The Drug Debate

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Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle Book Review: Reefer Movie Madness

Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide, by Steven Bloom and Shirley Halperin (2010, Abrams Image Press, 336 pp., $18.95 PB)

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/reefer-movie-madness.jpg
Even the wonkiest of drug policy reformers can't spend all their time reading policy proposals, research results, and desert-dry academic treatises, but Reefer Movie Madness is much more than a mere guilty pleasure. Penned by former High Times editor and Celebstoner.com proprietor Steve Bloom and former High Times intern turned entertainment writer Shirley Halperin, Reefer Movie Madness is not only a most excellent guide to stoner filmdom, it also maps the cultural acceptance of marijuana in America through film history.

A follow-up to the pair's well-done, comprehensive compendium of all things cannabinical, Pot Culture, Reefer Movie Madness profiles more than 700 films that are about marijuana, feature marijuana in key scenes, feature other drugs, or just plain a gas to watch stoned. The films are ranked via a five-star rating system, and the authors demonstrate exquisite taste and filmic knowledge in their rankings (meaning that their tastes agreed with mine).

They begin at the beginning, going back even before 1936's anti-pot propaganda classic Reefer Madness to note such obscure films as 1924's High on the Range, in which Cowboy Dave smokes a reefer, and 1933's International House, in which jazz legend Cab Calloway performs "Reefer Man."

But in the late 1930s, as Harry Anslinger crusaded against the demon weed, so did Hollywood. In addition to Reefer Madness, the movie industry cranked out propaganda like Marijuana: The Weed with Roots in Hell (1936), Assassin of Youth (1937), and just a handful of years later, Devil's Harvest (1942). While such films helped shape American attitudes at the time, and for decades to come, they are now the stuff of nonstop laugh fests.

While marijuana and other drug use was portrayed intermittently, and occasionally, even with some sympathy for drug users, it wasn't until the cultural revolution of the 1960s, bringing us classic stoner films like Wild in the Streets (1968) and Easy Rider (1969), that pot-smoking began to be widely portrayed as anything but deviant. And it wasn't until the late 1970s that Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke gave birth to the now ubiquitous stoner comedy genre (although Bloom and Halperin give the classic Animal House, with its single hilarious pot-smoking scene partial credit for establishing the genre, too).

By now, stoner movies and depictions of pot-smoking are everywhere, most notably, but not only, in the stoner comedy genre. Films like Half-Baked, How High, Friday, and Strange Wilderness are now being produced by mainstream production companies, and the Judd Apatow franchise alone has been responsible for numerous box office hit stoner flicks, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. This year's Get Him to Greek, featuring the inimitable and charismatic Russell Brand and Apatow regular Jonah Hill, was released too late for inclusion, but will certainly make the next edition.

The book is divided into sections by genre: comedy, drama, sci-fi/fantasy/horror, action, sports, music, documentaries and offers spot-on capsule reviews of more than 700 films, complete with plot summaries, star rankings, and choice quotes. Reefer Movie Madness also includes themed lists (Best Buds: Ten stony duos that take friendship to a higher level; Stoner Inventions and Innovations), celebrity Q&As, and lists of favorite stoner movies from well-known actors, directors, and musicians, including Cheech & Chong, the Trailer Park Boys, Snoop Dog, and Melissa Etheridge, among many more.

Reefer Movie Madness is a bookshelf must for pot movie fans, whether they be culture mavens or fully-baked couch potatoes. Even for veteran stoner film watchers, it contains some delicious movies you've never seen before and helps you remember long-forgotten gems. It has already vastly increased the length of my Netflix queue, and once you pick it up, the same thing is going to happen to you.

But beyond that, Reefer Movie Madness is a valuable and important contribution to charting and understanding the pop cultural role of marijuana in the past few decades. And it's a gas to read, stoned or not.

Biden Signs Marijuana Research Bill into Law [FEATURE]

The White House announced last Friday that President Biden (D) had signed into law the bipartisan Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454). The signing was historic; it marked the first time a president has signed a stand-alone marijuana reform bill into law. Some marijuana reform measures have been passed before, but only as part of much broader appropriations bills.

In a historic move, President Biden has signed a stand-alone marijuana reform bill into law. (Whitehouse.gov)
With lead sponsors Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), head of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in their respective chambers, the bill passed by unanimous consent, first in the House and then late last month in the Senate.

The aim of the bill is to facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefits. The bill will accomplish this by streamlining the application process for scientific marijuana studies and removing existing barriers for researchers that frequently slow the research process. It will broaden marijuana research by allowing both private companies and research universities to seek DEA licenses to grow their own marijuana for research purposes.

The bill calls on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study potential therapeutic benefits of the plant, which could have an impact on a rescheduling review Biden ordered in October. But that HHS mandate also includes language requiring research on how marijuana may affect one's ability to drive and the impact of its use on teenage brains.

"Today marks a monumental step in remedying our federal cannabis laws," said  Blumenauer and Cannabis Caucus co-chairs  Dave Joyce (R-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Brian Mast R-FL) in a statement after the signing."We celebrate the enactment of this critical and long-overdue legislation, and we know there is much more to do to remedy the ongoing harms of the failed war on drugs."

Among the bill's cosponsors in the Senate was Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). Both he and Sen. Feinstein have been among the Senate's most ardent drug warriors going well back into the last century. While this bill is fairly conservative—it does not directly address rescheduling marijuana or take up the question of access to financial services, let alone legalization—that both Feinstein and Grassley back it is a sign of how far we've come.

"I’ve heard directly from Iowans who are desperately in search of treatment options for conditions like child epilepsy," Grassley said in a statement "Unfortunately, many families have resorted to using untested, unregulated derivatives from the marijuana plant as a last resort to treat these conditions. Since 2015, I’ve pushed to expand medical research into marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol to better understand their benefits and potential harms. This research is a critical step toward ensuring safe and effective therapies are also consistently regulated like any other prescription drug."

"There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits," Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. "Our bill will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications. We know that cannabidiol-derived medications can be effective for conditions like epilepsy. This bill will help refine current medical CBD practices and develop important new applications. After years of negotiation, I’m delighted that we’re finally enacting this bill that will result in critical research that could help millions," she added. 

Now is the time to press for more reform, said Blumenauer.

"Finally, the dam is starting to break," he said in a separate statement. "The passage of my Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in the House and Senate represents a historic breakthrough in addressing the federal government’s failed and misguided prohibition of cannabis. 

"As we have seen in state after state, the public is tired of waiting for the federal government to catch up. Nearly half of our nation’s population now live in states where adult-use of cannabis is legal. For far too long, Congress has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers attempting to study cannabis and its benefits. At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use. 

"The passage of this legislation coming just weeks after the change in President Biden’s posture towards cannabis is extraordinarily significant. We must capitalize on this momentum to move subsequent common-sense House-passed bills like the SAFE Banking Act, which finally allows state-legal dispensaries to access banking services and reduce their risk of violent robberies."

There are, indeed, moves afoot to get the SAFE Banking Act passed during the remainder of the lame duck session, but time is running short and the clock is ticking. 

NJ Pot Lounges One Step Closer, DEA Sets Psychedelic Drug Production Quotas, More... (12/5/22)

Kansas's Democratic governor wants medical marijuana this coming year, the DEA announces new, higher research quotas for various psychedelics and marijuana, and more.

The DEA is upping the research quota for various psychedelics, including psilocyn, found in magic mushrooms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Marijuana p.ove Rules for Public Cannabis Consumption Areas. The state's Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved rules for"public cannabis consumption areas" last Friday. That is a first step toward allowing marijuana smoking lounges to open in the state, and it is one that social justice requires, said CRC Chair Dianna Houenou. "Equitable access to cannabis means everyone who wishes to consume has some place they can do that—legally, safely, and responsibly," Houenou said. "When regulated properly, cannabis consumption areas can strengthen the industry, while giving people more choices on where they consume." Under the rules just proposed, neither alcohol nor tobacco could be sold or consumed at such facilities and food could not be sold, but people could bring their own or have it delivered to the site.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Governor Reinforces Call for Medical Marijuana as Legislative Priority. Gov. Laura Kelly (D) last Friday reinforced the notion that she wants to make passage of a medical marijuana law a top legislative priority "This legislative session, we need to legalize medical marijuana so that Kansans with severe illnesses no longer have to suffer,"she said. "Providing this relief is long overdue, so let’s work together to get this done. Medical marijuana is one of five priorities she has identified, along with investing in mental health resources, expanding Medicaid, protecting first responders, and providing tax relief.

Psychedelics

DEA Announces How Much Marijuana, MDMA, Psilocyn, LSD, Mescaline, 5-MeO-DMT, MDA, 2-CB Can Be Produced for Research In 2023. The DEA has set production quotas for research drugs for 2023 and it is pushing those numbers up as it responds to increasing scientific and medical interest in the compounds. The agency is "committed to ensuring an adequate and uninterrupted supply of controlled substances in order to meet the estimated legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the U.S., for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks," the DEA said. For marijuana, the DEA recommended the production of 14,770 pounds, more than twice the amount authorized for this year, while quote numbers for psilocyn would go from the original 8,000 grams to 12,000 grams, 5-MeO-DMT from 6,000 to 11,000, MDMA from 8,200 to 12,000 grams, MDA from 200 to 12,000 grams, and 2-CB from 25 to 5,100 grams.

NV On-Site Pot Smoking Lounges, Mexican President Wants to Know Where "La Barbie" Is, More... (12/2/22)

Sen, John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has filed a bill to prepare for federal marijuana legalization, the Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of a medical marijuana patient fired for off-duty use, and more.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, "La Barbie," in custody in Mexico in 2012. (CNN screen grab)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Create Commission to Prepare for Legalization Filed. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday filed the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) Act, which would direct the attorney general to set up a commission to make recommendations for how federally legal marijuana should be regulated. "A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,"Hickenlooper said in a press release. "This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force, will replicate our success nationally." Companion legislation has been filed in the House."

Nevada Awards 20 Provisional Licenses for Marijuana Consumption Lounges. The state's marijuana regulatory agency, the Cannabis Compliance Board, has issued 20 provisional licenses for marijuana consumption lounges, with half of them reserved for social equity applicants. The licenses were handed out via a random drawing. Social equity licensees who have a nonviolent marijuana conviction and who live in an underprivileged neighborhood are eligible for discounted fees. The board approved consumption lounges in June and estimates that an additional 40-45 licenses will be issued.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Medical Marijuana Program Adds New Qualifying Conditions. The state Department of Health has announced it is adding irritable bowel syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder to the list of qualifying medical conditions for the state's medical marijuana program. The changes will go into effect on August 1, 2023. "We are adding the new qualifying conditions to allow patients more therapy options for conditions that can be debilitating,"said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. Two other conditions, gastroparesis and opioid use disorder were not approved.

Nevada Supreme Court Rules Workers Fired for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use Can Sue Former Employers. The state's highest court ruled Thursday that workers who are medical marijuana patients can sue their former employers if they have been fired for off-duty marijuana use. The ruling came in the case of Jim Roushkolb, a registered patient who used medical marijuana to ease PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health issues arising from a 1995 assault. His former employer, Freeman Expositions, fired him in 2018 after he tested positive for THC in the wake of a workplace incident where a plexiglass sheet fell and shattered. All employees at the scene were ordered to take drug tests, and Roushkolb was fired even though the company knew he was a medical marijuana patient.

Ohio Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Access. A measure that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 261, would add new qualifying conditions but more importantly would also let doctors recommend medical marijuana for any condition they deem necessary. Proponents are now trying to get in through the House in what is left of the state legislature's lame-duck session . "I think that that’s the best path we can go on,"said bill sponsor Sen. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood). "I think there’s a lot of value in being able to have this treatment opportunity available to people as an alternative to all kinds of things that may have other side effects."

Foreign Policy

Mexican President Wants to Know Whereabouts of "La Barbie, Convicted Cartel Chief Now Missing from American Prison. Notorious drug kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, nicknamed La Barbie for his fair complexion and blond hair, was sentenced to 49 years in US federal prison in 2018, but now no longer appears in the Bureau of Prisons databases that have details of all prisoners doing time in federal prisons, and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants to know where he is. "What is happening in the United States with Mr. Villarreal is strange," López Obrador said during a press conference on Wednesday. "Someone has made it known that he is no longer in the registry of prisoners and we want to know where he is." López Obrador asked Washington for transparency and said the situation needed to be clarified as quickly as possible. "There is no reason for him to leave prison because his sentence is for many years, unless there has been an agreement." While the explanation for La Barbie's absence could be as innocent as that he is hospitalized for a medical condition, there is rising speculation that he may have struck a deal with US authorities around the looming trial in New York of former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna, who is accused of collaborating with drug cartels. La Barbie was arrested in 2012 in an operation orchestrated by Garcia Luna and has repeatedly accused him of working with the cartels.

RI Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin, Berkeley Could Decriminallize LSD, More... (12/1/22)

A global coalition is calling on UN drug bureaucracies to condemn the sudden resumption of drug executions in Saudi Arabia, a new Gallup poll has continuing high support for marijuana legalization, and more.

Legal pot sales for adults have begun in Rhode Island. (Sondra Yruel/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Finds Support for Marijuana Legalization Steady at 68 Percent. A new Gallup poll finds that support for marijuana legalization remains at a record high 68 percent for the third year in a row. It's a remarkable evolution in public opinion over the past half-century, with support at a measly 12 percent in 1969, rising to 31 percent in 2000, and achieving majority support in 2013. In every Gallup poll since 2016, at least 60 percent have supported legalization.

Rhode Island Recreational Marijuana Sales Have Begun. As of today, five existing medical marijuana dispensaries are now "hybrid" stores, selling recreational as well a medical marijuana. The first sale was shortly after 5 a.m., when Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket opened its doors.

Harm Reduction

Ohio House Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Decriminalization Bill. The House on Wednesday approved a bill to try to reduce drug overdose deaths by decriminalizing the possession of fentanyl test strips, House Bill 456. Ohio saw 5,204 people die of drug overdoses in 2020, 81 percent of them involving fentanyl. Similar legislation has been filed in the Senate.

Psychedelics

Berkeley Health Commissioners Recommend Decriminalization of Use of Hallucinogens, Including LSD. The Bay area city's health commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that the city council decriminalize the use of psychedelics, and they did not limit themselves to natural psychedelics, explicitly embracing the decriminalization of LSD as well. The city is now in line to become the first to decriminalize LSD if the city council approves it. Fifteen cities across the country have decriminalized natural psychedelics, but those measures excluded synthetic psychedelics such as LSD.

International

Global Coalition Calls on International Bodies to Condemn Saudi Arabia Drug Executions. The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Harm Reduction International, and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty along with 32 other NGOs have called on the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to act on urgent measures in response to the series of drug-related executions carried out by the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia since November 10, 2022. The groups called on both organisms to seek confirmation from the Saudi government of the status of dozens of people on death row and at imminent risk of execution and to demand that the Saudi government immediately halt all drug-related executions. The Saudi government had halted drug executions in January 2020, but suddenly and without warning resumed them on November 10 and announced 20 such executions on November 24. 

Another Poll Shows Supermajority for Marijuana, OH Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Moving, More... (11/30/22)

A push is on to get marijuana on the ballot in Ohoi next year, the UNODC warns Bolivia about synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, and more.

Fentanyl test strips can save lives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Nearly Three in Four Likely Voters Support "Ending the Federal Ban" on Marijuana, Other Federal Reforms. A new poll from the progressive-leaning Data for Progress finds 74 percent of likely voters say that they "support ending the federal ban on marijuana." Eighty-five percent of Democrats, along with 74 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Republicans, endorsed repealing federal prohibition. Similar levels of support were evidenced for allowing state-legal marijuana programs "lawful access to US financial systems," not barring workers in the marijuana industry from accessing federal benefits, and not removing people from federally assisted housing in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.

Ohio Advocates Push to Get Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Measure on 2023 Ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has begun signature gathering to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2023 ballot. The campaign now has about eight weeks to collect 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. In the meantime, under a court settlement, the legislature will take up the measure in January, and i-- it fails to pass it, it will go before voters—provided the campaign has come up with the required signatures. The initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess and consume marijuana, which would come with a 10 percent sales tax.

Harm Reduction

Ohio Fentanyl Test Strip Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to try to reduce drug overdose deaths by decriminalizing the possession of fentanyl test strips, House Bill 456, won a final House committee vote Monday before heading to a House floor vote Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kristin Boggs(D-Columbus)described the change as "one more avenue"to avoid overdose.  Ohio saw 5,204 people die of drug overdoses in 2020, 81 percent of them involving fentanyl. Similar legislation has been filed in the Senate.

International

UN Says Growth of Bolivian Coca Crop Slows but Warns of Synthetic Drugs. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union warned Bolivia about the presence of synthetic drugs in the national market even as they acknowledged a slow-down in the increase of coca production. UNODC said coca cultivation had increased 4 percent in 2021, the lowest increase in recent years, but the Bolivian government challenged that figure, saying there had actually been a slight decrease. But fentanyl was also on the UNODC's mind: "There were seizures of synthetic drugs including fentanyl, an opioid that causes a large number of deaths in Europe. There is a national market. This is a problem for us and it will be for Bolivia", said Trolls Wester, UNODC Bolivia representative.

CT Pot Sales Coming Early Next Year; Colombia, Mexico Presidents Call for New Drug Policies, More... (11/29/22)

Idaho medical marijuana activists are set to try again in 2024, Thai authorities continue to grapple with ambiguities and nuances in their move to reform marijuana laws, and more.

Colombia President Petro and Mexican President Lopez Obrador at Mexico City meeting last week. (gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Takes Another Step Toward Starting Recreational Sales Early Next Year. The state Department of Consumer Protection, which is charged with regulating legal marijuana, has announced that three of the state's four existing medical marijuana producers had qualified for hybrid licenses to grow for both the medicinal and recreational markets. That moves producers closer to meeting a state requirement that at least 250,000 square feet of cultivation and manufacturing space be available before retailers can begin recreational sales. The floor is aimed at ensuring that an adequate supply of marijuana remains available for the state's medical marijuana patients, and this regulatory move means retail sales are likely to begin early next year.  

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Aim at 2024 Medical Marijuana Initiative. A political action committee formed in 2021, Kind Idaho, is beginning signature gathering to place a medical marijuana initiative, the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act on the 2024 ballot. The group has until April 14, 2024 to come up with 74,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Activists there have been trying for a decade to get medical marijuana before the voters, and this time around, they plan a concerted campaign of canvassing and social media outreach to get over the top.

International

Colombian, Mexican Presidents Denounce Failure of Prohibition, Announce International Effort to Rethink Drug Policy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that they are calling in other Latin American leaders for an international conference focused on "redesigning and rethinking drug policy" given the "failure" of drug prohibition. In a joint statement after meeting last week in Mexico City, the pair said they met to discuss "geopolitical, commercial, cultural and development cooperation" in their bilateral relationship, including collaborating with regional leaders to find a new way of dealing with drug policy. "Recognizing the failure of the fight against drugs and the vulnerability of our peoples in the face of this problem, Mexico and Colombia will convene an International Conference of Latin American leaders with the objective of redesigning and rethinking drug policy," the pair added. A new path is necessary "given the levels of violence that the current policy has unleashed, especially in the American continent." The meeting and joint statement come as both countries move toward marijuana legalization but remain uncertain about how to deal with the drug primarily involved in generating violence, cocaine.

Thai Authorities Warn Marijuana Sellers Not to Use Doctors to Try to Get Around Ban on Smoking Recreational Marijuana in Shops. Worried that their ambiguous legalization of marijuana will lead to rampant recreational marijuana use, public health officials this week warned marijuana shops not to use traditional Thai doctors to try to evade a ban on smoking in the stores. "The ministry did not campaign for people to use cannabis for recreation, so they cannot smoke the decriminalized herb in stores," Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Sunday. Marijuana can be smoked on-site if the shops is licensed to operate as a medical facility, but merely having a traditional doctor present is not sufficient, the ministry said. The ministry also warned that it will be doing random checks of marijuana shops to ensure compliance with this rule. Ambiguities in the law have left shops and users uncertain of their rights, but the legislature is now working on a bill to clarify the situation and regulate the trade. 

Report on Options for Safe Injection Sites, Berkeley Could Decriminalize LSD, More... (11/28/22)

Irish opposition parties are talking drug reform, the Congressional Research Service issues a report on how to get around legal proscriptions on safe injection sites, and more.

LSD in blotter acid form. There is a proposal in Berkeley to decriminalize it. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Berkeley Ponders Becoming First City to Decriminalize Not Just Natural Psychedelics But LSD, Too. A proposed ordinance to decriminalize natural psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms that has been under study in the city for the past three years may be expanded to include the synthetic hallucinogen LSD as well. A pair of Berkeley community health commissioners are promoting the move, saying that LSD meets the definition of a psychedelic and that "nobody deserves to go to jail for having a psychedelic experience." They have now rewritten the 2019 proposed ordinance to include LSD, prompting Decriminalize Nature, the original sponsors o the ordinance to now oppose it. The Community Health Commission is set to vote Tuesday on whether to refer the rewritten ordinance to the city council. At least 15 towns or cities across the US have passed natural psychedelic decriminalization or lowest priority ordinances, but Berkeley's would be the first to include LSD.

Harm Reduction

Congressional Research Service Provide Options for Allowing Safe Injection Sites The service, a nonpartisan agency that provides information on all kinds of issues to Congress, has issued a report highlighting the "uncertainty" of the federal government's position on safe injection sites, but also pointing out that the facilities could operate securely if Congress passed legislation barring the Justice Department from interfering with them, similar to actions it has taken to allow state medical marijuana laws to be implemented. The Trump administration Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block a Philadelphia safe injection site from opening, and the Biden Justice Department has so far shown much less enthusiasm for attacking the harm reduction facilities, but their fate remains uncertain. While the Biden administration is evaluating the legality of the facilities, CRS said: "Congress could resolve that uncertainty by enacting legislation. If Congress decided to allow supervised consumption sites to operate, it could consider the breadth of such authorization. One option would be to exempt supervised consumption sites from CSA control entirely" Or Congress could approve a temporary spending bill rider "to exempt from federal prosecution facilities operating in compliance with state and local law, as it has done with state-sanctioned medical marijuana activities." A third option "would be for Congress to impose specific registration requirements for supervised consumption sites under the CSA, as it has done for entities that administer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction," CRS continued. The report is Recent Developments in Opioid Regulation Under the Controlled Substances Act.

International

.Two opposition parties are championing major reforms in drug policy, albeit with two distinct proposals. People Before Profit's Gino Kenny has filed a private members' bill to decriminalize the possession of up to seven grams of marijuana, while the Labor Party is proposing a broader drug decriminalization bill. Kenny said marijuana prohibition is "a waste of time and resources" and that "there is a groundswell of opinion for a different narrative and a different status quo." The Labor Party, meanwhile is set to file its drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, with proponents arguing again that persecuting drug users was a waste of the police and the courts' time. But Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan said that the current government follows a drug strategy that embodies a "health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use," it has no plans to decriminalize any drugs. 

Letter to House Leaders Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Colombia Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (11/23/22)

A New Hampshire coalition begins laying the groundwork for another try at marijuana legalization, Rhode island adult use marijuana sales at existig dispensaries are set to begin next week, and more.

Adult use marijuana sales will begin December 1 in Rhode Island. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Coalition Prepares to Try Again with Legalization Bill. A bipartisan coalition is preparing to once more try to push a marijuana legalization bill through the legislature, ending the state's status as an island of pot prohibition in a New England sea of states that have already legalized it Among the groups joining efforts are the conservative Americans for Prosperity, as well as the New Hampshire Cannabis Association, the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Marijuana Policy Project,  and the House Democratic Cannabis Caucus. The coalition is conferring with lawmakers from both parties and says its bill will have bipartisan sponsorship. In past sessions, including this year, bills have passed the House only to be die in the Senate.

Rhode Island Set to Commence Adult Use Marijuana Sales on December 1. Governor Dan McKee (D) and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced Tuesday that five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1. Pursuant to the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McKee in May, a call for applications for “hybrid retail licenses,” which allow licensed compassion centers to sell both medical marijuana as well as safe, well-regulated and competitively priced marijuana products to Rhode Island adults over the age of 21, was issued in early October. The five compassion centers that have received state approval to commence adult use sales are Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls), Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence), Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket), Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth), and RISE Warwick (Warwick).

Drug Policy

Human Rights Watch Organizes Joint Letter to House Leadership Urging Passage of Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill. Dozens of racial justice, social justice, drug policy, criminal justice, public health, harm reduction and other advocacy groups have cosigned a letter to the House leadership calling for "ending criminal penalties for the possession of personal-use amounts of drugs." The letter noted that of more than 1.15 million drug arrests in 2020, 86 percent were for simple drug possession, even though "we have an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that drug arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration have had no substantial effect on ending problematic drug use or curbing the illegal drug supply in the United States." The letter called for passage of the Drug Reform Act of 2021(HR 4020), stating "to begin meaningfully addressing our country's mass incarceration and overdose epidemics, we urge Members of Congress to commit to support comprehensive legislation that decriminalizes drug possession and centers health, equity, autonomy, and justice."

International

Colombia Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill supported by the government of President Gustavo Petro that has already advanced in the Chamber of Representative has now won a Senate committee vote and heads for a Senate plenary vote. The bill would legalize the possession and use of the plant by people 18 and over and support "the right of the free development of the personality, allowing citizens to decide on the consumption of cannabis in a regulated legal framework." Justice Minister Nestor Osuna told the Senate Monday, "The national government supports this draft legislative act for the adult use of cannabis. We believe that it is very important that this step be taken towards a responsible market—a responsible regulation that allows us to overcome this prohibitionist atmosphere."

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