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Record Support for MJ Legalization in Quinnipiac Poll, CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, More... (4/15/21)

A Minnesota marijuana legalization bill continues to move in the House, the acting drug czar pledges more funds for drug treatment and greater access to overdose reversal drugs, and more.

Coca and cocaine are on the mind of the Colombian government this week. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Quinnipiac Poll Has Record High Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Quinnipiac University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 69%, the highest number ever reported in the poll. That's an increase of 18 points since Quinnipiac first polled the question in 2012. There was majority support for legalization in every demographic group, even people over 65 (51%) and Republicans (62%).

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins 6th Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, won a sixth House committee vote Wednesday in the Judiciary Finance and Criminal Law Committee. It now goes to the State Government Elections and Finance Committee.

Drug Treatment

Acting Drug Czar Pledges to Expand Drug Treatment as Overdose Deaths Rise. Regina M. LaBelle, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) told House lawmakers Wednesday the administration is moving to muster significant federal resources to close gaps in drug treatment availability and make overdose reversing medications more available. She noted that the administration last week submitted its proposed budget to Congress, which included more than $10 billion for addiction programs, an increase of 57% from current funding levels.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Wins Another Committee Vote. The Senate Health Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday to a bill to decriminalize the possession of a variety of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519. The legislation sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

International

Colombia Government Issues Decree Setting the State for Resumption of Aerial Fumigation of Coca Crop. In a joint message this week, Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz and Defense Minister Diego Molano announced Presidential Decree 380, which sets guidelines for the "program for the eradication of illicit crops by aerial spraying." While ministers clarified that the framework "does not automatically reactivate the Program," it is another step in Conservative President Ivan Duque's long-desired effort to reactivate the program, which was halted by former President Juan Manuel Santos in 2015 after the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed it "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Colombia Congress Debates Bill to Regulate Coca and Cocaine. The Congress has begun debate on a bill that would regulate coca and its derivatives. The bill is from two opposition parties, the Green Alliance and the Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (MAIS). "Ending the drug trafficking business implies turning drug trafficking into a bad business for the mafias, and this is achieved by regularizing the business by the State. Let's remove it from the logic of violence," said Liberal Senator Luis Fernando Velasco. The debate continues.

Rahul Gupta Could Be Next Drug Czar, Federal Marijuana Banking & Insurance Bills Filed, More... (3/19/21)

White House staffers get fired or suspended for past marijuana use, NYC mayoral candidates call for safer injection sites, more.

Former West Virginia Health Commissioner Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the ONDCP.
Marijuana Policy

Biden White House Fires Five, Sidelines Dozens of Staffers for Past Marijuana Use. Five White House staffers have been fired and dozens more suspended, asked to resign, or shifted to remote work programs because of past marijuana use -- even in states where it is legal. Some staffers said they felt sandbagged, saying transition officials had told them some past marijuana use would be overlooked. White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to initial reports on this story with this statement: "In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated," Psaki said.

SAFE Banking Act Introduced in House. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) has reintroduced the Safe Banking Act, which would protect financial service institutions doing business with marijuana companies and third-party vendors from federal money laundering prosecutions. The bill was unable to pass in the last Congress, but now Democrats control both chambers, so prospects are looking up.

Bipartisan Marijuana Insurance Bill Introduced in Senate. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have filed a bill that would allow legal marijuana and related businesses to have access to insurance, the Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana (CLAIM) Act of 2021. The bill passed the House in September 2019, but was stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Stanton) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150. The measure would legalize marijuana like alcohol, allowing people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and setting up a system of taxed and regulated production, processing, and sales. The bill is now before the House Health and Human Services Committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. After passing the Senate Judiciary Committee on a narrow 5-4 vote Thursday, a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill12, is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The legislative session ends on Saturday.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Study Bill Advances in House. The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 82, which would authorize funding for a report on medical marijuana. In committee, the bill was amended to send a copy of that report to the Joint Judiciary Committee and the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee during the interim.

Drug Policy

Former West Virginia Health Official Rahul Gupta Emerges as Leading Candidate for Drug Czar. Former West Virginia Health Commissioner and current top health official at the March of Dimes Rahul Gupta has emerged as a leading candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), according to "four people with knowledge of the selection process who spoke on condition of anonymity."

Under Gupta's leadership, the WV Bureau of Public Health decertified a well-regarded syringe exchange program that had served the city of Charleston, leading to an HIV outbreak the CDC described as the "most concerning" in the nation. Some advocates have speculated that Gupta's hands may have been tied on the matter, however, and note significant progress for harm reduction in the state during his tenure.

Gupta is an ally of key Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). But whoever is nominated will not be a Cabinet member. President Obama demoted the office from the Cabinet in 2009, and neither he nor President Trump restored it. President Biden is not going to restore it either, his administration has said.

Rhode Island Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Six Democratic state senators have filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, Senate Bill 604. The bill would replace criminal penalties for drug possession with a $100 civil fine. It is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harm Reduction

New York City Mayoral Candidates Call for Safe Injection Sites. A half dozen Democrats vying for the party's mayoral nomination have said they support safe injection sites or "overdose prevention centers" to deal with the city's opioid overdose crisis. Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang each said they would create safe injection sites, though Garcia said she would defer to affected communities. Only one, finance executive Ray McGuire, said he did not support the idea.

White House Kills Expanded Buprenorphine Access (At Least for Now), Mexican Poppy Farmers Tell Army to Get Lost, More... (1/28/21)

A challenge to South Dakota's voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative gets its day in court, the Biden administration rolls back a Trump administration expansion of buprenorphine prescribing, and more.

Mexican opium poppy farmers are demanding the army quit destroying their crops and leave the area. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Judge Hears Arguments on Marijuana Amendment. A state judge in Pierre presided over nearly three hours of arguments Wednesday from attorneys challenging and defending the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The constitutionality of the amendment is being challenged by the head of the Highway Patrol and the Pennington County sheriff, with the support of Gov. Kristi Noem (R). Ironically, Noem's attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, is part of the team defending the amendment. The judge said she would issue a written opinion but gave no timeline for doing so.

Tennessee Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. London Lamar (D-Memphis) has filed HB413, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow for the casual exchange of small amounts of marijuana as long as no cash changes hands.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Bill to Allow Patient Home Grows Gets Hearing. The state Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. The measure would limit home cultivation to eight plants in an enclosed and locked facility. Representatives of both law enforcement and the state's medical marijuana regulatory agency expressed concerns about a lack of control over patient grows. No vote was taken.

Drug Treatment

Biden Kills Trump Administration Plan to Loosen Buprenorphine Prescribing. The Biden administration on Wednesday said it was canceling a late move by the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on physicians prescribing buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. "On January 14, 2021, HHS announced forthcoming Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder," the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said. "Unfortunately, the announcement was made prematurely. Therefore, the Guidelines previously announced cannot be issued at this time." But, the administration added, it would continue working to "increase access to buprenorphine, reduce overdose rates and save lives." The Trump move had been widely hailed by physicians and drug treatment advocates.

International

Mexico Opium Growers Demand Army Quit Destroying Their Crops, Leave Area. Opium farmers in Guerrero's Tierra Caliente municipality are demanding that the army quit destroying their crops and leave the area after troops last weekend destroyed more than 125 acres of poppies. "The soldiers are still here destroying [the crops] and what we want is for them to go," one farmer said. He said farmers are creating a list of demands for President Lopez Obrador and Guerrero Governor Hector Astudillo. "We're going to give the government a few days to attend to us," the farmer said.

NJ Legal MJ Implementation Bill Advances, MS Health Dept Joins Lawsuit to Block MedMJ, More... (12/15/20)

Medical marijuana bills are coming in Kentucky and South Carolina, a bill to implement voter-approved marijuana legalization in New Jersey is advancing, and more.

Medical marijuana bills are coming next year in Kentucky and South Carolina. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved S21, a bill designed to set up the legal recreational marijuana market approved by voters in November, on Monday. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote. Companion legislation in the Assembly is also expected to advance this week. The bill would send 70% of marijuana sales tax proceeds and 100% of proceeds from a new excise tax to communities most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Lawmaker to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) has said he will reintroduce a medical marijuana bill that passed the House this year but failed to get action in the Senate because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. "The support in the House will be even stronger than it was last year," Nemes said. "We have replaced a number of 'no' votes with 'yes' votes in the Republican caucus due to retirement and defeating Democrats, so we will be stronger in the House. The whole question is what the Senate will do."

Mississippi Health Department Joins Lawsuit Against Medical Marijuana Initiative. The state Department of Health filed a friend of the court brief Monday in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the will of voters who resounding approved a medical marijuana initiative in November. The agency argued that it shouldn't have to perform the "Herculean feat" of creating a medical marijuana program in just the seven months mandated by the initiative. But the brief goes further, also arguing that citizens have no inherent right to amend the state constitution. And it argues that the initiative violates the state constitution because it contains multiple subjects, including taxation, changing the criminal code, and zoning issues. No indication yet on when the court may rule.

South Carolina Lawmakers Pre-File Bills to Legalize Medical Cannabis. Lawmakers in both the state House and Senate have pre-filed medical marijuana legalization bills, H 3361 and S 150, respectively. The bills are both titled the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. The bills are identical to legislation considered during the 2019 session, but not filed this year during a legislative session shortened by the pandemic.

Drug Policy

Activists Call on President-Elect Biden to Abolish the Drug Czar's Office. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is calling on the incoming president to abolish the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). "The ONDCP represents a bygone era," the group said in a blog post announcing a letter campaign to that end. "Today, most Americans now agree that the adult use of marijuana ought to be legal, and the majority of states have legalized the substance for either medical or recreational use. There is no longer any legitimate need for the Drug Czar's office or for a Drug Czar." NORML also called for the White House to not appoint former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-MA), a foe of marijuana legalization, as drug czar. There is a letter than you can sign at the link.

Patrick Kennedy Wants to Be Drug Czar, NJ MJ Implementation Bill Heard, More... (12/14/20)

Jostling over who will be named Joe Biden's drug czar has begun, Arizona gets working on rules for the nascent legal marijuana industry, more cartel conflict in Mexico, and more.

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy is openly lobbying to be named drug czar in the Biden administration. (nationalcouncil.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Begins Working on Draft Rules for Recreational Marijuana Sales. State health officials have commenced the rulemaking process for legal marijuana commerce. Since election results were certified on November 30, adults can legally possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants, but legal sales can't start until the rules are set. State officials anticipate sales could begin in the spring. The initiative that legalized marijuana mandates that the state begin accepting applications from medical marijuana dispensaries that want to become recreational shops beginning January 19 and that licenses be issued to more than 60 days after applications are received.

New Jersey Senate Committee Considering Marijuana Legalization Plan Today. The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Monday to consider S21, the bill to implement marijuana legalization after voters approved it in November. It is also considering a number of other bills, including S3256, which would downgrade the crime of possession of psilocybin mushrooms to a "disorderly person offense."

Drug Policy

Patrick Kennedy Launches Public Bid to Be Named Biden's Drug Czar. Former congressman and mental health and addiction treatment advocate Patrick Kennedy has begun a well-publicized bid to be named head of the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) in the Biden administration. Kennedy is an opponent of marijuana legalization. There are other contenders, including former board president for the American Society of Addiction Medicine Kelly Clark, former Obama era addiction policy official Westley Clark, and March of Dimes chief medical officer Rahul Gupta, who heads the Biden administration's ONDCP transition team. Notably, all of these contenders come from the public health sphere, not the law enforcement sphere as has typically been the case with past drug czars.

International

Australian Capital Territory to See Drug Decriminalization Bill. A backbench member of the Australian Capital Territory's (Canberra) governing Labor Party will introduce a bill to decriminalize drug possession in the ACT Legislative Assembly next year. The opposition has not rejected the idea outright, but says it needs further review. If passed, it would make the ACT the first place in the country to enact drug decriminalization. An early draft of the bill sets possession limits at half a gram of MDMA and two grams of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Mexican Cartel Battle in Michoacan Now in Second Week. Fighting over control of 13 municipalities in the state of Michoacan between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Cartels United, which consists of the Sinaloa Cartel and other criminal groups, has gone on for more than a week now. Most recently, 13 people were killed in attacks last week in the towns of Chinicuila and Tepalcatepec, where residents dug trenches across roads to try to prevent gunmen from entering, as well as in Morelia, Zamora, and Uruapan. Multi-sided gun battles pitched cartel hitmen against each other, as well as police, soldiers, and armed residents. At least three civilians were among the dead.

Philippines Says Despite UN CND Vote, Marijuana Is Still a Dangerous Drug. Responding to the recent vote at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) removing marijuana from the most dangerous drug schedule, the Philippines is holding firm. The undersecretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board, Benjamin Reyes, said that doesn't mean marijuana is no longer a dangerous drug. "It is still included. It's just that marijuana (may now) have possible medical use, but still dangerous just like cocaine and opium," he said.

NJ Decrim Advances in Wake of Legalization Vote, NYC to Investigate Hospital Drug Test Racial Bias, More... (11/16/20)

Virginia's governor says he supports marijuana legalization, New Jersey does marijuana and mushrooms decrim in wake of initiative, the White House releases Bolivian coca production estimates, and more.

Marijuana legalization is advancing in Mexico. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Man Imprisoned Since 1994 for Selling Marijuana Seeks Release. The Michigan parole board will take up the case of Michael Thompson on Tuesday. He was convicted in 1994 of selling three pounds of marijuana to a snitch and has been behind bars ever since. Given that marijuana is now legal in the state, Thompson's bid for early release has the support of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the prosecutor's office that convicted him. He has suffered serious health problems in prison, including testing positive for COVID-19.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization, Magic Mushrooms, Too. The state Senate and Assembly have approved a measure that decriminalizes the possession of up to six ounces of marijuana, and defelonized the possession of magic mushrooms, too. The move is an interim measure until legalization takes place in January after voters approved it on Election Day. It also includes expungement of past nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Virginia Governor Supports Marijuana Legalization. Following the release of a study that found the state could generate $300 million in marijuana taxes, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports marijuana legalization. He plans to work with the General Assembly once it convenes in January, but the process could take up to two years to play out. The state decriminalized possession last year.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Advisory Board Rejects Insomnia as Qualifying Condition. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board has refused to add insomnia as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. Board members said they hesitated because insomnia is often caused by an underlying medical issue. The board voted 7-4 against adding insomnia last week.

Drug Testing

New York City to Investigate City Hospitals Over Possible Racial Bias in Drug Testing. The City Commission on Human Rights announced Monday that is investigating allegations of racial bias at three top city hospitals over their policies around the drug testing of pregnant women and newborns. Advocates said that Black and Hispanic families are being reported to state child abuse authorities following a single positive drug test, even though, they said, just a single positive test result does not merit a report. The commission cited studies that show Black women are much more likely to be subjected to maternal drug testing than white women, even though both groups use drugs at similar rates.

Foreign Policy

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Cocaine Production in Bolivia. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the United States Government's annual estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production potential for the Plurinational State of Bolivia. According to these estimates, Bolivia remains the third largest producer of cocaine in the world. Bolivia's coca cultivation totaled 42,180 hectares in 2019, an increase of 28 percent over 2018. Commensurate cocaine production potential increased 20 percent to 301 metric tons. The Yungas region remained the largest coca cultivation area in Bolivia, while the Chapare region represents the second largest. Cultivation exceeded the 22,000 hectares limit established by the Bolivian government by an estimated 20,180 hectares, or 92 percent.

International

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill with Floor Vote Planned Soon. Last Friday, three Senate committees gave preliminary approval to a marijuana legalization bill, with a formal vote set for this week. The bill would let people 18 and over possess up to an ounce and grow up to four plants for personal use. Advocates are still hoping for further revisions to promote consumers' rights and social equity in the legal market.

New Federal Legalization Bill, Houston Narcs Indicted, Peru Coca Production Up (Maybe), More... (8/3/20)

Peru and the US are in a dispute over how much coca and cocaine is produced there, Houston narcs involved in a deadly botched drug raid get indicted, and more.

How much coca and cocaine is Peru producing?
Marijuana Policy

New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Like Tobacco. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) has filed the Substance Regulation and Safety Act (S.4386), which would deschedule marijuana and require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations that treat marijuana like tobacco. The bill would also create a national research institute to study the risks and benefits of marijuana, require the Department of Agriculture to set quality control standards and require the Department of Transportation to study methods for detecting THC-impaired driving.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Law Allowing Medical Marijuana for Any Debilitating Condition Now in Effect. A new law that broadly expands access to medical marijuana has now gone into effect. The new law allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients for any debilitating condition. Under the state's old law, only a limited list of specified illnesses and conditions were eligible for medical marijuana.

Law Enforcement

Houston Ex-Cops in Deadly Botched Drug Raid Indicted. A Harris County grand jury has indicted six former Houston narcotics officers after their unit came under scrutiny in the wake of a 2019 raid in which an innocent pair of homeowners were killed. Prosecutors charge that the former officers falsified documentation about drug payments to confidential informants, routinely used false information to get search warrants, and lied in police reports. A total of 17 felony charges were brought against the officers, led by Gerald Goines.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Production in Peru. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the results of the annual United States Government estimates measuring coca cultivation and potential cocaine production for the Republic of Peru: "Coca (the plant used to make cocaine) cultivation in Peru significantly increased to 72,000 hectares in 2019, with potential pure cocaine production of 705 metric tons… "Coca cultivation in Peru and across the Andean Region of South America remains a significant threat to the American people. That's why President Trump ordered a surge in counternarcotics operations to take the fight directly to the drug cartels. This surge has already resulted in preventing 183,521 pounds of cocaine from entering the United States, resulting in $2.1 billion in lost revenue for drug cartels. As part of its partnership with the United States, Peru must expand its efforts to curb coca cultivation and production. The Trump Administration remains committed to bringing those who profit from drug trafficking to justice with the singular goal of saving American lives," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Peru Rejects US Estimates on Increased Cocaine and Coca Leaf Production. The Peruvian government on Saturday rejected an ONDCP report that said coca leaf and cocaine production had dramatically increased last year. The anti-drug office, Devida, said the report contained "a series of errors" because it did not consider the amount of coca eradicated nor the traditional consumption of coca and the country's licit coca industry, which does not produce cocaine.

SD Medical Association Opposes Marijuana Initiatives, ONDCP Touts Mexico Opium Reduction, More... (7/31/20)

Rhode Island's governor is once again pushing for marijuana legalization, the South Dakota state medical association comes out against both medical marijuana and marijuana legalization initiatives, and more.

Fewer opium poppies in Mexico these days... but more fentanyl. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Reiterates Support for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) said in an interview Thursday that she continues to support marijuana legalization as one way to raise revenue. "I was in favor of it last year, so I'm continuing to be in favor of it," the governor said. "I'm going to put it back again."

South Dakota Medical Association Comes Out Against Marijuana Initiatives. Voters will have a chance in November to vote on both a marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and a medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, but the South Dakota State Medical Association is opposing both of them and will write the opposition statement that will appear on the general election ballot. The association maintains that marijuana is a hazardous drug and a public health concern.

Drug Policy

White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Announces Record Reduction in Poppy Cultivation and Potential Heroin Production in Mexico. "The annual United States Government estimate of "Mexican Poppy Cultivation and Heroin Production" found poppy cultivation in Mexico decreased by 27 percent, from 41,800 hectares in 2018 to 30,400 hectares in 2019," ONDCP said. "Similarly, potential pure heroin production decreased by 27 percent, from 106 metric tons in 2018 to 78 metric tons in 2019. This 27 percent decrease in the potential production of heroin marks a milestone by meeting a goal set by the Trump Administration's National Drug Control Strategy two years early." What ONDCP didn't say is that Mexican poppy cultivation is down not because of any US or Mexican policy initiatives but because the farmgate price for opium dropped dramatically beginning last year because of overproduction and the increasing resort to fentanyl as a substitute for heroin.

ME Loses Federal Student Mental Health Aid Over Medical Marijuana, MA Safe Injection Site Bill Moves, More... (5/18/20)

Missouri lawmakers cast a baleful eye on medical marijuana gummies, a safe injection site bill is moving in Massachusetts, and more.

A bill to ban medical marijuana edibles that might appeal to children is headed to the Missouri governor's desk. (CC)
Medical Marijuana

Maine Loses Federal Mental Health Grants Because of Medical Marijuana. The federal government is cutting off $3.3 million in already approved funding for student mental health services because state law allows students access to medical marijuana. State education officials said "a new requirement" at the federal level cut off the funding for the ongoing program "because of our state's medical marijuana law, which requires schools to allow students who have written certification from their medical provider indicating their need for medical marijuana to receive such treatment while at school." The federal agency making the change is the Department of Health and Human Services.

Missouri Lawmakers Approve Bill to Ban Edibles Attractive to Children. Both the House and the Senate voted late last week to approve House Bill 1682, which would ban the sale of edible medical marijuana shaped like fruit, gummy bears, cartoons, or other characters that might be attractive to children. Circles, squares, and other shapes would be okay, though. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Michael Parson (R).

Drug Policy

White House Announces Comment Period for Emerging Drug Threats Criteria. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll last Friday announced the start of a public comment period to assist ONDCP in its development of criteria for designating emerging drug threats. The advance notice comment period will be open from May 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020. The accouncement says: "ONDCP's objective is to develop criteria that will enable the United States to proactively identify emerging drug threats and take necessary action to prevent these threats from becoming public health emergencies. The period for comment on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Designation of Emerging Drug Threats in the United States, closes June 30, 2020. Comments may be submitted to the Federal Register."

Harm Reduction

Massachusetts Bill to Allow Safe Injection Sites Advances. The Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery voted last Friday to approve a bill that would authorize the Department of Public Health to set up at least two safe injection sites as part of a 10-year pilot program. Local boards of health would have to agree to opt-in before a site would be considered in their communities. "The message we send to those who are faced with the disease of addiction is that we see you, we value you, and we want you to live," Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat and House chair of the committee, said in a press release. The measure is House Bill 4723.

Colombian Cocaine Production Jumps, VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads to Governor, More... (3/9/20)

Colombian cocaine production is way up, the US says as it pushes for forced and aerial eradication, NJ pot legalization supporters organize for victory, WVA is moving to increase meth sentences, and more.

Cocaine production in Colombia is at record levels, the US says. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legalization Supporters form Coalition to Push for November Victory. Advocates and stakeholders in the state's marijuana industry have formed a campaign coalition, NJ CAN 2020, to fight for marijuana legalization that includes a racial and social justice approach. The group includes members of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, including the ACLU of New Jersey, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, the Latino Action Network, the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference and the NJ CannaBusiness Association.

Oklahoma Sees Another Legalization Initiative Filed. Stakeholders in the state's medical marijuana industry have filed a legalization initiative, SQ 811, in response to an earlier filed legalization initiative that they say would not fully protect the state's existing medical marijuana industry. The initiative would tax marijuana at 25% but says medical marijuana would be "exempt from all taxes." The same group also filed a decriminalization initiative, SQ 812, the same day.

Virginia Legislature Approves Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate on Sunday approved a decriminalization bill, SB 2. The bill has already passed the House, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Under the bill, possession of up to an ounce will now merit a fine of no more than $50.  

Sentencing

West Virginia Legislature Approves Bill Raising Meth Sentences. The state Senate on Sunday approved HB 4852, which would double mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for possession with intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine. What is currently a one-to-five-year sentence would become a two-to-10-year sentence. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back for a concurrence vote to approve changes made in the Senate.

Foreign Policy

United States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to Reduce Cocaine Supply. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) led a counternarcotics dialogue with the Government of Colombia to set forth a bilateral, whole-of-government joint action plan to reduce the high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023.The dialogue focused on increasing coca eradication and cocaine interdiction, improving security and economic opportunities in the rural areas most afflicted by narcotics trafficking, and targeting narcotics-related money laundering and illicit finances. A focus of the discussion was expanding the results of Colombia’s integrated coca eradication program by ensuring full use of all available tools, including manual eradication, alternative development, and a Colombian-led aerial eradication component, supported by rural development and rural security programs.

International

Canadian Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has recently tabled a drug decriminalization bill, C-235, which would remove simple drug possession from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. "The international evidence is pretty clear that the way we have dealt with drug use, the war on drugs and throwing police resources to reduce drug use, has failed and has undermined public-health efforts," Erskine-Smith said. "And the overwhelming evidence today is that we should treat drug use as a health issue and we should be removing barriers to seeking treatment, and decriminalization of simple possession would do just that." Private bills rarely pass, but this is a start.

Colombia Cocaine Production Hit Record High Last Year Despite Forced Eradication, US Says. Cocaine production increased 8% last year, reaching an all-time high, according to figures released by the US government. The increase came even as the US and Colombian governments have been promoting forced eradication of coca crops and refusing to support crop substitution and rural development programs that are broadly considered more effective.

Drug War Issues

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