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Psychedelics

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Indigenous Group Opposes Peyote Decriminalization as Shortages Loom, MS MedMJ Mess, More... (5/18/21)

Colorado is set to double the amount of marijuana adults may legally possess, South Dakota okays medical marijuana use for school children, and more.

Peyote. Should decriminalization be foregone because of looming shortages? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Legislature Approves Doubling Pot Possession Limit. The legislature has approved House Bill 1090, which double the amount of marijuana adults can legally possess from one once to two ounces. It also clears past arrests for possession of up to two ounces for record clearance and past Class 3 marijuana felony. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Lawmakers Ponder Special Session on Initiative, Medical Marijuana in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling. A day after the state Supreme Court invalidated a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative because of an unfixed flaw in the state's initiative law, some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to call a special session to fix the initiative process, while others want a special session to craft a medical marijuana bill. The governor says he's thinking about it.

South Dakota Board Okays Medical Marijuana on School Grounds. The state Board of Education Standards has approved a policy that allows adults to give medical marijuana to children for whom doctors have recommended it. Only a "registered caregiver" can administer it, and it must only be in non-smokable form.

Psychedelics

Citing Conservation Efforts, Indigenous Groups Oppose Including Peyote in Psychedelic Decriminalization Campaigns. The Indigenous Peyote Conservation Communication Committee (IPCCC) is taking the position that peyote should not be included in psychedelic decriminalization efforts because it would be "very disruptive" to ongoing efforts to conserve the slow-growing cacti. Peyote takes 7 to 12 years to mature, and supplies are already in decline because of overharvesting. The group says it is not opposed to decriminalization in general. "but because there is an entire conservation strategy already underway." But Decriminalize Nature, the group behind a series of successful psychedelic reform initiative, says decriminalization and conservation are not mutually exclusive and that peyote "is a key ally in our collective struggle to awaken the masses from the fear-based slumber of disconnection from ourselves, each other and nature.

Psychedelics at the Statehouse 2021 [FEATURE]

A new front in the war against the war on drugs has opened up. It has been less than two years since voters in Denver decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms, but since then, a number of cities have moved in a similar direction. More dramatically, in last November's elections, Oregon voted to allow the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the primary active ingredient in those mushrooms (as well as voting to decriminalize the possession of all drugs) and Washington, DC, voted to effectively decriminalize "natural entheogens" by making them the lowest law enforcement priority.

Psilocbye mexicana. A magic mushroom. (Creative Commons)
This year, psychedelic reform is making its way to statehouses around the country -- and it has already scored its first victory in New Jersey (see below). Spurred by the potential of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders as well as by the dawning recognition that these drugs are just not that dangerous, and just possibly the racial and class composition of psychedelic aficionados, the movement to end the war on psychedelics is buzzing like never before.

The movement is not without controversy even among drug reformers, with some decrying "psychedelic exceptionalism" and demanding the decriminalization of all drugs, and others wondering why natural psychedelics like psilocybin should be treated differently from synthetic ones like LSD, but those debates are for another article. Here, we simply marvel at the rapid movement on the psychedelic front as we review what is popping up in the state legislatures.

And here is what is going on (with a big tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment, which provides a list of marijuana, psychedelic, and other drug reform bills to its paying subscribers):

California -- Psychedelic Decriminalization

Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and three cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 519, which would make it legal for persons 21 and over to possess and share psilocybin and psilocyin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA. The bill would also mandate that the Department of Public Health create a working group to make recommendations to the legislature on the regulation and therapeutic use of these substances. The bill has been referred to the Public Safety and Health committees and is set for a hearing on April 6.

Connecticut -- Psilocybin Health Benefits Study

Rep. Josh Elliott (D-Hamden) and five cosponsors have filed HB 06296, which would create a task force to study the health benefits of psilocybin. The measure has been before the Joint Committee on Public Health since January 29.

Florida -- Therapeutic Psilocbyin

Reps. Mike Grieco (D-Miami-Dade) and Nick Duran (D-Miami-Dade) have filed HO549, which would create a path for the use of psilocybin as a mental health treatment by establishing a Psilocybin Advisory Board and ordering the Health Department to adopt rules and regulations and exceptions for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill would also make psilocybin possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. It is now in the Professions and Public Health Services Subcommittee of the Health and Human Services Committee, and has also been referred to two more subcommittees.

Iowa -- Therapeutic Psilocybin

Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham) has filed House File 636, which would create the Psilocybin Services Act with the Department of Public Health in charge of developing rules and regulations allowing for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill envisions licensed psilocybin service centers, psilocybin service facilitators, and psilocybin testing laboratories. It is currently before the Senate Public Safety Committee. The bill is a fallback for Shipley, whose earlier House File 459, which would have simply decriminalized psilocybin and psilocyin, has already been killed in subcommittee.

New Jersey -- Reducing Psilocybin Penalties

Senator Nick Scutari (D-Linden) filed S3256, which lessens the penalty for the possession of any amount of psilocybin from a third degree misdemeanor to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The bill passed both the Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in February.

New York -- Psilocybin Decriminalization

Rep. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) has filed AO6065, which would decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin by deleting them from the state's register of controlled substances. The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee on March 8.

Texas -- Therapeutic Study

State Rep. Steve Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has filed House Bill 1802, which calls for a study by the Health Department and the Texas Medical Board of the therapeutic efficacy of alternative therapies including MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine for the treatment of mental health and other medical conditions, including chronic pain and migraines. The bill was referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 11.

Vermont -- Natural Psychedelic Decriminalization

Rep. Brian Cina (D) and nine cosponsors have filed H0309, which would decriminalize the possession of ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, peyote, and psilocybin and psilocin and "any plants or fungi containing the substances" by removing them from the state's schedule of regulated drugs. The bill has been in the Committee on the Judiciary since February.

We will have to check back on this once the legislators have gone home.

NM Marijuana Legalization Deadline Looms, Australia to Fund Psychedelic Trials for Mental Illness, More... (3/17/21)

There are still more than 40,000 marijuana offenders behind bars in the US, Oregon's governor names the members of the state's Psilocybin Advisory Board, Australia moves toward clinical trials of psychedelics, and more.

New Mexico lawmakers are busy at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe as the clock ticks down on the session. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

More Than 40,000 Pot Prisoners in the USA. The Last Prisoner Project, which seeks to free incarcerated marijuana offenders, has been using a figure of 40,000 marijuana prisoners. That's decidedly an approximation -- the numbers readily available are 31,901 in state and federal prisons. But that doesn't include people in jails, juvenile facilities, or immigration detention centers, among others.

New Mexico Legislature Has Only Three Days to Legalize Marijuana. With the legislative session set to end on Saturday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes (D-Dona Ana County) said he's been told by the Senate leadership that one legalization bill, House Bill12, is undergoing changes before it's ready for committee; while another, Senate Bill 288, awaits its committee hearing. Cervantes said he will schedule a hearing as soon as committee members can analyze HB 12, and that even with a hearing as late as Friday, a bill could still pass.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Senate Votes to Tighten Rules on Medical Marijuana. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 340, which would prohibit sales to out-of-state residents who do not have a medical marijuana card issued in New Mexico. But first, it rejected an amendment that would have increased the daily sales limit for medical cannabis patients from three grams to two ounces. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, but the clock is ticking -- the legislative session ends on Saturday.

Psychedelics

Oregon Governor Announces Membership of Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Gov. Kate Brown (D) has named the people she wants to sit on the voter-approved Psilocybin Advisory Board, which is charged with developing rules and regulations to govern the practice of psilocybin therapeutics. Members include doctors, psychologists, harm reductionists, mycologists, and public health experts. The board's timeline includes making recommendations on regulations by June 2022 and beginning the issuance of licenses by January 2023.

International

Australian Federal Government to Fund Psychedelic Drug Trials to Treat Mental Illness. The Australian government will fund clinical trials using magic mushrooms, ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, Assistant Minister for Mental Health David Coleman said Wednesday. Although final approval must come from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (the equivalent to the US FDA), the government is allocating $15 million to get moving. "It's still at an early stage of clinical trials, but the US administration is accelerating their trials, so let's do some trials and further investigate this area because they show some promise," he said.

CA Coerced Treatment Bill Draws Opposition, WY Committee Advances Marijuana Legalization, More... (3/15/21)

New Mexico lawmakers have less than a week to get their act together and legalize marijuana, Republican US senators target drug cartels with a new bill, a fight is brewing over no-knock raids and warrants in the Kentucky House, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are now the lowest law enforcement priority in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Hits Stalemate on Marijuana Legalization. With the legislative session set to end this week, lawmakers remained at loggerheads Monday over two competing marijuana legalization bills. A hearing set for Sunday was called off minutes before it was set to begin, as lawmakers diverge on issues around taxations, licensing, and expungement for past convictions. The two measures under consideration are Senate Bill 288 and House Bill12.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Friday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 209. That is the first time any marijuana legalization effort has advanced in the state legislature. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Deprioritization Initiative Now in Effect. As of Monday, possession or use of a wide range of natural psychedelics is now the lowest priority for law enforcement in the nation's capital. That's because a voter-approved natural psychedelic initiative has gone into effect.

Law Enforcement

GOP Senators File Bill Targeting Drug Cartels. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). "Criminal organizations and drug cartels that terrorize our communities and wage war at our borders ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the US government. This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups-and anyone who helps them-face dire consequences for their actions," said Cotton. The bill is not yet avialable on the congressional web site.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Allow Forced Drug Treatment for Drug Offenders. A bill that would allow a pilot "secured residential treatment program" in Yolo County, near Sacramento, is drawing increasing concern. Assembly Bill 1542, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would "authorize the court to divert an offender to confinement in a secured residential treatment facility if it determines that the crime was caused in whole or in part by that individual's substance abuse." The bill has drawn the ire of critics such as JusticeLA, which warned that "AB 1542 would implement a pilot program in Yolo County that could easily become a statewide model and would jail houseless community members for misdemeanors such as trespassing and minor thefts under the guise of offering treatment," the group warned. "The pilot program tries to sell punishment as treatment. Our communities call for supportive services for people with mental health conditions, including those related to substance abuse -- not a new mode of incarceration."

Kentucky Bill Restricting No-Knock Raids Faces Amendments in House. In the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, which restricted no-knock warrants to cases where there is "clear and convincing" evidence of violent crime and to bar them between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Now the bill faces amendments from House Republicans and former police officers that would instead expand the use of such warrants. At the same time, House Democrats want to amend the bill to make it even more restrictive.

International

Four Mexican Police Officers Killed, Burned in Zacatecas. Presumed drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the north-central state of Zacatecas, killing four officers, then pouring gasoline on their patrol car and burning their bodies. State police said late last Thursday they had captured seven attackers and killed two others. Police also said they discovered a drug cartel camp nearby. The state is increasingly a battle zone as remnant Zetas, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels and the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel fight for control.

NM Legalization Bill Passes Senate, Honduran Prez Warns US on Trafficking Allegations, More... (2/25/21)

A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill gets filed in Pennsylvania, a medical marijuana bill wins approval in the Alabama Senate, and more.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, accused by US prosecutors of involvement in drug trafficking. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, HB 12, is now headed for a House floor vote after passing the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill has been amended to remove some specific tax revenue designations for medical marijuana patients and for communities disparately affected by drug prohibition. The amended bill also removes fines for juveniles, adjusts tax rates on marijuana sales, strengthens employers' rights to have a drug-free environment, and delays the start date for a legal marijuana market.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed with Bipartisan Support. State Senators Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) filed a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday. In a statement Senator Laughlin wrote, "While my colleague Senator Street and I come from different political parties, we see a bipartisan way forward on marijuana legalization that is premised on safety and social equity, said Senator Laughlin. As the marijuana movement reaches Pennsylvania, legalization must be done the right way. This bill ensures a legalized market in the Commonwealth is implemented safely and responsibly, with a thoughtful approach that provides opportunities to medical and recreational consumers, farmers, and small, medium and minority-owned businesses." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate approved a medical marijuana bill, SB 46, Wednesday and sent it to the House for approval there. The bill would allow patients with specified medical conditions to receive marijuana with a physician's approval.

Missouri Bill Would Protect Patients' Privacy, Gun Rights. Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O'Fallon) has filed HB 501, which would make disclosing patient information to the federal government a criminal offense. "I just want to make sure that we're protecting our Second Amendment rights and law abiding citizens who may have medical marijuana, but then they also have a weapon in their house to defend their family when necessary, Schroer said during his testimony on the bill in committee Wednesday. While the measure won support on the committee, no vote was taken.

Psychedelics

Missouri Bill Would Add Some Psychedelics to State's Right to Try Law. Rep. Michael Davis (R-Kansas City) has filed a bill, HB 1176 that would allow state residents with debilitating, life-threatening or terminal illnesses to use drugs such as MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT. The bill would build on a 2014 state right to try law that lets patients with terminal illnesses have access to investigational drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Foreign Policy

Honduran President Warns US That Allegations He Is Involved with Drug Trafficking Could Hurt Anti-Drug Ties with Washington. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Wednesday that US prosecutors' allegations that he is involved with drug trafficking could affect his country's cooperation with Washington to fight drug trafficking. In a federal court filing February 4, prosecutors in New York City accused Hernandez of using Honduran law enforcement and military officials to protect traffickers, and that he took a million-dollar bribe from former Mexican Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

NJ Governor Signs Marijuana Bills, VA Considers Mandatory Minimum Repeal, More... (2/22/21)

New Jersey finally gets marijuana legalization done, Virginia lawmakers are trying to do the same, a Massachusetts drug decrim bill is filed, and more.

The Nevada legislature is considering legislation that would limit but not ban raids with no-knock warrants. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Makes It Official; Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization, Legalization Bills. Governor Phil Murphy (D) on Monday signed into law a pair of bills implementing voter-approved marijuana legalization (A21) and decriminalizing marijuana possession (A1897). He also signed into law a bill setting penalties for underage use, S3454, an issue that had held up legalization for more than two months after the legislature passed the first two bills.

Virginia Legislators Meet in Conference Committee to Reconcile Marijuana Legalization Bills. House and Senate negotiators are meeting this week to try to reconcile marijuana legalization bills passed by the respective chambers, HB 2312 an SB 1406. They need to thrash out differences over local authority, licensing rules, and timing to reach a consensus.

Drug Policy

Massachusetts Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Reps. Liz Miranda (D) and Mike Connolly (D) have filed HD 3439, which would remove all criminal penalties for personal amount drug possession and replace them with a maximum fine of $50. People caught with drugs could avoid the fine by attending a "needs screening to identify health and other service needs, including but not limited to services that may address any problematic substance use and mental health conditions, lack of employment, housing, or food, and any need for civil legal services." A bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Julian Cyr (D), SD 2248, is virtually identical.

Psychedelics

Massachusetts Bill to Study Psychedelic Legalization Filed. State Rep. Mike Connolly (D) has filed HD 3829, which would create an interagency task force to "study the public health and social justice implications of legalizing the possession, consumption, transportation, and distribution of naturally cultivated entheogenic plants and fungi." The task force would be charged with developing recommendations on how to legalize natural psychedelics "in a manner that maximizes equitable access and sustainable manufacture of these plants."

Law Enforcement

Nevada Bill to Restrict No-Knock Warrants Gets Hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on Senate Bill 50, which would restrict but not entirely ban no-knock arrest warrants. The bill would ban no-knock warrants for misdemeanors, property crimes or simple drug possession. In other cases, law enforcement would have to show a risk to public safety by not using a no-knock warrant, explain why just knocking on the door isn't appropriate, and certify that a no-knock warrant is the last resort. A proposed amendment from the ACLU of Nevada and defense attorneys and public defenders would exclude evidence gathered in no-knock raids if police don't follow the guidelines for no-knock warrants. But that amendment threatens to derail law enforcement support for the bill.

Sentencing

Virginia Legislature Ponders Ending Mandatory Minimums. The House has passed a bill that ends mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, HB 2331. Meanwhile, the Senate has passed another bill, SB 1443, which ends all mandatory minimum sentencing under state law. A conference committee of lawmakers from the Senate and House will try to hash out the significant differences between the bills, though it remains to be seen whether a compromise can be struck.

Book Review: Drug Use for Grown-Ups

Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, by Carl Hart (2021, Penguin Press, 290 pp., $28.00 HB)

Dr. Carl Hart is a one-man drug and drug user destigmatization machine. In his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups, the Columbia University psychology professor blasts drug prohibition as both an affront to the American dream of the pursuit of happiness and as a tool of racial oppression. And he makes a strong, informed argument that recreational drug use can be, and usually is, a good thing.

You could hardly find someone more qualified to make the case. Hart has spent years in the trenches of neuropsychopharmacology research, handed out drugs (or placebos) to thousands of research subjects, published numerous scientific papers and popular articles in the field, and risen to the top of his profession along the way. And here is his bottom line:

"[O]ver my more than 25-year career, I have discovered that most drug-use scenarios cause little or no harm and that some responsible drug-scenarios are actually beneficial for human health and functioning. Even 'recreational' drugs can and do improve day-to-day living... From my own experience -- the combination of my scientific work and my personal drug use, I have learned that recreational drugs can be used safely to enhance many vital human activities."

Hart is refreshingly -- and deliberately -- open about his own recreational drug use. Given the stigmatization and persecution of people identified as "drug users," he feels that justice demands privileged partakers come out of the closet and give voice to their own, non-destructive drug use histories as a necessary remedy for that demonization. He certainly does so himself, revealing a disciplined yet curious mind most definitely not averse to sampling various substances.

Those substances include heroin, which he describes as his current favorite drug, one that he's been using episodically for years now: "There aren't many things in life that I enjoy more than a few lines by the fireplace at the end of the day... Heroin allows me to suspend the perpetual preparation for battle that goes on in my head... The world is alright with me. I'm good. I'm refreshed. I'm prepared to face another day, another faculty meeting, another obligatory function. All parties benefit."

But Hart is not quite so mellow when it comes to people and institutions he sees as helping to perpetuate overly negative depictions of various drugs or the persecution of drug users. He rips into Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) over her "addiction is a brain disease" mantra and the rigid ideological control she has over research funding. He rips into journalists for uncritically and sensationally reporting salacious scientific findings about the evils of drugs that he argues are not supported by the evidence they are supposedly based on. He even calls Bernie Sanders "ignorant" (that word shows up more than a few times) for complaining that marijuana shouldn't be in the same drug schedule as "killer drugs like heroin."

Dr. Carl Hart (Columbia University)
Hart doesn't deny the potential dangers of drug use but makes the case that they are dramatically overstated. In that sense, Drug Use for Grown-Ups is a corrective to more than a century of anti-drug propaganda. In a deep dive into opioids, for instance, he notes that most opioid overdose deaths are actually opioid/benzodiazepines/alcohol deaths, and that a large number of them are due to ignorance (there's that word again) -- in that, in the black market that currently exists, drug users do not and cannot know what exactly is in that pill or powder they purchased.

As long as we are in a prohibition regime, the least we can do is widespread drug testing for quality control, as is done at some European music festivals, Hart argues. But that's the only kind of drug testing he's down with; he calls the urine drug testing industry "parasitic," a sobriquet he also applies to the drug treatment industry.

But hang on, he's not done yet. Although he is an advocate for harm reduction practices, he has a bone to pick with the term itself: It's too damned negative! Drug use doesn't typically involve harm, he argues, but pleasure-seeking. As I pondered this, I came up with "benefit enhancement" as an upbeat alternative to harm reduction, but Hart went with "health and happiness."

And he's got a bone to pick with "psychedelic exceptionalism," the notion, dear to folks like Decriminalize Nature, that psychedelics, or better yet, "plant entheogens," are somehow "better" than dirty old drugs like meth or heroin and thus deserve to be treated differently, more gently. He also snarks at the notion that taking drugs for spiritual or religious purposes is of a higher order than taking them for fun and rebels at the notion of having a shaman or guide during a tripping session: "Some people find this comforting. I find it creepy and have never done so myself."

Drug Use for Grown-Ups is bracing, informative, and provocative contribution to the literature. Even the most ardent drug reformers and defenders would benefit from reading it and reexamining their own assumptions. Maybe Carl Hart is onto something.

Drug Companies Seek Big Tax Write-Offs for Opioid Settlements, VA Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (2/12/21)

South Dakota's obstinate governor continues to get in the way of marijuana legalization, a freshman Kansas state representative files a drug decriminalization bill, and more.

Pills, pills, pills. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Kentucky Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Campbell County) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 467. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce, provide free expungement of marijuana-related offenses, and dedicate up to 25% of the state's marijuana tax revenues to funding addiction treatment. Personal cultivation of up to five plants would be allowed but would require a $250 permit.

North Carolina Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. An Elon University poll released Thursday has support for marijuana legalization at 54%, with 34% opposed. That's a big swing in favor of legalization since 2017, when another Elon University poll had 51% opposed.

South Dakota Bill to Expunge Some Marijuana Convictions Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve Senate Bill 141, which would expunge some misdemeanor marijuana convictions from background checks. The bill would provide for the automatic expungement of marijuana possession convictions from public background reports. It still faces a Senate floor vote and action in the House.

South Dakota Governor Likely to Veto Any Marijuana Legalization Bills This Year. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who has already moved to invalidate a voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative, said Thursday she would probably veto any effort to achieve legalization through the legislature. She said at a news conference she would "not be inclined" to sign such a bill. Some legislators have indicated support for a legalization bill, saying it would reflect the will of the voters.

Virginia Marijuana Legalization Effort Advances. With both chambers having already approved marijuana legalization bills last week, the House General Laws Committee this week approved Substitute Senate Bill 1406, which amends the Senate bill to conform with the House's legalization bill. The Senate bill had allowed localities to opt-out of retail marijuana sales, the House bill doesn't.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Companies Seek Billions in Tax Deductions from Opioid Settlement. A major pharmaceutical company and three drug distribution companies who have agreed to pay $26 billion to settle claims related to their role in stoking the opioid epidemic are now seeking to write off some of those costs from their taxes and pocket about $1 billion each. The companies are drug maker Johnson & Johnson and distributors Cardinal Health, Amerisource-Bergen, and McKesson.

Psychedelics

Texas Bill to Study Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelics Filed. Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has filed a bill, HB 1802, that would mandate a state study of the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine in the treatment of certain mental health conditions. The Department of State Health Services would conduct the study along with the Texas Medical Board and issue a report by December 2022.

Drug Policy

Kansas Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Aaron Coleman (D-Kansas City), a 20-year-old freshman legislator, has filed a bill to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs. HB 2288 would make drug possession a civil offense punishable by a fine of $100, but it would also create the offense of "failure to comply with drug abuse treatment." The bill is currently before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

Purdue Consultant to Pay $573 Million in Settlements, Idaho Bill to Ban Marijuana Legalization Advances, More... (2/4/21)

Another massive settlement resulting from Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing of OxyContin, a Maryland marijuana legalization bill gets filed with support from the leadership, South Dakota lawmakers begin working to implement their marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Idaho Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marijuana Legalization.The state Senate on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would make it impossible for voters or legislators to legalize marijuana -- or any other drug not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 101, now heads to the House, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority. If it passes the House, it would then have to be approved by a simple majority of voters in the November 2022 election.

Maryland Senate President Cosponsors Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D) is cosponsoring a marijuana bill, Senate Bill 708, that was introduced this week. Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chair Brian J. Feldman (D) is the lead sponsor, and he has several other powerful cosponsors, including Budget and Taxation Chair Guy J. Guzzone (D), Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith Jr (D), Vice-Chair Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D). The bill would tax and regulate marijuana sales, but also include several social equity provisions.

Oregon Marijuana Social Equity Bill Filed. A coalition of legislators has filed House Bill 3112, which is also backed by numerous marijuana companies, the NuLeaf Project, the Oregon Cannabis Association, the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, the City of Portland, Urban League, and law students from Willamette University. The bill would use marijuana tax revenues to invest in communities adversely affected by decades of marijuana prohibition. The bill includes automatic expungement of past marijuana convictions, direct investment in marijuana businesses owned by minorities and people with marijuana convictions, and equity licenses with reduced fees and modified requirements for those communities.

South Dakota Lawmakers Take Up Bill to Implement Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. A bill designed to implement taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, House Bill 1225, was filed Wednesday. Titled "An Act to establish provisions concerning the sale of adult-use retail marijuana," the bill contains 72 separate sections addressing a wide range of rules and regulations related to recreational marijuana. Also, a bipartisan group of legislators has formed a Cannabis Caucus to study issues around managing legalization. Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative backed by Governor Kristi Noem (R) remains pending.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. The Senate Finance Committee has approved Senate Bill 2765, which would make medical marijuana available to people with specified debilitating and chronic diseases. Last November, voters approved a broader medical marijuana initiative, but it is being challenged in court. The bill sponsor says if the court strikes down the initiative, there will be a bill ready to replace it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Big Pharma Consulting Company Agrees to Pay $573 Million for Role in "Turbocharging" Prescription Opioid Sales, McKinsey & Company, a high-end consulting firm for big corporations, including major pharmaceutical companies, has agreed to pay $573 million to settle lawsuits that charged it with "turbocharging" the sale of prescription opioids. Attorneys general in 47 states, five US territories, and the District of Columbia sued the firm, unearthing documents showing how McKinsey worked to drive up the sales of Purdue Pharma's OxyContin -- even after Purdue pleaded guilty to federal charges of misleading doctors and regulators about OxyContin's risks.

Psychedelics

Cambridge Becomes Second Massachusetts City to Move to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The Cambridge city council voted Wednesday to decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics, following in the footsteps of Somerville, which passed a similar measure last month. The Cambridge resolution called for making enforcement of laws against the use and possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority, and it calls on police to stop arresting people for possessing or using any illicit drugs.

NJ AG Extends Moratorium on Minor Marijuana Prosecutions, New Plant Medicine Coalition Eyes Congress, More... (1/26/21)

Delaware's auditor says marijuana legalization is a no-brainer, a second medical marijuana bill is filed in Kentucky, Bay State pot shop owners drop a lawsuit after getting their fingers burned, and more.

Peyote. A new activist group, the Plant Medicine Coalition, is eyeing psychedelic reform at the federal level. (Creative Commons
Marijuana Policy

Delaware State Auditor Issues Report Recommending Marijuana Legalization. The Office of the Auditor of Accounts has issued an analysis that finds legalization would yield $43 million in marijuana tax revenues and create 1,400 new jobs in the state in the next five years. "Legalization done right in our view would allow Delaware to establish a policy framework to suppress the black market, curb usage through regulation for minors and collect revenue on a market demand that seems only to be increasing," the report concludes. "It would also provide a new revenue stream and new potential for economic growth. Additionally, it would eliminate arrests and keep people out of prison. Each year that we fail to capitalize on this opportunity means more money could flow to neighboring states instead of being invested here. It is time Delaware pursue legalizing marijuana."

Massachusetts Pot Shop Association Drops Lawsuit Over New Delivery Rules After Backlash from Members, Social Equity Advocates. The Commonwealth Dispensary Association announced Monday that it is dropping a lawsuit aimed at blocking new rules permitting home deliveries. The group has faced an exodus of members and criticism from social equity advocates over its challenge to the new rules, which will create new marijuana delivery and courier licenses. Those licenses will be available only to participants in the Cannabis Control Commission's social equity program.

New Jersey Attorney General Extends Order Halting Marijuana Prosecutions. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) has extended his order halting prosecutions for small-time marijuana possession offenses until the end of March. The move comes as a pair of bills that would launch a legal marijuana industry and decriminalize pot possession sit on Gov. Phil Murphy's (D) desk. "As we continue to await anticipated final action on the pending cannabis legalization and marijuana decriminalization legislation, I am instructing all New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors to seek an additional adjournment, until at least March 31, 2021, of any juvenile or adult case involving any of the following charges, alone or in combination with each other, where there are no other pending charges," he said in a letter last Friday.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Sees Second Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Sen. Steve West (R-District 27) has filed Senate Bill 92, which would allow a full-fledged medical marijuana program in the state. Earlier, Rep. Jason Nemes (R-33rd District) refiled House Bill 136, a separate medical marijuana legalization proposal that stalled in the legislative last year.

Psychedelics

Psychedelic Reform Movement Takes Aim at Congress. After seeing success at the state and local level in recent years, the psychedelic reform movement is setting its sights on Congress. A newly formed Plant Medicine Coalition, headed by Melissa Lavasani, who led the DC campaign to effectively decriminalize plant-based psychedelics, will be prodding lawmakers to make federal funds available for research into the therapeutic potential of such substances.

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