Decriminalization

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Officials Now Say Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Scare a False Alarm, Competing CO Psychedelic Inits, More...(2/1/22)

A Calfornia Republican lawmaker wants to go back to the bad old days, Colorado now sees competing psychedelic legalization initiatives, and more.

fentanyl (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California GOP Bill Would Make Unlicensed Marijuana Cultivation a Felony Again. Assemblyman Thurston Smith (R-Riverside) has filed a bill that would recriminalize growing marijuana plants without a license, Assembly Bill 1725. The bill would make growing more than six plants without a license a felony punishable by up to three years in jail. Smith said his bill was aimed at enormous illegal grow operations. "These illicit growers have been operating with impunity, knowing that the law allows them to grow with barely a hindrance. For far too long, (state lawmakers in) Sacramento (have) been soft on crime, and the illicit market has exploded with massive unlicensed grows popping up all around the state." The bill faces long odds in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Massachusetts Marijuana Host Community, Social Equity Bill Advances. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy took up legislation aimed at putting tighter rules on legally required contracts between hosts communities and marijuana businesses and establishing a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. The measure, House Bill 174 faced no opposition in the committee. The bill is a priority of House Speaker Ron Mariano (D), and takes on aspects of the state's pot laws that both regulators and the industry have said need to be addressed.

"The gap between the law's stated commitment to equity and the on-the-ground reality of the industry shows just how much work we have left to do," Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, said. "There's universal agreement about the problems: high costs of entry and lack of access to capital create a near-impossible barrier for many talented entrepreneurs. This bill addresses both sides of that coin. I'm thrilled we're finally advancing it."

Opioids

Connecticut Scare on Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Mostly Unfounded, State Says. The state Department of Health reported in November that nearly 40 overdoses were linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, but it now turns out that there was only one case -- and that case was most likely caused by accidental contamination. In the original report, the state said there had been 39 overdoses believed linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, that the patients required revival with naloxone, and they "denied any opioid use and claimed to have only smoked marijuana." But the health department says at least 30 of the 39 had histories of opioid use.

The department also said that only one marijuana sample tested positive for fentanyl. "Based on the information gathered since the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl, the CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident," a department spokesman said. Boyle wrote in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media. The contamination likely occurred when the dealer "failed to clean their instruments before processing the marijuana and cross-contaminated it with fentanyl," he said.

Psychedelics

Colorado Sees Second Psychedelic Initiative Filed. Activists with Decriminalize Nature Boulder County have filed an initiative that would allow people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, gift and deliver psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT. The initiative would also allow psychedelic services for therapeutic, spiritual, guidance, or harm reduction purposes with or without accepting payment. A separate psychedelic initiative backed by New Approach PAC and David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap company, the Natural Medicine Health Act, envisions a two-tiered regulatory model where only psilocybin would be legalized and regulated for therapeutic purposes until June 2026, after which regulators could add other psychedelics.

MS Lawmakers Reach Agreement on MedMJ Bill, Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decrim, More... (1/26/22)

Thailand takes another big step toward marijuana decriminalization, San Francisco is turning a blind eye to drug use at a Tenderloin services center, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms got some attention in Seattle, Oklahoma City and Richmond this week. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Medical Marijuana Bill. House and Senate lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on medical marijuana legislation and were preparing to finalize details of the legislation this week before sending the bill to Gov. Tate Reeves (R). The bill was amended in the House to reduce the amount of medical marijuana available each month for patients, in line with the concerns of Gov. Reeves. The agreement comes more than a year after voted approved a medical marijuana initiative only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Ohio Bill to Add Autism as Medical Marijuana Qualifying Condition Advances. The House Health Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 60, which would add autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the House Rules and Reference Committee, which decides which bills get a floor vote. Bill cosponsor Rep. Bill Seize (R-Cincinnati) said he was optimistic the bill would get a floor vote. "This is a good, bipartisan bill," he said, pointing out that 14 other legislators from both parties are cosponsors.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Republicans File Bills to Decriminalize Psilocybin, Encourage Research on Medical Benefits. State Reps. Daniel Pae (R) and Logan Phillips (R) have filed a pair of bills that would promote research into psilocybin's therapeutic potential, and one of them would also decriminalize small-time possession of the drug. The bills are designed to give lawmakers different options to reach similar objectives, but Pae's bill would also decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce and half of psilocybin.

Virginia House Committee Pushes Back Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill to Next Year. The House Courts of Justice Subcommittee has voted to delay consideration of a bill to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics, House Bill 898, until 2023. The move came even after the bill was amended by its sponsor, Del. Dawn Adams (D), to only apply to medical practitioners and people using psychedelics with a practitioner. The object for the delay is to build support and try again next year. A similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 262, remains alive.

Seattle City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council on Monday night approved a resolution to decriminalize a wide range of activities around psychedelic drugs, including the cultivation and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine and non-peyote-derived mescaline. It was already Seattle policy not to arrest or prosecute people for personal drug possession, but this resolution further protects the cultivation and sharing of psychedelic plants for reasons of "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices."

Harm Reduction

Wisconsin Legislature Passes Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill that would decriminalize fentanyl test strips. Under current law, the overdose prevention tool is considered drug paraphernalia. At least one public health initiative, Vivent Health (formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin), has already distributed nearly 46,000 test strips anonymously, with no questions asked.

San Francisco Allowing People to Use Drugs Inside New Tenderloin Treatment Linkage Center. The city is turning a blind eye to drug use in an outdoor area of the mayor's new Tenderloin Linkage Center in United Nations Plaza. At the center, the city offers basic hygiene services, food, clothing, and referrals to treatment and housing services inside the building. The drug use is going on in a fenced-in area outside the building. Critics have accused the city of running an "illicit drug consumption site," but a spokesman for Mayor London Breed (D) said that the "emergency initiative is about doing everything we can to help people struggling with addiction, and getting them connected to services and treatment. As part of that, the linkage center is serving as a low-barrier site to bring people off the street."

International

Thai Narcotics Control Board Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced Wednesday that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the removal of marijuana from the country's list of controlled substances. The delisting will next be formally singed by Charnvirakul and will go into effect 120 days after notice is published in the government gazette. The move definitely clears the way for the cultivation and production of medical marijuana and hemp, but it was unclear is marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense.

DEA Proposes Scheduling Five Tryptamines, RI Governor to Push for Marijuana Legalization, More... (1/21/22)

Legislators in a pair of red states attempt to deal with mounting pressure for medical marijuana, a Washington state bill moves to end employment-related marijuana testing, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms could be decriminalized under a New Hampshire bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Governor Renews Push for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dan McKee (D) has included marijuana legalization in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget, calling for the "phased-in introduction of retail licenses." The state Senate overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization in the last session, but the legislature adjourned with no vote in the House. Lawmakers are reportedly working on a compromise between the Senate bill, which envisioned up to 150 retail outlets, and the governor's initial plan, which called for only 25 retail licenses. Both the Senate bill and the governor's plan include social equity provisions.

Washington State Bill Would End Employment Drug Tests for Marijuana. State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) has sponsored Senate Bill 5517, which would amend the state's employment drug testing law to exclude marijuana -- with a couple of notable exceptions. One exception would allow employers to continue to screen for marijuana if they create "drug-free workplace" written policies, including employee education and supervisor training. The other exception would be for federal employees, because marijuana remains federally illegal.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Bill Would Allow Use of Spray Derived from Marijuana. A pair of Republican legislators have filed a bill, House Bill 446, that would allow people suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders to have access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana. The spray, Nabiximols, is manufactured by GW Pharma and is currently undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the Food & Drug Administration. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, and would be the second such drug. The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing.

Idaho has been one of the most recalcitrant states when it comes to marijuana law reform. Last year, a medical marijuana bill in the House didn't even receive a hearing, while the Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature -- not voters in an initiative -- sole authority to legalize marijuana or any other drugs.

Nebraska Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill Filed in Bid to Blunt Initiative Campaign. Conservative state Sen. Mike Groene (R-North Platte) has filed a bill, LB 1275, that would allow patients with stage IV cancers, uncontrollable seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, or a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the form of an oil or pill. Patients under 19 would need written certification from three different practitioners.

Groene was open that his bill is an effort to blunt an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign. "I don't want it to pass," he said. "I want the elected officials in charge of the future of this, to define it and change it over time if necessary, to have the medical people in (the Department of Health and Human Services) write the bills."

Psychedelics

DEA Proposes Labeling Five Psychedelic Tryptamines as Schedule I Controlled Substances. The DEA announced last Friday that it intends to criminalize five tryptamines as Schedule I controlled substances. The five are: 4-Hydroxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (4-OH-DiPT), 5-Methoxy-alphamethyltryptamine (5-MeO-AMT), N-Isopropyl-5-Methoxy-N-Methyltryptamine (5-MeO-MiPT), N,N-Diethyl-5-methoxytryptamine (5-MeO-DET), and N,N-Diisopropyltryptamine (DiPT).

The agency has been monitoring the substances as drugs of concern for more than two decades, sent data on them to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 and received medical and scientific reports on them from DHS in 2012. Last year, the agency noted that, "These five tryptamines have no known medical use in the United States and are not marketed internationally as approved drug products. They have all been reported as drugs of abuse in the US by law enforcement authorities and identified in seizures."

It's not a done deal yet, though. Anyone can visit the Federal Register to comment on the proposal until February 14. Some psychedelic sciences companies have already registered their objections.

New Hampshire Psilocybin Mushroom Decriminalization Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators have filed House Bill 1349-FN, which would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 12 grams of 'shrooms, enough for several psychedelic experiences.

MS House Passes MedMJ Bill, MO Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (1/20/22)

A marijuana services company has filed a federal lawsuit over massive cash seizures by cops in California and Kansas, the Colombian Constitutional Court puts the kibosh on spraying coca crops with herbicide, and more.

Colombian coca farmers will not have to worry about having toxic herbicides dumped on their fields. (DEA)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Amends Medical Marijuana Bill to Lower Possession Limits, Then Passes It. The House on Wednesday approved the Senate's medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2095, but only after amending it to lower the amount of marijuana flower patients can possess each month from 3.5 ounces to 3 ounces. The Senate had previously lowered the limit from 4 ounces to 3.5 in a bid to soothe the concerns of Governor Tate Reeves (R), who has expressed worry that the bill allowed patients too much marijuana. The bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate rejects the House's amended limit, the bill would then go to conference committee to hash out the differences.

Asset Forfeiture

Marijuana Services Company Sues Cops in California and Kansas Over Seizures of $1.2 Million in Cash. Empyreal Logistics, a company that uses armored cars to transport cash to and from marijuana businesses, has had its vehicles stopped and cash seized on five separate occasions since last May by sheriff's deputies in Kansas and California. The stops resulted in no citations or criminal charges, but the deputies seized $1.2 million in cash under state civil forfeiture law.

Now, with the help of the Institute for Justice, Empyreal has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the seizures violate state law, federal law, and the US Constitution. In a complaint it filed last Friday in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Empyreal says it is "entitled to protection from highway robberies, regardless of whether they are conducted by criminals or by the Sheriff and federal law-enforcement agencies acting under color of law."

In both California and Kansas, local sheriffs handed the seizures over to the DEA in a bid to circumvent state laws limiting seizures and who profits from them. The lawsuit charges that the DEA's involvement violates the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, a spending rider that bars the Justice Department (which includes the DEA and the FBI) from using any of its funds to interfere with the implementation of state laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Because the DEA violated that restriction, the company says, it also violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. And because the seizure was motivated by the prospect of financial gain, the lawsuit says, it violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

Drug Policy

Arizona Bill Would End Restriction on Food Stamp Benefits to Drug Felons. A bill that would remove requirements that people with past felony drug convictions agree to random drug testing and to taking part in a drug treatment program in order to access the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP) has passed its first hurdle. Sponsored by Rep. Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), the measure, House Bill 2060, was approved unanimously on Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Missouri Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine. The measure, House Bill 2469, would make low-level drug possession an infraction punishable by a maximum $100 fine or participation in a drug treatment program if ordered by a court. The bill would decriminalize up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine. The bill also lowers charges for possessing some quantities greater than personal use from felonies to misdemeanors. It currently has no hearing scheduled.

International

Colombia High Court Blocks Government Plan to Spray Coca Crops with Toxic Herbicide. The country's Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the administration of conservative President Iván Duque cannot spray the herbicide glyphosate on coca crops without the consent of rural communities. That effectively blocks the proposed renewal of spraying. The ruling came after rural black and indigenous communities sued to block the plan, saying the herbicide causes disease, destroys traditional crops and pollutes the water.

The court imposed a one-year deadline for agreement to be reached to allow spraying, effectively blocking the Duque administration, which leaves office in August, from moving forward before then. Spraying the coca crop with glyphosates was done in the past but blocked by the Constitutional Court in 2015. President Duque has spent the four years of his administration trying to get it going again.

New York City's Plans to Install Naloxone Vending Machines [FEATURE]

The city of New York is about to embark on a new program aimed at reducing the toll of drug overdoses in the city: naloxone vending machines. Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug that has saved tens of thousands of lives, and the city wants it to be conveniently and easily available.

vending machine with naloxone and other harm reduction supplies, Cincinnati (caracole.org)
In December 2020, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Fund for Public Health published a request for proposals (RFP) to install ten vending machines dispensing naloxone, as well as other wellness goods, such as safe sex items and toiletries, for its Public Health Vending Machine Initiative.

"The purpose of this RFP is to support low-barrier access to overdose prevention and harm reduction supplies," the department said.

Bids are due later this week, with a contract start-up date of February 7. The program will run through June at a cost of $730,000. The machines will be installed in all five boroughs of the city in neighborhoods most impacted by drug overdoses.

The priority neighborhoods mentioned in the RFP are scattered throughout the city's five boroughs and include East New York, Crotona-Tremont, Highbridge-Morrisania, Hunts Point-Mott Haven, Fordham- Bronx Park, Pelham-Throgs Neck, Central Harlem, East Harlem Union Square, Rockaway, Stapleton-St. George, and South Beach-Tottenville.

"Overdose deaths in New York City are not equally distributed citywide, with some groups and neighborhoods disproportionately experiencing increases in the rate of overdose death," the department explained in the RFP. "During the previous three years, overdose rates among White New Yorkers decreased; however, rates increased among Black New Yorkers during the past year and rates among Latinx New Yorkers have increased for five consecutive years. Structural racism in drug policy and enforcement has been linked to decreased access to services, poorer health outcomes, and increased overdose risk."

The department reported that opioid overdose deaths had reached "epidemic levels" by 2019, with 1,463 unintentional overdose deaths in the city. More than four out five of those overdose deaths involved opioids, with the fast-acting synthetic opioid fentanyl involved in more than two thirds of them.

The city's move is earning kudos from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which says it supports the plan.

"This approach is consistent with harm reduction strategies that seek to meet people who use drugs where they're at and ensure that people have access to safe resources to prevent blood-borne illness and distributing naloxone to people who are the most likely to encounter an overdose and be able to save lives," said DPA director for civil systems reform Melissa Moore in an email with the Chronicle. "The free vending machines mean that people will be able to access these supplies on their schedule and on their timeline, and without the stigma or shame."

Moore noted that the city made the groundbreaking move of opening the nation's first officially sanctioned safe injection sites in December, but said there was still more to be done, especially around creating a safe drug supply.

"At this time there is a huge issue around poisoning and contamination in the drug supply (and significant disruption of the supply chain), so there is a need for more robust drug checking, especially for the amount of fentanyl in a substance, to save lives," she said. "This would include making sure that people who use drugs have access to this equipment at harm reduction programs. There can and should also be movement on safe supply options, as a way to further deal with the contamination and poisoning."

But's that is not all, she said.

"Additionally, if we want to save lives, reduce criminalization, and curb racial disparities, we need comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking approaches like decriminalizing personal possession of drugs. This would build on Measure 110, which was passed by two-thirds of voters in Oregon and codify proven public health approaches over criminalization and other failed enforcement tactics of the past."

New York City's naloxone vending machine program is a widely noted harm reduction innovation, but it is not the first in the country. That distinction may go to Las Vegas, which had naloxone vending machines in 2019. And last year, the city of Cincinnati rolled them out in March and the state of Indiana deployed 19 of them in December.

The overdose crisis requires innovation, and getting the opioid overdose reversal drug into the hands of people who could use it is a good example of that. It won't solve the problem -- that will require much more radical shifts in public policy -- but it will reduce the harm.

Overdose Surge Hits Black Men the Hardest, Austin No-Knock Raid Ban and Decrim Inits, More... (1/19/22)

The prospects for home marijuana gardens in the Garden State grow dim, black men are bearing the brunt of the fatal overdose crisis, and more.

Black men are dying of drug overdoses at a rate higher than any other demographic group. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Unlikely to Allow Home Marijuana Cultivation. Marijuana legalization proponent and incoming state Senate President Nick Scutari (D) has signaled that home cultivation of marijuana will not be allowed once the state's adult-use market launches. That launch date was originally set for the middle of next month but is now running behind schedule.

Scutari said he "did not see (home cultivation) happening right now" because it would only further the illicit marijuana market. "I'm not against marijuana being grown at home for medical purposes and maybe even just recreational purposes," Scutari said. "But we've got to let this industry… it's not even off the ground yet."

The issue of home cultivation is creating a divide between activists and marijuana businesses, with legal operators interested in minimizing home grows and protecting market share, while activists argue that medical marijuana patients in particular should have the right to grow their own.

Austin Marijuana Decriminalization, No-Knock Raid Ban Initiative Approved to Go Before Voters in May. The Austin City Council on Tuesday approved an activist-led initiative to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock police raids. That was the final obstacle on the path to putting the issue before city voters in municipal elections in May. The council could have adopted the measure as an ordinance, which activists said they would have preferred, but it instead deferred, leaving the call to the voters.

"The City Council's vote to schedule an election on the Austin Freedom Act is a testament to the incredible work of our organizers and volunteers who are fighting for progressive change in their community," Mike Siegel, political director of Ground Game Texas, said. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, voters will have the opportunity in May to end the criminalization of marijuana possession and the dangerous practice of no-knock police raids."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Medical Marijuana. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are teaming up in a bid to make it more difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana-related products, and they are aiming at Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. Delta-9 THC is the most potent psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but Delta-8 also produces psychoactive effects and is considered legal under federal law because it has never been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Sponsored by Reps. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), House Bill 679 would increase regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The bill would prohibit Delta-8 sales to people under 21, limit advertising toward children, create evaluation procedures for new products, and prevent medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profit.

Harm Reduction

Recent Overdose Surge Has Hit Black Men the Hardest. The Pew Research Center reports that amidst a record surge in drug overdose deaths, "while overdose death rates have increased in every major demographic group in recent years, no group has seen a bigger increase than Black men. As a result, Black men have overtaken American Indian or Alaska Native men and White men as the demographic group most likely to die from overdoses." Black men die of drug overdoses at a rate of 54.1 per 100,000, overtaking Native American men (52.1) and white men (44.2). Latino men died at a lower rate of 27.3 per 100,000, with Asian American men bringing up the rear with a rate of 8.5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychedelics

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

Harm Reduction

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

International

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

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

Global Coalition to Internationally Reschedule Psilocybin, Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill, More... (1/12/22)

A Florida bill seeks to make it easier to prosecute drug overdoses as murders, an Austin initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession has enough signatures to qualify for the May ballot, and more.

Austin voters are nearly set to vote on a municipal marijuana decriminalization initiative in May. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Austin Appears Headed for May Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Measure. The Austin city clerk verified Monday that a campaign to put a measure on the May municipal ballot to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock raids has collected enough signatures to qualify. But the city council must first vote to put it on the ballot. The measure, backed by Ground Game Texas, would bar Austin police from ticketing or arresting people for low-level marijuana or pot paraphernalia charges, or paying to test substances suspected of being marijuana. But possession would remain a misdemeanor under state law, and it is unclear whether Austin police would abide by such an ordinance.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Legislature Takes Up Medical Marijuana. More than a year after voters approved medical marijuana and months after the state Supreme Court nullified the will of the voters, the state legislature is ready to respond. On Tuesday, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) filed Senate Bill 2095, which has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and could see action as soon as this week. If it passes the committee, it would then head for a Senate floor vote. Then it would go to the House, but House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R) has said medical marijuana is not a big priority of his.

Sentencing Policy

Florida Bill to Ease Murder Prosecutions in Drug Overdose Cases Advances. A bill that would make it easier to prosecute fatal drug overdoses as first-degree murder cases was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Sponsored by state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), Senate Bill 190 would lower the standard for bringing a murder charge from requiring that prosecutors prove the drug was the "proximate cause" of an overdose death to proving only that it was a "substantial factor."

Brodeur said prosecutors were complaining that they were having difficulty bringing murder charges because "very frequently victims have multiple substances” in their systems when they overdose. "In moving from proximate cause to substantial factor, what we're saying is, rather than getting a battle of the experts that have to prove that this (drug) was the actual cause of death versus something else in your system, as long as there was enough of this one by itself to cause death, that’s enough for prosecution. And that makes it much simpler," Brodeur said.

Public defenders warned that the measure could remove the incentive for people to report overdoses "if they know that there’s a possible death penalty prosecution" that could result. The bill also would add methamphetamine to the list of drugs that can be eligible for first-degree murder charges in overdose deaths. That list currently includes such substances as cocaine, opium and fentanyl. The proposal also would toughen penalties for selling controlled substances within 1,000 feet of facilities that provide substance abuse treatment.

A similar House Bill (HB 95) needs approval from the House Judiciary Committee before it could go to the House floor for consideration.

International

Global Coalition Launches Push to Reschedule Psilocybin Under International Rules. The newly formed International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative (ITPRI) has announced a new campaign to get psilocybin mushrooms rescheduled at the international level. The group says it is seeking the change in order to ease barriers to research. Member organizations include the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Beckley Foundation, Mind Medicine Australia, Drug Science and Open Foundation. The coalition wants psilocybin removed from Schedule I of the UN's 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, arguing that it is neither especially risky nor with only limited therapeutic uses, the two conditions required for drugs to be placed in Schedule I. As a first step, the coalition will attempt to find a UN member nation to ask for a formal review of the risks and benefits of the psychedelic.

Canada Opens Legal Pathway for Access to Psychedelic Treatment with MDMA, Psilocbyin, More... (1/11/22)

The nation's top spook announces an easing of rules around past marijuana use and national security clearances, the New Jersey legislature approves needle exchange expansion and syringe decriminalization bills, and more.

psilocybin molecule (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Director of National Intelligence Gives Clarification on Marijuana Issues and Clearance Holders. In guidance released late last year, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines clarified the intelligence community's policy regarding security clearances for people who have used marijuana. Under previous policy, people needed to have not used marijuana for one to two years before applying for a national security position, but now the policy is that past marijuana use should not be determinative, but that they needed to stop using if they were being considered for a position: "In light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process, which commences once the individual signs the certification contained in the Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions."

The new guidance also addresses investing in marijuana businesses, warning that people seeking clearances should not do so, and it warns people seeking security clearances to be wary of using CBD products -- although it doesn't forbid it. "With respect to the use of CBD products, agencies should be aware that using these cannabis derivatives may be relevant to adjudications in accordance with SEAD 4." In other words, it could show up on a drug test.

Virginia Republican Files Bill to Eliminate Social Equity Funding in Marijuana Program. State Sen. Thomas Norment Jr. has filed a bill, Senate Bill 107, that would eliminate social equity funding for the state's recreational marijuana program. The bill would delete the line in last year's marijuana legalization law that channels 30 percent of revenues into a marijuana equity investment fund. Although Democrats still control the state Senate, minority business advocates worry that the bill could still pass and are calling it an effort to dismantle provisions in the law that have strong public support. If the bill does not pass, the funding will go supporting licensing opportunities for small and minority-owned marijuana businesses.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Legislature Approves Bills Ending Requirement for Municipal Approval for Needle Exchanges. The legislature has passed the Syringe Access Bill (S-3009/A-4847) and the Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458), a pair of bills whose aim is to address the state's opioid overdose epidemic by easing access to clean needles, legalizing possession of needles, and expanding access to addiction services. The first pair of bills ends the requirement that municipalities pass an ordinance to okay local needle exchanges, while the second pair of bills legalized needle possession.

International

Canada Opens Legal Pathway for Access to Psychedelic Treatment with MDMA, Psilocbyin. Health Canada has amended federal regulations to allow doctors to request access to restricted drugs, such as MDMA and psilocybin, for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy. The regulatory change will allow physicians to use the Special Access Program, which allows healthcare practitioners to access drugs that have shown promise in clinical trials, or are approved in other countries, to seek permission to employ the drugs as therapeutics. The amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations was published in the Wednesday edition of the Canada Gazette, Canada's version of the federal register.

NYC Naloxone Vending Machines, No More New Orleans Marijuana Tickets, More... (1/10/22)

A Kentucky GOP lawmaker is trying once again to get a medical marijuana bill passed, a pair of Florida lawmakers file identical bills to legalize fentanyl test strips, and more.

Life is now a bit easier in the Big Easy. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Months After City Council Pardons Small-Time Marijuana Offenses, New Orleans Police Finally Quit Citing People. The New Orleans Police Department last Friday announced that when it comes to marijuana offenses, the agency will "no longer issue citations for simple possession alone." The move came only after a local media outlet published a story, "Despite council ordinance, people still forced to appear in court on simple possession of marijuana citations." The city council had unanimously approved an ordinance removing all criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession back in August, but the department kept citing people for it anyhow -- until now.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Republican Files Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Jason Nemes (R) is renewing his efforts to get a medical marijuana bill passed. After having been rebuffed in past sessions, he is back again this year with House Bill 136, which would create a restrictive medical marijuana program that would allow neither home cultivation nor the smoking of marijuana flowers. Patients could vape whole-plant products, though. Specific rules for the program -- such as qualifying conditions -- would be set by regulators after the bill is passed, but the following conditions will be included: any type of cancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea or vomiting and chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain.

Harm Reduction

Florida Lawmakers File Identical Bills to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. State Rep. Andrew Learned and state Sen. Shevrin Jones have filed identical bills to decriminalize a life-saving tool, known as fentanyl testing strips, for preventing opioid overdose.

The two bills, House Bill 6101 and Senate Bill 1668, would remove drug testing equipment from Florida's legal definition of drug paraphernalia, which currently includes "all equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, transporting, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance."

Under current state law, possession of fentanyl test strips is a misdemeanor and distribution, even by harm reduction groups, could be charged as a felony.

New York City to Install Naloxone Vending Machines in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. City health officials last month published a Public Health Vending Machine Initiative to install ten vending machines with the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in them. "The purpose of this RFP is to support low-barrier access to overdose prevention and harm reduction supplies," the department said. The machines will also dispense sterile syringes and other wellness goods, such as safe sex items and toiletries.

The machines will be installed in all five boroughs of the city in neighborhoods most impacted by drug overdoses. The request for proposals has a response due date of January 20 and a contract start-up date of February 7. The program will run through June at a cost of $730,000.

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