Decriminalization

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

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

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

Marijuana Policy

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Harm Reduction

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

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychedelics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychedelics

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

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

International

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

NY Legal Pot Shops Set to Open by Year's End, Irish Decrim Recommendation, More... (11/7/22)

A federal judge throws out a lawsuit seeking gun ownership rights for medical marijuana patients, competing Bolivian coca grower factions prepare to clash again this week, and more.

marijuana seized in New York City (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

New York Recreational Marijuana Sales Licenses Coming Soon. The chief of staff of the state's Cannabis Control Board said last Thursday that the first set of Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will likely be issued at the board's next meeting on November 21. Axel Bernabe said the state was "in position" to issue the licenses then. He said the board had scored applications and will recommend that applicants representing the "top of the class" will be recommended for approval. Bernabe's comments were echoed by board chair Tremaine Wright, who said "we are on target" to open the first shops before year's end.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Lawsuit on Medical Marijuana Patients' Gun Rights. A federal judge last Friday rejected a lawsuit from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) that challenged the federal ban on medical marijuana patients' ability to buy and possess firearms. The Biden Justice Department had moved to dismiss the case last month, arguing that people who use medical marijuana are violating federal law and thus can be denied the right to have guns.

Judge Allen Winsor agreed, telling plaintiffs they "have standing but their claims fail on the merits." The judge acknowledged a congressional rider blocking federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana patients, but said that does not alter his decision. "Regardless of whether Plaintiffs are prosecuted (or whether Congress allocates funds for their prosecution), possession of marijuana remains a federal crime," Winsor held. "The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment at best precludes prosecution now; it does not forever bless Plaintiffs' actions."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. A coca grower union faction that is demanding the closure of an unofficial coca market linked to a different, government-backed grower faction has announced plans to stage street demonstration and roadblocks in various areas of La Paz beginning today. The faction said the protests would continue indefinitely and that it would not announce roadblock locations in advance. The conflict has festered for months and has resulted in various bouts of street fighting between the factions and between the factions and security forces. In one incident, the "parallel" market linked to the pro-government faction was burned to the ground by the anti-government faction.

Irish Task Force Recommends De Facto Decriminalization for Addicts, Mentally Ill. A high-level task force examining mental health and drug addiction has recommended that police be given the discretion to ticket some drug users instead of arresting and jailing them. People who are addicted to drugs or who suffer from mental illness would be eligible for the diversion from the criminal justice system provided their drugs are for personal use.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the government is willing to work through the plan, but warned it could be tricky to implement. "We have, as a government and not just this governmengovernments, agreed to look at this from a public health perspective in trying to work with and support people who have addiction problems," said McEntee. "Really this is just another iteration of that. It is not straightforward. "How do you differentiate and how do you look at people who have addiction problems and then other issues as well? But it is something we will work through as part of the recommendations."

PA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Ecuador Drug Gang Violence Spikes, More... (11/4/22)

A late poll has good news for the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative, drug gangs rampage in Ecuador, and more.

Sen. Tom Hickenlooper (D-CO) files a bill to set up a framework for federal marijunana legalization. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Sen. Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Develop Federal Marijuana Legalization Framework. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday announced a plan to roll out legislation to create a framework for federal marijuana legalization. His proposed bill, the PREPARE Act, would create a "Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis," which would make recommendations related to marijuana policy, but would not be empowered to set policies itself. "This bill will provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis," Hickenlooper's office wrote in a summary of the bill.

New Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Winning. Polling on the fate of the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative has been all over the place, with two recent polls showing it losing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote. But a third recent poll had it winning with 62 percent of the vote. That poll was from SurveyUSA, and now that polling organization is out with a new poll, again having the initiative winning, this time with 61 percent of the vote. Twenty-eight percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided, with those undecideds evenly split between potential supporters and opponents.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1393, which decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. It does so by no longer defining the test strips as drug paraphernalia under the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act of 1972. Pennsylvania thus becomes the latest of a number of states that have passed similar legislation this year in a bid to reduce the rising incidence of fentanyl-involved fatal drug overdoses. "Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste, and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is nearly impossible for an individual to know if it has been laced with fentanyl," said Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. "We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, individuals have an additional tool to fight the overdose crisis. This legalization is a big win in the harm reduction space."

International

Ecuador State of Emergency Declared as Drug Gang Violence Spikes. President Guillermo Lasso declared a new state of emergency Tuesday and a 9:00pm curfew in the Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country after an outbreak of gang violence that included two headless bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards taken hostage by inmates, a series of nine car bomb explosions in two coastal cities, and the shooting deaths of five police officers. President Lasso said the violence was "a declaration of open war" and that he was "prepared to act harshly" to suppress it.

Lasso added that soldiers and police had raided jails and seized weapons, included thousands of explosive and dynamite sticks, and arrested 28 people. Still, fresh clashes were reported in prisons in Guayaquil. Analysts say the local gangs are emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate authorities.

"In certain areas, the state has been displaced," said Col Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador's military intelligence, referring to parts of Guayaquil and Ecuador's Pacific coast. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence."

MD Legalization Question Polls Well, Afghan Shisha Ban, Australia ACT Decriminalizes Drugs, More... (10/31/22)

A Nevada judge orders marijuana removed from the state's Controlled Substances Act, the Germans roll out a marijuana legalization plan, British cops plan a crackdown on recreational drug users, and more.

Famartin via Wikimedia
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. A new poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization referendum at 63 percent, with only 25 opposed and 12 percent undecided. The poll results are in line with a pair of September polls, one of which had support at 59 percent and the other of which had support at 72 percent. Voters will be asked "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?" and if the measure passes, it would automatically implement an already approved bill that would create basic rules and regulations for an adult-use marijuana program.

Nevada Judge Orders Marijuana Removed from State List of Controlled Substances. A judge in Clark County (Las Vegas) ruled last Wednesday that the state pharmacy board lacks the authority to regulate marijuana and marijuana derivatives under state law since voters legalized the substance and ordered the board to remove marijuana from the state's controlled substances list. If the board "designates a substance as a 'controlled substance' but the designation falls outside the authority delegated by the ​​Legislature, the designation is invalid," wrote District Court Judge Joe Hardy. That same judge ruled in September that classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance was unconstitutional because voters had legalized medical marijuana in 1998. "The Board exceeded its authority when it placed, or failed to remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives on its list as Schedule I substances," Hardy wrote in that case.

International

Afghanistan Bans Hookahs, Fruit-Flavored Tobacco. The Taliban has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning the smoking of fruit-flavored tobacco (shisha) and the hookahs (water pipes) used to smoke it. The Taliban considers shisha as an intoxicant. The ban was announced in western Herat province earlier this month, and it is not clear whether it extends to the whole country. The Herat Café Owners Association said the ban had cost some 2,500 jobs in the province, which already faces a dire economic situation. But Azizul Rahman Mohajer, the provincial head of the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said hookahs are "against Sharia" and smoking shisha "harms our bodies and causes tobacco addiction, which can spread widely in society."

Australian Capital Territory Decriminalizes Drug Possession. A drug decriminalization measure introduced as a private member's bill by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson won in the territorial legislature last week. The new law will not be implemented for a year to "allow for appropriate police training." Under the new law, people caught with personal use amounts of drugs will face a referral to drug treatment or a maximum $100 fine instead of time in prison.

British Cops to Target Recreational Drug Users in Holiday Enforcement Blitz. Police in Dorset have announced Operation Scorpion, a winter drug enforcement operation that will see a shift in focus from dealers to recreational users of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA. Police in Avon & Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucester will be joined by British Transport Police for a series of crackdowns on the night-time economy. Police will focus on city and town centers across the region. "Illegal drug use is just that -- illegal -- and the partners of Op. Scorpion will continue to work together - targeting criminality, taking drugs off our streets, sharing intelligence, protecting the vulnerable and putting a ring of steel around the South West," police said. They are also taking a hard line on marijuana, arguing that "cannabis is not the benign drug those seeking to make a profit would have you believe."

Germany Unveils Marijuana Legalization Plan. The health ministry last Wednesday rolled out a marijuana legalization plan that includes the decriminalization of the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana as well as allowing for the sale of marijuana to adults in a regulated marketplace. The German government will also consult with the European Union's executive commission to ensure that the legalization plan. Berlin will check with the European Union's executive commission to ensure it complies with EU laws and will move forward "on this basis" only if whether the plan approved by the German government is in line with EU laws and would proceed with legislation "on this basis" only if the EU approves.

Colombia President's Drug War Heterodoxy Draws Critics, Belgian Drug Trafficker Threats, More... (9/27/22)

Singapore arrests its citizens for doing drugs outside the country, Colombian President Petro's frank talk about the need for a new model drug policy is activating critics, and more.

Cocaine prohibiion is getting some renewed attention these days. (Pixabay)
Foreign Policy

Pair of GOP Senators Question Colombian President's Commitment to Cooperating with US on Drugs. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP -- the drug czar's office), expressing their concerns with Colombian President Gustavo Petro's drug policy changes and intentions to modify extradition policy with the United States. They are upset that Petro has initiated peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which they specify is "a left-wing Foreign Terrorist Organization" and that he has resumed diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela, or "the Maduro narco-regime," as they put it.

"Petro's favorable actions toward actors working closely with drug traffickers in our hemisphere call into question the Colombian president's commitment to cooperating with the United States to prevent the flow of drugs crossing our border," they charged. They also took issue with Petro's proposal to limit extradition to people who refused to cooperate with the Colombian state, saying it "incentivizes criminals to avoid extradition by bribing or coercing the sitting political regime."

The Colombian president has vocally called for an end to the US's current drug policy in Colombia and his government is considering -- but has not yet enacted -- significant drug policy reforms, such as decriminalizing small-scale coca production.

Colombia Ex-President Warns Petro's Call to Change Course in Drug War Could Make Country a "Narco-State." Ivan Duque, the rightist predecessor to current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, has warned that Petro's call to make a radical change in the war on drugs could turn the country into a "narco-state" that could threaten the security of the US and other countries in the region.

"Now, what worries me is that there is now the possibility of getting into the permission, or the legalization of cocaine and consumption," said Duque. "I think that it will be very bad for Colombia and that will be very bad for the countries in the hemisphere, and I think that could generate also a major security threat to the United States. So by no means I'm in favor of the legalization of the cocaine trade… But I also have to say it, Colombia cannot turn into a narco state. I think the world now has unified in the concept of prohibition, and I think if just one country, let's say Colombia, decides to legalize cocaine, it'll turn itself into a narco state."

The Petro government has so far rejected cocaine legalization, but it is considering the decriminalization of small-scale peasant coca cultivation.

International

Belgian Prime Minister Condemns Threats Against Justice Minister from Drug Traffickers. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday condemned serious threats against the country's justice minister as "totally unacceptable" after a car containing firearms was found near his home. Belgian media says the threats could involve kidnapping by drug traffickers, who have been angered by a recent ramping up of Belgian enforcement activity after an unprecedented flare-up of violence among traffickers this summer. Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands are the main European hubs for cocaine trafficking, with 90 tons of the drug being seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp last year.

Singapore Arrests Citizens for Using Drugs in Other Countries. The city-state's Central Narcotics Bureau announced Saturday that authorities had arrested 41 citizens so far this year for using drugs outside the country. Under Singaporean law, citizens who use drugs outside the country face the same punishment as those caught using drugs inside the country. A first offense can garner up to 10 years in prison, but most people charged with the crime are sent to rehabilitation if there are no other charges against them. The policy is in line with the city-state's draconian drug policies, which include the death penalty for trafficking as little as 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of marijuana.

The Public Stands Behind Oregon's Drug Decrim and Addiction Funding Law [FEATURE]

It has been nearly two years since Oregon voters approved Measure 110, a sweeping drug decriminalization and public health services funding initiative, and it still has strong public support. That could be because it is producing the kinds of results Oregonians want to see.

Measure 110 is bringing addiction recovery services not just to Portland, but to places like this, too. (Pixabay)
In voting for Measure 110, Oregonians sought to move the emphasis of drug policy from law enforcement to a public health approach, and that is what they are getting. Drug possession arrests, which had already dropped by half in 2020 because of the pandemic, significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, falling another 65 percent from the 2020 levels in the first six months of 2022.

And Measure 110, which tapped into marijuana tax revenues to fund a broad spectrum of addiction services -- from low-barrier drug treatment and peer support and recovery to overdose prevention and housing and employment support (but not drug treatment covered by Medicaid or insurance) -- is setting the stage for a massive expansion of those services by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the field.

Late last month, the Oversight & Accountability Council, the body tasked with overseeing the distribution of the funding, approved the remainder of the initial $302 million made available under Measure 110, and on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it had finished awarding that money to more than 237 service providers in the form of grants.

With the state suffering more than a thousand overdose deaths in the past year, there is criticism that authorities have moved too slowly. Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen acknowledged as much, saying the agency had learned it needed to give more support and technical assistance to the volunteer committee tasked with grantmaking decisions.

"We understand the frustration this caused in our communities," Allen said. "When you do something for the first time you're going to make mistakes."

But now the money is out there, and it will help fund 237 service providers in 36 Behavioral Health Regional Networks (BHRNs), aimed at ensuring that help is available in even the most remote rural corners of the state. That includes 111 groups providing screening and behavioral health needs assessments, 112 groups doing individual intervention planning, 113 groups doing low-barrier drug treatment, 172 groups doing peer support and mentoring, 88 groups providing housing services, 84 groups providing harm reduction services, and 51 groups doing job support.

The money is going to allow these groups to expand their services by hiring and training new staff, securing additional facilities, buying vehicles for mobile support services, and even purchasing housing.

"Measure 110 changes the system so that there is no wrong door to access services," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Thanks to Measure 110, you don't have to get arrested before you are maybe offered help. Measure 110 is changing the addiction recovery service landscape so that regardless of the path, supportive services will be more readily available closer to home."

"It's been a long road, but we're ecstatic to see all of the Measure 110 funding for the 2021-2023 biennium finally being approved and going out to service providers to expand critical addiction services in Oregon communities. This is the first step in ensuring Oregon delivers on its promise of replacing a criminal legal approach to drugs with a public health approach and offering the rest of the country a glimpse of what is ultimately possible when we offer people support instead of punishment," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was a key supporter of Measure 110 and which is partnering with the Health Justice Recovery Alliance on implementation.

Even with the slow rollout, Oregonians are liking what they are seeing. A poll released this month by Data for Progress found majority support for Measure 110 in every region of the state -- even the conservative eastern an southwestern areas -- and a strong bipartisan majority who agree that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

When asked whether Measure 110 should remain in place, 58 percent said yes. That included 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents, but only 31 percent of Republicans.

The polling suggests that tying drug decriminalization to the expansion of recovery services is key to getting it over the finish line. When asked about individual components of the program, 91 percent supported peer mentoring, 90 percent supported employment help, 86 percent supported funding addiction recovery, 84 percent supported housing assistance, but only 62 percent supported harm reduction measures and only 61 percent supported decriminalization itself.

It is almost as if Oregonians made a bargain with themselves: Give us strong measures to aid recovery and we will grudgingly accept such vanguard measures as harm reduction and decriminalizing drugs. These pollsresults should send a clear message to people contemplating future decrim initiatives about how to broaden support for them.

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

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

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

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

Incarceration

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

Foreign Policy

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

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

International

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

Drug War Issues

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