Clemency and Pardon

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OR Pot Pardons, Deadly Colombia Cocaine Clashes, More... (11/22/22)

A new Pew poll has a supermajority for medical marijuana, New York rolls out its first three dozen pot shop licenses, and more.

The black market cocaine trade continues to drive violence in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll Finds Supermajority for Medical Marijuana, Strong Majority for Legalization. A new Pew poll finds continuing strong support for both medical marijuana and broader marijuana legalization. Support for legalization for adults was at 59 percent, while an additional 30 percent also supported legalization for both medical and recreational use, bringing its level of support for medical marijuana to 89 percent. Only 10 percent said marijuana should remain illegal. The findings are largely unchanged from a Pew poll in April 2021. People in every age group indicated majority support for recreational marijuana except for those 75 and over. Only 30 percent of that group supported recreational legalization. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats supported recreational legalization, while only 45 percent of Republicans did. Among racial groups, Blacks were most supportive at 68 percent, followed by Whites at 60 percent, but neither Hispanics (49 percent) or Asians (48 percent) reported majority support for recreational legalization.

New York Award First Three Dozen Legal Pot Licenses; They Go to Social Equity, Non-Profit Applicants. State regulators awarded 37 licenses to legally sell marijuana on Monday. The licenses went to people with prior marijuana convictions and non-profits, including the anti-poverty Doe Fund and Housing Works. The move comes a year and a half since the state approved marijuana legalization. In the meantime, unlicensed sales have proliferated, especially in New York City. The state's Office of Cannabis Management also approved eight new licenses for marijuana processors, bringing the total to 32, and three new licenses for testing lab, bringing that total to seven. The retail pot shop licensees will be able to open up to three shops with each license.

Oregon Governor Issues More Than 47,000 Pardons for Marijuana Possession Convictions. Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday that she has issued pardons for 47,144 marijuana possession convictions affecting some 45,000 people. The pardons are for people caught with less than an ounce of pot who were at least 21 at the time of their arrest and go up to July 2016, when marijuana became legal in the state. The pardon action also forgives more than $14 million in fines and fees associated with the busts. "No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon." Issuing the pardons represents an effort "to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession," she added.

South Carolina Poll Has Supermajority Support for Medical Marijuana, Majority Support for Legalization. A new Winthrop poll has support for medical marijuana at a whopping 78 percent and support for marijuana legalization at 54 percent. The poll comes months after a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate only to die in the House. One GOP congresswoman described legislators who blocked reform as being "on the wrong side of history." On medical marijuana, 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans were in favor, but when it comes to full legalization, two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats were in favor, but only 39 percent of Republicans were.

International

Clashes Between Colombian Cocaine Traffickers Leave 18 Dead Near Ecuador Border. Rival drug trafficking groups engaged in a shoot-out last Saturday in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador, leaving a toll of at least 18 dead. On one side were holdouts from the former rebel army FARC who have rejected a 2016 FARC truce with the government. On the other side was a drug trafficking group known as Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commando), who also include former FARC fighters as well as remnants of a rightist paramilitary group that traffics cocaine to Ecuador and Brazil. The two groups have been fighting over control of the trade in the area for at least three years. The rebel FARC faction, also known as the Carolina Ramirez Front, has held exploratory talks with the government of President Gustavo Petro aimed at a truce, but nothing has come of that yet. 

Biden Commutes Sentences of 75 Drug Offenders, New Poll Has Strong Support for Drug Decrim, More... (4/26/22)

Marijuana legalization continues to be popular with the public, and support for drug decriminalization is trending the same way, and more.

Unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden used the formal pardon process to issue commutations. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Yet Another Poll Shows Unwavering Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the market research firm SSRS finds supermajority support for marijuana legalization, with 69 percent of respondents favoring the move. Support was strongest among Democrats (78 percent), followed by independents (74 percent) and Republicans (54 percent). Additionally, 58 percent of respondents, including 71 percent of millennials, agreed that "alcohol is more harmful to a person's health than marijuana." This poll comes on the hells of numerous other polls in recent years showing strong, enduring majority support for legalization. The poll hasa margin of error of +/– 3.5 percentage points.

Drug Policy

New Poll Shows Supermajority Support for Drug Decriminalization. A new survey from Data for Progress and the People's Action Institute shows strong majority support for drug decriminalization. The poll asked: "Last year, the state of Oregon decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead of being prosecuted, a person possessing small amounts of drugs will receive a fine (like a parking ticket). A person can get the fine waived if they participate in screenings from services like treatment, housing, mental health care, and employment. Would you support or oppose a similar measure nationwide?" Overall, 69 percent of respondents supported decriminalization, with Democrats leading the way (82 percent), followed by independents (75 percent), and even a majority of Republicans (54 percent). The poll also asked numerous other questions related to drug policy and harm reduction, with one striking finding that vast majorities of respondents (72 percent) had never read or heard about harm reduction programs.  The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Pardons and Commutations

Biden Commutes Sentences of 75 Drug Offenders. President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced he was commuting the sentences of 75 drug offenders and pardoning three other people. This is the first time Biden has made use of his presidential pardon power. The administration described the pardons and commutations as part of broader push to overhaul the criminal justice system, and it came the same day the Justice Department announced a $145 million plan to provide job skills training to federal prisoners. The administration said Biden is considering further commutations as well even as it noted he had issued more clemency grants than any of the last five presidents this early in their terms. The pardons and commutations went through the usual clemency process, a reversal of how President Trump relied on friends and allies for recommendations and generally used his pardon power to benefit people with wealth and connections, especially pro-Trump political operatives such as Steve Bannon and Roger Stone (although Trump did commute the sentences of a handful of celebrity-endorsed drug offenders). 

NYC Safe Injection Sites Already Saving Lives, Commutations for Drug Prisoners Could Be Coming, More... (12/23/21)

An Iowa Republican legislative leader shoots down Democrats' plan for a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, it's the time of year for presidential pardons and commutations, and more.

New York city safe injection sites have already reversed 59 overdoses. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Iowa Republican Leader Shoots Down Democrats' Plan for Marijuana Constitutional Amendment. Yesterday, we noted a call by a trio of Iowa Democratic state senators for a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. It didn't take long for a key Republican to shoot it down. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Brad Zaun of Urbandale said he had no intention of bringing the proposal for a vote and derided marijuana legalization as a "gimmick." Republicans control both the governor's office and the legislature.

Harm Reduction

New York City Safe Injection Sites Are Already Saving Lives. The NYC Health Department announced Tuesday that the nation's first sanctioned safe injection site has already been heavily utilized and saved dozens of lives. The department announced that 59 overdoses had been reversed at the sites, which have seen more than 2,000 visits from people seeking a safe, secure place to shoot up.

These initial results are "promising" and demonstrate how the sites "reduce needless suffering and avoidable deaths," said Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. "The simple truth is that Overdose Prevention Centers save lives -- the lives of our neighbors, family and loved ones."

A day earlier, the New York City Board of Health unanimously approved a resolution that touts evidence supporting the efficacy of a harm reduction approach to drug use and endorses the city's move to authorize safe consumption sites. The resolution urges "the federal government and New York State provide authorization of such overdose prevention centers and continue to expand funding and support for harm reduction services and medications for opioid use disorder treatment."

The Trump administration moved to block a safe injection site from opening in Philadelphia. It is not yet clear what the position of the Biden administration will be, but advocates are waiting for a Justice Department response in the pending Philadelphia case for a hint of what is to come. The Philadelphia safe injection site, Safehouse, is waiting for the DOJ to submit its position to an appeals court, but in what advocates see as a positive sign, the date for DOJ to do that has been pushed back from November 5 to March 7, 2022.

Sentencing

White House Says Biden Has "Every Intention" of Commuting Sentences for Some Drug Prisoners. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that President Biden has "every intention of using his clemency power" this year but was non-specific about when that might happen. When asked at a press briefing if there were any plans for commutations, Psaki said: "I don't have anything to preview at this time. I would just reiterate that the president has every intention of using his clemency power," she said. "And there has been some reporting which is accurate out there about looking at nonviolent drug offenders, but I don't have anything to update you on at this point in time."

Federal Judge Throws Out Purdue Pharma Oxycontin Settlement, 90-Year-Old Pot Prisoner Freed, More... (12/17/21)

The Ohio Senate approves a medical marijuana expansion bill, Baltimore will end pre-employment drug and alcohol screening for potential city government hires, and more.

Horacio Estrada-Elias with family, 2014
Marijuana Policy

90-Year-Old Federal Prisoner Serving Life for Marijuana Offense Wins Compassionate Release. A seriously ill federal prison doing life in prison for a nonviolent marijuana trafficking offense has been freed after a judge granted him compassionate relief on Tuesday -- overruling his own previous order denying the release. Horacio Estrada-Ellis, 90, had served more than a dozen years in prison and suffers from congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and chronic kidney disease, and also contracted the coronavirus while in prison. His warden had recommended compassionate release but federal District Court Judge Danny Reeves denied the motion in July, saying a life sentence is "the only sentence that would be appropriate." But a three-judge panel of the 6th US Circuit Court that Reeves had "abused (his) discretion" by ignoring the fact that Estrada-Ellis was unlikely to reoffend and by "overly emphasizing" his nonviolent crimes, and Reeves then issued a new opinion approving his compassionate release. Estrada-Ellis left prison on Friday.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion. The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow more dispensaries to sell medical marijuana, growers to grow more of it, and more patients to qualify for it by expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include any conditions for which a patients might "reasonably be expected" to find benefit or relief. The bill would also shift regulation of dispensaries from the pharmacy board to a new Division of Marijuana Control in the Commerce Department. The bill now heads to the House.

Opioids

Federal Judge Throws Out Purdue Pharma Opioid Settlement, Leaving Sackler Family Vulnerable to Civil Lawsuits. US District Court Judge Coleen McMahon on Thursday blew up a carefully negotiated settlement between Purdue Pharma and thousands of state, local, and tribal governments that had sued the company, which manufactured OxyContin, for its role in the rapid rise of opioid addiction beginning in the late 1990s. The agreement had shielded the Sackler family, which owned Purdue Pharma, from more civil lawsuits in return for a $4.5 billion payment. But McMahon ruled that the bankruptcy code does not allow such an agreement. Purdue has already said it will appeal, but lawyers for some government entities that had appealed the originally settlement were quite pleased: "This is a seismic victory for justice and accountability that will re-open the deeply flawed Purdue bankruptcy and force the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused," said William Tong, the attorney general of Connecticut. The explosion of opioid use that began with OxyContin eventually resulted in a backlash, leading to restrictions on the availability of prescription opioid that left chronic pain patients in the lurch and prompted many opioid users to move to the black market, fueling a large increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years.

Drug Testing

Baltimore to No Longer Require Pre-Employment Drug, Alcohol Screening for City Jobs. Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday that the city government will no longer require pre-employment drug and alcohol screening for new hires. The new policy has exceptions for safety-sensitive positions, such as law enforcement, and positions that require driving or operating heavy equipment.

"We want the best and brightest candidates to help us provide efficient and effective City services to our residents," the mayor said. "Frankly, the outdated and costly pre-employment drug and alcohol screenings only served to block qualified and passionate residents from obtaining employment with the City. This policy disproportionately harmed the prospects of talented Black and Brown job candidates. I am grateful that we are making this change now so that we can continue to improve local government operations and better serve the people of Baltimore."

OK Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million J&J Opioid Settlement, Detroit Dope Squad Probe Ends More... (11/10/21)

Civil rights groups ask for expanded clemency options for federal prisones sent home during the pandemic emergency, an Ohio bill would greatly expand the state's medical marijuana program, and more.

Medical Marijuana

OH Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana for Any Patient Who Can "Reasonably Be Expected to Benefit" from It. State Sen. Stephen Huffman (R) has filed a bill that would expand qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use to include arthritis, migraines, autism spectrum disorder, spasticity or chronic muscle spasms, hospice care, opioid use disorder, and the open-ended any condition from which a patient could benefit or obtain relief. The measure is Senate Bill 261, and it would also allow curbside pickup and drive-through dispensing, as has been allowed during the coronavirus epidemic. But wait, there's more: The bill would also expand the number of dispensaries to one for every thousand registered patients, up to the first 300,000 patients. After that, additional dispensaries would be added on an as-needed basis. The bill would also triple the maximum size of medical marijuana cultivation sites from 25,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet for large growers and allow small-scale growers to grow up to 20,000 square feet, up from the current 3,000. Huffman said he expects his bill to be sent to the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, with a hearing next week.

Opioids

Oklahoma Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million Opioid Ruling Against Johnson & Johnson. In a setback for those seeking to hold pharmaceutical manufactures accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a 2019 lower court ruling that found Johnson & Johnson liable and ordered it to pay $465 million. That is the second time this month that a court has reversed decisions requiring drug companies to pay for their role in the opioid crisis. A California judge ruled similarly on November 1. In Tuesday's case, the high court rejected the state's contention that the company violated "public nuisance laws," and the two decisions together invalidate a key legal strategy used by plaintiffs in thousands of cases attempting to hold the drug companies responsible. But "public nuisance" laws vary from state to state, so it is not clear how much impact these decisions will have in other states. The state had argued that J & J created a "public nuisance" by aggressively overstating the benefits and downplaying the dangers of their prescription opioids.

Law Enforcement

Detroit Police Conclude Two-Year Probe into Crooked Dope Squad. Detroit Police Chief James White said Tuesday that a two-year internal affairs probe into corruption in the departments drug unit known as the Operation Clean Sweep Taskforce has ended and "we're confident we rooted out the problem." The probe found numerous examples of misconduct, including overtime fraud, forgery, false affidavits, and perjury, leading 12 members of the Narcotics Squad to leave the department under investigation. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is still evaluating whether to bring criminal charges against any squad members.

Sentencing

Civil Rights Groups Ask White House to Expand Pandemic Clemency. Some 29 civil rights and civil liberties groups have coalesced to ask the White House to broaden a plan to grant clemency to inmates released to home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic. They say the current policy wrongfully excludes people convicted of non-drug-related crimes and people serving long sentences. Some 4,800 federal prisoners were released early because of the pandemic but face a return to prison once the emergency ends if no clemency is granted. The attorney general is on board: "It would be a terrible policy to return these people to prison," Merrick Garland told lawmakers last month, but his Justice Department says it lacks the legal authority to let the prisoners stay at home. The Biden administration is only allowing released inmates to seek clemency if they are low-level non-violent drug offenders with less than four years to serve.

BOP Tells Certain Drug Prisoners to Apply for Clemency, Italy Marijuana Decrim Referendum, More... (9/13/21)

Italian activists and political parties are pushing a referendum on decriminalizing marijuana cultivation and possession, the Biden administration asks prisoners with certain drug offenses to apply for clemency, and more.

Some federal drug prisoners released to home confinement during the pandemic are urged to seek clemency. (Creative Commons)
Sentencing Policy

Biden Administration Asks Prisoners with Certain Drug Convictions to Apply for Clemency. As part of an effort to grant presidential relief to hundreds of federal drug prisoners now on home confinement because of the pandemic, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is now telling eligible individuals to start filling out applications for clemency. More than 8,000 federal inmates were let out on home confinement last year amid the pandemic, and the Trump Justice Department's position was that they would have to return to prison once the crisis was over. The Biden Justice Department appeared to agree with that position, but this move from the BOP is a strong signal that the administration is looking for ways to keep at least some people from going back to prison to finish their sentences.

International

Italian Push for Marijuana Decriminalization Underway. A number of pro-reform activist groups and political parties have launched a ballot campaign for a referendum to decriminalize domestic marijuana production and remove penalties for personal use. They have until September 30 to come up with 500,000 valid voter signatures and have gathered 100,000 since the campaign began last week. If the signature goals are met and verified by the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Constitutional Court will then rule on whether the question is in line with the Italian constitution. If yes, President Sergio Mattarella would set the date for the referendum, which would ask whether that portion of the country's drug law criminalizing marijuana possession or cultivation should be stricken.

Uruguay Increases THC Limit in Legal Marijuana, Ponders Allowing Tourist Sales. Four years after the country became the first in the world to allow legal recreational marijuana sales, the government of President Luis Lacalle Pou is moving to increase the THC limit in legal marijuana and is studying whether to modify regulations to allow sales to foreign visitors. "It seems to me that if we come up with a good proposal," Uruguay could open its regulated marijuana market to tourists, said National Drugs Board head Daniel Radio. "For the upcoming tourism season, it's highly unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out." Under current law, adult citizens and foreign residents who sign up for a government registry can grow their own marijuana or buy 40 grams a month at registered pharmacies.

OH Marijuana Legalization Campaign Can Gather Signatures, Biden Considers Drug Sentence Commutations, More... (8/31/21)

An effort to force the DEA to reconsider the Schedule I status of marijuana has been shot down by the 9th Circuit, an Ohio marijuana legalization campaign gets the go-ahead to start signature gathering, and more.

Will the president commute some drug sentences to avoid sending people out on home confinement back to prison? (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Okay to Start Signature Gathering. A marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was approved for signature gathering Monday by the Ohio Ballot Board. The board determined that the initiative indeed addresses a single issue -- marijuana legalization -- and can proceed. Backers must now come up with 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the proposal before the legislature. If the legislature refuses to act, rejects the proposal, or amend it within four months, backers could then collect another 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the issue directly before the voters in 2022.

Medical Marijuana

US 9th Circuit Rejects Bid to Make Feds Rethink Stance on Medical Marijuana. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its decades-old position that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. The ruling came in a case brought by medical marijuana researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley and three veterans who claim harm from marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. The plaintiffs asked the court to force the DEA to revisit its stance, with plaintiff's attorney calling the DEA's stance "a relic of a bygone era." In their 16-page opinion Monday, a three-judge panel rejected the petition, finding Sisley and her co-petitioners failed to exhaust other avenues of relief that they could have pursued before coming to court.

Criminal Justice

President Biden Considering Commuting Sentences of Some Drug Offenders. In a bid to avoid forcing drug offenders released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic back to prison after the emergency ends, President Biden is considering commuting their sentences by using his clemency powers. The proposal is aimed at nonviolent drug offenders with fewer than four years left on their sentences. Those with longer sentences or who committed other types of crimes would be out of luck. Normally, federal prisoners are only eligible for home confinement in the final six months of their sentences, and as many as 2,000 who were sent home are outside that limit and subject to being returned to prison when the COVID emergency ends (although thanks to recalcitrant Americans, that end date seems to be constantly receding). A Trump-era Justice Department memo concluded that once the emergency ends, legal authority to keep inmates in home confinement would "evaporate," but inmates advocates and some Democratic lawmakers are urging the administration to reject that memo and come up with a rationale to extend home confinements.

Gallup Says Nearly Half of US Adults Have Smoked Pot, Sri Lanka Drug War Abuses Called Out, More... (8/17/21)

Washington state's governor is moving to commute hundreds of drug possession sentences, a new Gallup poll has the number of Americans who admit ever using marijuana at an all-time high, and more.

The number of Americans who admit to having tried marijuana is at an all-time high, says Gallup. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Percent of US Adults Who Have Ever Smoked Pot at Highest Point Ever. A new Gallup poll has the percentage of US adults who have ever tried marijuana at 49%, the highest figure Gallup has recorded to date. In 1969, just 4% said they had tried it, with that figure rising to 20% in 1977, 30% in 1985, and 40% in 2015. But the number of people who say they currently "smoke marijuana" is much smaller, staying steady at between 11% and 13% after jumping from the 7% in 2013, the first year Gallup asked the question. Trends in marijuana use are generational, with only 19% of people over 75 having tried it, compared with about half of millennials (51%), Generation Xers (49%) and baby boomers (50%).

Drug Policy

Washington State Governor Unveils New Process to Commute Hundreds of Drug Possession Sentences. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Monday rolled out a new method for hundreds of people seeking to commute their sentences for low-level drug convictions to do so. The move comes after the state Supreme Court invalidated the state's drug possession law because it did not require people to knowingly possess, leading the state legislature to pass a bill allowing people caught with drugs to be referred to a health evaluation and possible drug treatment for their first two offenses. Now, the governor is pushing expedited clemency for those eligible under the new policy and those currently on probation or paroled for low-level drug possession can directly petition the governor for a commutation.

International

Human Rights Watch Calls for Suspension of International Assistance to Sri Lanka Police over Abuses in War on Drugs, Fight Against COVID. Human Rights Watch has called on international donors and "partners" of the Sri Lankan police to suspend assistance to them because they "are increasingly killing and abusing people under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic measures and an anti-drug campaign." The group cited recent police abuses including alleged extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention. It called on the government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to "restore independent oversight of the police and meaningfully investigate and prosecute alleged police abuses." "Sri Lanka's police seem intent on building on their past record of serious abuses, instead of cleaning up their act," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The UN, UK, and others working with Sri Lankan law enforcement should recognize that without the political will to reform on Sri Lanka’s part, their engagement risks appearing to endorse abusive agencies." Human Rights Watch noted two cases in May where men in arrested on drug charges were fatally shot while in police custody. It also noted that the Sri Lankan government placed the police and the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board under the Defense Ministry last year. The police crackdown on drugs has allegedly involved planting drugs on suspects, torture, and other ill-treatment in police custody or at "rehabilitation" centers run by the Army. A new report from Harm Reduction International  found that "treatment" at those centers includes near-daily beatings and other physical abuses amounting to torture.

White House Considering Clemency for Federal Drug Offenders, WY Marijuana Initiatives Advance, More... (8/13/21)

A major drug crackdown in India's Assam state is raising fears of another bloody drug war like the one in neighboring Bangladesh, Wyoming marijuana inititives pass a first hurdle, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Wyoming Marijuana Initiatives Pass First Hurdle. The secretary of state has certified the first one hundred signatures for two marijuana-related marijuana initiatives, one for medical marijuana and one for recreational legalization. That certification means that the initiatives are now clearly for broader signature gathering to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. To qualify, petitioners must gather 41,776 valid voter signatures before February 14, 2022.

Criminal Justice

White House Says Biden Exploring Clemency for Federal Drug Offenders. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Biden is looking into using his executive authority to grant clemency to people with certain non-violent drug convictions. Her comments came in response to a question about plans for federal inmates who had been released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is "working hard every day to reform our justice system in order to strengthen families, boost our economy, give people a chance at a better future," Psaki responded. "As part of this, the president is deeply committed to reducing incarceration, helping people successfully reenter society. And he has said too many people are incarcerated—too many are black and brown. And he is therefore exploring multiple avenues to provide relief to certain nonviolent drug offenders, including through the use of his clemency power."

International

India's Assam State Launches War on Drugs. The northeastern Indian state of Assam has for years served as the primary transit corridor for drugs from neighboring Myanmar, particularly methamphetamine, and now the state government has launched a major crackdown, seizing record amounts of drugs and arresting more than 2,000 people since May, more than full-year totals for any previous year. Assam connects the northeast to the rest of India, and experts estimate that 80% of the drugs flowing into the state end up in the rest of the country. The crackdown comes after an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Himanta Biswa Sarma, became the state's chief minister in May, saying he was giving police a free hand to suppress drugs, including shooting suspects when necessary. So far only two people have been killed in police raids. Some experts fear Assam could descend into drug war violence like that which has occurred in neighboring Bangladesh, where methamphetamine use is rife, and police have have killed hundreds of suspected drug dealers since 2018.

HI & NM Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance, NJ Harm Reduction Bills, More... (3/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and New Mexico, a pot prisoners' group calls on President Biden to grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders, a California bill to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses advance, and more.

Marijuana legislation is popping up all over the place. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Last Prisoner Project Calls on Biden to Grant Clemency to Federal Marijuana Prisoners. The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis-related criminal justice reform, has launched 'A Time To Heal,' an advocacy campaign calling on President Biden to leverage his clemency power to commute the sentences of thousands of people unjustifiably incarcerated due to federal marijuana-related violations. The advocacy organization is also encouraging the President to issue grants to the tens of thousands more still struggling because of the collateral consequences of a federal cannabis conviction. "President Biden himself has acknowledged that 'nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime'. We're encouraging him to turn his words into action and use the most immediate tool at his disposal to provide this desperately-needed relief," said project director of strategic initiatives Natalie Papillion.

Arkansas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) on Monday filed SB499, which would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by a $200 fine. Possession is currently a Class A misdemeanor.

Hawaii Senate Approves Expanded Decriminalization, Marijuana Legalization Bills. The state Senate approved two separate marijuana policy reform bills on Tuesday. Senate Bill 767 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over, while Senate Bill 758 would expand the amount of marijuana that is currently decriminalized from three grams to 30 grams. Both measures passed by veto-proof margins. The bills now head for consideration by the House.

New Mexico Senate Committee Approves Two Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved a Senate bill to legalize marijuana, Senate Bill 288 on a unanimous vote and also approved a House bill to legalize marijuana, HB 12, on a 7-4 vote. Two other legalization bills were shelved by sponsors as the legislature seeks consensus on a final measure. The two remaining bills now head for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislation must be approved there and on the Senate floor before the session ends on March 20.

New York Coalition Forms for Final Marijuana Legalization Push. Dozens of organized labor groups, progressive organizations, and businesses are set to launch on Wednesday a coalition to make a final push for the legalization of adult-use cannabis products in New York. All told, more than 40 groups are signing onto the coalition called New Yorkers for New Revenue & Jobs, highlighting what advocates contend is one of the main selling points of legalized marijuana in New York: the millions of dollars in revenue the measure would provide in the coming years for the state and local governments. The coalition includes the New York AFL-CIO, as well as the New York Cannabis Industry Association and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) filed a marijuana legalization bill, HB 3248, on Monday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces and 10 ounces at home. It has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms Filed. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) filed a bill to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on Monday. AO6065 is similar to legislation Rosenthal filed last year that went nowhere. It would remove psilocybin and psilocin from the state's list of controlled substances. It is now before the Assembly Health Committee.

Harm Reduction

Coronavirus Relief Bill Includes Funding for Addiction Treatment, Harm Reduction. The American Rescue Plan Act, the coronavirus relief bill passed this week by Congress, includes nearly $4 billion for substance abuse disorder and mental health, including funding for harm reduction activities such as needle exchange services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Wednesday. In addition to $1.5 billion for block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, the act includes $30 million in community-based funding for local substance use disorder services like syringe services programs and other harm reduction interventions.

New Jersey Harm Reduction Bills Filed. Far-reaching harm reduction expansion legislation was introduced in the Senate Health Committee earlier today. The bill package, sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, would reduce overdose deaths, prevent infectious disease, and connect people who use drugs to non-judgmental support. It would do this by creating a statewide standing order for naloxone (brand name Narcan), the medicine that reverses an overdose (S3491); lifting the onerous municipal ordinance requirement that limits harm reduction services (S3009); decriminalizing syringes and expunging previous convictions (S3493); making HIV prophylaxis medication available at pharmacies without a prescription (S1039); and allowing harm reduction programs to offer mail-based services (S3065). Companion measures have been filed in the House.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Advances. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 73, which would repeal state laws enacted in the midst of the drug war that created mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Drug War Issues

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