as Orlando, Corpus Christi, or Riverside, California. The marijuana arrest figure is also for the first time not the most common cause for a drug arrest, with 36 percent of drug arrests for stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, compared to 27 percent for arresting marijuana. Black Americans continued to bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement, accounting for 38 percent of all pot arrests despite making up only 13 percent of the population.

Congress Passes Marijuana Research Bill. With a final vote in the Senate Wednesday, both houses of Congress have approved the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454). The bill now goes to the desk of President Joe Biden (D). If he signs it, it will open the way to further research into the medical benefit of marijuana and CBD. Under the bill, the DEA must allow registered entities to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess marijuana for research purposes. "There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits. Our bill will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications,: said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who introduced the bill along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) introduced the bill in the House.

Harm Reduction

FDA Announces Preliminary Assessment that Certain Naloxone Products Have the Potential to be Safe and Effective for Over-the-Counter Use. The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued a Federal Register notice, Safety and Effectiveness of Certain Naloxone Hydrochloride Drug Products for Nonprescription Use, that may help facilitate the development and approval of certain nonprescription naloxone drug products, including through the switch of certain naloxone drug products from prescription status to nonprescription status. Naloxone is a medicine that can help reduce opioid overdose deaths and when administered timely, usually within minutes of the first signs of an opioid overdose, can counter the overdose effects. "Today’s action supports our efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis by helping expand access to naloxone," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. "The agency will keep overdose prevention and reduction in substance use disorders as a key priority and area of intense strategic focus for action as rapidly as possible."

Psychedelics

Cory Booker, Rand Paul File Bill to Reschedule Psychedelic Breakthrough Therapies and Remove Research Barriers. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed a bill on Thursday that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer breakthrough therapies like psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule I to II, while also removing research barriers for strictly controlled substances, the Breakthrough Therapies Act. The move came on the same day that House lawmakers announced the formation of psychedelic caucus aimed at promoting new treatments from currently controlled substances. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create a procedure where current Schedule I drugs could be designated as breakthrough therapies could be transferred to a lower schedule that would make it easier to research them and promote drug development.

MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

Main Justice (DOJ headquarters). A coalition wants the attorney general to allow legal pot sales in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Broad Coalition Calls on Attorney General Garland to Adopt Non-Enforcement Policy Around DC Marijuana Sales. Although District of Columbia voters legalized marijuana in 2014, congressional riders have blocked the District from allowing taxed and regulated marijuana sales ever since. Now, a coalition of state, local, and national advocacy groups has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) asking him to break the logjam by adopting a formal policy of non-enforcement. The letter asks the attorney general to treat the situation in DC as "functionally equivalent to the non-enforcement approach it has traditionally taken with respect to the states that have reformed their laws allowing for the taxation and regulation of the adult use of cannabis." As things now stand, DC "is only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation."

Missouri Could See Legal Marijuana Sales as Early as January. Elections have consequences, and sometimes they have them in a hurry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Friday that existing medical marijuana companies will be able to apply for adult use ("comprehensive") sales licenses as early as December 8 and that sales could begin ahead of a 60-day post-election deadline on February 6. Some of those licenses could be completed "before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed," the agency said. "We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion."

Plans for Kansas City-Area Entertainment Complex with Marijuana Lounges Announced. That didn't take long. One day after voters approved marijuana legalization in the Show Me State, a Kansas City-area hospitality group has announced plans for a new metro area entertainment district project that will include marijuana consumption lounges. The Besa Hospitality Group announced a new entertainment district along the Missouri River about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City in the village of River Bend. It will be known as the Smokey River Entertainment District.

The Besa Hospitality Group is partnering with BesaMe Wellness, a medical marijuana company, which give it an early shot at procuring an adult sales retail license, and has a target opening date of 4/20/23. "We have an opportunity to showcase cannabis and the acceptance of cannabis in our everyday lives. We're normalizing cannabis through hospitality," says Joey Pintozzi, Vice President of Operations and Marketing. "This is an entertainment venue first and foremost. Cannabis just happens to be part of that experience. People will be free to legally consume in some of the venues and enjoy being themselves."

Psychedelics

Evanston, Illinois, Lawmaker Sponsors Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. Councilmember Devon Reid of the Chicago suburb of Evanston is sponsoring an ordinance that would make possessing, cultivating and delivering entheogenic substances like psilocybin punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. That fine could be waived for people who complete a drug treatment program or "reasonable public service work."

The ordinance also includes lowest priority language regarding the "investigation or arrest of anyone for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or engaging in practices with or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds." The legislation lists four examples of psychedelics that would be covered -- psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote and ayahuasca -- but it also says decriminalization would not be "limited to" those psychedelics.

WI City and County Votes for Legal Marijuana, FDA Warns on Animal Tranquilizer in Drug Supply, More... (11/10/22)

The Treasury Department is using an executive order to go after dark web drug suppliers, the FDA is warning health care workers to watch out for an animal tranquilizer that appears to be getting into the illicit drug supply, and more.

The veterinary tranquilizer and pain reliever xylazine is showing up in the illicit drug supply.
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Towns and County Vote for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. The cities of Kenosha and Racine joined Milwaukee County Tuesday in voting in favor of non-binding referenda showing community support for marijuana legalization. The measure was approved by 76 percent of voter in Racine, 74 percent in Milwaukee County, and 72 percent in Kenosha. The state lacks an effective initiative process, and the Republican-controlled legislature has blocked consideration of even medical marijuana, let alone adult use marijuana.

Adulterants

FDA Warns Health Care Workers to Watch Out for Potentially Lethal Animal Sedative in Illicit Drug Supply. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday issued a warning to health care workers to watch out for patients who may have been exposed to a potentially deadly animal sedative through illicit drug use. The sedative in question is xylazine, which is showing up in fentanyl, heroin, and other illicit drug supplies after being diverted from the legal animal drug supply or produced illegally, the FDA said. The drug, known as "tranq" on the street is approved as an animal tranquilizer and pain reliever, but not approved for use in humans.

"FDA is aware of increasing reports of serious side effects from individuals exposed to fentanyl, heroin, and other illicit drugs contaminated with xylazine," the agency announced in a news release. Those serious side effects can resemble those linked to opioid use, making it difficult to determine whether one is facing an opioid overdose or xylazine exposure.

Moreover, naloxone, which can reverse the effects of some opioid drug overdoses, may not have the same effect on xylazine, the agency said. FDA still advised health care workers to continue administering naloxone if they suspect an opioid overdose.

Dark Web

Treasury Sanctions Internet-based Suppliers of Illicit Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Drugs. Acting in conjunction with the governments of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two Dutch nationals, Alex Adrianus Martinus Peijnenburg, Martinus Pterus Henri De Koning, and one British national, Matthew Simon Grimm, and nine entities pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059 for supplying illicit fentanyl, synthetic stimulants, cannabinoids, and opioids to US markets through internet sales and a host of shell companies.

The action represents the first use of E.O. 14059 to target those involved in the sale of illicit drugs purchased online and via darknet marketplaces. "The Treasury Department will continue to deploy its counternarcotics authorities to disrupt those involved in the fentanyl global supply chain," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. "Treasury is identifying over 50 virtual wallet addresses associated with this network's drug trafficking activities as we take further action to counter the abuse of virtual currency. I would like to thank our Dutch and UK partners and US law enforcement counterparts for their partnership and for enabling today's action."

CO Magic Mushroom Initiative Leading, La Paz's Itinerant Cocaine Bar, More... (11/9/22)

Five Texas cities pass marijuana decriminalization local measures, the National Park Service is asking tourists to not lick Sonoran desert toads in search of an hallucinogenic high, and more.

The Sonoran desert toad. The National Park Services asks people not to lick them to get high. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Five Texas Cities Vote to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Voters in five Texas cities chose overwhelmingly to approve local ballot measures to effectively decriminalize small-time marijuana possession. The group Ground Game Texas pioneered the tactic in Austin earlier this year and expanded it to the five cities for the general election. The measure, which bars using city funds and staff to test for the presence of THC, passed with 82 percent of the vote in San Marcos, 75 percent in Elgin, 70 percent in Denton, 69 percent in Killeen, and 60 percent in Harker Heights.

Psychedelics

Colorado Magic Mushroom, Natural Psychedelic Initiative Leading, But Still Too Close to Call. An initiative todecriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring hallucinogen and require the state to create a regulated system for accessing natural psychedelics for people 21 and over is narrowly ahead but has yet to officially called. Proposition 122, the Natural Medicine Health Act, has 51.07 percent of votes, with 48.93 percent opposed. Results are in from every county in the state, but not all votes have yet been counted in all counties.

National Park Service Tells Visitors to Please Stop Licking Hallucinogenic Toads. The National Park Service is warning visitors to stop licking the Sonoran desert toad in search of a high. The toad has glands that secrete a toxin that can create a hallucinogenic experience, but the Park Service is warning that touching or licking it can make people sick. The toad is known for producing hallucinations and euphoria, but the Park Service warns that it can also cause anxiety, nausea, seizures, and, rarely, death. "As we say with most things you come across in a national park, whether it be a banana slug, unfamiliar mushroom, or a large toad with glowing eyes in the dead of night, please refrain from licking," the service said in a Facebook post.

International

Cocaine Bar in Bolivia's Capital City Stays Open by Staying on the Move. The world's first cocaine bar, Route 36, is managing to stay open in the Bolivian city of La Paz by repeatedly changing its location and requiring potential customers to do some research to hunt it down. But don't count on Google; the reporting is that you are more likely to find its current location by asking a local cab driver. The cab driver is likely the only local you will encounter once you get to the bar, which operates primarily as a tourist destination with a $5 cover charge and sells grams of quite pure cocaine for $15.

CO Magic Mushroom Initiative, Call for Biden Pot Pardons to Include Immigrants, More... (11/8/22)

The use of asset forfeiture funds to buy armored vehicles for the cops creates controversy in Norman, Oklahoma, a plan to create a "narco museum" in El Chapo's Mexican home town creates controversy too, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are on the ballot in Colorado today. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Immigration, Civil Rights Groups Call on Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons. More than 130 immigration and civil rights groups have sent a letter to President Joe Biden (D) asking him to include immigrants in his marijuana possession pardon proclamation. People who are not citizens or legal permanent residents were not included in the pardon proclamation announced last month.

The groups said they welcomed the pardon move as a "much-needed first step toward mitigating the harm" of the war on drugs. "However, as organizations working on racial justice, human rights, and immigrant rights issues, we are grimly disappointed at the explicit exclusion of many immigrants and at the absence of affirmative measures to ensure that all immigrants get meaningful relief from the immigration consequences that can follow marijuana convictions," the groups wrote. "Cutting people out of criminal policy reforms simply because of their place of birth casts a shadow over the White House's efforts to address the over-policing and mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities."

"Moving forward, we urge you to ensure that every step taken to remedy racial injustice includes relief to impacted immigrant communities," they continued, adding that the first thing Biden should do is "extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and to take necessary steps to ensure that immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions."

Psychedelics

Colorado Voters to Consider Legalization of Psychedelic Mushrooms. It is not just marijuana on the ballot this Election Day. Voters in five states will decide on whether to free the weed, but Colorado voters will be voting on an initiative, Proposition 122, the "Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022," that would decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring hallucinogen and would require the state to create a regulated system for accessing natural psychedelics for people 21 and over.

A poll last week had the measure under 50 percent but in a statistical dead heat, with 43 percent of respondents supporting it and 44 percent opposed. That means the measure must pick up the support of slightly more than half of the 13 percent undecided to get over the top.

Asset Forfeiture

Norman, Oklahoma, Controversy Over Use of Asset Forfeiture Funds to Purchase Armored Police Vehicle. A plan to use moneys from the "State Seizures and Restitution Fund" to purchase new equipment for the police department, including $353,000 for a large BearCat SWAT vehicle designed for military and law enforcement use was on hold after city council members expressed concern over the use of asset forfeiture funds for the purchase and a lack of public discussion. Another $700,000+ was to be used to buy tactical vests, helmets, gas masks, ballistic shields and other protective equipment for bomb threats.

Councilors for Ward 1 and 2, Brandi Studley and Helen Grant, respectively, took issue with the absence of committee and public discussion. "I am concerned with the lack of transparency and discussion with council and the public regarding any of the equipment," Studley said. Grant said more information about the department's needs and the city council's priorities was needed. "The public made it pretty clear in feedback about our failed water rate increase that they wanted us to focus on affordable housing and homelessness first, as 24% of respondents ranked it as a priority," Grant said. "Police and Fire along with a nebulous category called "other" came in second at 15% respectively."

Other council members accused the pair of having "a complete disregard for the safety" of community members, but then agreed to pull the proposal for further study.

International

Mexican Town's Plan for Narco Museum Stirs Controversy. Badiraguato, Sinaloa, in the hills outside of the state capitol, Culiacan, is the birthplace of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and now, the current mayor has stirred up controversy by proposing that the town build a "narco museum" dedicated to the history of drug trafficking in the state.

Mayor Jose Paz Lopez said that Badiraguato needs to preserve its history, and that the museum be an economic boon for the town, attracting tourism and sharing an anti-drug message. He said it would include weapons, vehicles and other belongings from drug lords, and perhaps life-size wax figures of them. But Gov. Ruben Rocha Moya was not down with the idea, saying he emphatically opposes it.

In addition to El Chapo, Badiriguato is also the birthplace of famed cartel leaders Rafael Caro Quintero and current Sinaloa Cartel leader Israel "El Mayo" Zambada.

Biden Pot Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Afghan Opium Crop Up, More... (11/2/22)

A Colorado psychedelic initiative needs just a bit more support to get over the top next week, the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative is in the same boat, and more.

freshly harvested opium resin in Afghanistan (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Marijuana Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Poll Finds. A new Monmouth University poll finds broad public approval of President Joe Biden's (D) decision to issue blanket pardons to anyone convicted of simple federal marijuana possession charges. The poll also found broad public support for marijuana legalization, with 68 percent in favor, just one point less than the number of those who supported the Biden pardons. "Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years. Biden's action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative Leading but Under 50 Percent. The Missouri marijuana polling muddle continues. One recent poll had Amendment 3 with 43 percent of the vote -- not a majority, but a higher figure than those who said they opposed it -- while another poll had the initiative cruising to victory with 62 percent support. Now, the latest poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill -- the same folks who had the 43 percent poll just weeks ago -- has the initiative again leading but under the 50 percent required to win. This time the poll had support at 48 percent support, with 35 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. While initiative campaigns would like to see support at 60 percent or so going into the election, or at least above the 50 percent needed to win, if these latest poll numbers are accurate, the campaign would need only to peel away about one out of five undecided voters, and keep the supporters it has now, to emerge victorious next week.

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psychedelic Initiative Under 50 Percent. The initiative to legalize the possession of psychedelics and create licensed "healing center" where people can use psilocybin under therapeutic supervision, Proposition 122, is trailing slightly according to a new poll, but has gained support since the same poll queried voters in September. The measure has 43 percent support, up from 36 percent in September, but opposition remains higher, increasing from 41 percent in September to 44 percent now. That is a statistical dead heat between "yes" and "no" votes, but still has the initiative below the 50 percent needed to win. Nearly 13 percent of voters remain undecided; the initiative will need to get a majority of those undecideds to get over the top next week.

International

Afghan Opium Crop Up One Third Despite Taliban Ban, UN Says. The 2022 opium crop in Afghanistan is the most profitable in years with cultivation up by nearly a third amid soaring prices, and despite the multiple humanitarian and economic crises facing the country and its Taliban rulers, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Tuesday. The authorities banned all cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics under strict new laws, in April 2022. This year's harvest was largely exempted from the decree, said UNODC, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the Taliban will enforce the ban. Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November this year.

"Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated," said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. "The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world."

Arkansas Legalization Init Cleared for November, Colorado Psilocybin Init Trailing, More... (9/23/22)

Republicans seek political advantage by calling Mexican cartels "terrorist organizations," the FDA eases rules for groups distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug nalxone, and more.

Colorado magic mushroom proponents have an uphill fight ahead of them, a new poll suggests. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Marijuana Legalization Initiative for November Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted after all. The move comes after the Board of Election Commissioners ruled that the measure's ballot title was misleading, but the high court disagreed, holding that "initiative power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions" and that the board and prohibitionist groups who had intervened in the case "have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient."

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psilocybin Initiative Trailing. A new poll has the magic mushroom decriminalization initiative, Proposition 122, well south of the 50 percent plus one votes needed to pass in November. The Fox 31/Chennel2/Emerson College/The Hill poll had only 36 percent supporting the measure, with 41 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided. While the large number of undecideds leaves room for hope, they would have to break pretty decisively in favor of the initiative for it to get over the top. Only Democrats favored the initiative (53 percent), while 61 percent of Republicans opposed it. Two racial/ethnic groups emerge as opponents: 64 percent of Blacks oppose it, as do 63 percent of multiracial voters.

Harm Reduction

Opioid Reversal Drug Access to Ease Under Relaxed FDA Rules. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that harm reduction programs distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone will not have to comply with certain federal product tracing requirements. The agency said it would not enforce certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements on programs that are distributing the drug to at-risk communities while an opioid public health emergency exists. "Combating the opioid overdose epidemic is an urgent public health priority for FDA," the agency wrote in the guidance. The FDA "is committed to advancing solutions to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States, including by supporting efforts to increase public availability of and access to naloxone."

Foreign Policy

GOP Senators File Bill Designating Drug Cartels as Terrorist Organization. Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rick Scott (R-FL) filed a bill Tuesday to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act. "The illicit drugs and other deadly activities being carried out by cartels are killing Americans at record rates. Since Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to turn a blind eye, we are going to do something about it by designating the drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations," said Sen. Marshall. "As these cartels continue to invade our porous southern border in an increasingly militarized approach, this designation is needed to ramp up our efforts to combat them. We will not rest in our fight to stop fentanyl's terrible scourge wreaking havoc in Kansas and across the US." Nonetheless, Mexican cartels are not foreign terrorist organizations; they are drug trafficking organizations.

GOP Texas Governor Designates Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that designated specified Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, although since Texas does not set US foreign policy it is not clear just exactly what that means. The order instructs the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) "to take immediate action to keep Texans safe amid the growing national fentanyl crisis." Abbott also directed DPS to identify Texas gangs that support the cartels and seize their assets.

White House Issues Annual Drug Countries List, CA Governor Signs Forced Treatment Bill, More... (9/16/22)

A federal appeals court shoots down yet another effort to move marijuana off Schedule I, new research finds prentant Black women are more likely to be tested for marijuana, and more.

The annual list of naughty and nice drug producing and trafficking nations is released. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. A group of defendants who had been convicted on federal marijuana charges had their bid to have the substance removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act shot down by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of August. They had argued that the scheduling of marijuana had no rational basis because it does not meet the criteria for a Schedule I drug and the court should "strike the offending statutory classification as unconstitutional"and leave reclassification to Congress. But the appeals disagreed, ruling that there is a "conceivable basis" for the classification.

Blacks Disproportionately Drug Tested for Marijuana During Labor, Analysis Finds. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that patients ordered to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Black and are also likely to be on subsidized health insurance plans. The research assessed drug screening practices at one St. Louis hospital and found doctors ordered marijuana-related drug tests in 753 patients out of just under 4,000 deliveries. Seventy percent of those subjected to testing were Black. Marijuana tests were also more likely for those patients who were younger or on public insurance. Most subjected to testing came up negative, but of those who did positive, 90 percent were referred to child welfare authorities, even though there were no statistically significant differences between them and other mothers in terms of preterm birth rates or other indicators of natal health.

"Isolated marijuana use was a poor predictor of other substance exposure in our cohort, but a urine drug screening test result positive for marijuana exposed a historically underserved population that is already subject to pervasive systemic racism in the medical field to further stigmatization without changing outcomes. The utility of using isolated marijuana use as a criterion for urine drug screening appears limited in benefit but rife with inequitable potential to harm and should be carefully reconsidered in labor and delivery units for necessity," the authors concluded.

Drug Treatment

California Governor Signs Forced Drug Treatment Bill. To the dismay of drug reform and mental health advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 1338, the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Act, which create a civil court system in all counties that would force people who are experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health issues to undergo an involuntary court process and treatment plan. Although the CARE Act sailed through the legislature, the proposal was opposed by a wide range of advocates who feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction. It will take away people’s basic right to make their own decisions and force them into court-mandated treatment programs, which have been shown to often exacerbate harms while worsening existing health disparities and the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal legal system. The CARE Act will fail to meet the urgent needs of our communities or offer a path to effective evidence-based treatment, recovery and other health services for Californians who are unhoused, struggling with substance use disorder, or experiencing other mental health issues, they argued.

Foreign Policy

White House Issues Annual List of Major Drug Trafficking and Producing Countries; Contains the Usual Suspects. The White House has released its annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2023 and has identified the following countries as major transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The annual exercise also designated four countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Notably, all four of these countries are political foes of the US, unlike major drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia and Mexico, which are US allies.

Grassley, Whitehouse Lead Senate Caucus in Issuing Report onStrategies to Combat Money Laundering By Drug Cartels. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RR), Chairman of the caucus, havereleased a bipartisan report entitled: Strengthening U.S. Efforts to Attack the Financial Networks of Cartels. The report offers recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by closing loopholes in the U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) framework that enable narcotics traffickers to obscure and access their illicit proceeds.Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and James Risch (R-ID) have also endorsed the report.

Its recommendations include: Help partner nations strengthen their institutions to better defend against corruption and implement justice sector reforms; better track whole-of-government efforts to combat narcotics-related illicit finance;  deploy experts in narcotics-related illicit finance to assist partner nations; authorize innovative and effective programs to combat international money laundering, such as Trade Transparency Units; use regulatory authorities to close loopholes in the U.S. AML framework, including by: ensuring greater transparency in the cross-border transportation of stored value or prepaid access devices, and fully implementing the beneficial ownership requirements of the Corporate Transparency Act; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and pursue the maximum allowable criminal penalties for culpable banks, employees, and executives who fail to timely report suspicious transactions; and address vulnerabilities in the AML framework by swiftly enacting the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance, and Counterfeiting Act. The report does not explain how these proposals to deepen the drug war would lead to any different result than decades of previous prohibitionist measures. 

San Francisco Deprioritizes Natural Psychedelics, UK Blocks Bermuda Pot Legalization, More... (9/8/22)

Prisoners and advocacy groups call on the Bureau of Prisons to clean up its act, Colombia's new president has some words for the US, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro continues to push against the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

San Francisco Effectively Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. The city's Boad of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that effectively decriminalizes natural psychedelics. The resolution includes the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being," and includes ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin. The resolution also allows for the "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" those substances and provides no limits on quantities that may be possessed. The resolution effectively decriminalizes these substances by designating them the lowest law enforcement priority, but they remain illegal under state and federal law. San Francisco now joins Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among California cities that have embraced such measures. A dozen other citizens around the country have, too.

Incarceration

Incarcerated People and Advocacy Organizations Urge Reform of US Bureau of Prisons. In a letter Tuesday to federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters, current and former federal prisoners and an array of sentencing, drug policy, and other advocacy groups called on her to "bring the Bureau into compliance with federal law and to lead the Bureau toward a more humane future grounded in transparency and accountability." The letter cited a number of issues and concerns, including unsafe and inhumane prisons, the need for the Bureau to use its power to seek compassionate release, the need for the Bureau to comply with the First Step Act (there are chronic delays in releasing people who qualify), and the pervasiveness of abuse, corruption, and misconduct. In addition to individual signers, the letter was endorsed by the ACLU, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Drug Policy Alliance, Fair and Just Prosecution, Federal Public and Community Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Council of Churches, and the Sentencing Project, which organized the campaign.

Foreign Policy

Colombian President Warns US Drug War Has Failed, Change Must Come. President Gustavo Petro warned the US on Wednesday the he believes the US-led war on drugs in his country is a failure and called for substantial changes in drug policy. The statement came after he met with the commander of the United States Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.  "We were now talking at length with General Laura Richardson … about the failure of the anti-drug policy. I think it should be called without fear: the policy that (Richard) Nixon had in the time It was called the War on Drugs, has failed here," said Petro from the presidential palace. "It is our duty before the United States, but also before the world, to not only say this, but to propose alternatives that will not kill more than a million Latin Americans."

Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, and Petro said that his own country is "the biggest culprit" because rural poverty makes drug cultivation and trafficking an attractive livelihood. Petro has moved to restrict the aerial spraying of herbicides and limited the resort to forced eradication of coca crops, promoting voluntary crop substitution instead. He is also proposing changes in the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US to allow those who cooperate with Colombia to avoid extradition to the US.

International

United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda from Legalizing Marijuana. In a rare move, the UK's Governor for Bermuda, who, as the queen's representative typically provides pro forma assent to the Bermudan government's actions, has intervened to block marijuana legalization in the British Overseas Territory. Even as incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss was vowing to "stand up for freedom and democracy around the world," her government was directing the governor to block the marijuana legalization bill. "I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted," the governor said. "The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda"under international anti-drugs conventions dating back to 1961. Liz Truss was foreign secretary until Tuesday when she became prime minister. In a statement, the Bermudian government said the move was "disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions. The Bermudian government said it would continue to move forward on marijuana legalization, which could put the country on a collision course with the UK. "The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment." Bermudian Premier David Burt has not commented on this move, but warned earlier that: "If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom."

Drug War Issues

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