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Biden Asks Congress to Permanently Schedule Fentanyl Analogues, Seattle Task Force Calls for Drug Decrim, More... (9/3/21)

A Seattle task force calls for drug decriminalization, Vancouver activists seek permission to operate drug buyers' clubs, and more.

Congress must decide whether to permanently schedule fentanyl analogues as Schedule I substances. (Creative Commons)
Drug Policy

Biden's Acting Drug Czar Asks Congress for Opioid Crackdown Help. The Biden administration has asked Congress to permanently schedule illicit fentanyl analogues as Schedule I substances, alongside heroin and MDMA. Acting Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) Director Regina LaBelle made the request in a letter to Congress, saying the move would help law enforcement go after illicit opioid manufactures and dealers. Drug reformers had lobbied the administration not to take this step, and reacted unhappily (see below).

Civil Rights Leaders, Drug Policy Experts Denounce as Counterproductive Biden Recommendations on Fentanyl-Related Substances and Continued War on Drugs. In response to the recommendations presented to Congress by the ONDCP, HHS, and the Justice Department to permanently schedule fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs, civil rights leaders drug policy reform leaders including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Drug Policy Alliance issued the following statement:

"We cannot continue doing the same things and expect to get different results. Despite the Biden administration's stated commitment to criminal justice reform, and ending disparities in the system, the recommendation to permanently schedule fentanyl-related substances echoes the failed drug policies of our past. Today's proposal is reminiscent of these policies, which led to over-policing and law enforcement, disproportionately impacted people of color, overcrowded prisons, and cost lives. The proposal is a major step backward in the fight to dismantle the harms of the past and save lives."

Seattle Task Force Calls for Drug Decriminalization. The city's Overdose Emergency Innovative Recovery (OEIR) task force is recommending the decriminalization of the possession of all drugs. The group, which was responding to the city council's request for policy advice on how to reduce overdose deaths, announced its recommendations at a Tuesday night event. It said that removing the penalties around drug possession -- or even legalizing and regulating them -- would "create opportunities for research and access to a regulated safe supply in a manner that is safest for everyone in the community." The task force also recommended expanding housing, treatment and harm reduction services, and working to reduce social stigma around substance abuse disorders. "Unlearning drug war propaganda of the last century will take time and patience," the group said in a summary document. "It will take an all hands on deck effort to end the stigmatization and harm that more than a century of prohibition has caused."

International

Vancouver Activists Formally Ask Canadian Government to Allow Buyers' Clubs for Hard Drugs. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) have formally asked the Canadian government to allow them to operate buyers' clubs for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine in order to produce users with a reliable "safe supply" of those drugs. The two groups submitted an open letter to Health Canada requesting a formal exemption from federal criminal drug laws so that no one is prosecuted for operating a "compassion club" to distribute those drugs. "The DULF Fulfillment Center and Compassion Club model is saving lives right now," the letter states, "and will save more if we are permitted to continue our work with federal authorization. We are prepared to undertake such action, and hope that you will support our efforts. Lives depend on it." The letter requests a decision from Health Canada by October 15. If DULF and VANDU's request is granted, it will represent a historic milestone in international efforts to roll back the drug war. More importantly, it will have an immediate impact on the safety of compassion club members.

Thai Parliament Approves Drug Reform Bill, US Reform Groups Urge DOJ to End Fentanyl Analog Scheduling

Drug reform, civil rights, and other groups urge the Justice Department to end the punitive emergency scheduling of fentanyl and its analogs, a North Carolina medical marijuana bill advances, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogs are the subject of a battle over draconian emergency scheduling. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 711. The committee had already approved the bill but had to take it up again after it was revised in a separate committee. Now, it goes before one final committee, the Senate Health Care and Rules Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of a list of "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana. The bill will now also allow patients with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live and those in hospice care to use medical marijuana. Patients could possess up to an ounce and a half but would not be able to grow their own. Medical marijuana would be provided by up to 10 growers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

Opioids

More Than 140 Groups Urge DOJ to End Over-Criminalization of Fentanyl-Related Substances. Some 142 drug reform, criminal justice, religious, civil liberties, and other groups have written to Attorney General Merrick Garland to urge the Biden administration to let the Trump administration's temporary "classwide" emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances expire on October 22. The groups also asked the administration to engage in more interactions with stakeholders before it finalizes its recommendations to Congress, complaining that the coalition had only been granted one half-hour "listening session" with the working group studying the topic. "The class wide scheduling policy must expire," the groups wrote. "Class wide scheduling would exacerbate pretrial detention, mass incarceration, and racial disparities in the prison system, doubling down on a fear-based, enforcement-first response to a public health challenge. The policy could also lead to over-criminalization and prosecutorial misconduct. Under the class wide control, any offense involving a 'fentanyl-related substance' is subject to federal criminal prosecution, even if the substance in question is helpful or has no potential for abuse. Failure to define with specificity through our laws what is or is not illegal will lead to miscarriages of justice."The groups also argued that class wide scheduling will not help curb overdose rates or curb the supply of fentanyl or its analogs.

International

Thai Parliament Approves New Drug Law Emphasizing Prevention and Treatment. The parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to a new drug law that emphasizes prevention and treatment rather than punishment for small-scale drug users while also introducing tougher measures against organized crime. The omnibus bill first approved by the cabinet in 2019, consolidates more than 20 existing laws relating to drugs, ranging from sentencing for drug possession and distribution to asset forfeiture. "The new law shifts away from the old concept that emphasises only suppression because more suppression has not resulted in drug eradication," said Chatchawan Suksumjit, a senator who chaired a joint parliamentary committee overseeing changes to the new narcotic laws. "Punishment will now be divided between low level, which means drug users, who will systematically receive treatment rather than prison, while high level offenders will face more severe punishment," he said. Drug offenders make up more than 80% of Thailand's 300,000 prisoners. The new law could result in reduced sentences for up to 50,000 of them once it becomes law after winning royal endorsement later this year.

Biden Vows to Continue Pressure on China over Opioids, Chiapas Militia Emerges to Fight Cartels, More... (7/23/21)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez files an amendment to encourage psychedelic research, President Biden says he will stay tough on Chinese opioid exports, and more.

President Biden vows to keep pressuring China on opioids, but a better approach may be to ramp up harm reduction here.
Psychedelics

AOC Files Amendment to Promote Psychedelic Research in Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has for the second time filed an amendment to a multi-agency appropriations bill that aims to promote research into psychedelics such by removing a rider than has been in effect since 1996 that bars the use of federal dollars "any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I." A description of the amendment says it is designed to allow "United States researchers to study and examine the potential impacts of several schedule I drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin, and or ibogaine, that have been shown to be effective in treating critical diseases. She introduced an earlier version of the amendment in 2019 only to see it voted down in a bipartisan and overwhelming fashion, but has a lot has changed in the realm of psychedelics since then.

Foreign Policy

Biden Vows to Continue Pressure on China over Opioids. At a town hall meeting in Cincinnati Wednesday, President Joe Biden vowed to continue "this encounter with China" over opioids, saying that his administration is "addressing the opioid issue" by increasing the number of people in the Justice Department. Biden has repeatedly criticized China, which is a major source of fentanyls and precursor chemicals that go into Mexico and from there into the US, accusing it of failing to crack down on drug trafficking. China banned two fentanyl precursors in 2018, but has not taken additional steps since then.

"I don't think we can do much to delay the export of these drugs in these countries, said Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc., arguing instead for enhanced harm reduction measures at home. In that book, Westhoff put the number of Chinese chemical companies at more than 400,000.

International

Mexico's Chiapas State Sees Formation of Militia to Counter Drug Cartels. A newly formed and heavily armed indigenous militia announced its presence by marching masked and armed through the streets of Pantelho in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas last weekend. The militia, calling itself "El Machete," said in an online manifesto that it is a "David" fighting against the "Goliath" of drug cartels and their assassins, and that it seeks peace, democracy, and justice. While self-defense militias to fend off organized crime have been sporadically active in states such as Michoacan and Guerrero for years, "El Machete" is the first such group to emerge in Chiapas, which attracts competing drug trafficking groups because of its location on the Guatemalan border, and which was the birthplace of the Zapatista uprising back in 1994.

Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in House, MD Governor Vetoes Paraphernalia Decrim, More... (5/28/21)

The proposed Biden budget retains the ban on selling and taxing marijuana in Washington, DC, marijuana consumption lounge bills are moving in California and Nevada, and more.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vetoed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia. (Creative Commons
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in House. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D=NY) reintroduced a marijuana legalization bill Friday morning, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act. The House passed a similar version of the bill last year, only to see in die in the GOP-led Senate. This year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he will filed a legalization bill shortly.

Biden Budget Keeps Ban on DC Marijuana Sales. President Biden's first proposed budget retains congressionally imposed on selling and taxing marijuana in the nation's capital. House Democrats could ignore that that proposal and vote to undo the budget rider that blocks the District from moving forward, but that could get complicated in the evenly divided Senate.

California Assembly Approves Bill to Allow Food and Drink Sales at Marijuana Consumption Lounges. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 1034, which would alter the state's marijuana laws, which already allow consumption lounges, to allow those lounges to sell non-marijuana foods and drinks. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Nevada Assembly Approves Marijuana Consumption Lounge Bill. The Assembly on Thursday approved Assembly Bill 341 on a 29-12 vote. The bill would allow existing pot retailers to open a consumption lounge at one of its facilities. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill with Stricter Rules for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. After a lengthy hearings, the House Public& Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill, House Bill 1317, proposing stricter rules for medical marijuana patients and physicians, as well as new packaging requirements for commercial marijuana concentrate and state-funded research into the mental-health effects of potent marijuana products. The bill now goes before the House Finance Committee.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Restrictive Medical Marijuana Rules. In a ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the state's restrictive medical marijuana rules, rejecting a challenge from a grower who was denied a license. The grower had argued that the state's regulation did not comply with the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. A 2017 law created steep barriers to entry in the industry by mandating that licensees had to operate in every aspect of the business.

Drug Policy

Federal Bill to Make Fentanyl Schedule I Filed in House. A bipartisan pair of congressmen filed the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act on Thursday. The drug and its analogs have been temporarily placed in Schedule I, a classification that was set to expire earlier this month, but was extended to October 2022. This bill, and companion legislation already filed in the Senate, would make the move permanent.

Illinois Legislature Approves Bill Restoring Food Stamp Benefits for Drug Felons. With a vote in the Senate Thursday, the legislature has approved House Bill 88, which would provide that a conviction for a drug crime would no longer make people ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (food stamps) benefits. The ban is federally imposed, but contains a provision allowing states to opt out from enforcing it, and nearly all states have.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Governor Vetoes Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization Bill. Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of drug paraphernalia on Wednesday, Senate Bill 420. He cited public safety concerns in his veto message. But bill sponsor Senator Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) has vowed to override the veto. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but not the Senate.

OD Deaths Hit Record High During Pandemic, Campaign to End Crack Cocaine Sentence Disparity, More... (4/14/21)

Washington's governor commutes some drug possession sentences after the state's Supreme Court voids its felony drug possession law, the St. Louis County Council votes to decriminalize pot possession, the Orleans Parish prosecutors is not going to try most drug possession cases anymore and more.

There's a move afoot in Congress to finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Finds Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization, Expungement. As legislators ponder whether to make Connecticut the next state to legalize marijuana, a new poll from Sacred Heart University shows strong popular support for the move. The poll had support at 66%, with 62% saying that if marijuana is legalized, those with prior marijuana convictions should have their records expunged.

St. Louis County Council Votes to Decriminalize Pot Possession. The council Tuesday night approved a resolution reducing the penalty for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana to a fine of less than $100. The previous penalty had been up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.The Maplewood City Council also passed legislation Tuesday night to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A medical marijuana bill with bipartisan has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill 711, the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, would protect doctors and patients from civil and criminal penalties for using or recommending medical marijuana and would allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

Drug Policy

Orleans Parish District Attorney Will No Longer Charge Small-Time Drug Possession Offenses, Except for Heroin and Fentanyl. The Orleans Parish District Attorney's office has adopted a policy of refusing to prosecute charges for possession of small amounts of drugs. New Orleans police may continue to arrest people for small-time possession, but they will not be prosecuted for "an amount intended for personal use." But there is one big exception: Heroin and fentanyl charges will continue to be prosecuted.

Pardons and Commutations

Washington Governor Commutes Sentences After Felony Drug Possession Law Thrown Out. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision voiding the state's felony drug possession law, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced Tuesday that he had commuted the sentences of 13 prisoners who were incarcerated on drug possession charges. More commutations are coming, his office said.

Sentencing

Coalition Asks Judiciary Committee Chairs to Eliminate Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. More than two dozen think tanks and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum have banded together to call on the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees to end the crack-powder cocaine federal sentencing disparity by passing Senate Bill 71, the EQUAL Act. Sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill would eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and make that change retroactive.

Biden Administration Supports Temporary Extension of Ban on Fentanyl Analogues. The Justice Department said Monday it would support a bill that would extend a temporary ban on fentanyl analogues for another seven months. The Trump-era ban is set to expire next month without action by Congress. The department said it would "work with Congress to seek a clean, seven-month extension to prevent this important law enforcement tool from lapsing." The move has been opposed by criminal justice reform groups some researchers, who worry it could incite mass incarceration and make research more difficult. The department acknowledged these concerns, saying it intends to "address legitimate concerns related to mandatory minimums (prison terms) and researcher access to these substances."

Public Health

Drug Overdoses Hit Record High During Pandemic. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 87,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September. That's the largest number for any year since the opioid epidemic began in the mid-1990s. The biggest jump in deaths took place in April and May, in the depths of pandemic lockdowns and attendant fear and stress.

ONDCP Says Overdoses Spiked During Pandemic, Poll Has 75% Opposed to Marijuana Prohibition, More... (4/2/21)

North Dakota lawmakers reject a bid to let voters decide on marijuana legalization, a West Virginia medical marijuana expansion bill remains alive, drug overdose deaths are up during the pandemic, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Poll Has Three-Quarters of Americans Opposing Pot Prohibition. A new The Hill/HarrisXDaily poll has only 25% supporting marijuana prohibition, while opponents of prohibition divided evenly between those who thought the federal government should legalize it (38%) and those who said leave it up to the individual states (37%).

Montana Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bills Head for House Floor Vote. House committees advanced three different bills aimed at creating a regulatory system for legal marijuana, House Bill 670, House Bill 701, and House Bill 707. The three bills all have different visions of what legal pot is going to look like, and all three would make significant changes from what voters approved if November. If none of them passes, the language of the successful legalization initiative would go into effect.

North Dakota Senate Kills Bid to Let Voters Decide Marijuana Legalization. After knocking back efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, the state Senate on Thursday also rejected a resolution that would have put the issue directly before voters on the 2022 ballot and required legislators to create a legal marijuana program if they passed it. That opens the door to at least one, possibly two, legalization efforts through the citizen initiative process.

Medical Marijuana

West Virginia Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. On the last day to move bills out of their chambers of introduction, the Senate approved Senate Bill 231, which would expand the number of dispensaries in the state and the number of acceptable forms of medical marijuana. It also creates reciprocity with other medical marijuana states. The bill now moves to the House.

Drug Policy

Drug Overdose Deaths Spiked During Pandemic, ONDCP Says. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Thursday that fatal drug overdoses jumped dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. "We lost 88,000 people in the 12-month period ending in August 2020," acting ONDCP director Regina LaBelle told reporters during a morning briefing. "Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and synthetic opioids are the primary drivers of this increase." That was up 27% over the previous 12-month period.

NY Legalizes Marijuana, US-Mexico Anti-Drug Cooperation at Standstill, WA Drug Decrim Bill Filed, More... (3/31/21)

The New York legislature approved marijuana legalization last night and the governor says he will sign the bill, a drug decriminalization bill has been filed in Washington state, North Carolina Republican senators head in the opposite direction when it comes to fentanyl, and more.

President Joe Biden is not leading the way on marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Still Opposed to Marijuana Legalization, Press Secretary Says. In response to a question from reporters about whether President Biden would support a push by Democratic senators to legalize marijuana federally, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the president "believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana" and that his stance opposing legalization "has not changed."

Colorado Bill to Double Legal Possession Quantity Passes House. A bill that would double the amount of marijuana that it is legal to possess, House Bill 1090, passed the House on Tuesday. The bill would make possession of up to two ounces legal, as well as expanding opportunities for people with marijuana records to get those offenses expunged. The bill now heads for a Senate committee.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance in First Day of Special Session. Marijuana legalization has now been divided into two bills, both of which advanced Tuesday in the first day of special session called to get the legislation passed. The new House Bill 2, which would legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for people 21 and over, passed both the House Taxation and Revenue committee and the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 2 is largely the same as House Bill 12, but has criminal justice provisions, including expungement, stripped out. Those provisions are now embodied in the new Senate Bill 2, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The full Senate will take it up today.

New York Legislature Approves Marijuana Legalization. After hours of debate Tuesday, the state Senate voted 40-23 to approve the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA) (Senate Bill 854), which would immediately legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and set the stage for a taxed and regulated legal marijuana market. The House followed up hours later, approving the bill on a 100-49 vote. An embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reached an agreement with legislative leaders on the bill over the weekend and has said he will sign it into law. Tuesday night, Cuomo said he looked forward to signing the bill. "New York has a storied history of being the progressive capital of the nation, and this important legislation will once again carry on that legacy," he said.

Virginia Governor Asks Legislature to Make Marijuana Legal in July, Not 2024. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has asked the legislature to amend the marijuana legalization bill it approved earlier this month by moving up the effective date for the legalization of marijuana possession to this coming July, instead of waiting for 2024. The move came on the last day for the governor to act on the bill. He also wants to move up allowing home cultivation of up to four plants per household as of July 1, 2021. The bill will now go back to the legislature for final approval.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote A Nebraska committee on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Legislative Bill 474. The bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to possess and purchase up to two and a half ounces of marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It would not, however, allow patients to smoke marijuana. The bill now heads for a final legislative floor vote.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Wednesday to approve a medical marijuana bill, (Senate Bill 150/ House Bill 3361), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote next week. The bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions to access medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

Drug Policy

North Carolina Republican Senators' Bill to Increase Penalties for Fentanyl Possession Advances. A group of Republican state senators have filed Senate Bill 321, which would make possession of fentanyl a felony. Possession of fentanyl is currently a misdemeanor, but the bill would make it a Class I felony, putting it in the same class as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and will be considered by one more committee Wednesday before being scheduled for a vote in the full Senate.

Washington State Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Senators Liz Lovelett (D) and cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 5476, which would decriminalize the possession of "personal use amounts" of drugs. The state is currently without a felony drug possession law after the state Supreme Court threw out that law earlier this month. The bill is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Foreign Policy

US Investigations into Cartels Paralyzed by Standoff with Mexico. Cooperation between US and Mexican authorities into Mexican drug cartels has come to a standstill since Mexico last December enacted a law requiring US officials to report their law enforcement contacts in the country to Mexican officials, whom they view as largely corrupt. Investigators on both sides of the border have paused cooperation over fears that the new disclosure rules could compromise cases or, worse yet, get Mexican officials helping the Americans killed. Drug raids on Mexican drug labs have largely stopped and US officials are having more difficulty tracking cocaine shipments through Mexico. The Mexican government acted in December after a retired Mexican general was arrested by the DEA in Los Angeles in October, then released after loud protests from Mexico.

DEA Releases Annual Drug Threat Assessment, RI Senate Approves Safer Injection Sites, More... (3/2/21)

The DEA points to Mexican drug cartels as the nation's greatest criminal drug threat, senators in Washington state move to reinstate the state's invalidated felony drug possession law, Dallas police are pushing to stop making small-time pot possession arrests, and more.

A California bill would end almost all marijuana drug testing for employees. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill Would End Most Workplace Marijuana Drug Tests. Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hollywood) has introduced AB 1256, which would bar employers from using past evidence of marijuana use, such as hair or urine tests, to discriminate against employees. The bill is supported by CA NORML. "It is those tests that we want to ban, because they don't detect anything related to impairment," the group's longtime director Dale Gieringer said. The tests can show whether someone has used marijuana in the past, but not whether they are currently intoxicated.

Dallas Police Push No Arrests for Marijuana Possession Up to Two Ounces. Dallas Police are proposing to the city council Tuesday that it adopt a policy of no longer ticketing or arresting people caught with less than two ounces of marijuana. Pot busts accounted for 7% of all arrests in the city during the first three weeks of February, and 80% of those pot arrets were for fewer than two ounces. The proposal goes before the council's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Harm Reduction

Rhode Island Senate Approves Bill Allowing Safe Consumption Sites for Illegal Drugs. The state Senate last week quietly approved SB 0016, which would authorize the creation of "Harm Reduction Centers" where drug users could inject drug under medical supervision. The bill would create an advisory committee to make recommendations to the state Health Department on regulating safe injection sites. A companion bill, HB 5245, though, is stuck in the House Committee on Health and Human Services, which has not set a date to vote on it.

Drug Policy

Washington State Senators Bill File to Bring Back Drug Possession Felony Crimes. Just days after the state Supreme Court threw out Washington's felony drug possession law, a pair of Democratic state senators, Mark Mullet and Steve Hobbs, have filed legislation to make possession of a controlled substance a felony again, SB 5468. The court threw out the law because it did not require prosecutors to prove that someone "knowingly" possessed drugs; this bill would merely add "knowingly" to the statute.

Law Enforcement

DEA Releases 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment. The DEA released its annual National Drug Threat Assessment Tuesday. The agency said that "the opioid threat remains at epidemic levels, affecting large portions of the country. Meanwhile, the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening both in volume and reach, with traffickers selling increasing amounts outside of traditional markets." DEA also pointed the finger at Mexican "transnational criminal organizations" as "the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States."

Washington House Approves Bill to Ban Chokeholds, No-Knock Warrants. The House on Saturday approved HB 1054, which would ban police from using chokeholds and using no-knock search warrants. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

AZ "Drug Trafficking Homicide" Bill Filed, HI Marijuana Legalization, Decrim Bills Advance, More... (2/17/21)

Hawaii legislators take up marijuana reform bills, Maryland legislators take up marijuana legalization, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogues are the object of a harsh new drug sentencing proposal in Arizona. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. The Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee voted on Tuesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 767. It would legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana or less by anyone who is 21 years old or older.

Hawaii Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs also voted on Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 758 would increase from 3 grams to 1 ounce the minimum amount of marijuana that a defendant must possess to be charged with a petty misdemeanor. It would also permit persons previously convicted of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana to have the conviction expunged from their criminal record.

Maryland Legislators Hold First Committee Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 32. No vote was taken. Another marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 708, is set to be heard in committee on March 4. HB 32 would legalize up to four ounces of pot by adults, allow home cultivation, allow an unlimited number of microbusiness licenses. That is the main difference with SB 708.

Sentencing Policy

Arizona Bill Would Charge Those Who Provide Drugs Linked to Overdoses with Murder. People who sell or share drugs linked to overdose deaths could face as much as 25 years in prison under a measure, House Bill 2779, that would create the crime of "drug trafficking homicide." The bill would also make people convicted under the charge ineligible for probation or early release. And it would create tougher mandatory minimum sentences for people caught selling or even possessing small amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogues.

Study Finds Meth Deaths Rose Steadily in Recent Years, USSC Charts Rise in Federal Fentanyl Cases, More... (1/25/21)

Marijuana legalization bills are filed in Florida and Hawaii, a bill to protect medical marijuana-using veterans is filed in Congress, and more.

Federal fentanyl prosecutions are rising rapidly, the US Sentencing Commission reports. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bills Filed. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) have filed companion marijuana legalization bills, HB 343 and SB 710, respectively. The bills would "establish a robust and free-market regulatory approach to the governance of cultivation, processing, and retail sales of both medical and adult-use marijuana." They would legalize up to 2.5 ounces for people 21 and over.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A marijuana legalization bill was filed last week in Honolulu. The bill, SB 704, would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales, as well as legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allowing for the personal cultivation of up to six plants, of which three can be mature.

Washington State Home Cultivation Bill Advances. A bill that would allow people to grow their own weed at home, HB 1019, was approved by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on a 7-2 vote last Friday. Although the state has legalized marijuana, home cultivation remains a felony. This bill would allow people to grow up to six plants and keep the fruits of their harvest.

Medical Marijuana

Bill to Protect Veterans Who Use Medical Marijuana Filed in House. Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) has filed a bill to protect military veterans who are using medical marijuana in compliance with state laws from being penalized. HR 430 would also clarify that Department of Veterans Affairs doctors can discuss the benefits and risks of medical marijuana with their patients. The bill is now before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Sentencing Commission Finds Big Increases in Fentanyl Prosecutions. In a report released Monday, the US Sentencing Commission finds that while fentanyl and fentanyl analogues account for only 5.8% of federal drug trafficking cases, the number of fentanyl cases has doubled each fiscal year since 2015 and the number of fentanyl analog cases has doubled each fiscal year since 2016. Fentanyl cases jumped from 24 to 886, a whopping 3,592% increase, while analog cases jumped from four to 233, an even larger 5,725% increase.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine Overdose Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Study Finds. A study supported by the National Institutes of Health finds that meth overdose deaths rose sharply nationwide between 2011 and 2018, with the death rate rising from 4.5 to 20.9 per 100,000 among people aged 25 to 54. The numbers rose across all racial and ethnic groups, but American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest death rates overall. The research was conducted at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Drug War Issues

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