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Decriminalization

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House GOP Members File Bill Designating Cartels as Terrorist Groups, Germany to Move Ahead With Legal Pot Proposal, More... (3/15/23)

A Kentucky medical marijuana bill faces a looming Senate deadline, Vermont lawmakers file a number of drug reform bills, and more.

The Rio Grande River. There be cartels on the other side, and the GOP wants to call them "terrorists." (C)
Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote, Must Pass Full Senate Tomorrow or Die. A bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 47, was approved by the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee on Tuesday. It must pass the Senate by Thursday, the last day of the session before the veto period, or it dies. If it passes the Senate, it would then go to the House, which returns for a final day of legislative action on March 30. The House has passed medical marijuana bills twice in recent years and is thought to still have support for it.

Drug Policy

Vermont Lawmakers File Four Different Drug Policy Reform Bills. Drug policy reform is on the agent in Montpelier this session, with four separate drug policy reform bills already filed. House Bill 423 would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, as would Senate companion legislation, Senate Bill 119. The bills would also decriminalize "dispensing" drug amounts below the personal use threshold as well as establishing a pilot drug checking program.

Two other bills focus specifically on psychedelics. House Bill 439 would effectively legalize the possession of psilocybin, mescaline, and peyote by removing them from the states definition of hallucinogenic drugs, while Senate Bill 114, would remove only psilocybin from the state’s definition of hallucinogens.

The first three bills are destined for judiciary committees in the respective chambers, while the fourth bill is before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. If any of them pass out of the legislature, they face possible vetoes from Gov. Phil Murphy (R).

Foreign Policy

House Republicans File Bill Designating Mexican Drug Cartels Terrorist Organizations. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and 20 House Republicans have introduced a bill designating four Mexican drug trafficking organizations as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). The four groups are the Gulf Cartel, the Cartel Del Noreste, the Cartel de Sinaloa, and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. The Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act would also require the Department of State to issue a report to Congress within 30 days of enactment on the cartels listed above and any additional cartels that meet the criteria for designation as an FTO. For each additional cartel that meets the criteria of an FTO, the Department of State is required to designate each of those cartels as an FTO within 30 days after the report is submitted to Congress. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has threatened to file similar legislation in the Senate but has yet to do so.

International

Germany to Move Forward with Marijuana Legalization After "Very Good Feedback" from the European Union. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said Tuesday that the government would bring a revised marijuana legalization proposal before legislators "in the next few weeks" after receiving "very good feedback" from European Union (EU) officials. Germany has conditioned its advance of marijuana legalization on approval from the EU to ensure it would not put it in violation of international obligations. Lauterbach said some changes would be made to the bill to "take into account European regulations and what should or should not be notified," but did not specify what those changes would entail. 

Opioid Settlement Causing Problems for Patients, MD Legal Pot Regulation Bill Passes House, More... (3/13/23)

The Justice Department is open to Sentencing Commission marijuana guideline reforms, a Texas bill to remove jail time for pot possession advances, and more.

It's not just opiates. A settlement between drug distributors and states is leaving lots of patients in the lurch. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Justice Department Backs Proposed Marijuana Sentencing Guideline Reform to Treat Past Convictions More Leniently. The Justice Department is in agreement with a US Sentencing Commission proposal to update sentencing guidelines to treat past marijuana possession offenses more leniently. Such a move would align with the Biden administration's "sentiment" toward reforming marijuana policy. The backing by DOJ came last Wednesday when a federal prosecutor testified at a public hearing on the proposal in support of it. The Sentencing Commission had made the recommendation back in January. The commission's proposal does not remove marijuana convictions as a criminal history factor, but it would "include sentences resulting from possession of marihuana offenses as an example of when a downward departure from the defendant’s criminal history may be warranted."

Bipartisan Bill Punishing Illegal Marijuana Grows Filed. Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Scott Peters (D-CA) have filed the Targeting and Offsetting Existing Illegal Contaminants (TOXIC) Act, which would provide funding to clean up toxic wastes at marijuana grows on federal lands and increase criminal penalties "for using banned pesticides in illegal cannabis cultivation to a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in criminal fines to establish parity with the criminal penalties for smuggling banned pesticides into the US." The same pair filed the same bill in the last Congress, but it went nowhere.

Maryland House Approves Legal Marijuana Regulation Bill. The House voted last Friday to approve a measure to create a legal framework and tax structure for legal marijuana sales, House Bill 556. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is also advancing its own separate regulatory measure. If the legislature can come to agreement, legal sales could begin as early as July 1. The bill passed by the House would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain dual licenses to sell recreational marijuana. The bill also contains equity provisions giving licensing priority to minority owners in communities adversely affected by the war on drugs.

Texas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted unanimously last week to approve a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, House Bill 218. Possession of less than two ounces is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Under this bill, possession would still be a misdemeanor (so not technically decriminalization), but without the possibility of arrest of jail time. Instead, offenders would be cited and fined up to $500. The bill now awaits a House floor vote.

Opiates and Opioids

US Opioid Settlement Causing Problems for Patients. The $21 billion settlement between pharmaceutical distributors and attorneys general in 46 states over the companies' role in the early stages of this century's opioid epidemic is having unintended consequences not only for opioid patients, but also for people trying to obtain controlled substances to treat many conditions, including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and addiction. As a result of the settlement, the distributors are now tightening rules for these drugs, resulting in the cancellation of tens of thousands of drug orders and leaving patients in the lurch. The new controls have created "havoc in pharmacies, said Ilisa Bernstein, chief executive of the American Pharmacists Association. "They have patients coming in to get medication, and they can’t have it. It's disrupting patient care." 

DOJ Now Accepting Pot Pardon Applications, OR House OKs Naloxone Expansion, More... (3/7/23)

The Justice Department signals it will appeal a federal court ruling invalidating the federal ban on guns for pot users, Colombia calls for coca leaf decriminalization, and more.

Naloxone opioid overdose reversal kit. The Oregon House has voted to expand access to them. (hr.org)
Marijuana Policy

Justice Department Now Accepting Applications for Pardons for Federal Marijuana Possession Offenders. Nearly five months after President Biden called for pardons for federal marijuana possession offenders, the Justice Department has begun accepting applications for those pardons. The move comes after a series of friendly public statement from the administration about the drug from both Attorney General Garland and the president. Last week, Garland said that Justice is working on a review of marijuana policy, and just days before that, President Biden mentioned the pardons in a Black History Month speech, saying "too many minorities are in prison" for marijuana use.

Justice Department Appeals Federal Court Ruling Striking Down Gun Ban for Marijuana Users. The Justice Department last Friday filed paperwork in US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma informing the court that it intends to appeal a judge's ruling there that found unconstitutional the federal prohibition on gun ownership for marijuana users. The Friday filing did not make a substantive argument but served primarily as a notification that an appeal was coming. In that district court ruling, Trump-appointed Judge Patrick Wyrick held that a recent Supreme Court ruling where the high court created a higher standard for policies that aim to restrict gun rights made the ban on gun possession unconstitutional.

Oklahoma Votes on Marijuana Legalization Today. In an election with no other issues or races on the ballot, voters will decide whether or not to approve a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 820. The measure is opposed by law enforcement and most of the state's Republican political establishment. It would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates and grow up to six plants and six seedlings at home. It also protects parents from losing custody or visitation rights solely because of marijuana use and states that parolees and probationers cannot be punished for marijuana use. Nor could the odor of marijuana or burnt marijuana be used as probable cause for police to infer that a crime had been committed. And it includes a provision for the expungement of some past marijuana offenses. It also sets a 15 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. In a narrow vote, the House on Monday approved Senate Bill 1, which expands the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use to include people afflicted with cancer, epilepsy, MS, ALS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, aids, and HIV. The bill has already passed the Senate, but must go back for one more concurrence vote because it was modified in the House. If it wins that vote, it would then go to the desk of Gov. Kristi Noem (R).

Harm Reduction

Oregon House Approves Bill to Expand Naloxone Access. The House has approved a bill to more widely distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), House Bill 2395, on a vote of 48-9. The bill declares a health emergency and will make overdose reversal kits available in libraries, churches, and other public buildings. It also allows police, firefighters, and EMTs to distribute the kits to drug users and their friends and family members, and it decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Colombia Vice President Calls for Coca Leaf Decriminalization at UN. Vice President Francia Marquez used an address at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to petition for the decriminalization of the coca leaf in the country's indigenous territories. "The time has come to sincerely put the debate on decriminalizing the use of coca leaf in ethnic and indigenous territories, continuing to criminalize the use of coca leaf will not allow Colombia to achieve total peace," she said. "Because we know that it has been this criminal, racial policy that has us as peoples suffering terrible humanitarian crises, it is the drug trafficking imposed from that criminal policy that today is generating armed conflicts in ethnic territories." Colombia will join Bolivia in petitioning the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove coca leaf from its list of prohibited substances. 

HI Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, WA Senate Approves Bill Upping Drug Sentences, More... (3/6/23)

A long-shot marijuana legalization bill is filed in Florida, a fentanyl test strip decriminalization bill gets a hearing in Arkansas, and more.

The Washington Senate has approved a bill upping sentences for drug possession, including short mandatory minimums. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill with Home Grow Filed. State Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee) has filed a marijuana bill that includes both home cultivation and social consumption spaces. The measure, Senate Bill 1576, would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces and allow for home grows of up to six plants. Usage would be allowed in a "non-public space" with violators subject to a $100 fine. A "Division of Cannabis Management" within the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would regulate legal marijuana commerce. The bill has not yet received a committee assignment, and its prospects are dim in the Republican-controlled legislature. On a different track, a marijuana legalization initiative campaign is in the midst of signature gathering.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Votes. A marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 669, is advancing in the Senate, having been approved by both the Consumer Protection and Ways and Means committees last Thursday. It now heads for a Senate floor vote. The bill emphasizes small operations, limiting grows to no more than 5,000 square feet. It includes a home grow provision, allowing for up to six plants, of which three can be flowering. The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week, but faces an obstacle in the House. House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) says the state is not ready for marijuana legalization and he plans on asking House committee chairs to work on it this summer—after the current session has ended. "It’s not as easy as just flipping a switch and saying marijuana is now legal," Saiki said. "There are a lot of issues related to how you set up the system how do you regulate the system."

Drug Policy

Washington Senate Approves Bill Upping Drug Possession Penalties. After hours of contentious debate, the Senate voted last Friday night to approve Senate Bill 5536, which increases penalties for drug possession. The bill is a response to a 2021 state Supreme Court ruling striking down the state's felony drug possession law because people could be prosecuted for unknowingly possessing drugs. Lawmakers responded by temporarily making drug possession a misdemeanor, but that measure expires in July. With this bill, drug possession remains a misdemeanor, but moves from a plain misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, meaning violators face stiffer penalties than under the current system. The bill includes options for diversion out of the criminal justice system at each stage of the judicial process, but also includes mandatory minimum sentences of 21 days for a second offense and 45 days for a second offense if the person "willfully abandoned" or consistently failed to apply with treatment. The measure passed on a 28-21 vote and now heads to the House.

Harm Reduction

Arkansas Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Gets Hearing Today. A bill to clarify that fentanyl test strips are not classified as drug paraphernalia, Senate Bill 40, is set for hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under current state law, possession of fentanyl test strips is a felony. That has not stopped groups like Northwest Arkansas Harm Reduction from distributing hundreds of the test kits, but harm reductionists are seeking formal legal protections. 

BC Company Awarded License to Make and Sell Cocaine, Voting Underway for OK Pot Initiative, More... (3/3/23)

A Florida marijuana legalization initiative is about halfway home on signature gathering, Arizona politics is roiled by an unsubstantiated charge that the Sinaloa Cartel is bribing state and county officials, and more.

A BC company has been awarded a license to make and distribute cocaine. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Nears Halfway Point on Signature Gathering. Smart & Safe Florida, the group behind a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, is nearing the halfway point in signature gathering, according to the state Division of Elections. The campaign had 420,000 valid voter signatures as of the end of February; it needs 891,589 valid voter signatures by February 1, 2024 to qualify for the 2024 ballot. That is, provided that the initiative passes muster with the state Supreme Court. In January, the campaign handed in enough signatures to trigger a Supreme Court review to ensure that the text does not violate the state's single subject rule and does not mislead voters. That analysis is still pending.

Early Voting Now Underway for Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Early voting is now underway for the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative. Election Day itself is next Tuesday. SQ 820 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates and grow up to six plants and six seedlings at home. It also protects parents from losing custody or visitation rights solely because of marijuana use and states that parolees and probationers cannot be punished for marijuana use. Nor could the odor of marijuana or burnt marijuana be used as probable cause for police to infer that a crime had been committed. And it includes a provision for the expungement of some past marijuana offenses.

Politics

Bizarre Charge That Arizona Governor, Other State Leaders Are Taking Bribes from Sinaloa Cartel. Last week, the Joint Elections Committee led by Republican election conspiracy theorist Sen. Wendy Rogers heard completely unsupported testimony from a local insurance agent that Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, Democratic Attorney General Adrian Fontes, and the Republican-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors were among state officials taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. Since then, even Republican officials have been distancing themselves from the charge, while Democrats are blasting Republicans for turning the legislature into a "circus show" that provides a forum for outrageous election fraud conspiracies. "It is dangerous," Hobbs said. "It makes the legislature, quite honestly, a laughing stock, and Arizona by extension, and I hope folks are held accountable for this."

International

Health Canada Issues License to British Columbia Company to Make and Sell Cocaine. Health Canada has issued a license to a British Columbia company, Adastra Labs, to produce, sell, and distribute cocaine. The agency said Adastra is licensed to use cocaine for "scientific and medical purposes only" and that it "cannot sell products to the general public." Last week, Adastra announced that it had received approval to "interact with" up to 250 grams of cocaine and to import coca leaves to manufacture and synthesize the drug. It said it is exploring "commercialization" of cocaine to provide a safe supply of the drug. But Health Canada said Adastra can only sell cocaine to other controlled drug dealer's license holders, such as pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, or researchers. The province has decriminalized the possession of up to 2.5 grams of cocaine and other drugs, but BC's decriminalization does not envision legal cocaine sales. 

Attorney General Garland Talks Pot on Capitol Hill, TN MedMJ Bill Killed, More... (3/2/23)

California legal marijuana sales revenues decrease for the first time ever, a fourth Michigan city endorses natural psychedelic decriminalization, and more.

Attorney General Merrick Garland says DOJ is "still working" on marijuana policy. (DOJ)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Says DOJ Still Working on Federal Marijuana Policy Approach. In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) said the Justice Department is "still working on marijuana policy" and that a broader review of marijuana's scheduling status was being led by federal health officials. "I think that it’s fair to expect what I said at my confirmation hearing with respect to marijuana and policy, that it will be very close to what was done in the Cole Memorandum," he said, referring to an Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors to generally not interfere with state cannabis laws but which was later rescinded by Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "We’re not quite done with that yet,"Garland said of the marijuana policy review. Garland added that the Justice Department had prioritized finalizing a memo of crack cocaine prosecutions, which has now been completed.

In Sign of Legal Industry's Woes, California Marijuana Sales Declined for First Time Since Legalization. According to the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration, legal marijuana sales totaled $5.3 billion last year, down 8.2 percent from the $5.77 billion in 2021. That marks the first time sales have decreased since the state launched its recreational marijuana market five years ago. Industry observers point to high taxes and the limited number of pot shops for the decrease. As one Emerald Triangle pot farmer, Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hill Farms explained: "Most of us farmers have been trying to tell the state [regulators] that the marketplace is imploding,"says Casali. "The drop in retail sales means the customer is tired of paying the exorbitant taxes and are now buying it from a friend of a friend or the guy on the corner."

Medical Marijuana

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Killed in Committee. No medical marijuana for you, Tennesseans! At least not yet. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on a near party-line vote Wednesday to kill Senate Bill 1104, which would have set up a system of medical marijuana access in the state. Meanwhile another medical marijuana bill, House Bill 172,was "taken off notice" last week, meaning it is effectively dead for this session. Maybe next time.

Psychedelics

Fourth Michigan City Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. Move over, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Hazel Park—Ferndale has now joined the group of Michigan cities to embrace psychedelic reform. On Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to approve a resolution decriminalizing "entheogenic plants and fungi," such as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and its chemical compound, DMT. The resolution makes the "investigation and arrest of persons for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with, or possessing Entheogenic Plants or plant compounds which are on the Federal Schedule 1 list" the lowest law enforcement priority for the city The ordinance was pushed by the local Decriminalize Nature affiliate, Decriminalize Nature Ferndale. 

SD Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Vancouver Magic Mushroom Shops Thrive, More... (2/27/23)

Queensland will become the first Australian state to okay pill-testing, Vancouver magic mushrooms shops are not illegal but thriving anyway, and more.

A fentanyl test strip. South Dakota just legalized them, and a bill to do the same is advancing in Kansas. (Creative Commons)
Harm Reduction

Kansas Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips Passes House. In a bid to reduce overdose deaths in the state, the House voted last Thursday for a bill that would clarify that fentanyl test strips are not drug paraphernalia, House Bill 2390. A similar measure passed the House last year, only to die in the Senate. The House also passed a bill that would stiffen penalties for fentanyl manufacturing, House Bill 2398. That bill doubles the existing sentence under state law and includes a mandatory prison sentence.

South Dakota Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. In an effort to reduce overdose deaths, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has signed into law a bill that clarifies that fentanyl test strips are not drug paraphernalia, House Bill 1041. "We're trying to prevent overdoses for those people that are at high risk populations," said bill sponsor Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt (R).

International

Queensland Becomes First Australian State to Introduce Pill Testing. State Health Minister Yvette D'Ath announced Saturday that Queensland will introduce pill testing at mobile and fixed sites, making it the first Australian state to do so. "Pill testing is all about harm minimization," she said. "We don’t want people ending up in our emergency departments or worse losing their life. It is important to note that pill-testing services do not promote that drugs are safe, however they are among a suite of options that can positively affect outcomes regarding illicit drug use." The move follows two pill-testing trials at Canberra’s Groovin’ the Moo festival in 2018 and 2019, and an ongoing trial at a fixed site. Queensland may be the first state to embrace the harm reduction measure, but the Australian Capitol Territory began a trial last year.

Vancouver Magic Mushroom Shops Operating Openly. Canada's West Coast metropolis now boasts at least nine shops that sell magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances even though such shops are not legal. The owners of the shops say they are employing many of the same tactics used by marijuana shops that sold the drug before it was legal. They argue that they are providing patients with crucial access to a drug that is nearly impossible to obtain despite Health Canada approving it for some uses. Police, focused on harder drugs, appear indifferent. Now, similar stores have sprung up in Ottawa, Toronto, and Hamilton. 

Former Mexico Top Cop Found Guilty of Drug Trafficking, NM Safe Injection Site Bill Moves, More... (2/21/23)

The Republican-led Virginia House kills another drug reform bill, Iowa House Democrats roll out a marijuana legalization bill, and more.

Genaro Garcia Luna. The former Mexican top cop found guilty in federal court in of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Iowa House Democrats File Marijuana Legalization Bill. House Democrats introduced a marijuana legalization bill Tuesday, part of a broader "People over politics" agenda that also includes lowering taxes, protecting abortion rights, and supporting public over private education. The bill, which is not yet available on the legislative website, would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use and "use new tax revenue to invest in education and local communities." But Republicans control both houses of the legislature and there is as yet no indication they will be willing to advance the bill.

Virginia House Kills Marijuana Business Tax Relief Bill. A bill to provide tax relief for marijuana businesses by allowing them to claim exemptions at the state level they are barred from claiming at the federal level under an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E has died in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates. Senate Bill 1095 had already cleared the Senate, only to be killed on a 4-2 party line vote in a House Finance subcommittee. The House this year has been where drug reforms go to die. Earlier last week, it killed a bill to start adult-use marijuana sales and a measure to reschedule psilocybin and create a therapeutic use advisory board.

Virginia Poll Has Solid Majority Support for Retail Marijuana Sales. When House Republicans last week killed a bill to allow adult-use retail marijuana sales, they were going against the will of the voters, according to a new poll. The survey from Christopher Newport University had support for legalizing the retail sale of marijuana products at 60 percent, with only 34 percent opposed. But in killing the bill, the House Republicans were enacting the will of Republican voters, who narrowly opposed allowing retail sales by a margin of 47 percent to 44 percent.

Harm Reduction

New Mexico Safe Injection Site Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to provide for the creation of state-funded "overdose prevention centers," House Bill 263, is advancing, having won its first committee vote Monday. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-3 party line vote. The vote came after Republican Rep. Harlan Vincent called safe injection sites "drug dens." The measure would protect participants and workers from criminal liability "for any action or conduct that occurs on the site of a harm reduction program or overdose prevention program," but expressly bars drugs from being sold, purchased, traded, or "otherwise provided" to program users. After the vote, the House Republican Campaign Committee echoed Rep. Vincent, saying in a tweet that the Democrats "passed legalized drug dens."

Law Enforcement

Mexico's Former Top Cop Found Guilty of Drug Trafficking in NYC Trial. Genaro Garcia Luna, who acted as head of Mexico's equivalent of the FBI and was Public Security Minister under former President Felipe Calderon, was found guilty Tuesday of taking millions of dollars from the Sinaloa Cartel in a trial in federal court in Brooklyn. It was Calderon and Garcia Luna who launched the modern era of Mexico's drug war by sending in the armed forces, unleashing more than a decade of deadly violence as drug cartels fought each other and various law enforcement and military formations allied with those factions. Garcia Luna is the highest-ranking Mexican official ever to be tried for drug offenses. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

International

Australia's Queensland Moves to Depenalize Drug Possession. The government of the state of Queensland told the state parliament Tuesday that it will amend its drug laws so that people caught carrying small quantities of any illicit substances will not be subject to criminal charges until a fourth offense. A first offense would merit a warning, while second and third offenses would see police offering up drug diversionary programs. This is the same approach that the state uses for small-time marijuana possession and that most other states already use for all illicit substances. Only the Australian Capital Territory has formally decriminalized drug possession. 

CO Safe Injection Site Bill Filed, Twitter Okays Marijuana Ads, More... (2/17/23)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and Minnesota, a Virginia psilocybin reform bill dies, and more.

The Vancouver safe injection site. Could one be coming to Denver? (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Twitter Becomes First Social Media Platform to Allow Marijuana Ads. As of Wednesday, Twitter is allowing marijuana companies to market their brands and products in the United States. It is the first social media platform to take that step. Previously, Twitter had only allowed ads for hemp-derived CBD prices. Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok continue to follow a "no cannabis advertising policy" based on the fact that marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. Twitter announced restrictions on marijuana advertising: Companies must be properly licensed, not target people under 21, and only target states where they are licensed to operate.  

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Votes. A marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 375, was approved by Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on Wednesday. The bill is supported by some of the industry's major operators, but small-scale growers and groups supporting them oppose the bill and instead support Senate Bill 669, which has a simpler regulatory scheme. The Senate voted to approve marijuana legalization in 2021, only to see the measure defeated in the House. The Senate is expected to pass some form of marijuana legalization this year as well.

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances Yet Again. The marijuana legalization bill,  House File 100, has won its ninth House committee vote, with the House Education Finance Committee approving it Thursday. The Senate companion bill also cleared its sixth panel this week. With an expected 18 committee votes needed before heading for floor votes, the measure is now most of the way there.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Legislative Committee Kills Medical Marijuana Expansion. A bill to expand access to medical marijuana was shot down by the first committee to consider it on Thursday. The measure, Senate Bill 81, sought to increase the amount of medical marijuana concentrate a patient can buy per day and allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana via virtual telehealth appointments for some patients, among other changes. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee killed the bill at the request of bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Van Winkle (R), who said he was not able to reach agreement with opponents to move the measure forward. Van Winkle said he would be back to try again.

Psychedelics

Virginia Bill to Reduce Psilocybin Penalties Dies in House. A bill to lower penalties for possessing psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, as well as psilocybin advisory board to move toward therapeutic access, Senate Bill 932, has died in the House after being approved in the Senate. It was killed in the House Rules Committee on a 13-5 vote, joining two other psilocybin reform bills in the ash heap of history. A 2022 psilocybin decriminalization bill failed, as did a bill earlier this year that would have ended felony possession charges for people 21 and over.

Harm Reduction

 

. The city of Denver passed a resolution four years ago to allow safe injection sites but has been stymied because they remain illegal under state law. Now, lawmakers hoping to rectify that contradiction have filed a bill, House Bill 23-1202, that would allow the city to move forward with an "overdose prevention center." So far every lawmaker in support of the bill is a Democrat. In addition to allowing drug users to inject under medical supervision, the bill would provide access to sterile equipment, fentanyl testing, counseling, and referrals to treatment. It is now before the Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee. Safe injection sites currently operate in only two states, New York and Rhode Island.

VA House GOP Blocks Marijuana Sales, Ireland to Have Citzens' Assembly on Drug Policy, More... (2/15/23)

Senate Majority Leader Schumer is trying to get some movement on marijuana legislation, a psilocybin research bill advances in Arizona, and more.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) looking thoughtful during a January trip to the border. (Sen. Blackburn)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Meets with Senate Republicans to Discuss Marijuana Legislation. After meeting earlier this month with key Senate Democrats to discuss how to move forward with marijuana legislation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met Tuesday with three Republican senators, Steve Daines (R-MT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in a bid to find bipartisan consensus. Access to financial services for the industry was a central point of discussion, and advocates are calling for passage of "SAFE Plus," which would include banking reforms as well as some social equity provisions. The Republicans with whom Schumer met were all cosponsors of Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the last Congress.

Louisiana Marijuana Legalization Bills Prefiled. Rep. Candace Newell (D) has prefiled a package of bills that would legalize marijuana. House Bill 17would allow the Department of Agriculture to manage and issue 10 cultivation and processing licenses and 40 permits for retail dispensaries. House Bill 24 would decriminalize cannabis possession and distribution. House Bill 12, which has yet to be prefiled, will take on taxation. Newell has filed legalization bills in two previous sessions, but split up the legislation this time around: "I’ve separated the three bills. It’s legalization, regulation, and taxation. So each bill does its own thing," Newell said.

Texas Bill Would Allow Localities to Legalize Marijuana. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D) has filed House Bill 1937, which would allow cities and counties to legalize up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in their jurisdictions and tax marijuana sales at 10 percent. The bill faces cloudy prospects in the Republican-dominated legislature and an almost certain veto by Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Virginia House Republicans Kill Marijuana Sales Bill. Republican members of the House General Laws Subcommittee voted Tuesday to kill Senate Bill 1133, which would have allowed the state to begin issuing marijuana cultivation licenses this July and  retail licenses in July 2004. The bill had passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but died in the subcommittee on a party line 5-3 vote. In 2021, a then Democratically-controlled legislature legalized marijuana and called for retail sales to begin by January 1, 2024, but the now Republican-dominated House has refused to pass enabling regulatory legislation.

Psychedelics

Arizona Psilocybin Research Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a bill to promote research into the possible medical uses of psilocybin mushrooms, House Bill 2486. The bill would provide $30 million in grants for research to study the effect of psilocybin on 13 specified conditions, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and long COVID. Researchers would be working with whole psilocybin mushrooms.

Drug Policy                                                                                 

Federal Bill to Punish Accused Border Drug, Human Traffickers Filed. Borrowing a page from the 1980s drug prohibitionist playbook, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is rolling out a bill that would deny accused drug or human traffickers access to welfare, public housing, and other federal benefits. Blackburn's Stop Taxpayer Funding of Traffickers Act would "prohibit anyone charged with drug or human trafficking at our international borders or in our territorial waters from receiving federal government benefits," including Social Security. The bill also contains a provision allowing for people who are found not guilty to receive any back payments that had been blocked.

International

Irish Government Creates Citizens' Assembly on Drugs to Examine Drug Policy. The government has approved a people's consultative body to conduct a thorough examination of Irish drug policies within a nine-month timeframe. "The Citizens’ Assembly will be asked to consider the legislative, policy, and operational changes the State could make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals, families, communities, and wider society," the government said. The assembly will examine both Irish and international approaches to drug use and supply, as well as analyzing the operations of state agencies, including health, law enforcement, education, housing, and social welfare.  

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School