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CA Safe Injection Site Bill Nears Final Passage, PA MedMJ DUI Bill Advances, More... (6/30/22)

North Carolina permanently legaizes hemp at the last minute, a Missoula, Montana, entheogen decriminalization resolution is withdrawn for lack of support, and more.

The safe injection site in Vancouver. Similar facilities could be coming soon to California cities. (vcha.ca)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Protect Patients from DUI Charges Advances. The Senate Transportation Committee has approved Senate Bill 167, which would protect state medical marijuana patients from wrongful convictions for driving under the influence. The bill advanced Tuesday on a unanimous vote. The bill would treat medical marijuana like any other prescription drug, requiring proof of impairment that interferes with a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle before he could be charged with DUI. The state currently has a zero-tolerance DUI law that could expose patients to such charges for taking their medicine. There are some 700,000 medical marijuana patients in the state.

Hemp

North Carolina Approves Permanent Hemp Legalization. Just two days before a previous law temporarily legalizing hemp production was set to expire, leaving an estimated 1,500 state hemp farmers in the lurch, the legislature gave final approval to a bill to make hemp legalization permanent, Senate Bill 455 on Wednesday. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed the bill into law Thursday. The old law was set to expire Friday.

Psychedelics

Missoula, Montana, Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution Shelved. A pair of city council members, Daniel Carlino and Kristen Jordan, earlier this month introduced a resolution to decriminalize entheogenic plants in the city, but they have now shelved it after failing to gain enough support on the council to move it. Other council members cited scarce research on the plants' benefits, unresolved questions about law enforcement, and the potential threat to youth as reasons to oppose the resolution. The sponsors now say they will now regroup and seek to build council support before trying again.

Harm Reduction

California Safe Injection Site Bill Passes Assembly. The Assembly has approved Sen. Scott Weiner's (D-San Francisco) bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County. The bill foresees a five-year pilot program for each of those locales, all of which have formally requested to be included. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a final concurrence vote after changes were made in the Assembly and then to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). "Every overdose death is preventable," said Sen. Wiener. "We have the tools to end these deaths, get people healthy, and reduce harm for people who use drugs. Right now, we are letting people die on our streets for no reason other than an arbitrary legal prohibition that we need to remove. SB 57 is long overdue and will make a huge impact for some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

White House Drug Strategy Embraces Harm Reduction, But Prohibitionist Impulse Remains Strong [FEATURE]

The Biden White House sent its first National Drug Control Strategy to Congress on April 21. It breaks positive new ground by explicitly acknowledging harm reduction measures to prevent overdose and blood-borne diseases among drug users. At at the same time, though, it also relies heavily on the destructive and counterproductive pursuit of failed prohibitionist drug policies -- and funds more law enforcement much more heavily than harm reduction.

The strategy comes out just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that drug overdose deaths hit an all-time high of 106,000 in the year ending last November. The administration is responding with what it calls a "whole of government" approach to the crisis.

"The strategy focuses on two critical drivers of the epidemic: untreated addiction and drug trafficking," the White House said. "It instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers' profits, and make better use of data to guide all these efforts. Saving lives is our North Star, and the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy calls for immediate actions that will save lives in the short term and outlines long-term solutions to reduce drug use and its associated harms, including overdose."

While the strategy includes long-familiar categories such as drug treatment, prevention, supply reduction, and criminal justice and public safety, it also emphasizes an evidence-based approach, "building a recovery-ready nation," and for the first time, harm reduction.

"The Biden-Harris Administration's efforts focus on meeting people where they are and building trust and engagement with them to provide care and services," the White House said. "Specifically, the strategy calls for greater access to harm reduction interventions including naloxone, drug test strips, and syringe services programs. It directs federal agencies to integrate harm reduction into the US system of care to save lives and increase access to treatment. It also calls for collaboration on harm reduction between public health and public safety officials, and changes in state laws and policies to support the expansion of harm reduction efforts across the country."

The strategy calls for "the coordinated use of federal grant funds for harm reduction," and the administration last year broke new ground with a $30 million grant program for harm reduction providers. But in a sign of continued reliance on traditional law enforcement priorities, the strategy also envisions a $300 million increase for Customs and Border Patrol and another $300 million increase for the DEA. Those figures were released as part of the White House's FY 2023 budget released last month.

"Responding effectively to the illicit production, trafficking, and distribution methods of domestic criminal organizations and Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) is a significant challenge and remains a Biden-Harris Administration priority," the White House said.

That kind of talk suited mainstream Democrats just fine.

"Illicit drugs cause immeasurable pain and loss in our communities. As the Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, I've pressed for an updated federal plan to tackle them," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). I've been clear that the plan must include a more coordinated approach to cracking down on drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations, especially the ways in which they launder and protect their ill-gotten gains using US rule of law and financial networks; and more and better cooperation with our international partners to reduce the supply of precursor chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs and to levy tougher sanctions against transnational drug syndicates. I'm pleased to see my priorities reflected in this new strategy, and I look forward to working with the Biden administration to deliver on those priorities."

Whitehouse also lauded the strategy's "tearing down barriers to treatment, including expanding access to life-saving naloxone and medication-assisted treatment; improving our data collection systems to better understand the effects of our intervention efforts."

Reform advocates offered praise -- sometimes lukewarm -- for the administration's tentative embrace of harm reduction, but blasted its reliance on tired, failed drug war paradigms.

In its analysis of the strategy, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) called it "a major step forward" and lauded the administration for "focusing on ensuring access to treatment for substance use disorders and highlighting the crucial role of harm reduction services." But WOLA also noted that, "when measured against the scale of the nation's overdose problems and the urgency of the needs, Biden's new plan appears quite timid."

WOLA also warned that the strategy's "positive innovations regarding investment in treatment and harm reduction strategies risk being undermined by a continued commitment to the kinds of policies that have exacerbated the present crisis and that continue to absorb the lion's share of resources, namely, drug criminalization at home and wildly exaggerated expectations for what can be achieved through supply control efforts abroad."

Similarly, the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute called the attention to harm reduction a "positive," but noted steps that it did not take, such as making the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone available over-the-counter and repealing the so-called Crack House Statute that stands in the way of federal approval of safe injection sites.

"On a negative note," Cato observed, "the remainder of the new report calls for doubling down on interdiction, border control, and other law enforcement measures aimed at curtailing the supply of illicit drugs -- as if repeating the same failed strategies of the past half century, only with more gusto, will somehow work."

So there it is: The Biden administration's first crack at a national drug strategy deserves kudos for its embrace of harm reduction and evidence-based approaches, but beyond that, it is pretty much more of the same old same old.

Manchin and Rubio File Anti-Crack Pipe Bill, New Overdose Memorial Site, More... (2/14/22)

Oregon goes after water haulters in a bid to repress illicit pot grows, the Utah House approves a psychedelic study task force bill, and more.

Joe Manchin apparently doesn't like harm reduction. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Bill Targets Water Haulers in Bid to Clamp Down on Illicit Marijuana Grows. A bill aimed at reining in rampant illicit marijuana production in the southern part of the state, House Bill 4061, would do so by imposing new record-keeping requirements on water haulers and imposing civil and even criminal penalties for haulers who violate the rules or sell to illicit marijuana growers. The bill would also make it a crime to pump ground water to supply illicit marijuana grows without a water right. Farm groups have raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences, and legal marijuana growers object to proposed additional licensing requirements. Bill sponsors said they will attempt to amend the bill to address those concerns.

Psychedelics

Utah House Approves Psychedelic Study Task Force Bill. The House last Thursday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 0167, which would create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances and to develop possible regulations for their lawful use. The bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Bill Would Reform State Asset Forfeiture Laws but Federal Loophole Would Remain. The House Judiciary Committee has introduced an asset forfeiture reform bill, House Bill 2648, which would end civil asset forfeiture (without a criminal conviction) in most cases and addresses "policing for profit" by directing all seizures go to the general fund instead of going to the law enforcement agency that made the seizure, as is the case under current state law. But the bill does not address a loophole that allows state and local law enforcement to get around state asset forfeiture laws by turning cases over to the federal government, which under its equitable sharing program then returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the seizing agency. Instead, it specifically allows police to "transfer the custody or ownership to any federal agency if the property was seized and forfeited pursuant to federal law." The bill gets a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Harm Reduction

Public Health Group Vital Strategies Launches Online Drug Overdose Memorial Site, Harm Reduction Media Campaign. The public health organization Vital Strategies launched a new, interactive, online memorial on Monday to honor those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose -- more than one million in the past two decades in the US -- far surpassing car crashes and firearm fatalities combined. Inspired by the AIDS quilt, the digital mosaic allows anyone to commemorate a loved one lost to overdose and calls for urgent action in their name.

The memorial's launch is accompanied by the largest-ever national advertising campaign promoting harm reduction, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times featuring 200 real people working in harm reduction, on the front lines of the overdose crisis. Three video ads featuring overdose prevention advocates whose own lives were saved by harm reduction will air 6,000 times in and around Washington, DC on a range of channels including: CNN, BET, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu and various podcasts, totaling 37 million impressions.

Manchin, Rubio File Bill to Block Federal Government from Buying Crack Pipes. US Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sought to score political points around last week's federal "crack pipe" controversy by a filing a bill last Friday to bar the use of federal funds to buy and distribute devices used to consume drugs, such as glass pipes used for smoking crack and meth and syringes. Their bill is the cutely acronymed Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems Act, or PIPES Act.

"Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021," Manchin said. "While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution." But the provision of supplies such as clean syringes and "smoking kits" that include rubber stoppers, screens, cleaning dowels, vaseline, and scouring pads are a proven harm reduction intervention aimed at reducing overdoses and the spread of infectious disease, as well as improving overall user health.

NJ Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills, Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana, More... (1/18/22)

It's January, and the marijuana bills are coming fast and furious, a Utah bill would create a psychedelic therapy task force, and more.

Louisiana US Senate candidate Gary Chambers fires up for his first campaign ad. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Democrats are back once again with a marijuana legalization bill. State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) has filed House Bill 150, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over, but bans people from growing their own. The bill also envisions a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce and includes a small social equity provision that would earmark a portion of pot taxes for aiding communities most hard hit by the war on drugs. But the bill's prospects are cloudy since it would need a supermajority to pass the legislature and would then face a governor reluctant to sign it.

Louisiana US Senate Candidate Smokes Blunt in Campaign Ad. Democratic US Senate candidate Gary Chambers on Tuesday released his first campaign ad, a video showing him smoking a marijuana blunt and calling for its legalization. "Every 37 seconds someone is arrested for possession of marijuana," said Chambers in the video. "States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me," he goes on. In a tweet accompanying his ad, Chambers added: "I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology." He is running to challenge sitting US Senator John Kennedy (R).

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Constitutional Amendment Bill Filed. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) has filed House Bill 1, a marijuana legalization bill with a twist: It takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which would have to win a supermajority of both the House and Senate before going to voters at the polls during a general election. The measure would legalize marijuana possession for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. If it gets past the legislature, voters would be asked: "Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" Recent polls show roughly two-thirds of Marylanders are ready to free the weed.

Psychedelics

Utah Bill Would Create Psychedelic Task Force. Rep. Brady Brammer (R-Highland) has filed House Bill 167, which would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The task force would be co-chaired by the head of the state Health Department and the head of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and would also include a licensed psychiatrist; a licensed psychologist; a representative from the Utah Medical Association, someone who researches and studies neuroscience and mental health; a health system representative; and a patient who is knowledgeable about using a psychotherapy drug, among others. Although not mentioned specifically in the bill, supporters say psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is the drug most likely to be considered by the task force.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills into Law. Governor Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday signed into laws a pair of bills that will ease access to syringes. The Syringe Access Bill (S-3009/A-4847) removes authority to approve and close syringe access programs (SAPs) from local municipalities and places that authority with the New Jersey Department of Health, aligning SAPs with other public health services. The Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458) decriminalizes possession of syringes and allows for expungement of previous convictions. By shifting authority from municipalities to the New Jersey Department of Health, this legislation effectively prevents the Atlantic City SAP, called the Oasis Drop-In Center and operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance, from being closed by the Atlantic City Council. In July 2021, the Atlantic City Council voted to remove municipal approval from the SAP over the objections of people who use drugs, people living with HIV, local and statewide advocates, and the Murphy administration.

International

Canadian Harm Reductionists Sue Alberta Over Policy to Require Safe Injection Site Users Show Health ID Cards. Harm reduction groups are taking legal action to try to block the province of Alberta from requiring that people using a safe injection site show their Health Canada identification cards. The policy is set to go into effect on January 31, and harm reductionists say it will create a barrier to using the service and increase the risk of fatal overdoses. The Alberta Court of Appeal has agreed to an emergency hearing on January 27. This latest move comes after a provincial judge earlier this month dismissed an injunction that would have blocked implementation of the new rule.

Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana. The Thai Food and Drug Administration is set to propose removing marijuana from the country's list of proscribed drugs on Wednesday, clearing the way for Health Minister Anutin Charmvirakul to grant final approval. "While the law change will allow all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and used, recreational use will likely remain controlled as marijuana extracts with higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels that get people high will still be regulated," said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research. "Producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics from marijuana will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the decriminalization."

SD Poll Has Both Legal Pot, MedMJ Initiatives Winning; Canada Sees First Legal Magic Mushroom Harvest, More... (10/26/20)

A new poll has both of South Dakota's marijuana initiatives winning, a Glasgow activist who runs an unauthorized mobile safe inject site has been arrested but is unbowed, and more.

Psilocbyin molecule. Canada has just seen its first legal harvest of psychoactive mushrooms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Poll Has Narrow Lead for Marijuana Legalization, Big Lead for Medical Marijuana. A Sioux Falls Argus-Leader/KRLO-TV poll has support for the Constitutional Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative at 51%, with 44% opposed, and only 5% undecided. The same poll also asked respondents about the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative and shows it with a much larger lead, with 74% supporting it only 23% opposed, with 3% undecided.

International

Canada Sees First Legal Magic Mushroom Harvest. Numinus Wellness, Inc., a Vancouver-based company, had completed the first ever legal harvest of psilocybin mushrooms in the country. The company was issued the first license to produce and extract psilocybin from mushrooms by Health Canada back in June. "The first harvest of legally grown Psilocybe mushrooms is a significant milestone for the whole industry" said CEO Michael Tan. "Now, we can progress with research and development of standardized cultivation, extraction, and testing methods and exploring product formulations to support safe, evidence-based, accessible psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, as well as build a sequenced spore library." 

Canada Health Minister Calls on Alberta to Keep Prescription Heroin Program Going. Health Minister Patty Hajdu is calling on the government of Alberta to keep open its program providing pharmaceutical grade heroin and Dilaudid to patients diagnosed with severe opioid misuse disorder. Provincial Premier Jason Kenney has said he intends to stop funding the program in the spring. "We are disappointed by this decision from the Alberta government, and we urge them to reconsider," said a spokesperson for Hajdu.

Scottish Safe Injection Site Van Operator Arrested. Peter Krykant, who operates a mobile safe injection site was arrested last Friday by Glasgow police after they searched his van. But he was not arrested for violating the Misuse of Drugs Act. Instead he was charged with obstructing police who sought to search the van. Glasgow is at the center of the country's deepening opioid use crisis and the worst HIV epidemic in more than 30 years. An unbowed Krykant says only a change in the law to allow legal consumption of heroin and cocaine would allow for the issue to be fully addressed./p>

MO and OK Inits Could Fall Victim to Pandemic, COVID-19 Spreads Behind Bars, More... (3/30/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on state-level marijuana legalization initiatives, Pennsylvania says needle exchanges are "life-sustaining" during the pandemic, Vancouver moves to allow "safe supply" of regualted drugs during the crisis, and more.

COVID-19 is in the nation's jails and prisons.
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Likely to Fall Victim to Coronavirus Pandemic. Missourians for a New Approach, the folks behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely mean that the effort will not be able to gather enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign needs 160,000 valid voter signatures by May 3, but at this point has only 60,000 raw signatures. "Yes, it's a terrible setback," said Dan Viets, board chair of the group. "When there's no public gatherings, when people stay in their homes… it's very difficult to find voters."

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative in Doubt as State Shuts Down Signature Gathering. The campaign to put a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 807 is likely to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of a 30-day statewide emergency declaration, Secretary of State Mike Rogers has ordered a pause to all initiative signature gathering activities. The campaign needs to collect 178,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify for the November ballot. It would be "really difficult, if not impossible to imagine a scenario in which an initiative petition campaign could responsibly and feasibly collect the signatures necessary in order to make the 2020 ballot if that campaign doesn't already have the signatures on hand," said campaign spokesman Ryan Kiesel.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Needle Exchanges Are "Life-Sustaining," State Says. Needle exchanges are technically illegal in the state, but the state Department of Health has deemed them a "life-sustaining" service, allowing them to stay open amid the shutdown of other businesses and nonprofits. Some 20 such programs operate in the state, and advocates are hoping this designation could lead to their legalization down the line.

Incarceration

Coronavirus Spread Accelerates in US Jails and Prisons. Jails and prisons across the US are reporting an accelerating spread of COVID-19 with more than 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases. In New York City alone, at least 132 inmates and 104 jail staff have been infected. Jails and prisons are responding in varying ways, including releasing thousands of inmates from detention, some with little or no screening before they are released.

International

Vancouver Moving to Allow Take-Home Doses of Regulated Drugs. Canada's British Columbia is moving to provide drug users with take-home supplies of regulated substances, including opioids, stimulants, tobacco, and alcohol. Vancouver has long called for "safe supply" for drug users, but the combination of two public health crises -- the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing overdose epidemic -- has finally made it a reality, with the city drafting new guidelines to allow the practice. "These guidelines enable us to provide a safe supply for people and to ensure that they're able to comply with our public-health advice around isolation or quarantine, should that be required," said Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry. Recent changes to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and provincial prescribing guidelines made the move possible.

Mexican Opium Poppy Cultivation Drops 9%, UNODC Says. The land area under opium poppy cultivation decreased by 9% between July 2017 and June 2018, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Monday. Land under cultivation fell from 78,000 acres to 70,000 acres. Poppy cultivation was centered in the Golden Triangle region of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua meet, but was also grown in northern Nayarit and in the Sierra Madre del Sur of Guerrero. Analysts said the likely explanation for the decrease was a sharp decline in opium gum prices caused by rising demand for synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Chronicle AM: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana

Hawaii Bill Would Roll Back Decriminalization. Last year, the legislature approved marijuana decriminalization. This year, at least five legislators want to turn back the clock. House Bill 2018 was introduced by five Oahu representatives and argues that "Hawaii should be protected from suffering the dangers and risks increasingly occurring in states which have endorsed the possession and use of marijuana through means of decriminalization and legalization." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Syringe Exchange Access Bill Filed. A bill to allow syringe exchange programs to operate without the prior declaration of a public health emergency has been filed in Indianapolis. SB 207 would also repeal the July 1, 2021 expiration date of existing syringe exchange programs. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services and was set for a hearing Wednesday morning.

International

Mexico's President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his government is forming a panel to make recommendations on how marijuana legalization should unfold. "A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court," the president said. The high court ruled in 2019 that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and gave the government a limited time to rectify the situation. That clock runs out in April, and Lopez Obrador's allies in the congress say they will pass a legalization bill before then.

Chronicle AM: NJ Marijuana Moves, IL Needle Exchange Bill Filed, More... (5/20/19)

The state treasurers' association wants banking access for legal weed, New Jersey sees a sudden decriminalization and expungement bill, a Texas CBD medical marijuana bill gets expanded, and more.

Welcome to New Jersey, where legalization is stalled but other marijuana reform is happening. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

State Treasurers Call on Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Legislation. The National Association of State Treasurers adopted a resolution last Friday calling on Congress to pass legislation to allow the legal marijuana industry access to financial services. The association "supports common sense federal laws and regulations to provide essential banking services to state legalized cannabis businesses, promote public safety and financial transparency, and facilitate local, state and federal tax and fee collection." The group cited public safety and regulatory concerns. The resolution comes after 17 state treasurers sent a similar letter earlier this month.

New Jersey Marijuana Decriminalization and Expungement Bill Suddenly Emerges. As the push to legalize weed falters in Trenton, lawmakers have come up with a new bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces and reduce penalties for other marijuana offenses. It would also allow people with existing marijuana convictions to apply for expungement of their records and dismiss pending criminal cases against anyone caught with less than two ounces. This new bill cleared the Senate Health Committee Monday and a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday afternoon.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. As the legalization push falters in Trenton, a bill that would greatly expand the state's medical marijuana system is now moving. The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, S 10, was advanced by committees in both the Senate and the Assembly on Monday and could head for floor votes as early as Thursday. The bill increases the amount of medicine patients can buy each month from two to three ounces and legalizes edible forms of medical marijuana.

Texas Senate Committee Expands CBD Medical Marijuana Bill to Include More Patients. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services last Friday voted to advance HB 3703, which would expand the state's CBD-only Compassionate Use Act. The bill originally expanded the list of qualifying conditions to include multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity, but the committee amended the bill to add even more conditions: ALS, terminal cancer, and autism. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Harm Reduction

Illinois Needle Exchange Bill Filed. State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Chicago) last Friday filed SB 1828, which would legalize needle exchange programs statewide under regulation by the Department of Public Health. The bill also provides criminal immunity for needle exchange workers. Some counties in the state currently have needle exchange programs, but workers fear being subject to arrest under ambiguous current state laws.

Chronicle AM: FDA Eases Opioid Rules to Allow Tapering, Ciudad Juarez Violence Spikes, More... (4/17/19)

Decriminalization bills are alive in Alabama and North Carolina, the Iowa Senate approves hemp, the FDA eases opioid prescribing rules, Ciudad Juarez sees a bloody weekend, and more.

Hydrocodone. New FDA rules will allow docs to taper patients off opioids, instead of going cold turkey. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Decriminalization Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved SB 98, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. People caught with less than an ounce would face a maximum $250 fine for the first two offenses, but possession of between one and two ounces would be a Class A misdemeanor and possession of more than two ounces would be a Class C felony worth up to 10 years in prison.

Michigan Bills Would Cut Sentences for Pot Prisoners, Probationers. A package of bills from Sen. Sylvia Santana (D) would allow people on probation or in prison for marijuana offenses to have their sentences reduced or eliminated. While there are only three people in state prison who would be affected, more than 1,300 people are on probation for marijuana offenses. "We have already legalized marijuana in the state so therefore this is just the right thing to do," Santana said.

North Carolina Decriminalization Bill Filed. Four state representatives have cosponsored HB766, which would "decriminalize possession of four ounces or less of marijuana and allow for the expunction of possession of marijuana offenses involving possession of four ounces or less of marijuana." It's been referred to the House Rules Committee.

Hemp

Iowa Senate Passes Hemp Legalization. The Senate voted 49-1 to approve SF 599, the Industrial Hemp Act. The hemp industry would be regulated by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The bill now goes to the House.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

FDA Eases Opioid Policy to Allow for Tapering. The Food and Drug Administration has issued labeling changes for prescription opioids that instruct physicians to taper opioid prescriptions rather than cut them down or off. The agency also acknowledged that a 2016 CDC guideline restricting opioid prescriptions had resulted in harms to patients. "Recently, the FDA has received reports of serious harm, including serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain and suicide, in patients who are physically dependent on opioid pain medicines when these medicines are suddenly discontinued or when the dose is reduced too quickly, often without adequate patient communication, follow-up or support," the FDA said in an April 9 announcement. "These practices have also been associated with patients attempting to find other sources of opioids in order to minimize their withdrawal symptoms or self-medicate for pain," the statement said.

Harm Reduction

California Bill Would Let Localities Veto Needle Exchange Programs. State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Orange County) has filed a bill that would require city or county officials to sign off before needle exchanges could operate in their jurisdictions. SB 689 is opposed by public health advocates, who fear it could lead to increased HIV and Hep C transmission and even overdose deaths. The bill is set for a hearing before the Senate Health Committee next week.

International

Mexico Sees Bloody Weekend in Ciudad Juarez. Ciudad Juarez saw its bloodiest weekend of the year so far, with 19 people killed last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That brings the death toll for the month so far to 79 as warring cartel factions fight over the lucrative plaza, or control of drug smuggling and retail sales operations.

Chronicle AM: AZ Pot Poll, SD Hemp Passes, IA Needle Exchange Bill Advances, More... (3/7/19)

An Arizona poll has its first majority for marijuana legalization, the South Dakota legislature passes a hemp bill, an Iowa bill to allow needle exchanges is moving, and more.

There could be hemp fields in South Dakota next year if the governor stays out of the way. (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has First Time Majority for Legalization. A new OH Predictive Insights poll has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 52%, the first time the poll has registered a majority for freeing the weed. In two 2016 OH Predictive Insights polls, only 43% supported legalization.

Maryland Legalization Bills Get Hearing. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on two marijuana bills Wednesday. HB 656, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke (D), would allow adults 21 and older to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana. Legal possession would be limited to one ounce of buds and five grams of concentrate, and individuals could grow up to four plants at a time. HB 632, sponsored by Del. David Moon (D), would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana for adult use -- which would require voters to approve the measure via a ballot question. No votes were taken, and supporters said they were aiming at 2020, but laying the groundwork now.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve HB 136, which would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state, but not in its smokable form.

Hemp

South Dakota Hemp Bill Passes But Faces Possible Veto. The state Senate voted Wednesday to approve HB 1191, which would legalize industrial hemp farming, on a vote of 21-14. The bill has already passed the House but will have to go back there to approve changes made in the Senate. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) doesn't like it, but legislators are hopeful enough of her concerns were addressed that she won't veto it. If she does, hemp will have to pick up three more yes votes in the Senate; it passed the House overwhelmingly.

Harm Reduction

Iowa Needle Exchange Bill Advances. A bill that would add the state to the list of 40 others that allow the harm reduction measure advanced just ahead of a critical deadline Wednesday, meaning it stays alive for the rest of the session. SF 500 would authorize a pilot program in five cities for five years.

Drug War Issues

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