Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

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Last Minute Push for SAFE Banking ACT, NH Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed, More... (12/15/22)

Some Texas town officials are trying to run roughshod over the will of the voters on marijuana enforcement, sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act are not giving up hope yet, and more.

State-legal pot businesses seek access to financial services through the SAFE Banking Act. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Last Minute Push for SAFE Banking Act. With the curtain about to close on the current Congress, Senate sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) are still trying to get the bill passed. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) tried and failed to get the bill attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, but now they're trying to get it attached to the omnibus funding bill, but again face Republican opposition, including from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Nine Republicans have previously sponsored the bill, but it would need 10 votes to overcome a filibuster. Earlier in the session, the bill was blocked by the Democratic leadership, which was holding out for a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill.

New Hampshire Lawmakers Filed Marijuana Legalization Bill. Incoming Democratic House leader Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) is a main sponsor of a new marijuana legalization bill filed in the House last week. The bipartisan bill would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated retail sales. While similar bills have failed in years past, Wilhelm said it is "long past" time for the state to stop "wasting scarce tax dollars and valuable local and state policing resources by continuing a restriction that has failed for decades and needlessly ruined the lives of many young and poor Granite Staters."

Texas Towns Seek to Undo Will of Voters on Marijuana Ordinances. Voters in five Texas towns and cities approved ending criminal enforcement of marijuana prohibition by voting for local ballot measures that ban arrests and tickets for possessing less than four ounces of weed. But elected officials in those localities are balking, with some saying the effort violates state laws and hinders police officers.

In Harker Heights, the city council repealed the ordinance two weeks after the vote. In Killeen, the Bell County DA attempted to undo the ordinance, but the city council approved it anyway. In San Marcos, the Hays County Criminal DA has asked for the state attorney general's opinion about enforceability of the ordinance, while in Denton, the city council certified the initiative, but the city manager opposes implementing part of it.

White House Extends National Drug Trafficking Emergency, OTC Naloxone Could Be Coming, More... (12/13/22)

Kansas lawmakers will push for a medical marijuana bill when the session begins in January, Connecticut's dispensaries will be able to sell to any adult beginning in January, and more.

The opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. There is a move afoot to make it available OTC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Recreational Marijuana Sales Set to Begin January 10. The state Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates marijuana in the state, has announced that the state's seven existing medical marijuana dispensaries had "successfully completed the necessary steps for conversion to a hybrid license," allowing them to also sell to the adult recreational market beginning January 10. Sales will be limited to a "a total of ¼ ounce of cannabis flower or its equivalent per transaction," according to the DCP. The move comes more than a year and a half after Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed a marijuana legalization bill into law.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Lawmakers Plan to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill at Start of Session Next Month. Since the end of the last legislative session, members of the Special Committee on Medical Marijuana have been meeting, compiling data, and evaluating research, and now they say they are ready to file a medical marijuana bill at the beginning of the session beginning next month. "I think what I’m going to do is — and any member is more than welcome — is to take this information and create the bill," said. Sen. Rob Olson (R-Olathe), chair of the medical marijuana committee. "And I’m going to work on a bill with a couple members and then if anybody wants to sign on in the Senate, they’ll be more than able to sign onto that bill and introduce it at the beginning of session." He also called on House lawmakers to file similar legislation. "I think that’s probably the best way forward," Olson said. Kansas is one of the 13 states that have still not legalized medical marijuana.

Foreign Policy

White House Formally Continues Drug Trafficking State of National Emergency. The White House on Monday issued an executive order continuing a state of national emergency "to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by global illicit drug trafficking." Noting that drug overdoses are killing tens of thousands of Americans each year, the order warns that: "Drug cartels, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators are the primary sources of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals that fuel the current opioid epidemic, as well as drug-related violence that harms our communities.  International drug trafficking — including the illicit production, global sale, and widespread distribution of illegal drugs; the rise of extremely potent drugs such as fentanyl and other synthetic opioids; as well as the growing role of Internet-based drug sales — continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 14059 of December 15, 2021, must continue in effect beyond December 15, 2022.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 14059 with respect to global illicit drug trafficking."

Harm Reduction

Major Drug Maker Applies to Sell Over-the-Counter Naloxone. In a move that addiction experts say could save tens of thousands of lives, a major drug maker has applied to sell the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone over-the-counter. Emergent BioSolutions is now seeking permission to sell the drug without a prescription and says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to fast-track its review. A decision is expected by the end of March. Drug policy experts agreed that making naloxone more widely available is an important step in reducing drug overdoses but raised one concern: price. If OTC naloxone is too expensive, many people using drugs on the street just won't buy it, said University of North Carolina drug researcher Nabarun Dasgupta. "If we have this resource scarcity mentality that this is an expensive product, this is a special product, then people will not take enough kits to do what they need to do."

Study of Pot Shop Robberies Points to Need for SAFE Banking Act Now [FEATURE]

As the lame duck congressional session ticks down toward its final days, not only have prospects for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's marijuana legalization bill faded into misty nothingness, even the more incremental but much clamored-for effort to provide state-legal marijuana businesses with access to the banking system remains undone.

marijuana shop robbery in Seattle (KOMO screen grab)
Despite being passed on multiple occasions in the House, the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) has not managed to get a vote in the Senate, either as a standalone bill or attached to an omnibus appropriations bill. While Schumer and his pro-legalization Senate allies blocked consideration of the bill earlier in the session as they tried to build support for the further-reaching legislation, this week it was Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who kept it out of the annual defense appropriations bill.

While Congress dithers, marijuana retailers, especially in the West, have been paying the price of having to operate with extremely limited access to the banking sector. As a new report from StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter) executive director David Borden demonstrates, that price is paid not only in stolen cash and traumatized employees and customers, but sometimes in lost lives. The report, Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re) Teaches Us About Cannabis Store Robberies analyzes some 165 armed robberies of marijuana shops in the state beginning in 2017, including a spate of nearly 100 reported robberies in a 4 ½ months beginning in late 2021.

"While SAFE was stalling in the Senate [last year], Washington State's cannabis community was in the grip of an unprecedented surge in armed robberies of cannabis stores," the report notes. "This occurrence, which began in November 2021 and lasted 4 ½ months, saw nearly 100 reported robberies affect roughly 80 cannabis stores, and ended with three people dead."

One of those killed was a marijuana shop employee; two were armed robbers.

The data on robberies comes from a unique resource, the "Uncle Ike's i502 Robbery Tracker." Uncle Ike's is a Seattle-area marijuana shop chain that has seen two of its stores victimized, one in White Center in 2018 and one in Lake City in 2021. Its list is compiled from media reports, police reports, and direct communication with store robbery victims.

The study analyzed robberies by whether they targeted cash or product or both; and for those that targeted cash, whether they aimed only at cash registers (front of the store) or safes (back of the store). It also examined the relationship between robbery targets and levels of aggression by robbers.

"Our analysis confirms that cash dominates as the target for cannabis store robberies," the report's executive summary says. "Product also plays an important role, but almost always in combination with cash; whereas cash on its own gets targeted in roughly 50 percent of the time, during the incidents for which we could determine what was targeted. Most burglaries, by contrast, appear to only target product."

The report also concluded that:

  • Based on current incentives, there is little reason to believe that robberies targeting the back of a store will continue (as opposed to burglaries), or continue at the same level, if cash is removed from the equation. The great majority of such robberies are aimed at accessing cash in the safe, and without cash or with much less of it, that will no longer be lucrative.
  • There will also be much less incentive to target the cash register at the front of the store, in the absence of strong profits there. Those are roughly half of the documented front-store robberies on Uncle Ike's. There's little reason to believe that front-store robberies targeting only cash will continue in that scenario.
  • Data finds few examples of product-only robberies (as opposed to burglaries which are mainly product-only). That may suggest product alone does not provide enough incentive to sustain interest in doing robberies, particularly because burglary is a viable option to obtain the same product.

"Given what happened in Washington -- which could happen again -- it would be wholly unjustifiable for Congress to again put off enacting some form of the SAFE Banking Act," said Borden. "But there will be more left to do after Congress passes SAFE, for the robberies problem to be thoroughly addressed," Borden continued. "One remaining piece is to specifically greenlight purchase transactions, which is how cash enters the system. The current language of SAFE explicitly addresses only depository banking."

While the prospects for passage of the SAFE Banking Act grow dimmer each day, there remains the chance that the SAFE Banking Act Plus, which Schumer has been negotiating for the past several months and which also includes social equity provisions demanded by activists and some lawmakers, could move as a standalone measure before the session ends.

But if it doesn't move, the marijuana shops will remain at risk. There are steps that can be taken to ameliorate that risk, the report says.

"Security, worker training, and likely other factors, will continue to have importance for cannabusinesses, regardless of what happens with SAFE or further measures," the report states. "In the meanwhile, the cannabis community in other states can help, by duplicating the tracking effort pioneered in Washington by Uncle Ike's." Also, stores should improve employee training "with respect to emphasizing the reasons for cooperating with robbers and how to avoid escalating tensions in robbery situations."

States, for their part, should "provide funding for security measures to small and midsize cannabis stores," the report adds, and at the state and federal level, regulators should "review their policies with an aim toward facilitating greater adoption of electronic payment for cannabis stores."

Or Congress could just legalize marijuana.

12/16 report launch webinar:

Medical Marijuana Update

The Nevada Supreme Court protects workers who use medical marijuana, the District of Columbia moves to radically reform its medical marijuana program, and more.

Minnesota

Minnesota Medical Marijuana Program Adds New Qualifying Conditions. The state Department of Health has announced it is adding irritable bowel syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder to the list of qualifying medical conditions for the state's medical marijuana program. The changes will go into effect on August 1, 2023. "We are adding the new qualifying conditions to allow patients more therapy options for conditions that can be debilitating,"said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. Two other conditions, gastroparesis and opioid use disorder were not approved.

Nevada

Nevada Supreme Court Rules Workers Fired for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use Can Sue Former Employers. The state's highest court ruled Thursday that workers who are medical marijuana patients can sue their former employers if they have been fired for off-duty marijuana use. The ruling came in the case of Jim Roushkolb, a registered patient who used medical marijuana to ease PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health issues arising from a 1995 assault. His former employer, Freeman Expositions, fired him in 2018 after he tested positive for THC in the wake of a workplace incident where a plexiglass sheet fell and shattered. All employees at the scene were ordered to take drug tests, and Roushkolb was fired even though the company knew he was a medical marijuana patient.

Ohio

Ohio Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Access. A measure that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 261, would add new qualifying conditions but more importantly would also let doctors recommend medical marijuana for any condition they deem necessary. Proponents are now trying to get in through the House in what is left of the state legislature's lame-duck session . "I think that that’s the best path we can go on,"said bill sponsor Sen. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood). "I think there’s a lot of value in being able to have this treatment opportunity available to people as an alternative to all kinds of things that may have other side effects."

District of Columbia

DC Council Approves Bill to Eliminate License Caps, Promote Equity, Provide Tax Relief, More. The city council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that broadly reworks the city's medical marijuana program. The measure needs to pass a second reading at a yet unspecified date before going to the mayor's desk. The bill would eliminate caps on licenses for marijuana businesses, provide tax relief to operators, encourage greater social equity, create new businesses categories for on-site consumption lounges, and provide a pathway for current gray market "gifting" operators to enter the licensed market. The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act would also codify that adults can self-certify as medical marijuana patients. The bill was carried by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

NJ Pot Lounges One Step Closer, DEA Sets Psychedelic Drug Production Quotas, More... (12/5/22)

Kansas's Democratic governor wants medical marijuana this coming year, the DEA announces new, higher research quotas for various psychedelics and marijuana, and more.

The DEA is upping the research quota for various psychedelics, including psilocyn, found in magic mushrooms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Marijuana p.ove Rules for Public Cannabis Consumption Areas. The state's Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved rules for"public cannabis consumption areas" last Friday. That is a first step toward allowing marijuana smoking lounges to open in the state, and it is one that social justice requires, said CRC Chair Dianna Houenou. "Equitable access to cannabis means everyone who wishes to consume has some place they can do that—legally, safely, and responsibly," Houenou said. "When regulated properly, cannabis consumption areas can strengthen the industry, while giving people more choices on where they consume." Under the rules just proposed, neither alcohol nor tobacco could be sold or consumed at such facilities and food could not be sold, but people could bring their own or have it delivered to the site.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Governor Reinforces Call for Medical Marijuana as Legislative Priority. Gov. Laura Kelly (D) last Friday reinforced the notion that she wants to make passage of a medical marijuana law a top legislative priority "This legislative session, we need to legalize medical marijuana so that Kansans with severe illnesses no longer have to suffer,"she said. "Providing this relief is long overdue, so let’s work together to get this done. Medical marijuana is one of five priorities she has identified, along with investing in mental health resources, expanding Medicaid, protecting first responders, and providing tax relief.

Psychedelics

DEA Announces How Much Marijuana, MDMA, Psilocyn, LSD, Mescaline, 5-MeO-DMT, MDA, 2-CB Can Be Produced for Research In 2023. The DEA has set production quotas for research drugs for 2023 and it is pushing those numbers up as it responds to increasing scientific and medical interest in the compounds. The agency is "committed to ensuring an adequate and uninterrupted supply of controlled substances in order to meet the estimated legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the U.S., for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks," the DEA said. For marijuana, the DEA recommended the production of 14,770 pounds, more than twice the amount authorized for this year, while quote numbers for psilocyn would go from the original 8,000 grams to 12,000 grams, 5-MeO-DMT from 6,000 to 11,000, MDMA from 8,200 to 12,000 grams, MDA from 200 to 12,000 grams, and 2-CB from 25 to 5,100 grams.

NV On-Site Pot Smoking Lounges, Mexican President Wants to Know Where "La Barbie" Is, More... (12/2/22)

Sen, John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has filed a bill to prepare for federal marijuana legalization, the Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of a medical marijuana patient fired for off-duty use, and more.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, "La Barbie," in custody in Mexico in 2012. (CNN screen grab)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Create Commission to Prepare for Legalization Filed. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday filed the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) Act, which would direct the attorney general to set up a commission to make recommendations for how federally legal marijuana should be regulated. "A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,"Hickenlooper said in a press release. "This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force, will replicate our success nationally." Companion legislation has been filed in the House."

Nevada Awards 20 Provisional Licenses for Marijuana Consumption Lounges. The state's marijuana regulatory agency, the Cannabis Compliance Board, has issued 20 provisional licenses for marijuana consumption lounges, with half of them reserved for social equity applicants. The licenses were handed out via a random drawing. Social equity licensees who have a nonviolent marijuana conviction and who live in an underprivileged neighborhood are eligible for discounted fees. The board approved consumption lounges in June and estimates that an additional 40-45 licenses will be issued.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Medical Marijuana Program Adds New Qualifying Conditions. The state Department of Health has announced it is adding irritable bowel syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder to the list of qualifying medical conditions for the state's medical marijuana program. The changes will go into effect on August 1, 2023. "We are adding the new qualifying conditions to allow patients more therapy options for conditions that can be debilitating,"said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. Two other conditions, gastroparesis and opioid use disorder were not approved.

Nevada Supreme Court Rules Workers Fired for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use Can Sue Former Employers. The state's highest court ruled Thursday that workers who are medical marijuana patients can sue their former employers if they have been fired for off-duty marijuana use. The ruling came in the case of Jim Roushkolb, a registered patient who used medical marijuana to ease PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health issues arising from a 1995 assault. His former employer, Freeman Expositions, fired him in 2018 after he tested positive for THC in the wake of a workplace incident where a plexiglass sheet fell and shattered. All employees at the scene were ordered to take drug tests, and Roushkolb was fired even though the company knew he was a medical marijuana patient.

Ohio Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Access. A measure that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 261, would add new qualifying conditions but more importantly would also let doctors recommend medical marijuana for any condition they deem necessary. Proponents are now trying to get in through the House in what is left of the state legislature's lame-duck session . "I think that that’s the best path we can go on,"said bill sponsor Sen. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood). "I think there’s a lot of value in being able to have this treatment opportunity available to people as an alternative to all kinds of things that may have other side effects."

Foreign Policy

Mexican President Wants to Know Whereabouts of "La Barbie, Convicted Cartel Chief Now Missing from American Prison. Notorious drug kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, nicknamed La Barbie for his fair complexion and blond hair, was sentenced to 49 years in US federal prison in 2018, but now no longer appears in the Bureau of Prisons databases that have details of all prisoners doing time in federal prisons, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants to know where he is. "What is happening in the United States with Mr. Villarreal is strange," López Obrador said during a press conference on Wednesday. "Someone has made it known that he is no longer in the registry of prisoners and we want to know where he is." López Obrador asked Washington for transparency and said the situation needed to be clarified as quickly as possible. "There is no reason for him to leave prison because his sentence is for many years, unless there has been an agreement." While the explanation for La Barbie's absence could be as innocent as that he is hospitalized for a medical condition, there is rising speculation that he may have struck a deal with US authorities around the looming trial in New York of former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna, who is accused of collaborating with drug cartels. La Barbie was arrested in 2012 in an operation orchestrated by Garcia Luna and has repeatedly accused him of working with the cartels.

CT Pot Sales Coming Early Next Year; Colombia, Mexico Presidents Call for New Drug Policies, More... (11/29/22)

Idaho medical marijuana activists are set to try again in 2024, Thai authorities continue to grapple with ambiguities and nuances in their move to reform marijuana laws, and more.

Colombia President Petro and Mexican President Lopez Obrador at Mexico City meeting last week. (gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Takes Another Step Toward Starting Recreational Sales Early Next Year. The state Department of Consumer Protection, which is charged with regulating legal marijuana, has announced that three of the state's four existing medical marijuana producers had qualified for hybrid licenses to grow for both the medicinal and recreational markets. That moves producers closer to meeting a state requirement that at least 250,000 square feet of cultivation and manufacturing space be available before retailers can begin recreational sales. The floor is aimed at ensuring that an adequate supply of marijuana remains available for the state's medical marijuana patients, and this regulatory move means retail sales are likely to begin early next year.  

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Aim at 2024 Medical Marijuana Initiative. A political action committee formed in 2021, Kind Idaho, is beginning signature gathering to place a medical marijuana initiative, the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act on the 2024 ballot. The group has until April 14, 2024 to come up with 74,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Activists there have been trying for a decade to get medical marijuana before the voters, and this time around, they plan a concerted campaign of canvassing and social media outreach to get over the top.

International

Colombian, Mexican Presidents Denounce Failure of Prohibition, Announce International Effort to Rethink Drug Policy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that they are calling in other Latin American leaders for an international conference focused on "redesigning and rethinking drug policy" given the "failure" of drug prohibition. In a joint statement after meeting last week in Mexico City, the pair said they met to discuss "geopolitical, commercial, cultural and development cooperation" in their bilateral relationship, including collaborating with regional leaders to find a new way of dealing with drug policy. "Recognizing the failure of the fight against drugs and the vulnerability of our peoples in the face of this problem, Mexico and Colombia will convene an International Conference of Latin American leaders with the objective of redesigning and rethinking drug policy," the pair added. A new path is necessary "given the levels of violence that the current policy has unleashed, especially in the American continent." The meeting and joint statement come as both countries move toward marijuana legalization but remain uncertain about how to deal with the drug primarily involved in generating violence, cocaine.

Thai Authorities Warn Marijuana Sellers Not to Use Doctors to Try to Get Around Ban on Smoking Recreational Marijuana in Shops. Worried that their ambiguous legalization of marijuana will lead to rampant recreational marijuana use, public health officials this week warned marijuana shops not to use traditional Thai doctors to try to evade a ban on smoking in the stores. "The ministry did not campaign for people to use cannabis for recreation, so they cannot smoke the decriminalized herb in stores," Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Sunday. Marijuana can be smoked on-site if the shops is licensed to operate as a medical facility, but merely having a traditional doctor present is not sufficient, the ministry said. The ministry also warned that it will be doing random checks of marijuana shops to ensure compliance with this rule. Ambiguities in the law have left shops and users uncertain of their rights, but the legislature is now working on a bill to clarify the situation and regulate the trade. 

Report on Options for Safe Injection Sites, Berkeley Could Decriminalize LSD, More... (11/28/22)

Irish opposition parties are talking drug reform, the Congressional Research Service issues a report on how to get around legal proscriptions on safe injection sites, and more.

LSD in blotter acid form. There is a proposal in Berkeley to decriminalize it. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Berkeley Ponders Becoming First City to Decriminalize Not Just Natural Psychedelics But LSD, Too. A proposed ordinance to decriminalize natural psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms that has been under study in the city for the past three years may be expanded to include the synthetic hallucinogen LSD as well. A pair of Berkeley community health commissioners are promoting the move, saying that LSD meets the definition of a psychedelic and that "nobody deserves to go to jail for having a psychedelic experience." They have now rewritten the 2019 proposed ordinance to include LSD, prompting Decriminalize Nature, the original sponsors o the ordinance to now oppose it. The Community Health Commission is set to vote Tuesday on whether to refer the rewritten ordinance to the city council. At least 15 towns or cities across the US have passed natural psychedelic decriminalization or lowest priority ordinances, but Berkeley's would be the first to include LSD.

Harm Reduction

Congressional Research Service Provide Options for Allowing Safe Injection Sites The service, a nonpartisan agency that provides information on all kinds of issues to Congress, has issued a report highlighting the "uncertainty" of the federal government's position on safe injection sites, but also pointing out that the facilities could operate securely if Congress passed legislation barring the Justice Department from interfering with them, similar to actions it has taken to allow state medical marijuana laws to be implemented. The Trump administration Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block a Philadelphia safe injection site from opening, and the Biden Justice Department has so far shown much less enthusiasm for attacking the harm reduction facilities, but their fate remains uncertain. While the Biden administration is evaluating the legality of the facilities, CRS said: "Congress could resolve that uncertainty by enacting legislation. If Congress decided to allow supervised consumption sites to operate, it could consider the breadth of such authorization. One option would be to exempt supervised consumption sites from CSA control entirely" Or Congress could approve a temporary spending bill rider "to exempt from federal prosecution facilities operating in compliance with state and local law, as it has done with state-sanctioned medical marijuana activities." A third option "would be for Congress to impose specific registration requirements for supervised consumption sites under the CSA, as it has done for entities that administer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction," CRS continued. The report is Recent Developments in Opioid Regulation Under the Controlled Substances Act.

International

.Two opposition parties are championing major reforms in drug policy, albeit with two distinct proposals. People Before Profit's Gino Kenny has filed a private members' bill to decriminalize the possession of up to seven grams of marijuana, while the Labor Party is proposing a broader drug decriminalization bill. Kenny said marijuana prohibition is "a waste of time and resources" and that "there is a groundswell of opinion for a different narrative and a different status quo." The Labor Party, meanwhile is set to file its drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, with proponents arguing again that persecuting drug users was a waste of the police and the courts' time. But Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan said that the current government follows a drug strategy that embodies a "health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use," it has no plans to decriminalize any drugs. 

Letter to House Leaders Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Colombia Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (11/23/22)

A New Hampshire coalition begins laying the groundwork for another try at marijuana legalization, Rhode island adult use marijuana sales at existig dispensaries are set to begin next week, and more.

Adult use marijuana sales will begin December 1 in Rhode Island. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Coalition Prepares to Try Again with Legalization Bill. A bipartisan coalition is preparing to once more try to push a marijuana legalization bill through the legislature, ending the state's status as an island of pot prohibition in a New England sea of states that have already legalized it Among the groups joining efforts are the conservative Americans for Prosperity, as well as the New Hampshire Cannabis Association, the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Marijuana Policy Project,  and the House Democratic Cannabis Caucus. The coalition is conferring with lawmakers from both parties and says its bill will have bipartisan sponsorship. In past sessions, including this year, bills have passed the House only to be die in the Senate.

Rhode Island Set to Commence Adult Use Marijuana Sales on December 1. Governor Dan McKee (D) and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced Tuesday that five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1. Pursuant to the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McKee in May, a call for applications for “hybrid retail licenses,” which allow licensed compassion centers to sell both medical marijuana as well as safe, well-regulated and competitively priced marijuana products to Rhode Island adults over the age of 21, was issued in early October. The five compassion centers that have received state approval to commence adult use sales are Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls), Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence), Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket), Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth), and RISE Warwick (Warwick).

Drug Policy

Human Rights Watch Organizes Joint Letter to House Leadership Urging Passage of Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill. Dozens of racial justice, social justice, drug policy, criminal justice, public health, harm reduction and other advocacy groups have cosigned a letter to the House leadership calling for "ending criminal penalties for the possession of personal-use amounts of drugs." The letter noted that of more than 1.15 million drug arrests in 2020, 86 percent were for simple drug possession, even though "we have an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that drug arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration have had no substantial effect on ending problematic drug use or curbing the illegal drug supply in the United States." The letter called for passage of the Drug Reform Act of 2021(HR 4020), stating "to begin meaningfully addressing our country's mass incarceration and overdose epidemics, we urge Members of Congress to commit to support comprehensive legislation that decriminalizes drug possession and centers health, equity, autonomy, and justice."

International

Colombia Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill supported by the government of President Gustavo Petro that has already advanced in the Chamber of Representative has now won a Senate committee vote and heads for a Senate plenary vote. The bill would legalize the possession and use of the plant by people 18 and over and support "the right of the free development of the personality, allowing citizens to decide on the consumption of cannabis in a regulated legal framework." Justice Minister Nestor Osuna told the Senate Monday, "The national government supports this draft legislative act for the adult use of cannabis. We believe that it is very important that this step be taken towards a responsible market—a responsible regulation that allows us to overcome this prohibitionist atmosphere."

OR Pot Pardons, Deadly Colombia Cocaine Clashes, More... (11/22/22)

A new Pew poll has a supermajority for medical marijuana, New York rolls out its first three dozen pot shop licenses, and more.

The black market cocaine trade continues to drive violence in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll Finds Supermajority for Medical Marijuana, Strong Majority for Legalization. A new Pew poll finds continuing strong support for both medical marijuana and broader marijuana legalization. Support for legalization for adults was at 59 percent, while an additional 30 percent also supported legalization for both medical and recreational use, bringing its level of support for medical marijuana to 89 percent. Only 10 percent said marijuana should remain illegal. The findings are largely unchanged from a Pew poll in April 2021. People in every age group indicated majority support for recreational marijuana except for those 75 and over. Only 30 percent of that group supported recreational legalization. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats supported recreational legalization, while only 45 percent of Republicans did. Among racial groups, Blacks were most supportive at 68 percent, followed by Whites at 60 percent, but neither Hispanics (49 percent) or Asians (48 percent) reported majority support for recreational legalization.

New York Award First Three Dozen Legal Pot Licenses; They Go to Social Equity, Non-Profit Applicants. State regulators awarded 37 licenses to legally sell marijuana on Monday. The licenses went to people with prior marijuana convictions and non-profits, including the anti-poverty Doe Fund and Housing Works. The move comes a year and a half since the state approved marijuana legalization. In the meantime, unlicensed sales have proliferated, especially in New York City. The state's Office of Cannabis Management also approved eight new licenses for marijuana processors, bringing the total to 32, and three new licenses for testing lab, bringing that total to seven. The retail pot shop licensees will be able to open up to three shops with each license.

Oregon Governor Issues More Than 47,000 Pardons for Marijuana Possession Convictions. Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday that she has issued pardons for 47,144 marijuana possession convictions affecting some 45,000 people. The pardons are for people caught with less than an ounce of pot who were at least 21 at the time of their arrest and go up to July 2016, when marijuana became legal in the state. The pardon action also forgives more than $14 million in fines and fees associated with the busts. "No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon." Issuing the pardons represents an effort "to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession," she added.

South Carolina Poll Has Supermajority Support for Medical Marijuana, Majority Support for Legalization. A new Winthrop poll has support for medical marijuana at a whopping 78 percent and support for marijuana legalization at 54 percent. The poll comes months after a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate only to die in the House. One GOP congresswoman described legislators who blocked reform as being "on the wrong side of history." On medical marijuana, 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans were in favor, but when it comes to full legalization, two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats were in favor, but only 39 percent of Republicans were.

International

Clashes Between Colombian Cocaine Traffickers Leave 18 Dead Near Ecuador Border. Rival drug trafficking groups engaged in a shoot-out last Saturday in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador, leaving a toll of at least 18 dead. On one side were holdouts from the former rebel army FARC who have rejected a 2016 FARC truce with the government. On the other side was a drug trafficking group known as Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commando), who also include former FARC fighters as well as remnants of a rightist paramilitary group that traffics cocaine to Ecuador and Brazil. The two groups have been fighting over control of the trade in the area for at least three years. The rebel FARC faction, also known as the Carolina Ramirez Front, has held exploratory talks with the government of President Gustavo Petro aimed at a truce, but nothing has come of that yet. 

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