Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

The Drug Debate

RSS Feed for this category

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.

Philly City Council Bans Safe Injection Sites, OR Interim Legislative Committee on Drug Policy, More... (10/2/23)

The Dutch are set to embark on a pilot project of creating a legal supply for the country's famed cannabis "coffee shops," Gavin Newsom signs a bill clearing the way for the prescribing of MDMA and psilocybin once they are federally descheduled, and more. 

An Amsterdam cannabis coffee shop. The Dutch are set to begin an experiment in a legal supply for the shops. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

California Governor Signs Bill Allowing Doctors to Prescribe Psilocybin, MDMA Once Federally Rescheduled. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Saturday signed into law a bill that would let doctors start prescribing psilocybin and MDMA if and when they are federally rescheduled, Assembly Bill 1021.

Sponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D), Isaac Bryan (D) and Corey Jackson (D), the bill says if the federal government reschedules any Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, state health professionals will be automatically able to prescribe and dispense it. The most obvious candidates are psilocybin and MDMA, which have been designated as breakthrough therapies by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are expected to be approved for medical use as early as next year.

Among nearly a dozen marijuana and drug reform bills still on Newsom's desk is Senate Bill 58, which would legalize the possession of small amounts of certain natural psychedelics, excluding peyote.

Drug Policy

Oregon Legislature Creates New Committee to Address Drug Addiction, Review Drug Decriminalization. The legislature has created a Joint Interim Committee on Addiction and Community Safety it a bid to tackle the state's drug use crisis. The committee's mandate is to make addiction services accessible, ensure that law enforcement has the tools to keep communities safe, and review drug policy, especially the drug decriminalizing Measure 110.

The decriminalization measure was approved by voters two years ago, but recent polling shows that a majority of voters (56 percent) are ready to repeal Measure 110 entirely, even though it includes hundreds of millions of dollars for drug treatment, prevention, and related services. An even higher number of respondents (64 percent) were willing to repeal just the decriminalization portion of Measure 110.

 

 

Upon announcing the creation of the interim committee last Friday, lawmakers said they will make sure the measure’s outcomes are "in-line with voters’ intent of connecting people to treatment instead of criminal punishment for low-level possession."

"The goal of this committee is simple: to save lives and make our communities safer," said Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) . "Oregonians are being harmed every day by this crisis and we all have a part to play in finding a path forward. It is a complex problem that demands a comprehensive solution and we are committed to working toward a solution this session and into the long term."

"Everyone has a family member or friend that has been impacted by addiction or behavioral health challenges" said House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis). "What we’re seeing in our streets and our communities is unacceptable. As leaders, it’s our job to provide oversight of our current crisis-to-care system and make sure we’re getting the outcomes we intended: a humane approach to addiction that centers the individual’s needs."

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber (D-Beaverton) and Representative Jason Kropf (D-Bend) will co-chair the committee, which is meeting for the first time in the coming weeks.

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia City Council Overrides Mayor's Veto of Ban on Safe Injection Sites. The city council has overridden a mayoral veto to once again vote to ban safe injection sites in almost all of the city, leaving only one council district where they could possibly be permitted.

The council first passed the measure last month, but Mayor Jim Kenney (D) vetoed it last week. Now, the council has decisively overridden that veto on a 13-1 vote.  

Citizens addressing the council before the vote urged members to reverse themselves, with one man who identified himself as a registered nurse telling the council the ban is "dangerously anti-science" and would limit how the city can address addiction issues.

The measure creates a zoning overlay that would permit safe injection sites only in southwest Philadelphia 3rd council district. Council members defended their position as less of a ban and more of a way for city residents, especially those living near proposed safe injection sites, to have a say on community affairs.

"This bill allows the community to have input on where these sites would be selected, what would be happening around there and how that their input would be put in place if these sites were to ever be put up," said Councilman Mark Squilla (D-District 1).

International

Dutch Legal Marijuana Supply Pilot Project to Start Up in December. The startup phase for a pilot program to allow the limited legal cultivation and distribution of adult-use marijuana will begin in December, the Dutch government told Parliament last Friday.

The program is three years behind schedule and smaller than originally envisioned, with only two growers in the startup, as opposed to the 10 cultivators who were to supply dozens of cannabis cafes. The project is to address "the backdoor problem" for marijuana retail outlets, which can sell without penalty but have no legal source of supply.

"The cabinet has decided that the (startup) phase of the closed coffee shop chain experiment will start on December 15, 2023," according to the government letter. The most recent planning shows that two legal growers are expected to be ready for delivery to coffee shops in the fourth quarter of 2023. This is sufficient to start the (initial) phase of the experiment in Breda and Tilburg."

During this first phase of the pilot program, participating coffee shops in the two cities will be able to offer both legally-grown marijuana and unregulated products.

The Dutch government expects the startup phase to last a maximum of six months before expanding the program. 

 

Seattle Mayor's Executive Order on Public Drug Use, UT MedMJ Workers Unionize, More... (9/29/23)

A former Michigan medical marijuana regulator heads to prison for bribery, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office rejects cocaine field tests as "unreliable," and more. 

Cocaine or not cocaine? A Florida sheriff's office is foregoing cocaine field tests after finding them unreliable. (Pixabay)
Medical Marijuana

Michigan Former Medical Marijuana Top Regulator Heads for Prison on Bribery Charges. The former head of the state's Medical Marihuana Licensing Board was sentenced to 55 months in federal prison Thursday after earlier pleading guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes. Rick Johnson, a Republican who is also the former Speaker of the House, headed the now defunct board, which was in charge of reviewing and granting licenses for people seeking to grow and sell medical marijuana.

"Today's sentence sends a very strong message that public corruption will not be tolerated in the state of Michigan," Mark Totten, US Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said after the sentencing. "The length of this sentence reflects the seriousness of the offense."

Johnson admitted receiving at least $110,000 in payments, $20,000 in loans that did not have repayment terms, and "thousands of dollars" in services from a sex worker. Johnson chaired the board from 2015 to 2017. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) dismantled the board in 2019.

Utah Dispensary Workers Vote to Unionize with UFCW. Workers at the Dragonfly Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Salt Lake City voted Tuesday to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The unionization vote involved 30 employees, who become the first in the state's medical marijuana industry to unionize.

"Employees included in the newly formed cannabis union include Dragonfly Wellness associates, team leads, drivers, delivery leads, inventory specialists, pharmacists, and head trainers," according to a UFCW Local 99 news release.

Drug Policy

Seattle Mayor Issues Executive Order Guiding Implementation of New Law Prohibiting Public Consumption of Drugs. On Thursday, Mayor Bruce Harrell (D) issued Executive Order 2023-006, guiding implementation and data collection related to the Public Safety and Health Response to the Opioid Crisis Ordinance prohibiting public consumption of fentanyl and other drugs. This follows Mayor Harrell’s April Executive Order addressing fentanyl and the synthetic drug crisis, part of the City’s dual public health and public safety approach to the issue, including advancing innovative treatment solutions to help people access services and get well. 

"Fentanyl and other dangerous drugs are killing people, causing harm, and creating unsafe conditions Downtown and in neighborhoods across Seattle. This law gives us another tool to help those in need access treatment and to keep sidewalks and neighborhoods welcoming for all residents, and my Executive Order provides needed implementation guidance and ensures we are collecting data to measure effectiveness," said Harrell. "We are committed to learning lessons from the past, holding traffickers, dealers, and those causing the most harm accountable, and helping people access treatment and care through diversion services." 

The Executive Order provides direction to officers on how to enforce the ordinance, including examples of how public use and possession can be established and factors that will guide the threat of harm assessment. The Executive Order makes clear that harm pertains to the impact on the ability of others to use shared public space and identifies areas that have a high likelihood of the presence of other community members and where the use of controlled substances impacts public safety and security.  

Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order also reaffirms that diversion is the preferred response to public use and possession offenses and sets expectations for how officers will handle situations where a threat of harm to others is not present. Mayor Harrell’s budget, announced earlier this week, includes millions toward diversion programs and efforts to provide treatment and curb overdose deaths. 

Lastly, the Executive Order calls for the collection of data to assess the scope of public use and possession of controlled substances to both better understand the problems facing the City and to create a baseline to measure the effectiveness of the ordinance and its enforcement. This includes analyzing data from Public Health — Seattle & King County, SPD, and other sources. 

The legislation passed by the Council and signed by Mayor Harrell will take effect next month. In effect, it will:  

  • Codify state law making public consumption of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor in the City’s criminal code.   
  • For the first time in the City’s history, designate diversion and treatment as the preferred approach to addressing substance use issues – connecting people with care and responding to a public health crisis with evidence-based health solutions.   
  • Define a new threat of harm standard – differentiating between drug use that threatens others, recognizing the real and perceived danger of consumption of illegal drugs in public places, and aiming to support safe and welcoming neighborhoods by reducing public use. 

The ordinance, this Executive Order, and the forthcoming SPD policy are just one aspect of the City’s efforts to address the public health and safety concerns caused by synthetic narcotics.

Drug Testing

Florida Sheriff's Office Ends Use of "Unreliable" Cocaine Testing Kits. The Jacksonsville Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday it would stop using cocaine field tests after finding they generate false-positives for common over-the-counter medications. The office issued a memo ordering personnel to quit using the Scott Company cocaine kits immediately and return any unused ones.

Officers will now need to submit suspected cocaine to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for formal testing. Only if it tests positive at the state lab should officers seek an arrest warrant.

While field test results are not by themselves sufficient evidence to prosecute a drug possession case, a positive field test had been enough for an officer to make an arrest, and defendants often plead in drug cases rather than take the cases to trial. Thus, it is possible false positives have resulted in wrongful arrests and convictions.

"Following a meeting this morning with law enforcement, we became aware that field test kits for cocaine have resulted in false positives. We immediately informed the Public Defender’s Office, Regional Conflict Counsel, the Chief Judge, and local Criminal Defense Bar of this development. We are conducting a thorough review of cases potentially implicated to determine what actions need to be taken moving forward to address this issue."

The office "is now exploring new product options for presumptive field-testing kits for cocaine for future use."

House Passes Defense Bill with Psychedelic Research Amendments, FL Bans Tianetpine, More... (9/28/23)

A broad range of advocacy groups is calling on Congress to support a bill to allow temporary scheduling and testing of fentanyl analogs, Maine's largest city moves toward natural psychedelic decriminalization, and more.

Zaza, a product containing the opiate-like drug tianeptine, is now banned in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Opiates and Opioids

Rights Groups Call on Congress to Support Fentanyl Analog TEST Act. A long list of health policy, drug policy, criminal justice reform, civil and human rights, and advocacy organizations have sent an open letter to the Senate calling on members of that body to cosponsor and support the Temporary Emergency Scheduling and Testing of Fentanyl Analogues Act of 2023 (TEST Act). This bill would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to place new fentanyl-related substances (FRS) in Schedule I for up to four years, during which time the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) would have to conduct a scientific and medical evaluation of each substance and publicly report the findings.

"Congress has preemptively placed all FRS on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as a class – even those that do not exist," the signatories wrote. "Congress has considered circumventing the scientific research requirements under current law by passing bills such as the HALT Fentanyl Act (H.R. 467), which would automatically designate any FRS as dangerous without studying a substance at all. Temporary scheduling authority is intended to allow the DOJ the time to conduct the scientific and medical evaluations it is required to by law. By allowing DOJ to designate the entire class of FRS as Schedule I without conducting scientific and medical research, Congress may inadvertently leave undiscovered therapeutic medications similar to naloxone and other life-saving medications at a time when the U.S. is facing record numbers of overdose deaths.

"We believe Congress should pass the TEST Act, which would create a statutory period of up to four years for the DOJ to conduct the scientific and medical evaluation of a substance, facilitate the research of FRS, and ensure that substances are placed on the drug schedule according to their scientific profile and potential for abuse."

Signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Council of Churches, the National Harm Reduction Coalition, the Prison Policy Initiative, StoptheDrugWar.org, the Sentencing Project, and the Washington Office on Latin America.

Psychedelics

House Approves Psychedelic Research Amendments as Part of Defense Spending Bill. The House voted Wednesday to approve the annual defense appropriation bill, which included two amendments opening the door to research on psychedelics.

The first, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would provide $15 million in funding for DOD to carry out "Psychedelic Medical Clinical Trials."

The second amendment, from Crenshaw alone, lays the parameters for the trials, which would involve active duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The Defense Health Agency would need to send a report to Congress with its findings.

Portland, Maine, Advances Proposal to Decriminalize Psychedelic Plants and Fungi. The city council's Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously last week to advance a resolution that would decriminalize natural psychedelic plants and fungi. The full council is expected to vote on the resolution by mid-October.

In approving the resolution, the committee also amended it to allow for home cultivation for personal use and sharing without compensation. Selling or dispensing the substances would remain a criminal offense.

The plants and fungi covered by the measure, backed by organizers at Decriminalize Maine, include those containing psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline (except peyote), and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Peyote is excluded "in light of its vulnerable ecological status, combined with its religious and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples."

The resolution says "that City of Portland departments, agencies, boards, commissions, officers or employees of the city should avoid using city funds or resources to assist in the investigation, criminal prosecution or the imposition of criminal penalties" for the use, possession, cultivation, or sharing of small amounts of the substances "shall be among the lowest law enforcement priority of the City of Portland."

Drug Policy

Florida Bans Tianeptine. Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) has announced an emergency ban on tianeptine, which is regulated and used as a tricyclic antidepressant in over 60 countries but is unregulated in the US. Sold at gas stations and convenience stores under product names such as Zaza, the drug is known colloquially as "gas station heroin" because it causes opioid-like withdrawal symptoms in some users.

"We filed an emergency rule to outlaw tianeptine, an extremely dangerous chemical being sold at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops in our state. Tianeptine is linked to five deaths nationwide. And so far this year, Florida’s Poison Control Center has fielded 15 calls about exposure to this drug," Moody said. 

Her action places tianeptine in Schedule I, meaning it becomes a felony to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute the drug.

Alabama, Tennessee, Minnesota, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi have already banned tianeptine. 

The ban is temporary, but Moody said she would work with the legislature to make the ban permanent in the next legislative session.

Pushing for Social Equity as Pennsylvania Heads Toward Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

Pot prohibition in Pennsylvania is getting squeezed. Of its neighboring states, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have already legalized marijuana, Ohio voters will have their chance to approve it in November, and only West Virginia shares the state's status as a medical marijuana-only state.

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-North Philadelphia) is a key cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill. (pa.gov)
Efforts to advance adult use legalization in Harrisburg have been stymied for years by Republican control of the statehouse, but after last year's elections, the state now has a Democratic governor in Josh Shapiro, the House now has a Democratic majority, and cracks are now appearing in the Republican-led Senate, where at least two GOP senators are ready to get on board.

Gov. Shapiro in March proposed marijuana legalization as part of his 2023–2024 budget, and this year, there are once again are marijuana legalization bills before the legislature. Rep. David Delloso has once again filed a state liquor store model legalization bill, House Bill 1080, and one of those Republican Senate converts, Sen. Dan Laughlin, is the cosponsor of another legalization bill, Senate Bill 846.

"Legalized adult use of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and this legislation accomplishes that while also ensuring safety and social equity," said Laughlin upon filing the bill in July. "With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs."

The bill would legalize the possession of marijuana by people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It would also address social equity by granting licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants while providing room for new and existing licensees to ensure demand in Pennsylvania is met. It would also all non-violent marijuana convictions. Ensuring that minority communities disproportionately impacted by drug prohibition is critical, Black legislators say.

"We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs," said Sen. Sharif Street, a Democratic cosponsor of the bill. "Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address a variety of community needs throughout Pennsylvania."

Social equity was definitely on the mind of attendees at last week's Cannabis Opportunities Conference—partof the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunity’s (DACO) Black Cannabis Week. The event was hosted by Sen. Street and covered by Marijuana Moment.

"This is going to be a multibillion-dollar industry," Street. "We need to make sure that we’re inclusive … We need to make sure that folks can participate at every level of this industry."

Bill cosponsor Rep. Donna Bullock (D), who has previously spoken out against the dominance of large, multistate marijuana companies, was adamant that legalization come with strong social equity provisions.

"No bill will move with my name on it until I’m comfortable that we actually answer those questions," she said. "No bill will move with my name on it until I know for sure we’re not repeating the mistakes of equity in name only. If you think you’re going to get me with just some expungements, you got it wrong," she added.

"I think sometimes some people get scared to say ‘Black,’" Rep. Darisha Parker (D) said. "If we’re going to really do this for a legislative perspective, then all of us in the state need to make sure that we’re actually doing it, making sure that we’re actually supporting the individuals for this social equity bill that we’re going to be putting forward. This is our reparations," she added. "Let’s get busy."

These Black lawmakers agreed that they were willing to take the time to get it right; to ensure that some of the harms done by the drug war be redressed and that the communities that suffered them get recompense.

Lawmakers are "still taking inventory" to see what’s worked in other states and what hasn’t, Parker said.

"We’ve had … a hundred years of getting this wrong. I’m not in a rush to get it wrong again," said Bullock.

Street concurred, saying that in Pennsylvania "we’re usually not the first to get anything done, but we’d like to be the first to get it right."

It looks like there is some work to be done to make sure marijuana legalization aids those communities harmed by the drug war, and it looks like there is a committed legislative contingent in Harrisburg ready to make sure that happens. Stay tuned.

SAFER Banking Act Heads for Senate Floor Vote, Scottish Safe Injection Site Approved, More... (9/27/23)

The US and Colombian governments lay out areas of agreement in drug policy, new research shows that drug decriminalization did not increase overdoses in Oregon and Washington--but did cause arrests to drop--and more. 

The Senate is set to vote on a long-awaited marijuana banking bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

SAFER Banking Act Passes Senate Banking Committee, Heads for Floor Vote. The long-desired bill aimed at opening the banking and financial sector to state-legal marijuana businesses is moving. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act (S.2860), clearing the way for a Senate floor vote.

"Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities ... passing the SAFER Banking Act through committee is a historic moment in this body," said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

"At this juncture, we believe this piece of legislation is ready for prime time after having had seven votes out of the House in the past," said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve Cannabis. "Realizing this first vote out of the Senate signals strong bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress."

Drug Policy

Decriminalizing Drug Possession Not Linked to Higher Overdose Death Rates in Oregon or Washington. In recent months, several media outlets have investigated an Oregon law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, for some persons. The articles have included information suggesting that the law may be responsible for continued increases in overdose deaths.

Wednesday, new research led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine published online in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that in Oregon and Washington, two states that implemented drug decriminalization policies in early 2021, there is no evidence of an association between decriminalization and fatal drug overdose rates.

The findings are the result of a collaboration between the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policyy at NYU Langone, the Network for Public Health Law, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The research team’s goal was to investigate whether fully or partially decriminalizing drug possession changed rates of overdose deaths in either state in the first year after the policy change.

"Our analysis suggests that state decriminalization policies do not lead to increases in overdose deaths," said Corey Davis, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a member of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy, and the study’s senior investigator.

Another study published by Davis and colleagues last month found that the Oregon and Washington decriminalization policies dramatically reduced arrests for drug possession and did not lead to increased arrests for violent crimes.

"These two studies show that drug decriminalization measures in Oregon and Washington reduced arrests and did not increase overdose deaths. Taken together, these findings signal reduced harm to people who use drugs and possibly their communities as well," said Davis.

Foreign Policy

US, Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group Issues Joint Statement. After the third meeting of the US-Colombia Counternarcotics Working Group Monday and Tuesday, the two governments issued a joint statement touting their "common efforts to address the development of this group’s work, taking into account the strengthening of democracy, the fight against corruption, the protection of human rights, peace efforts, climate action, public health, and a comprehensive approach to address the global drug problem."

The two governments called for "an approach based on public health and human security, with a long-term vision focused on saving lives and building a better future."

In particular, both parties agreed to the following:

  • Increase interdiction efforts in both countries, significantly increase joint training, capacity building activities, and intelligence sharing to strengthen Colombia’s ability to combat transnational organized crime and multi-crime groups and enhance human security.
  • Expand efforts to combat money laundering and crimes against natural resources and the environment.
  • Reaffirm the will of both governments to continue cooperation to confront the global drug problem, including issues related to criminal activities associated with cocaine and synthetic drugs.
  • With regard to rural security, strengthen and increase judicial and police presence in rural areas.
  • Strengthen the implementation of strategies aimed at promoting the transition to licit economies in rural areas and Areas of Special Environmental Importance, such as the 3T model (Titling, Transition, Transformation) in municipalities to be prioritized for the implementation of a holistic approach to territorial transformation.
  • Provide licit economic development opportunities as alternatives to illicit crops, in conjunction with continued strategic eradication efforts.
  • Implement strategies to reduce the consumption of psychoactive substances and their associated impacts.
  • Strengthen metrics measuring the underlying causes of drug production and the dismantling of transnational narco-trafficking criminal networks.
  • Continue to work with the Colombian Ministry of Justice and Law and Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards identifying a coordination mechanism for the bilateral holistic strategy within the Colombian government.

International

Scottish Authorities Approve UK's First Safe Injection Site. Authorities in Glasgow have approved the first safe injection site in the United Kingdom. Glasgow's Integration Joint Board, which consists of National Health Service representatives and council officials, approved the planned facility Wednesday.

There is an opening target date of next summer for what will be a three-year pilot program.

The facility will "reduce drug-related harms" for individuals as well as providing them with "opportunities for treatment, care and recovery," said Dr Saket Priyadarshi, associate medical director of Glasgow alcohol and drug recovery services.

A safe injection site has been discussed for years to address the estimated 400-500 people injecting drugs in the city center and was able to move forward now after Scotland's senior law officer said users would not be prosecuted for possessing drugs while at the facility and the Home Office in London said it would not interfere.

House Dems Reintroduce Weed Legalization Bill, San Francisco Mayor Wants Forced Treatment for Benefits, More... (9/22/23)

Wisconsin Democrats roll out a marijuana legalization bill, a Pennsylvania medical marijuana expansion bill passes the Senate, and more.

Members of the Sinaloa Cartel parading through San Gregorio Chemic in Chiapas state, near the Guatemalan border. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

House Democrats Reintroduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 5601), one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Following efforts led by states across the nation, the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level. The bill also aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The bill:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.  
    • Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant ProgramProvides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

The MORE Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, Better Organizing to Win Legalization, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, the Center for American Progress, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Wisconsin Democrats File Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Melissa Agard and state Rep. Darrin B. Madison have introduced a marijuana legalization bill. This bill would allow Wisconsin to join thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws broadly legalizing cannabis in some form. Republican majorities in the legislature have blocked any progress on such bills in the past.

"I’ve said this time and time again – we know that the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal," said Sen. Agard. "For the past decade, I have worked to undo Wisconsin’s antiquated and deeply unjust marijuana policies and put our state on a prosperous path forward.  

"Legalizing cannabis is a matter of public safety and racial justice here in Wisconsin," said Rep. Madison. "People in Wisconsin indulge in cannabis use and deserve the ability to buy safe cannabis and use it responsibly without being criminalized. According to the ACLU, Black people were 4.24 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Wisconsin during 2018. Similar disparities exist in convictions, leading to immeasurable harm to black communities in Wisconsin. The bill we’ve introduced today lays a solid foundation for those that have been harshly convicted for non-violent possession charges and the ramifications of those convictions." 

Under the proposal, adults in Wisconsin aged 21 and older could legally have marijuana in their possession. The measure would also lay the groundwork for a regulated cannabis market to launch in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The Senate has approved a bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing growers to sell directly to patients despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition. The bill was approved last Wednesday on a 44-3 vote.

Sen. Chris Gebhard and a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced Senate Bill 773  earlier this year. The current state medical law authorizes licenses for 25 businesses growing and processing medical marijuana, but only five of those licensees can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. SB773 would allow all medical marijuana growers and processes to sell directly to patients.

The bill now goes to the House, where it may become a vehicle for broader reforms, from allowing for patient home cultivation to converting the bill into a full-on legalization bill. But changes too profound could endanger an amended bill's prospects back in the Senate, which would have to address any changes.

"There will certainly be vigorous discussions there on what shape this bill will come back to the Senate in said Sen. Dan Laughlin (R). "If this becomes a vehicle for adult use, I doubt that it would pass this chamber. However, I think if they do add home-grown to this bill, it would strengthen the bill and I believe that we would be able to get it through this chamber as well."

Drug Policy

San Francisco Mayor Proposes Mandatory Drug Treatment for Cash Assistance Programs. Trying a new tack in the city's ongoing effort to get a grip on open air drug use and an overdose crisis, Mayor London Breed is now proposing that city residents with addiction issues who receive cash assistance be required to undergo drug treatment in order to keep receiving payments. The proposal would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Under the proposal, people who apply for County Adult Assistance Programs would have to undergo screening for substance use disorder and participate in a treatment program if they're found to have an addiction. People who refuse or who "do not successfully engage in treatment" would not be eligible for cash assistance.

"We fund a wide range of services, and we want to help people get the care they need but under current state law, local government lack tools to compel people into treatment," Breed said. "This initiative aims to create more accountability and help get people to accept the treatment and services they need."   

Some, but not all, supervisors are on board. Board President Aaron Peskin demurred, saying that Breed should focus on stopping dealers and open-air drug markets rather than "drug testing people on welfare."

"If she can't find the way to prevent several hundred brazen criminals from selling deadly drugs -- how does she think she will find the resources to drug test thousands of welfare recipients?" Peskin said

Drug Testing

Washington Department of Corrections Sued Over Faulty Drug Tests, Harsh Punishments. Columbia Legal Services (CLS) filed a class action complaint against the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), challenging the widespread practice of imposing harsh discipline on people in DOC facilities based on unreliable drug testing. People have faced months in solitary confinement, delays in release from prison, loss of visitation, and other cruel punishments after colorimetric tests have returned "presumptive" positive results on incoming mail and other possessions.

Clifton Bell, et al. v. Washington State Department of Corrections, filed in Thurston County Superior Court last Friday, alleges that DOC’s actions violate plaintiffs' rights under Washington State law and the Washington State Constitution.Plaintiff Gregory Hyde was placed in administrative segregation (another term for solitary confinement) for almost five months after a presumptive positive test result. The item that tested positive for drugs was a packet of crossword, word search, and Sudoku puzzle books sent by Mr. Hyde’s father and stepmother.

After facing months of irreversible disciplinary actions, DOC returned the books in question to Mr. Hyde with no explanation or expungement of the infraction. His father’s name remains on DOC’s records as having mailed drugs to the prison.

"I think DOC is using its power to punish people who can’t fight back," said Mr. Hyde."My elderly father just wanted to send me some puzzle books. Now they’re saying he’s a drug dealer. Now my father is too far away to see because I got transferred to a different facility. My father is impoverished and on a fixed income. I think it’s an abuse of power. I don’t think DOC should be doing this."

Manufactured by companies like DetectaChem and MMC International, the colorimetric tests (also called roadside tests or field tests) are designed to be initial screening testsand the manufacturers are clear that they require confirmatory testing to be valid. Similar test technologies have been found unlawful in many settings, including in other state prison systems. In 2021, a Massachusetts court forced that state’s DOC to stop using similar colorimetric tests from another manufacturer, with the court describing them as "only marginally better than a coin flip"at identifying drugs. The tests in that case were found to deliver false positives nearly 40 percent of the time.

International

Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Lauded by Chiapas Townspeople for Rescuing Them from Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Townspeople in San Gregorio Chemic, Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, cheered a 20-vehicle convoy of Sinaloa Cartel fighters as they paraded through the city after having driven out the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC).

JNGC fighters had seized the town and blocked the only highway access to it for nearly two weeks, killing and extorting local residents along the way. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced over the weekend that he was sending 800 National Guard troops to the area. He also implored local youth not to be seduced by the Sinaloa Cartel.

'It turns out that on the border with Guatemala, in Comalapa, towards Motozintla, there are organized crime groups that are fighting for the territory (Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel) to have spaces, to store drugs that enter from Central America, to have control of that territory and they will confront each other, fortunately there have not been many murders,' López Obrador said during his daily presser with the media.

A local Catholic priest said that local residents may have been intimidated into cheering on the Sinaloa Cartel. "Others will say that they have already allied themselves with drug traffickers. They line them up," he said. "It's not that they want to. There will be people who do it on their own, but people are being forced and that is not worth it. People are being forced to defend one cartel, to fight for another and they are being used as cannon fodder."

NCAA Moves to End Marijuana Ban, Study Finds Mexican Cartels a Major Employer, More... (9/25/23)

A pair of Republican senators file a bill to require congressional approval to down-schedule marijuana, the House Rules Committee advances a pair of psychedelic research amendments to the defense spending bill, and more.

College basketball under the aegis of the NCAA. An end to the weed ban could be coming soon. (Creative Commons/Phil Roeder)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Senators File Bill to Block Marijuana Legalization Without Congressional Approval. Last Friday, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), joined by her colleague Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), introduced the Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act to give Congress final approval over the legalization of marijuana. 

According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has signaled it will follow a recommendation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. This would, in essence, legalize marijuana federally. 

This recommendation was issued after President Biden requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and HHS evaluate marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.  The Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act will require congressional review of rules rescheduling marijuana. 

"Congress makes the laws in this country, not DC bureaucrats," said Lummis. "The American people through their elected representatives in the Senate and House should have the final say on such a momentous change as the legalization of marijuana. The Biden administration’s rush to reschedule marijuana without compelling scientific evidence appears to be political, not about what’s best for the American people."  

NCAA Committee Recommends Legislation to Remove Marijuana from Banned Substances List in All Three Divisions. The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended legislation that would remove marijuana from the NCAA's list of banned drug classes at all three divisions, the organization announced last Friday. The recommendation calls for a "robust educational strategy" for college athletes when it comes to marijuana.

"Cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug and that a harm-reduction approach to cannabis is best implemented at the school level," the NCAA said in a statement following midweek meetings in Indianapolis. 

The committee reasoned that removing marijuana from the list of banned substances achieves several aims: acknowledging the ineffectiveness of the current policy of banning, testing, and penalizing; affirming that NCAA drug testing is aimed only at performance-enhancing substances; and emphasizes the importance of moving toward a harm reduction strategy.

The recommendation now goes to the governing structures of the NCAA's three divisions.

"When making a decision on an important topic like this, we agree that the membership should have an opportunity to vote on the final outcome," committee chair James Houle, lead sport psychologist at Ohio State, said in a statement. "We are recommending a big shift in the paradigm when it comes to cannabinoids. We want to modernize the strategy with the most up-to-date research to give schools the best opportunity to support the health of student-athletes."

Psychedelics

House Rules Committee Clears Pair of Psychedelic Research Amendments to Defense Spending Bill. The House Rules Committee last Saturday approved two psychedelic research amendments for inclusion in the must-pass defense spending bill. It also cleared the larger defense bill for a House floor vote this as a government spending deadline looms.

One amendment, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would provide $15 million in funding for DOD to carry out "Psychedelic Medical Clinical Trials."

The other amendment, also from Crenshaw, would require the Defense Health Agency to "submit a report to Congress on options to ensure that active-duty service members who are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are able to participate in clinical trials under the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purposes of studying the effectiveness of psychedelic substances."

International

Mexican Drug Cartels Employ 175,000 People, Study Finds. Mexican drug trafficking organizations—the so-called cartels—employ roughly 175,000 people, according to new research findings published in the journal Science. That makes organized crime the fifth-largest employment sector in the country. 

The study examined a decade of data on murders, missing persons, and imprisoned people and used a mathematical model to determine overall cartel membership and which policy responses would best reduce violence. Homicides in the country have tripled since 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon escalated the domestic drug war by sending in the army.

The study authors argue that the best way to reduce violence is not to lock up more gang members, which they argue would actually increase the murder rate, but to cut cartel recruitment.

"More than 1.7 million people in Latin America are incarcerated, and adding more people to saturated jails will not solve the insecurity problem," wrote the authors.

The analysts identified 198 armed criminal groups in the country, although two of them, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel, battle for national domination.

Effort to Recriminalize Drug Possession in Oregon Gets Underway [FEATURE]

In November 2020, voters in Oregon made history by becoming the first in the country to break with a century of drug war by approving the decriminalization of drug possession. Measure 110 not only put an end to thousands of low-level drug arrests, it also provided hundreds of millions of dollars for drug treatment, prevention, and related services by tapping into marijuana tax revenues--$300 million so far.

On the street in Portland. (Creative Commons)
And now, an effort is underway to roll back the clock. This week, a group of political operatives and deep-pocketed donors calling themselves the Coalition to Fix and Improve Measure 110 filed a pair of proposed ballot initiatives, Fix and Improve Measure 110-Measure A and Fix and Improve Measure 110-Measure B, would once again make drug possession a crime, as well as making changes on the treatment side of the ledger.

The possession of drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine would be a misdemeanor, and there would be a new misdemeanor of public drug consumption of illicit drugs. Version "B" of the initiative would also increase penalties for some drug offenses, such as where drug use causes death or when the offender is a repeat offender. That version would also make possession of pill-making machines a felony offense.

The latter version would also shift control of Measure 110 funds from the Oregon Health Authority, which has been criticized for the slow implementation of the treatment and recovery programs, to the Alcohol and Drugs Policy Commission.

Backers of the effort include former Republican lawmaker Max Williams, political consultant Dan Lavey, progressive strategist Paige Richardson and Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton. Financial backers include Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who spent nearly $5 million last year to put anyone but the Democrat in the governor's chair, and kicked in $200,000 for this coalition. Also anteing up are Columbia Sportswear President and CEO Tim Boyle ($300,000), real estate mogul Jordan Schnitzer ($50,000), former Columbia Distributing Company chair Ed Maletis ($50,000) and the Goodman family, a major property owner in Downtown Portland ($100,000).

Portland, the state's largest city, suffers from a high rate of homelessness, public drug use, and an on-going crisis of mental health treatment, and proponents of the initiatives draw on a culturally conservative critique of the city as a hellhole blighted by liberal leadership and wacky ideas like decriminalizing drugs to make their case.

"We know that Ballot Measure 110 didn’t create the homeless crisis or the behavioral-health crisis or is the sole reason we are seeing spikes in crime," said Williams. "But we are convinced that Measure 110 is making things a whole lot worse."

"Even casual observers of Portland can recognize we are well off track here," said Boyle, adding that recriminalizing possession may be just what users need because  "the incentive of being incarcerated is powerful. It means people take it seriously. They have an incentive for getting clean."

But treatment providers, affected families, and reform advocates say that while Measure 110 has its issues, reverting to a prohibitionist position is not the answer.

"Drug use has been a problem in many neighborhoods for decades and overdose rates were skyrocketing before passage of Measure 110," said Larry Turner, co-founder and a community navigator of Fresh Out in Portland. "Before passing new laws that will take us back to the days when Black and brown people were disproportionately harmed by criminalization, we need to make Measure 110 more effective without overturning the law and going backwards. We need unified support from leaders committed to providing services to people who need them quickly, demanding accountability from local officials; and strongly supporting first responders and service providers. Let’s enforce the laws we have."

"My son died of a heroin overdose when personal possession was a crime. Criminalization and threat of arrest did not save him, and it will not save the thousands of sons and daughters in need of treatment in Oregon today," said Julia Pinsky of Jackson County, who started Max’s Mission in memory of her son. "The disorder, crime and human suffering on Oregon’s streets are unacceptable. We need to demand that politicians and bureaucrats stop dragging their feet, and finally deliver the housing, drug treatment, and mental health care that people need, and voters have overwhelmingly supported. The fentanyl crisis has made the need for these services even more critical. I don’t want any more families to experience the devastation of losing their child."

"It is disappointing that the people behind these petitions didn’t talk to Measure 110 providers. We could have told them what is needed to make the measure more effective. We need more support, and the entire system needs increased funding and people need a roof over their head for recovery to be successful. Arresting and jailing people with addiction means they will end up right back on the street with increased overdose risk and a criminal record that will make the road to recovery that much harder," said Shannon Jones, CEO of the Oregon Change Clinic.

"Oregonians have real concerns about the suffering and challenges they see in their communities. Nothing proposed in this initiative provides real solutions, instead it reverts to failed drug war tactics: more criminalization, coercive interventions, and to disappear people who are struggling without addressing the conditions that lead to homelessness and addiction," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Recriminalizing drugs and forced treatment are false promises of change but will increase overdose risk, increase racial disparities in the criminal legal system, disrupt treatment for those who seek it, and saddle people with criminal records that will serve as barriers to housing, employment, education, and other services for the rest of their lives. Policymakers in Oregon must strengthen Measure 110 by expanding and making more accessible the services and supports people need to both address their needs while ensuring safety for our communities, without criminalization and coercion."

But a poll last month commissioned by the coalition had 56 percent supporting repeal of Measure 110 in its entirety and 64 percent in favor of reverting to drug criminalization. The pollsters found that respondents blamed Measure 110 for rising homelessness (54 percent) and decreased public safety (50 percent), although homelessness levels are driven largely by rental prices and although Portland ranks roughly even with other Pacific Northwest cities, such as Boise, Sacramento, and Seattle, when it comes to crime.

Numbers like that have the state's Democratic political leaders taking a very cautious line on the initiative proposals. Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Portland) and House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) met with Williams, the primary architect of the campaign, on Tuesday to discuss possible legislative alternatives to an initiative campaign.

"They discussed the broad strokes of the ballot measure," said Wagner spokesman Connor Radnovich, "and were in agreement that Oregon needs to address its addiction crisis."

"I am going to take some time to review the ballot measures in detail," said Wagner." Oregon’s fentanyl and methamphetamine crisis is unacceptable. The Legislature will comprehensively tackle this crisis in the upcoming legislative session by empowering law enforcement to stop the proliferation of drugs on our streets and ensuring that people get connected with addiction treatment services. Addiction education will also be a key component of our response. Legislative leaders have been meeting with various groups to identify which specific policy proposals will be brought forward in the upcoming session."

"There is no scenario in which this upcoming legislative session doesn’t focus on helping those families and communities in need," said Rayfield. "With respect to the current proposals out there, we will continue to review them and any others that come up in the meantime."

Gov. Tina Kotek's chief of staff and other top policymakers have met with initiative proponents, said spokeswoman Elisabeth Shephard. "She has not reviewed the two ballot initiatives yet," Shepard says. "The governor has previously stated that public consumption of controlled substances is a problem that needs to be addressed. She intends to work with legislators to fix the issue and expects a bill on her desk in next year’s session."

If drug decriminalization supporters want to keep what they have achieved, they will be facing a battle on multiple fronts.

Revised Weed Banking Bill Filed, Scottish Safe Injection Site Location Revealed, More... (9/21/23)

A House panel approves the CURE Act to protect past marijuana users from federal employment discrimination, the new Thai minister vows to roll back marijuana decriminalization, and more.

Marijuana is on the agenda on Capitol Hill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Revised, Renamed Version of Marijuana Banking Bill Filed, Committee Vote Set for Next Wednesday. The bill aiming to pave the way for providing financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses known as the Safe and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has now been revised and renamed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act and is headed for a key Senate committee vote next Wednesday.

Sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), the revised bill was filed Wednesday, is set for mark-up in the Senate Banking Committee, and after that, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he intends to "bring it to the floor with all due speed."

But despite apparent clear skies in the Senate, the future is a bit cloudier in the House, where a key committee chairman has not committed to allowing it a vote.

Among the key changes to the bill: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation gets one year instead of 180 days to develop guidance for financial institutions, regulators must have a "valid" reason for requesting or requiring the termination of bank accounts for any business, regulators must work with state and federal counterparts to create rules or guidance for pot businesses to increase deposit accounts within two years, FDIC must conduct a biennial survey and report to identify barriers to accessing deposit accounts for small-and medium-sized businesses, and the words "diversity and inclusion" have been remove from section titles, even though required reports on data concerning small and minority-, veteran- and women-owned businesses are still in the bill.

Federal Bill to Remove Marijuana as Barrier to Federal Employment, Security Clearances Wins Committee Vote. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Cannabis Users' Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act (HR 5040). The bill would prevent the denial of federal employment or security clearances based on a candidate’s past marijuana use.

The bipartisan bill cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Nancy Mace (R-NC), and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) passed on a 30-14 vote, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats in approving it.

The version of the bill approved in committee removed a provision that blocked federal employment and security clearance denials for current marijuana use, leaving the bill addressing only past marijuana use.

International

Scottish Safe Injection Site Pilot Scheme Location Revealed. The proposed safe injection pilot project for the country will be located at the Hunter Street Health Center in the east end of Glasgow. The center already provides a heroin assisted-treatment service.

The safe injection site is becoming a reality after the country's top lawyer officer said users would not be prosecuted for simple possession offenses and the United Kingdom in government in London has said it would not block the scheme.

Glasgow authorities just received a report that found safe injection sites have been shown to "reduce public injecting and discarded needles, and remove barriers to, and improve the uptake into, treatment and care." The report also noted that the Hunter Street Health Center site "offers a discrete base, closely located to the city center, and implementation of the enhanced drug treatment service within the center has not caused significant challenges for the community."

Thailand to Restrict Marijuana Use, New Prime Minister Says, After Decriminalization Last Year. After thousands of pot shops have opened across the country since it decriminalized marijuana a year ago, the new Thai prime minister is vowing to restrict the use of marijuana to medical purposes.

"The law will need to be rewritten," Prime Minister Srettha Thavasin said. "It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only," he said, adding that there can’t be a middle ground for recreational use.

Srettha's Pheu Thai Party ran a hardline anti-drug campaign and vowed to undo decriminalization, but his party is part of an 11-party governing coalition, and some of his partners have different ideas. One partner party, for example, wants tighter control over the industry but not reverting to classifying the plant as a drug.

The industry is not that concerned because it is convinced the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. "More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway," Poonwarit said Poonwarit Wangpatravanich, president of the Phuket Cannabis Association. "Cannabis is here to stay, but in what status is not yet clear."

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