Psychedelics

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Senate Democrats File Marijuana Legalization Bill, Bipartisan Psychedelics for Terminally Ill Bill Filed, More... (7/21/22)

Singapore is set to hang a drug offender today, Sensators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed a bill to allow the terminally ill to use certain psychedelics, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Senate Leadership Introduces Legislation to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), today introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The legislation repeals the federal criminal prohibition of marijuana, provides deference to states' cannabis policies, and establishes mechanisms to help repair the harms associated with the racially and economically disparate enforcement of prohibition. The CAOA removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act schedule entirely, ending the threat of federal prosecution for possession and licensed commercial activity, and allows states to implement their own cannabis policies free of federal interference. It also eliminates many problems facing regulated state cannabis markets, including lack of access to financial services, the inability to deduct standard business expenses when filing federal taxes, and the lack of uniform national regulatory standards and guidelines. The legislation also directs funding to reinvest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition and helps improve diversity and inclusion in regulated cannabis markets. The bill's prospects in the evenly-divided Senate are unclear, at best.

Psychedelics

Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Amend the Right to Try Act to Assist Terminally Ill Patients. US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced legislation Thursday to clarify that the Right to Try Act should allow terminally ill patients to have access to Schedule I drugs for which a Phase 1 clinical trial has been completed. Specifically, the Right to Try Clarification Act would remove any obstacle presented by the Controlled Substances Act with respect to Schedule I substances when they are used by doctors and patients in accordance with the federal Right to Try law. Companion legislation will be introduced in the House by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Nancy Mace (R-SC).

The federal Right to Try law permits patients who have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases or conditions, and who have exhausted all approved treatment options, access to certain treatments that have not yet received final FDA approval. In general, a drug is eligible for Right to Try use after a Phase 1 clinical trial has been completed for that drug but prior to the drug being approved or licensed by the FDA for any use. In other words, in limited conditions involving life threatening illness and for drugs that have been proven to be safe, the federal Right to Try law removes the FDA out of doctor-patient decisions and reverts regulation back to the states. Under the terms of the federal Right to Try law, states remain free to permit or prohibit Right to Try use under their own laws.

International

Singapore Set to Hang Drug Offender Today. The city-state is set to hang 64-year-old Singaporean citizen Nazeri Lajim for drug trafficking today. This would be the fifth execution since March after a long pause in hangings during the coronavirus pandemic. He was handed the death sentence in 2017, some five years after being arrested during an anti-narcotics operation. Nazeri was found with two bundles of what was analyzed to be 35.41 grams of heroin, exceeding the 15 gram legal threshold for the imposition of the death penalty.

The country is increasingly out of step with its neighbors on drug policy. Thailand legalized most forms of marijuana last month, and Indonesia and Malaysia are discussing medical marijuana. The government defended its hardline approach: "It really is incumbent upon us to present the choices in very vivid terms and persuade our people, including young people, that we have to make the right choices for them and for society," said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

Sudan Defense Lawyers Charge Political Detainees Forced to Undergo Drug Tests. The legal group Sudan's Emergency Lawyers, which defends people seeking to protest against rule by the military-dominated government, is charging that people being arrested at protests are now being subjected to unlawful drug tests. Detainees including at least 15 minors and six women were released after being beaten, assaulted and subjected to drug tests, the group said.

The lawyers said "what is really disturbing is that these people are now subjected to a drugs test," which they stressed "is completely contrary to the law". The lawyers say that those detained were not in possession of drugs and were not found in any suspicious situation that necessitates this procedure or would give authorities common cause. They pointed to the fact that any referral for examination must be made by the prosecution. "This procedure is purely criminal, it violates the rights of the detained, and it is against the principle of assumption of the accused's innocence, and completely contrary to the law. It degrades dignity and has a profound psychological impact," the lawyers added.

Rumors have been circulating that young protesters are using drugs, meth in particular, because they don't seem to show hunger or fatigue, but there has been no evidence to back up the rumors.

Chronicle Book Review: Opium's Orphans

Chronicle Book Review: Opium's Orphans: The 200-Year History of the War on Drugs by P.E. Caquet (2022, Reaktion Books, 400 pp., $35.00 HB)

The history of drug prohibition is increasingly well-trodden territory, but with Opium's Orphans, British historian P.E. Caquet brings a fascinating new perspective embedded in a sweeping narrative and fortified with an erudite grasp of the broad global historical context. Although Asian bans on opium pre-dated 19th Century China (the Thai monarchy announced a ban in the 1400s), for Caquet, the critical moment in what became a linear trajectory toward global drug prohibition a century later came when the Qing emperor banned opium in 1813 and imposed severe penalties on anything to do with it, including possessing it. Precisely 100 years later, after two Opium Wars imposed opium on the empire followed by decades of diplomatic wrangling over how to suppress the trade (and for moralizing Americans, how to win favor with China), the 1913 Hague Opium Convention ushered in the modern war on drugs with its targeting not just of opium (and coca) producers or sellers but also of mere users for criminal prosecution. It urged countries to enact such laws, and they did.

What began at the Hague would eventually grow into an international anti-drug bureaucracy, first in the League of Nations and then in United Nations bodies such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the International Narcotics Control Board. But it is a global prohibition regime that has, Caquet writes, straight-jacketed itself with an opium-based perspective that has proven unable or unwilling to recognize the differences among the substances over which it seeks dominion, reflexively resorting to opium and its addiction model. Drugs such as amphetamines, psychedelics, and marijuana don't really fit that model -- they are the orphans of the book's title -- and in a different world would be differently regulated.

But Opium's Orphans isn't just dry diplomatic history. Caquet delves deep into the social, cultural, and political forces driving drug use and drug policies. His description of the spread of opium smoking among Chinese elites before it spread into the masses and became declasse is both finely detailed and strangely evocative of the trajectory of cocaine use in the United States in the 1970s, when it was the stuff of rock musicians and Hollywood stars before going middle class and then spreading among the urban poor in the form of crack.

Along the way, we encounter opium merchants and colonial opium monopolies, crusading missionary moralists, and early Western proponents of recreational drug use, such as Confessions of an English Opium Eater author Thomas De Quincey and the French habitues of mid-19th Century hashish clubs. More contemporaneously, we also meet the men who achieved international notoriety in the trade in prohibited drugs, "drug lords" such as Khun Sa in the Golden Triangle, Pablo Escobar in Colombia and El Chapo Guzman in Mexico, as well as the people whose job it is to hunt them down. Caquet notes that no matter how often a drug lord is removed -- jailed or killed, in most cases -- the impact on the trade is negligible.

For Caquet, drug prohibition as a global phenomenon peaked with the adoption of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Coming as it did amidst a post-World War II decline in drug use around the world, the treaty criminalizing coca, cocaine, opium and opioids, and marijuana seemed to ratify a successful global prohibitionist effort. (In the US, in the 1950s, when domestic drug use was at low ebb, Congress passed tough new drug laws.) But before the decade was over, drug prohibition was under flamboyant challenge from the likes of LSD guru Timothy Leary and a horde of hippie pot smokers. The prohibitionist consensus was seeing its first cracks.

And the prohibitionist response was to crack down even harder, which in turn begat its own backlash. Drug use of all sorts began rising around the world in the 1960s and hasn't let up yet, and the increasingly omnivorous drug war machine grew right along with it, as did the wealth and power of the illicit groups that provided the drugs the world demanded. As the negative impacts of the global drug war -- from the current opioid overdose crisis in the US to the prisons filled with drug offenders to the bloody killing fields of Colombia and Mexico -- grew ever more undeniable, the critiques grew ever sharper.

In recent years, the UN anti-drug bureaucrats have been forced to grudgingly accept the notion of harm reduction, although they protest bitterly over such interventions as safe injection sites. For them, harm reduction is less of an erosion of the drug war consensus than all that talk of drug legalization. As Caquet notes, perhaps a tad unfairly, harm reduction doesn't seek to confront drug prohibition head-on, but to mitigate its harms.

The man is a historian, not a policymaker, and his response to questions about what to do now is "I wouldn't start from here." Still, at the end of it all, he has a trio of observations: First, supply reduction ("suppression" is his word) does not work. Sure, you can successfully wipe out poppies in Thailand or Turkey, but they just pop up somewhere else, like the Golden Triangle or Afghanistan. That's the infamous balloon effect. Second, "criminalization of the drug user has been a huge historical blunder." It has no impact on drug use levels, is cruel and inhumane, and it didn't have to be that way. A century ago, countries could have agreed to regulate the drug trade; instead, they tried to eradicate it in an ever-escalating, never-ending crusade. Third, illicit drugs as a group should be seen "as a historical category, not a scientific one." Different substances demand different approaches.

Opium's Orphans is a fascinating, provocative, and nuanced account of the mess we've gotten ourselves into. Now, we continue the work of trying to get out of that mess.

CA Safe Injection Site Bill Nears Final Passage, PA MedMJ DUI Bill Advances, More... (6/30/22)

North Carolina permanently legaizes hemp at the last minute, a Missoula, Montana, entheogen decriminalization resolution is withdrawn for lack of support, and more.

The safe injection site in Vancouver. Similar facilities could be coming soon to California cities. (vcha.ca)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Protect Patients from DUI Charges Advances. The Senate Transportation Committee has approved Senate Bill 167, which would protect state medical marijuana patients from wrongful convictions for driving under the influence. The bill advanced Tuesday on a unanimous vote. The bill would treat medical marijuana like any other prescription drug, requiring proof of impairment that interferes with a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle before he could be charged with DUI. The state currently has a zero-tolerance DUI law that could expose patients to such charges for taking their medicine. There are some 700,000 medical marijuana patients in the state.

Hemp

North Carolina Approves Permanent Hemp Legalization. Just two days before a previous law temporarily legalizing hemp production was set to expire, leaving an estimated 1,500 state hemp farmers in the lurch, the legislature gave final approval to a bill to make hemp legalization permanent, Senate Bill 455 on Wednesday. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed the bill into law Thursday. The old law was set to expire Friday.

Psychedelics

Missoula, Montana, Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution Shelved. A pair of city council members, Daniel Carlino and Kristen Jordan, earlier this month introduced a resolution to decriminalize entheogenic plants in the city, but they have now shelved it after failing to gain enough support on the council to move it. Other council members cited scarce research on the plants' benefits, unresolved questions about law enforcement, and the potential threat to youth as reasons to oppose the resolution. The sponsors now say they will now regroup and seek to build council support before trying again.

Harm Reduction

California Safe Injection Site Bill Passes Assembly. The Assembly has approved Sen. Scott Weiner's (D-San Francisco) bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County. The bill foresees a five-year pilot program for each of those locales, all of which have formally requested to be included. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a final concurrence vote after changes were made in the Assembly and then to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). "Every overdose death is preventable," said Sen. Wiener. "We have the tools to end these deaths, get people healthy, and reduce harm for people who use drugs. Right now, we are letting people die on our streets for no reason other than an arbitrary legal prohibition that we need to remove. SB 57 is long overdue and will make a huge impact for some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

Supreme Court Rules for Crack Prisoners, CO Psychedelic Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/28/22)

A major Swiss bank gets convicted of cocaine money laundering, a House committee wants a GAO report on federal psilocybin policy, and more.

Something good came out of the US Supreme Court on Monday. (Pixabay)
Psychedelics

House Appropriations Committee Calls for Review of Federal Psilocybin Policy. In reports accompanying new spending bills, the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee are calling for a federal review of psilocybin policy, as well as letting researchers study marijuana from dispensaries and using hemp as an alternative to Chinese plastics. The report for the spending bill for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies calls for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze barriers to state, local, and tribal programs using psilocybin. The committee said the GAO should study the impact of federal drug prohibition in jurisdictions that allow psilocybin. The call comes as a psilocybin reform movement is gaining momentum across the country.

Colorado Activists Turn in Signatures for Psychedelic Initiative. The Natural Medicine Colorado campaign, the group behind an initiative to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin "healing centers," announced Monday that it had turned in 222,648 raw signatures. The campaign only needs 124,632 valid voter signatures, and this cushion of nearly 80,000 excess raw signatures suggests that the initiative will qualify for the November ballot. The measure would legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and sharing of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), DMT, and psilocyn for people 21 and over. It does not set specific possession limits, nor does it envision recreational sales. The measure would also place responsibility for developing rules for a therapeutic psilocybin with the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Drug Policy

At Oversight Hearing, Director of National Drug Control Policy Highlighted Biden-Harris Administration's Commitment to Tackling Overdose and Addiction Crisis. On Monday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing with Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), to examine the federal government's response to the overdose and addiction crisis, including the Biden-Harris Administration's 2022 National Drug Control Strategy.

During the hearing, Director Gupta highlighted illicit drug seizures at the southern border and disruption of drug trafficking across the US; the need to expand treatment services; steps such as telehealth services to expand access to care for people in underserved communities; and overdose prevention efforts funded by the bipartisan Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. Gupta and committee members also highlighted Chairwoman Maloney's Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.

Supreme Court Rules Judges Can Weigh New Factors in Crack Cocaine Cases. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the First Step Act allows district court judges to consider post-sentencing changes in law or fact in deciding whether to re-sentence people convicted under the harsh crack cocaine laws of the past.

While the penalties are still harsh, they are not quite as much as they were prior to passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the ratio of quantity triggers for the worst sentences for powder vs. crack cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. The First Step Act made those sentencing changes retroactive, giving prisoners the chance to seek reduced sentences. The decision was 5-4, with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joining the court's liberal minority in the opinion.

The case is Concepcion v. United States, in which Carlos Concepcion was sentenced to 19 years for a crack offense in 2009, a year before passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. He sought resentencing "as if" the Fair Sentencing Act provisions "were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed." That is proper, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority opinion: "It is only when Congress or the Constitution limits the scope of information that a district court may consider in deciding whether, and to what extent, to modify a sentence, that a district court's discretion to consider information is restrained. Nothing in the First Step Act contains such a limitation."

International

Swiss Court Convicts Credit Suisse of Cocaine Money-Laundering. The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has found the bank Credit Suisse guilty of failing to prevent money-laundering by a Bulgarian cocaine trafficking organization. One former bank employee was convicted of money-laundering in the case against the country's second-largest bank. The trial included testimony about murders and cash-filled suitcases. The court held that Credit Suisse demonstrated deficiencies in both the management of client relations with criminal groups and the implementation of money-laundering rules. "These deficiencies enabled the withdrawal of the criminal organization's assets, which was the basis for the conviction of the bank's former employee for qualified money laundering," the court said. Credit Suisse said it would appeal.

TX GOP Opposes Marijuana Legalization, British Prescription Heroin Shortage, More... (6/21/22)

Pennsylvania takes a step toward legalizing fentanyl test strips, Thailand moves to block minors from using marijuana or hemp, and more.

Prescription herion (diamorphine). Supplies are running low in Great Britain. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Texas GOP's New Platform Opposes Marijuana Legalization. At its state convention in Houston last weekend, the Texas Republican Party adopted a platform plank opposing marijuana legalization, even though recent polling shows two-thirds of all Texans and 51 percent of Republicans favor it. The convention did, however, endorse moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act. The party also adopted several other drug policy planks, including opposing needle exchange programs, requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, designating Mexican drug trafficking organizations as "terrorist organizations," and encouraging "faith-based rehabilitation."

Psychedelics

Missoula, Montana, City Council Ponders Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. Two members of the city council filed a resolution to decriminalize "entheogenic plants," including peyote and magic mushrooms, last Wednesday. The council members are Daniel Carlino and Kristen Jordan. It was a grassroots efforts backed by "many Missoulians," said Carlino. "We’ve heard comments in support of this resolution from veterans who have experience with this in treating PTSD. We’ve heard comments of support from therapists, doctors and dozens and dozens of community members." The council has yet to act on the resolution, which would block Missoula police from arresting people for growing, possessing, or gifting entheogens. The police department adamantly opposes the move.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania House Passes Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The House has unanimously approved a bill to legalize fentanyl strips, House Bill 1393. It does so by removing the test strips from the state's definition of drug paraphernalia. Supporters say the change in the law will allow drug users to avoid overdoses by testing their drugs without fear of being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. Philadelphia Mayor John Kenney (D) decriminalized fentanyl test strips in that city in August 2021 and Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) has said his office "will not prosecute individuals simply for possessing fentanyl test strips." This legislation would bring state law in line with what is increasing becoming public policy in the state. Companion legislation is now set to move in the Senate.

International

Thailand to Restrict Marijuana Use to Adults After Complaints. Facing with a rising chorus of complaints after the country liberalized its marijuana laws earlier this month, Thai officials announced last Thursday that they will issue rules limiting access to marijuana and hemp to people 20 years of age and older. People under that age will need permission from a doctor to use such products. The move came amid media  reports that two teenage students were hospitalized for marijuana "overdoses." The government is also going to move to limit marijuana consumption in public and to control cannabis in food.

British Prescription Heroin Shortage Wreaking Havoc with People on Maintenance Regime. British drug non-profits are warning that people on prescription heroin (diamorphine) maintenance are now relapsing because of a nationwide shortage of all doses of the prescription drug. Pharmacists are reporting that patients who had been stable on prescription heroin for 10 or 15 years are deteriorating because they cannot access their medication. The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that

5mg, 30mg, 100mg and 500mg injections of diamorphine are currently out of stock. "These are patients that have been on prescriptions for 20 years and have been very stable and working, living their lives, and are closely monitored to ensure they’re not on other drugs," said Clare Robbins of the drug charity Release. "The majority we are supporting at the moment have now relapsed, often for the first time in 10 or 15 years and that’s really devastating for them," she said. "These people have built relationships with their pharmacists over 10 to 15 years and I’ve had pharmacists on the phone who are quite distressed about seeing their patient deteriorate." Only two companies supply prescription heroin in the United Kingdom, and the supply chain has been wobbly since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020. 

NJ Legal Marijuana Sales Begin Tomorrow (4/20), MA Psychedelic Decriminalization Reform Push, More... (4/19/22)

There is a brewing controversy over whether New Jersey cops can smoke weed now that it is legal there, Massachusetts activists plan a psychelic and broader decriminalization push, and more.

The next state to commence legal adult-use marijuana sales. And on 4/20, no less. (Creative Commons)
New Jersey Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin Thursday. The first sales of adult-use marijuana are set to begin Thursday after the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission last week licensed seven medical marijuana dispensaries to sell their products to anyone 21 or over. But while medical marijuana patients can purchase up to three ounces every 30 days, adult-use customers will only be able to purchase one ounce at a time. The commission earlier this month approved more than 100 conditional licenses for smaller growers and manufacturers, many with social equity ownership, but those licensees are not expected to be operating until next year.

New Jersey Police Chiefs Say Cops Should Be Barred from Using Marijuana. Responding to an opinion last Thursday from Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin that police officers can smoke marijuana while off duty, the New Jersey State Association of Police Chiefs is calling on the legislature to make an exception for police officers and other "safety-sensitive" professionals and bar them from using marijuana at any time. "Our association is asking for the law to be modified so police brass has the necessary tools to make an appropriately measured response when a “safety-sensitive” employee uses cannabis," the chiefs wrote. "Police executives need to assure the public that their officers are not working while cannabis is metabolizing in their system. Keep in mind, cannabis can exist in the body for up to 28 days." (It is non-psychoactive marijuana metabolites that remain in the body for an extended period of time, not psychoactive THC, which wears off in a matter of hours.)

New Jersey Governor Says He Would Consider Banning Weed for Cops. Responding to a rising kerfluffle over whether police should be able to use marijuana now that it is legal in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said Monday that he would consider barring recreational marijuana use for off-duty police officers. Addressing concerns that police might show up stoned on the job, Murphy said, "There’s no allowing anybody to show up impaired, whether you’re drinking or whether you’ve smoked weed. Anybody who shows up impaired would be dealt with aggressively." And then he added: "Would I be opened minded to a legislative fix that would address this? The answer is yes."

Psychedelics

Massachusetts Activists Plan Decriminalization Campaign in Worcester, Statewide Reform Push. Bay Staters for Natural Medicine (BSNM) has launched a signature-gathering drive to put a decriminalization initiative that emphasizes psychedelics but would also decriminalize the personal possession of all currently illegal drugs. They are hoping the city council, which recently approved a resolution calling for a study of the utility of arresting people for possession of entheogenic plants and replacing that approach with a lowest law enforcement priority approach, would approve the measure this year. But if not, they are aiming at collecting some 16,000 signatures by this summer to put it directly before voters in November. Activists are preparing a similar push in Amherst, as well as a state-wide effort to make legislators file decriminalization bills "by request" of voters even if the legislators do not support them. 

ND Pot Legalization Initiative Campaign Begins, MD Veterans' Therapeutic Psychedelic Bill Advances, More... (4/11/22)

Kentucky's governor is considering exectuive action on medical marijuana as the Senate leadership says it is not interested in passing a bill this year, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus has a new Republican member, and more.

The newest member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Brian Mast. (R-FL) (House.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Names New GOP Co-Chair. The Congressional Cannabis Caucus leadership announced last Friday that they have named Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) as the caucus's fourth co-chair. He replaces Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who died in office last month. Mast is one of only three House Republicans who voted in favor of the MORE Act, which passed last week. In a statement, Mast said that the "Constitution never says ‘cannabis,’ but it does say that unenumerated powers lie with the states. "Federal cannabis policy should be based on that Constitutional principle," he said.

North Dakota Activists Begin Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign. New Approach North Dakota filed a marijuana legalization initiative with Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) on Monday. The proposal would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to three plants by people 21 and over. It would also set up a taxed and regulated marijuana industry in the state. If and when Jaeger approves the measure for signature gathering, petitioners will need 15,582 valid voter signatures by July 11 to qualify for the November ballot. (They actually have a one-year signature gathering window, but if they don't get the requisite signatures by July 11, the measure would go on the 2024 ballot.) Voters turned down a 2018 marijuana legalization initiative and a 2020 effort to get on the ballot was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical Marijuana.

Kentucky Senate President Says Medical Marijuana Not Likely to Pass This Year. Senate President Robert Stivers (R) said last week that medical marijuana is not on his radar when the legislature convenes for its final two days next week.The medical marijuana bill, House Bill 136, which passed the House last month,  is premature, he said, arguing instead for a medical marijuana study bill. "Every study I‘ve read said the sample sizes have been too small, the duration is too long, and therefore more study is needed, because the studies have shown it is adverse to the development of the brain for those under 25, higher likelihood of psychotic incidence if you have prolonged use, and if you smoke it, it has 50% more carcinogens than a cigarette."

Kentucky Governor Says He Will Consider Executive Action if Medical Marijuana Bill Does Not Pass. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said late last week that if the legislature fails to pass a medical marijuana bill this year, he is ready to explore possible executive actions he could take to get medical marijuana to ailing Kentuckians. "We’re going to explore that," he said in response to a question. "It’s something that we will look at. Its time has certainly come."

Psychedelics

Maryland House Gives Initial Approval to Bill to Create Fund for Psychedelic Access for Veterans. The House of Delegates last Friday gave initial approval to Senate Bill 709, which has already passed the Senate. The bill would create a state fund to provide "cost-free" access to psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday, and if delegates do not amend it, it faces only one more vote before heading to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). 

Amendments Fly as House Legal Pot Vote Looms, Singapore Hangs Man for Drug Trafficking, More... (3/30/22)

A Maryland marijuana legalization bill advances, New Mexico pot shops will open starting Friday, a Georgia therapeutic psychedelic study bill advances, and more.

The House is set to vote on the MORE Act this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Lawmakers File Various Amendments to House Marijuana Legalization Bill. With a House floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617) set for this week, proposed amendments are coming fast and furious. They will be taken up by the House Rules Committee Wednesday. Most of the proposed amendments seek to impose restrictions on the bill, such as requiring completion of various certain studies before legalization, limiting expungement provisions, or maintaining certain penalties. One, though, would provide relief for people denied security clearances because of past marijuana convictions.

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 833, that would only take effect if voters approved a related ballot question in November. A slightly different version of the bill passed the House last month, so a conference committee will have to hash out the differences. The panel did not act on House Bill 1, which would establish the November referendum. The legislature faces a deadline at the end of the week. Lawmakers will only have the chance to override a possible veto by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) if they get bills to his desk this week.

New Mexico Recreational Pot Shops Can Open Their Doors on Friday. The state legislature legalized marijuana last year, and beginning on Friday, the first recreational marijuana sales in the state can begin. New Mexicans could legally possess and use marijuana since last June, but had no place to legally purchase recreational marijuana—until now. State officials have issued more than 200 licenses for retail pot shops. When they open later this week, adults will be able to purchase two ounces of weed at a time.

Opiates and Opioids

California Fentanyl Crisis Prompts Flurry of Bills. Lawmakers are responding to a surge in fentanyl-related overdoses with a number of bills, some punitive, but others embracing harm reduction interventions. Assembly Member Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) has filed Assembly Bill 2246, which would increase penalties for possession and distribution, including a sentence of 20 years to life for someone who sold fentanyl that resulted in a fatal overdose. Assembly Member James Ramos (D-Highland) has field Assembly Bill 1628, which would require companies such as Snapchat to implement policies that prohibit the sale of fentanyl and other controlled substances on their platforms. Senate Bill 864 would require hospitals to test drug screening urine samples for fentanyl, Senate Bill 1350 would require warnings to people convicted of drug distribution offenses that they could be charged with manslaughter of murder in the event of a fatal overdose, while Assembly Bill 1673 would set up a California Fentanyl Task Force to produce statewide statistics and ramp up public awareness. On the harm reduction side, Sen. Scott Weiner's (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 57 would authorize pilot safe injection site program in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. That bill has passed the Senate and is now before the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Psychedelics

Georgia Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill Advances. The House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee voted Tuesday to approve House Resolution 896, which would create a House study committee to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelics such as psilocybin and make recommendations for legislation. The bill is couched as an effort to address the need for effective treatments for depression and PTSD for military veterans. It now heads to the House Defense and Veteran Affairs Committee.

International

Colombia Coca Zone Battle Sees 11 FARC Dissidents Killed. The Colombia Army said Tuesday its soldiers had killed at least 11 FARC dissidents in open combat n Puerto Leguizamo municipality in Putumayo province near the borders with Ecuador and Peru. The area has extensive coca plantings and cocaine-producing laboratories and is contested by various armed actors. The FARC dissidents are former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who rejected the FARC's demobilization under a 2016 peace deal with the government.

Mexico Attack Leaves at Least 20 Dead in Michoacan. Presumed cartel gunmen attacked spectators at a cockfighting pit in the town of Las Tinajas Sunday, leaving at least 20 people dead and several more wounded. "It was a massacre of one group by another," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a news conference, expressing his regret at the deaths. The state of Michoacan and neighboring Guanajuato have been plagued by cartel violence for years, with the most recent mass killing leaving 17 people dead only weeks ago. Earlier this month, the mayor of Aguilla, Michoacan, was gunned down, and days later, journalist Armando Linares was killed in Zitacuaro. Most of the violence is between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and local gangs, but some of it is between different factions of that same cartel.

Singapore Hangs Man for Drug Trafficking. Closing its ears to pleas for leniency, including from the UN Human Rights Office, Singapore on Wednesday executed Abdul Kahar Othman, 68, for drug trafficking. The hanging marked the first execution in the country since it halted them due to the coronavirus pandemic. The last execution took place in November 2019. Kahar, from a poor family, had struggled with addiction all his life and spent much of his adult life behind bars. He was convicted of drug trafficking in 2013. Another execution may be looming. A Malaysian man with mental disabilities, Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, has been on death row since 2010 for trying to smuggle 1.5 ounces of heroin into the city-state. He lost his final appeal on Tuesday. 

MI Psychedelic Legalization Initiative Begins Signature Drive, Biden Budget Keeps Ban on DC Pot Sales, More... (3/29/22)

A new anti-drug reform super PAC emerges and targets a GOP congresswoman, Singapore is now set to hang a mentally disabled man on drug charges, and more.

The Biden White House moves to maintain the status quo on marijuana in its new proposed FY 2023 budget. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden's New Budget Keeps Ban on DC Marijuana Sales, Preserves State Medical Marijuana Protections. It's status quo on marijuana policy in President Biden's just released budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023. His proposal would maintain the bar on allowing the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana sales, but would also maintain a separate rider that protects state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference. DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was not pleased: "I have a hard time reconciling the administration’s strong support for DC statehood, which would give DC not only voting representation in Congress but also full local self-government, with a budget that prohibits DC from spending its local funds on recreational marijuana commercialization," she said. "With Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, we have the best opportunity in over a decade to enact a budget that does not contain any anti-home-rule riders."

New Anti-Drug Super PAC Emerges, Targets Republican Congresswoman Who Filed Marijuana Legalization Bill. A new anti-drug super PAC, Protect Our Kids PAC, has emerged this week, announcing it is targeting US Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) over her support for marijuana legalization. Mace filed a bill to legalize marijuana earlier this year. "(Mace has) become the Republican face of marijuana legalization in a district and a state that has no marijuana legalization at all," said group spokesman Luke Niforatos. "She's not putting families first. She's not putting parents and kids first, and so we're just going to make sure that her primary voters know about that."  Niforatos also serves as executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, arguably the nation's leading pot prohibitionist group. Protect Our Kids PAC will also target selected races nationwide in a bid to defeat pro-marijuana legalization candidates.

Louisiana Bill Would Bring Back Prison Time for Pot Possession—But Only for Minors. A bill that would modify the decriminalization law approved last year to allow for the imprisonment of minors caught with small amounts of marijuana, House Bill 700, is headed for a House floor vote next week. Under the decriminalization law, people caught with a half-ounce or less of marijuana face a maximum $100 fine. But the bill sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagwell (R-Stonewall) would allow minors to be jailed for up to 15 days on a first offense, up to two years for a third offense, and up to four years for a fourth offense. The bill passed out of the Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice after being amended to provide protections for minors who are medical marijuana patients. Bagley said the bill is necessary because schools can't keep marijuana off their campuses, and that the threat of incarceration could be used as a lever to get teens into treatment.

Psychedelics

Michigan Psychedelic Legalization Initiative Begins Signature Drive. The activists behind a psychedelic legalization campaign announced Monday that after the Board of State Canvassers certified its initiative last week, signature gathering to get the measure on the November ballot is now underway. The effort is being led by the national group Decriminalize Nature, the group's state chapter, and Students for Sensible Drug Policies (SSDP). The measure would authorize the "supervision, guidance, therapeutic, harm reduction, spiritual, counseling, and related supportive services with or without remuneration." It also reduces penalties for possessing other Schedule I and II drugs. To qualify the measure for the November ballot, activists will need to turn in 340,047 valid signatures from registered voters by June 1.

International

Singapore Set to Hang Malaysian Man with Mental Disability on Drug Charges After Last Appeal Fails. A Malaysian man with mental disabilities who has been on death row on drug charges in Singapore since 2010 is now set to be hanged after his last legal appeal was rejected. Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam got caught trying to smuggle less 1.5 ounces of heroin into Singapore. At an earlier court hearing, his IQ was revealed to be 69 — a level internationally recognized as an intellectual disability, but the court ruled Nagaenthran knew what he was doing by violating Singapore's harsh anti-drug laws. It called his final appeal "an abuse of process and that international law does not apply." The British rights group Reprieve is mounting a last-ditch pressure campaign to get a pardon from President Halimah Yacob. "The Singaporean government has made clear its commitment to champion the rights of persons with disabilities. Allowing this travesty of justice to take place would fly in the face of those promises," Reprieve director Maya Foa said.

Senate Approves Marijuana Research Bill, UT Governor Signs Psychedelic Research Bill, More... (3/25/22)

A bill to establish the East Coast's first psychedelic medicine center is moving in Connecticut, Utah's Republican governor signs a psychedelic research bill, and more.

The Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaign has taken a big fund-raising hit, but will soldier on.
Marijuana Policy

Senate Unanimously Approves Marijuana Research Bill. The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that aims to promote research into marijuana, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S. 253). Sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the bill would ease the application process for researchers who want to study the plant. The bill also clearly states that doctors are allowed to discuss the pros and cons of marijuana with patients and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report on potential health benefits of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Campaign Takes Big Hit as Two Major Donors Die Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind an ongoing medical marijuana initiative campaign, has been wounded by the sudden death of one major donor in a plane crash and the diagnosis of terminal cancer in another major donor. The campaign described the losses as a "huge setback." The group has a $500,000 fund-raising goal by May 1, and as of the end of February, it had only $30,000 in the bank. In 2020, the group managed to raise $2.5 million for the signature drive and general election campaign, which it won, only to see the victory overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Bill to Create Psychedelic Medicine Center Advances. A bill that would create the first psychedelic medicine center on the East Coast has advanced in the House. The measure, House Bill 5396, which assumes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon approve MDMA and psilocybin as treatments for PTSD and depression, respectively, aims to provide those drugs for medicinal use to "qualified patients," which includes veterans, retired first responders, direct care health care workers, and people from "historically underserved communities." The bill passed out of the Joint Health Care Committee last week and is now before the Office of Legislative Research and Fiscal Analysis.

Utah Governor Signs Psychedelic Study Bill into Law. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has signed into law House Bill 167, which will create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics and possible regulations for their legal use. The bill had strong support in the legislature, passing each chamber with only one no vote. The bill will create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Taskforce to "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The drugs the panel will consider are controlled substances "not currently available for legal use."

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