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CT Set to Become 19th Marijuana Legalization State, Another Filipino "Narco Politician" Gunned Down, More... (6/17/21)

A minor civil asset forfeiture bill advances in Michigan, another new poll has strong support for drug decriminalization, and more.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Connecticut is now before the governor. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Governor's Desk. With final votes in the House and Senate approving Senate Bill 1201, Connecticut is set to become the 19th state to legalize marijuana. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) had aired concerns about whether an equity program went too far in prioritizing marijuana business licenses for people with marijuana arrests or convictions—even if they were now wealthy—but late amendments in the legislature addressed those concerns, and he is now expected to sign the bill.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan House Approves Minor Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. On a vote of 108-1, the House on Tuesday approved House Bill 4240, which mandates the funds derived from civil asset forfeitures will be distributed "through the treasurer of the unit of government overseeing the law enforcement unit, so that they may be appropriated for uses that enhance enforcement of criminal laws." The bill comes after a scandal last year in which the former Macomb County prosecutor was charged with official misconduct and embezzlement of civil asset forfeiture funds while in office. The bill does not otherwise restrict civil asset forfeiture.

Drug Policy

Second Recent Poll Finds Strong Support for Ending War on Drugs. A new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab found that 71% of respondents said federal anti-drug policies aren't working and reform is needed, 59% supported decriminalizing drug possession, 60% support moving regulatory authority of drugs from the DEA to HHS, and even 55% support decriminalizing small-time drug sales. An ACLU/Drug Policy Alliance poll last week had even stronger results, with 83% saying the war on drugs had failed and 66% supporting drug decriminalization.

Law Enforcement

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Limited Policing Reforms. The Assembly has passed a package of bills approving police reform measures, including barring chokeholds unless an officer's life is under threat, requiring police who shoot someone to take a drug test, and tracking the use of no-knock warrants. But some Democrats said that failing to enact a complete ban on chokeholds and no-knock search warrants meant the Assembly was not seriously addressing the issue. Legislative leaders countered that the bills were a step in the right direction.

International

Another Filipino Accused of Being "Narco Politician" Shot Dead in Police Custody. Former Talitay Mayor Montasser Sabal was shot and killed by police Wednesday after they arrested him on drug trafficking charges. Police said he tried to grab a gun from officers while being brought to Manila. In May 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte identified 44 mayors and other elected officials as "narco politicians." More than 20 on the list have already been killed in similar circumstances. In cases where police ackowledge killing people in anti-drug operations during the Duterte drug war -- 6,117, a figure far lower than the 30,000 estimated by NGOs watching the situation, police claim those killed were resisting arrest ("nanlaban") in all but a few cases. In its request for authorization to investigate announced this week, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court wrote there is "a reasonable basis to believe that between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, members of Philippine security forces... deliberately killed thousands of civilians..."

National Poll Find Majority Supports Drug Decrim, CT Legal Pot Bill Delayed, More... (6/9/21)

Connecticut's marijuana legalization bill gets bumped to a special session later this month, Washington state marijuana regulators allow pot shops to hand out free joints to people who get vaccinated in-store, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Bill Delayed to Special Session. Facing threats of a filibuster from Republican House members on the last day of the regular session, House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) said he was delaying a planned vote on Senate Bill 1118 and would take up the topic during a special session later this month. That means the bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday, will technically die at midnight tonight and will have to pass both chambers during the special session.

Washington State Regulators Okay Joints for Jabs. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday it will allow licensed dispensaries to provide a free joint to customers who get vaccinated at in-store clinics. "Participating cannabis retailers may only provide a pre-roll joint, and no other product may be provided as part of this allowance," the board said. The temporary allowance will expire on July 12.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Patient Sues Former Employer for Firing Him for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use. A medical marijuana patient, Jamal Campbell, is suing his former employer, Watco Companies and Watco Transloading LLC, in federal court for firing him for using doctor-recommended medical marijuana to treat an injury he got at work. Campbell says the state's medical marijuana law should protect him. The state's top court ruled last year that employers cannot fire medical marijuana patients for marijuana use as long as they don't use it at work.

Pennsylvania Court Okays Unemployment Claim After Medical Marijuana Firing. A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that a warehouse worker fired from his job testing positive for marijuana is entitled to unemployment benefits because his employer was aware he was a medical marijuana patient. With its ruling, the court upheld an earlier decision by the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Governor Signs Therapeutic Psilocybin Study Bill. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) on Monday signed into law Senate Bill1083, which includes a provision mandating that the state carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms. "Such study shall include, but need not be limited to, an examination of whether the use of psilocybin by a person under the direction of a health care provider may be beneficial to the person's physical or mental wellbeing," the text of the measure states.

Drug Policy

On 50th Anniversary of "War on Drugs," New Poll Shows Majority of Voters Support Ending Criminal Penalties for Drug Possession, Think Drug War is a Failure. Wednesday, ahead of the 50th anniversary of when President Richard Nixon declared the "war on drugs," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) poll showing strong support for eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and replacing it with a new approach centered in public health. The poll found 66% of voters support "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," 63% say drug use should be addressed as a public health issue while only 33% say it should be addressed as a criminal justice issue, 65% support ending the "War on Drugs," 64% support repealing mandatory minimums for drug offenses, 61% support commuting sentences of drug war prisoners, and a whopping 83% say the "War on Drugs" has failed.

Drug Reform Pioneer Kevin Zeese Dies at Age 64

The American drug reform movement lost one of its pioneers on Sunday. Attorney Kevin Zeese died of a heart attack at home after going to bed Saturday night. He was only 64.

Kevin Zeese addresses a rally in Washington, DC, in 2006. (Elvart Barnes/Creative Commons)
Upon graduating from George Washington University School of Law in 1980, Zeese moved immediately into what was then a very lonely movement to end marijuana prohibition, becoming general counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and then being selected as NORML's executive director from 1983 to 1986. During his time at NORML during the dark days of the Reagan era, he emerged as one of the earliest advocates of medical marijuana and successfully fought to end the spraying of herbicides on Mexican marijuana crops.

He didn't stop there. After leaving NORML, Zeese joined with the also recently passed Professor Arnold Trebach in 1987 to found the Drug Policy Foundation, which after merging with the Lindesmith Center in 2000 became the Drug Policy Alliance, the largest and most influential drug reform group in the country. He served as vice president and counsel to the Drug Policy Foundation from 1986 to 1994.

He didn't stop there. In 1993, he helped found the Harm Reduction Coalition, a groundbreaking organization that has successfully advocated for such measures as needle exchanges, treatment on demand, and overdose prevention campaigns, and is currently leading the fight to introduce the proven harm reduction practice of safe injection sites in the United States. The Harm Reduction Coalition is also notable for emphasizing the rights of drug users and demanding that their voices be heard in setting drug policies.

He didn't stop there, either. His next move was to found Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP) along with businessman Robert Field and attorney Melvin Allen. CSDP sought to broaden support for drug policy reform through a campaign of advertising in serious national magazines across the political spectrum ranging from Reason and the National Review on the right to the Nation and the Progressive on the left. Ever since 1998, CSDP has published and updated the pamphlet Drug War Facts, a veritable activists' Bible of facts and citations related to drug policy issues. Zeese served as CSDP president up until his death.

Nor did he stop there. Broadening his horizons in the current century, and reflecting his disgust with the two-party political system, where he saw both major parties as corrupted by corporate capital, Zeese helped organized against the Iraq war and joined with Ralph Nader's Democracy Rising to push the group to embrace an antiwar position. Two years later, in 2006, he founded the national antiwar group Voters for Peace and served as its director until 2011.

Zeese with then-governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson and reformer group, probably late 1990s
Moving on to progressive third-party politics, Zeese advised campaigns for local Green Party candidates and joined the 2004 Ralph Nader presidential campaign, where he served as press secretary and spokesman for the candidate. In 2006, he ran for the US Senate in Maryland supported by the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Populist Party. He campaigned on withdrawing the US military and corporate interests from Iraq, economic and social justice, and electronic voting reform. He got only 1.5% of the vote.

And he didn't stop there. Zeese was active in the 2011 Occupy movement, participated in the takeover of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, last year to keep it from Washington-supported foes of leftist President Maduro, and had continued to be involved in Green Party politics up until his last breath.

Joey Tranchina, who opened a syringe program in the early 1990s, and fought San Mateo County to make it legal with Zeese's help, wrote, "Kevin is the best activist field commander I've ever worked with. I never had more fun working with people or arguing with them. Kevin was not into the romance of lost causes; he fought to change evil things, that most people could not imagine ever changing."

Kevin Zeese left a powerful legacy for the drug reform movement and for progressive politics more broadly, but this recitation of biographical facts hardly does him justice. He was whip-smart, passionate, curious, fun and fun-loving. He was always ready to share a joint or a laugh (or both). I'm deeply saddened that he is gone so soon. And when I position his photo for this piece, I will make sure that it aligns left, not right.

Baltimore & Philadelphia to End Drug Arrests Due to COVID-19, SAMSHA Eases Opioid Treatment Rules, More... (3/23/20)

Baltimore and Philadelphia stop drug arrests in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, SAMSHA eases opioid maintenance treatment rules for the same reason, and more.

The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on drug policy issues. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Hartford Courant and Sacred Heart University has 63.4% of state residents in favor of ending marijuana prohibition. The poll comes as lawmakers push to advance a legalization bill backed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D). The poll found that 34.4% "strongly support" legalization, while 29.9% "somewhat support" it.

Iowa Poll Has First Time Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll has 53% support for marijuana legalization, the first time the Iowa Poll has registered majority support for the move. As recently as 2013, only 29% supported legalization.

New York Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Still on the Agenda. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Monday that marijuana legalization remained a priority despite the coronavirus crisis. Asked about his legislative priorities during a briefing on the crisis, Cuomo said "I want to do legalizing marijuana," adding that he also wants to achieve a controversial bail reform measure through the budget.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate last week approved a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 165. The measure would allow people with a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions - including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It also would let them purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. It now goes to the House.

Hemp

Idaho House Kills Hemp Legalization Bill. Lawmakers in the House State Affairs Committee voted 8-7 to kill Senate Bill 1345, which would have legalized industrial hemp production in the state. Although the bill had passed the Senate, it ran into opposition from anti-cannabis activists and law enforcement, who warned that it could lead to a "hemp-marijuana culture" in the state.

Drug Policy

CDC Reports 4% Decline in Opioid, Heroin Overdose Deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that overall overdose death rates nationwide dropped 4.1% from 2017 to 2018. Deaths from heroin use dropped by 4%, while prescription opioid deaths dropped by 13.5%. "Decreases in overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin reflect the effectiveness of public health efforts to protect Americans and their families," Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, said in a press release. "While we continue work to improve those outcomes, we are also addressing the increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. We must bring this epidemic to an end," Redfield said. Synthetic opioid deaths were actually up 10%.

Baltimore to End Most Drug Prosecutions Amid Coronavirus Outbreak. In a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D) is moving to dismiss pending charges against most people accused of drug offenses. According to her guidance to staff, things like drug possession, attempted drug distribution, prostitution, traffic offenses and public urination are among the offenses that shouldn't land people being bars at this point. "This policy is in place for now as an attempt to save lives," Mosby said. "We will assess the policy at a later date and time when this global pandemic is over."

Philadelphia Police Halt Drug Arrests During Coronavirus Outbreak. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw last week ordered the department to begin delaying arrests for low-level offenses, including drug offenses. Crimes including theft, burglary, prostitution, stolen automobiles, vandalism, and certain economic crimes will no longer automatically result in detention. Instead, officers will temporarily detain suspects to identify them, then release them with an arrest warrant issued at some later date.

Drug Treatment

SAMHSA Eases Opioid Treatment Rules in Response to Coronavirus. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced policy changes easing the rules for home treatment of opioid use disorder as a response to the coronavirus crisis. The agency issued a directive allowing some patients in opioid treatment programs to take home a 28-day supply of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. For less stable patients, SAMSHA is authorizing a 14-day take-home supply.

International

Paraguay Issues First Medical Marijuana Licenses. Late last month, the government issued its first medical marijuana licenses. Twelve pharmaceutical companies received licenses to import seeds for the domestic cultivation and sale of medical marijuana, which will be provided free to eligible patients.

Chronicle AM: OK Bills Would Legalize Needle Exchanges, HI Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (2/18/20)

Rhode Island sees marijuana expungement and drug possession expungement bills filed, a Vermont poll shows strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana sales as the House takes up the issue, a Hawaii drug defelonization bill has been filed, and more.

Oklahoma legislators are pondering a pair of needle exchange bills this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Marijuana Offense Expungement Bill Filed. A bill aiming to remove barriers for people previously convicted of marijuana offenses have been filed in the legislature. Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) has filed HB 7142 to allow people "previously convicted of marijuana possession, which would now constitute a decriminalized offense, to have their records for those convictions automatically expunged regardless of their criminal history." The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Vermont Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Legal, Regulated Marijuana Sales.  A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. These results are significant as they come days before the Vermont House is expected to vote on SB 54, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales in the state. The bill passed the Senate nearly a year ago.

Washington House Passes Bill to Address Racial Inequities in Marijuana Licensing. The House on Sunday approved HB 2870, which aims to address racial inequity within the legal marijuana industry by allowing applicants of a new social equity program to be issued previously forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses. That new program would consider the applicant's race and gender, history of marijuana convictions, and plans to employ people of color, as well as the impact the war on drugs had on their neighborhood. There are currently 13 licenses not being used. The bill would also establish a marijuana social equity task force to recommend whether more licenses should be issued. The bill is now in the Senate and must be passed out of committee by February 28.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. Along with Mississippi and South Dakota, Idaho is one of only three states that have not legalized hemp, but that could change after a pair of Republican state representatives filed a bill that would legalize it. A similar bill has already been filed in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Hawaii Drug Defelonization Bill Advances. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to be caught with less than two grams of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 2793 still needs to be approved in the Senate Public Safety Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote.

Rhode Island Drug Possession Expungement Bill Filed. Rep. Jason Knight (D) has filed HB 7091, which makes peopleconvicted of felony simple possession of a controlled substance eligible for expungement five years after completion of their sentence. The act also repeals the requirement that those seeking expungement pay a fee to the court. The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Harm Reduction

Oklahoma Bill Would Legalize Needle Exchanges. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is proposing legalizing needle exchanges in a bid to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. SB 1346 from Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City) would would allow governmental or nongovernmental entities to operate needle exchange programs. It would also remove needles from the state's drug paraphernalia laws. The bill must pass through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading for a floor vote. In the House, Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) has filed HB 3028, which would allow state agencies, county health departments, private businesses, nonprofit entities and churches to operate needle exchange programs so long as the programs aren’t paid for with state funding. That bill passed the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

Chronicle AM: Drug ODs May Have Peaked, New Gallup Marijuana Poll, More... (6/12/19)

New data from the CDC suggests the overdose epidemic may have peaked, a new Gallup poll shows support for marijuana legalization remains strong, Oregon passes an interstate marijuana commerce bill, and more.

The latest Gallup poll has support for legalization at 64%, down two points from October. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 64% Nationwide. A Gallup poll released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at 64%, down two points from the last Gallup poll in October. The poll also asked why people opposed or supported legalization. The top reason for opposition was concern about impaired driving, while the top reason for support was because of its medical value to patients.

California Appeals Court Rules Prisoners Can Possess -- But Not Use -- Marijuana. The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the convictions of five state prisoners for marijuana possession, ruling that Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana in the state, made possession of under an ounce of marijuana legal -- even in prison. But smoking or ingesting marijuana in prison is still a felony.

Oregon Legislature Approves Bill for Interstate Marijuana Commerce. The House on Tuesday approved SB 582, which would allow the governor to enter into agreements with other states for the import and export of marijuana. The Senate has already approved the bill, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Elaine Brown (D), who is expected to sign it. The bill moved in the House after a Republican representative from a prime marijuana-growing area urged its passage.

House Foe of DC Legalization Doesn't Bother to File Amendment Messing with City's Ability to Make Marijuana Policy. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) didn't bother to even propose his amendment to the DC appropriations bill on Tuesday, recognizing that it would go nowhere in the Democratically controlled House. For years, Harris has filed an amendment blocking the city from using its funds to implement marijuana commerce and taxation.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico to Expand Medical Marijuana Production. The state Health Department on Tuesday proposed new rules for marijuana production that would increase a 450-plant limit per grower to 1,750 mature plants per grower. The move is designed to ensure adequate supplies of medical marijuana without flooding the market.

Hemp

Texas Governor Signs Hemp Bill. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed into law HB 1325, which will create a state-regulated hemp industry. The law will allow hemp products, including CBD, to be sold as long as it contains no more than 0.3% THC.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Federal Data Suggests Overdose Epidemic Has Peaked. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Tuesday shows that the age-adjusted overdose mortality rate declined in the twelve months ending in the second quarter of 2018. The rate was 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 and increased steadily over the past two decades to 21.7 per 100,000 in 2017. Now, it has declined to 20.8 per 100,000. This isn't a final figure, but it is an encouraging sign.

International

Canadian Commons Committee Urges Government to Study Portuguese Model. The House of Commons Health Committee has called on the federal government to study Portugal's drug decriminalization and see how the model could be "positively applied in Canada." The recommendation came in a committee report produced after members held hearings across the country on drug use and abuse. "Witnesses recommended that the federal government examine the implementation of the Portuguese model of decriminalization of the possession of illicit substances, which included a scaling-up of treatment programs and the creation of diversion programs for offenders who commit crimes related to their substance-use disorders," the report says.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Sales Compromise Broached, MI Forfeiture Reform Passes, More... (4/26/19)

Vermont could yet end up with a regulated marijuana market, Iowa gets ready to grow some hemp, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan and North Dakota, and more.

Iowa is about to become the next state to legalize industrial hemp. Only seven states have failed to do so. (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Democrats Could Compromise on Driver Saliva Testing to Get Legal Sales Bill Passed. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said last week that he would not sign a bill to create a regulated legal marijuana market unless it included saliva testing of drivers, and now Democratic legislative leaders are signaling that they may support the testing, but only if police officers are required to obtain a search warrant before doing the testing. "I don't see any way the Senate would support saliva testing without a search warrant," said Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and cosponsor of the bill, SB 54.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. Senate Bill 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Hemp

Iowa Hemp Bill Passes, Heads for Governor's Desk. The House on Thursday gave final approval for a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming, HF 781. A companion measure has already passed the Senate. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Poll Examines Public Attitudes Over Opioid Epidemic. A new NPR/Ipsos poll examining American attitudes toward the opioid crisis has a slight majority (56%) saying pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse, and nearly three-quarters said drug companies should help fund opioid addiction treatment (73%) and distribute naloxone kits (72%). A strong majority (71%) said they were willing to have the government intervene to restrict opioid redistribution, while 66% said they supported more widespread distribution of naloxone. More than one in three (35%) said they had been personally affected, while nearly a quarter (23%) said they knew someone who had overdosed. The survey is not reported to have asked about pain patients' problems with accessing opioid medications.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Bills to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture Pass Legislature. A trio of bills that would end most civil asset forfeiture in the state has passed both houses of the legislature and is now headed for the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has signaled she will sign the bills into law. The bills require a criminal conviction before police can keep assets worth less than $50,000 seized in connection with a crime.

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House Over Sponsor's Objections. The House on Friday approved HB 1286, which reforms the state's asset forfeiture laws, but only after diluting it to such a degree that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), ended up voting against it. The bill would require a higher evidentiary standard of clear and convincing evidence for forfeiture, and it includes a provision to not forfeit property worth more than the associated criminal penalty. But it also allows seizure of property if there is evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" of the property's criminal involvement. "It's very, very confusing. It's a very odd loophole," Becker said of the latter exception. "It's putting a criminal proceeding standard into a civil proceeding with no trial."He also criticized the bill's reporting requirements as too weak. "I'm looking at the words in front of me," Becker said. "We had such good opportunity for real reform, and I'm happy to come back in two years and try again."

Chronicle AM: Beto, Bernie Talk Criminal Justice Reform; FDA Oks Ketamine for Depression, More... (3/6/19)

Democratic presidential contenders begin staking out criminal justice reform positions, yet another poll has a national majority for marijuana legalization, the FDA approves ketamine for depression, and more.

Bernie Sanders talks criminal justice reform, but he's not the only Democratic doing so. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Quinnipiac Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at 60% nationwide, with only 33% opposed. An even larger number of respondents (63%) said old marijuana arrest records should be expunged.

Texas Decriminalization Bill Gets Hearing. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a hearing Monday on House Bill 63, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) has been pushing the issue since 2015. No vote was taken.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia House Approves CBD Access Bill. The House on Tuesday approved HB 324, which would allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil to patients through dispensaries. The state legalized CBD cannabis oil for medicinal use in 2015, but there is no legal way to buy, sell, or obtain it. This bill would fix that. It now heads to the Senate.

Hawaii Will Allow Out of State Patients to Obtain Medical Marijuana. As of Tuesday, people with medical marijuana recommendations from other states are able to purchase medical marijuana while in the state. Officials said the change will ensure that visitors and part-time residents can get their medicine.

New Mexico Temporarily Boosts Plant Limits for Producers. The state health department issued an emergency rule last Friday to temporarily boost the number of plants producers can grow. The rule lifts the maximum from 450 plants to 2,500 plants through the end of August. The department will initiate a rule-making process to determine what the final plant count should be. The move comes amidst concerns over lack of supply.

Ketamine

FDA Approves Ketamine for Depression. The Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription treatment for depression that is derived from ketamine. The new treatment, called esketamine, is a nasal spray developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and will be sold under the brand name Spravato. The approval comes even as the FDA acknowledges that ketamine's anti-depressant properties are not well understood. Ketamine is an old anesthetic but has also been used as the club drug Special K in recent years.

Drug Policy

Beto O'Rourke Calls for Broad Drug, Criminal Justice Reforms. The Democratic presidential contender called for marijuana legalization and a "criminal justice system that is more fair and that urgently puts our country closer to the words written above the highest court in our land: equal justice under law" in an email to supporters this week. He also lambasted "the new Jim Crow" and the "school to prison pipeline," he said disproportionately targeted black children. He also called for an end to cash bail and the use of private prisons.

Bernie Sanders Calls for an End to the War on Drugs. In campaign rallies last weekend in Brooklyn and Chicago, the Vermont senator called for legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs, while calling for the need to address racial disparities in the emerging legal marijuana industry. "No more war on drugs that has destroyed so many lives," Sanders. "When we talk about criminal justice reform, we are going to change a system in which tens of thousands of Americans every year get criminal records for possessing marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying our economy in 2008," he said. "No, they didn't go to jail, they got a trillion dollar bailout."

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Clash with Police. Farmers in Cordoba province's Alto Sinu region who are returning to coca cultivation after two years of waiting for economic and security assistance that never arrived clashed with riot police as they protested the national government's failure to support the shift to substitute crops. They said they had been left no choice but to go back to coca. Coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia has reached an all-time high, having risen to 171,000 hectares in 2017 from 48,000 in 2013.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: NY, WI Pot Polls Look Good, MI Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances, More... (1/25/19)

New polls show strong support for marijuana legalization in New York and Wisconsin, Michael Bloomberg opines against legalization, and more.

Marijuana polling numbers are looking good in New York and Wisconsin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Possible Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg Calls Legalization Nonsensical. Former New York City mayor and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has set himself apart from most of the field by suggesting he would oppose marijuana legalization. He said that "to make it easier for people to engage in a behavior that has a significant possibility of damaging peoples health" is just nonsensical.

New York Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Quinnipiac poll has two out of every three New Yorkers supporting marijuana legalization. The poll comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the legislature are pushing for legalization in Albany. Every racial, age, sex, political and regional demographic favored legalization, with 65% in favor statewide and 31% opposed.

Wisconsin Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Marquette Law School poll has nearly three out of five residents in favor of marijuana legalization. The poll found support at 59% statewide, with 35% opposed. That's up dramatically from September 2014, when Marquette last polled the question. Back then, support was at only 46%, with 51% opposed.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would require a criminal conviction before police can permanently seize property or cash valued at less than $50,000 is now headed for a Senate floor vote. Senate Bill 2 passed out of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on 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.)

Medical Marijuana Update

One federal agency begins to move on allowing hemp-based CBD products, Florida's legal battle over medical marijuana takes another twist, and more.

National

FDA Begins Process of Allowing Hemp-Based CBD Products. After President Trump signed the 2018 farm bill into law Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release pledging to pursue means of allowing businesses to legally market products containing hemp or non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD. FDA also asserted its right to regulate such products. "In view of the proliferation of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived substances, the FDA will advance new steps to better define our public health obligations in this area," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. "We'll also continue to closely scrutinize products that could pose risks to consumers."

Delaware

Delaware Judge Rules Fired Medical Marijuana User Can Sue Former Employer. A factory worker fired from his job after failing a drug test can sue his former employer, Superior Court Judge Noel Primos ruled on Monday. Jeremiah Chance claims his firing violated the anti-discrimination provision of the state's medical marijuana law and that he was targeted for retaliation after pointing out safety issues with railroad ties manufactured by the Kraft Heinze plant in Dover. The company had argued that the anti-discrimination clause was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, but the judge disagreed. The law does "not require employers to participate in an illegal activity... but instead merely prohibits them from discriminating based upon medical marijuana use," Primos wrote.

Florida

Florida Legal Battle Over Medical Marijuana Takes Another Turn. A state appeals court this week agreed to stay a circuit court judge's ruling that the legislature and the Department of Health violated the state's voter-approved medical marijuana amendment. The ruling comes in a case involving a Tampa marijuana grower, which challenged caps placed on the number of medical marijuana licensees. While the 1st District Appeals Court approved the stay, it also said its final decision on the case would be "expedited."

Oregon

Oregon to Allow Medical Marijuana Deliveries in Areas That Ban Dispensaries. State regulators have approved medical marijuana deliveries in areas where dispensaries are banned effective December 28. The rules were approved last week after patient advocates voiced concern about rules that limited access to medical marijuana.

South Carolina

South Carolina Poll Has Strong Support for Medical Marijuana. A new poll from Benchmark Research finds that nearly three-quarters of South Carolinians are ready for medical marijuana. The poll had support at 72%, with even 63% of Republicans behind it. Medical marijuana bills last year won some committee votes, but were unable to advance.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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