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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.)

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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International

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

More Than 300,000 Pot Arrests in 2020, FDA Points Toward OTC Naloxone, More... (11/17/22)

Congress passes a marijuana research bill, a bipatisan pair of senators file a psychedelic research and rescheduling bill, and more,

The FDA is moving to make the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone over-the-counter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Despite Legalization in Nearly Half the Country, More Than 300,000 People Were Arrested for Marijuana in 2020. Some 317,79 people were arrested on marijuana charges in 2020, according to the FBI. That is a 36 percent decline from 2019, but it still the equivalent of arresting every resident of a mid-size city such as Orlando, Corpus Christi, or Riverside, California. The marijuana arrest figure is also for the first time not the most common cause for a drug arrest, with 36 percent of drug arrests for stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, compared to 27 percent for arresting marijuana. Black Americans continued to bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement, accounting for 38 percent of all pot arrests despite making up only 13 percent of the population.

Congress Passes Marijuana Research Bill. With a final vote in the Senate Wednesday, both houses of Congress have approved the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454). The bill now goes to the desk of President Joe Biden (D). If he signs it, it will open the way to further research into the medical benefit of marijuana and CBD. Under the bill, the DEA must allow registered entities to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess marijuana for research purposes. "There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits. 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,: said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who introduced the bill along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) introduced the bill in the House.

Harm Reduction

FDA Announces Preliminary Assessment that Certain Naloxone Products Have the Potential to be Safe and Effective for Over-the-Counter Use. The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued a Federal Register notice, Safety and Effectiveness of Certain Naloxone Hydrochloride Drug Products for Nonprescription Use, that may help facilitate the development and approval of certain nonprescription naloxone drug products, including through the switch of certain naloxone drug products from prescription status to nonprescription status. Naloxone is a medicine that can help reduce opioid overdose deaths and when administered timely, usually within minutes of the first signs of an opioid overdose, can counter the overdose effects. "Today’s action supports our efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis by helping expand access to naloxone," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. "The agency will keep overdose prevention and reduction in substance use disorders as a key priority and area of intense strategic focus for action as rapidly as possible."

Psychedelics

Cory Booker, Rand Paul File Bill to Reschedule Psychedelic Breakthrough Therapies and Remove Research Barriers. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed a bill on Thursday that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer breakthrough therapies like psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule I to II, while also removing research barriers for strictly controlled substances, the Breakthrough Therapies Act. The move came on the same day that House lawmakers announced the formation of psychedelic caucus aimed at promoting new treatments from currently controlled substances. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create a procedure where current Schedule I drugs could be designated as breakthrough therapies could be transferred to a lower schedule that would make it easier to research them and promote drug development.

KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on the Hill Tuesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing Tuesday on marijuana legalization. Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the committee examined "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level," using a joint memo published last Friday to lay out the main points of discussion.

Witnesses included Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts), Amber Littlejohn (Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce), and Jillian Snider (Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties). Among topics covered were the failed war on drugs, the need for state-level action to accompany President Biden's marijuana pardon announcement, veterans' access to medical marijuana, and hemp's potential as a building material. No votes were taken.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Some Residents to Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing patients who meet certain requirements to use and possess medical marijuana. Those eligible must suffer from one of 21 specified medical conditions. The medicine must be purchased in a state where it is legal (and keep your receipt!) and will be limited to eight ounces. Patients must get a letter from a physician certifying that they suffer from one of the specified conditions. The plan goes into effect on January 1.

Harm Reduction

AMA Reiterates Call for Harm Reduction Measures to Attack Overdose Problem. At its annual interim meeting this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution encouraging the use of harm reduction practices to reduce overdose deaths in the county. The resolution called on city and state medical societies to advocate for harm reduction policies that create immunity for "drug paraphernalia" used in harm reduction, such as fentanyl test strips. "Fentanyl test strips are a point-of-care test that identifies fentanyl contamination in a drug supply with a specificity of 87.5% and a sensitivity of 95.2%," the resolution notes, but also notes that "possession of fentanyl test strips is explicitly legal in only 22 states."

But it is not just fentanyl test strips that the AMA wants to see: "The AMA has strongly supported increased use of a broad array of harm-reduction efforts to reduce death and other harms from nonmedical use of drugs, including for people who inject drugs," the group said. "These efforts include greater access to naloxone, syringe services programs and pilot programs for overdose prevention sites/supervised injection-use facilities. Fentanyl strips are part of this effort, and we urge states to take steps to help a vulnerable population."

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Legislation in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) held a ceremonial signing Wedmesday for a new law (Act 111) that legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips and other forms of drug checking to prevent overdose deaths. The legislation passed the state House and Senate unanimously before going to the Governor's desk. The most recent data show Pennsylvania had the third highest number of overdose deaths of any state in the country for the 12-month period ending May 2022. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to easily test the drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

CA Local Voters Approve More Legal Pot Shops, Filipino Drug War Continues, More... (11/15/22)

The Gallup organization looks at which groups support or oppose marijuana legalization, most Oregon residents will be ale to access nearby psilocybin therapy centers, and more.

More store fronts like this will be coming to Southern California soon. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Draws Links Between Marijuana Views and Ideology, Religiosity, and Age. In its latest poll of attitudes toward marijuana, taken in October, Gallup finds that support for legalization remains steady at 68 percent. The polling organization also combined data from the last five years to examine which demographic, social, and political groups strongly support it or strongly oppose it.

Subgroups whose support for legalization exceeds the national average by at least 10 points include those with no religious preference (89%), self-identified liberals (84%), Democrats (81%), young adults (79%) and those who seldom or never attend religious services (78%). Subgroups whose support for legalization was more than 10% below the national average include those who attend church weekly (46%), conservatives (49%), Republicans (51%), older adults (53%) and Hispanic adults (56%).

California Voters Approve Ballot Measures to Expand Pot Shop Sales. Voters in a localities across the state voted last week to approve 12 ballot measures that will either expand or create legal retail marijuana markets. The victories, mainly in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, should result in 70 new retail marijuana sales licenses, along with opportunities for ancillary businesses. Los Angeles County should see 25 new retail licenses, while San Diego County should see 20 more. But while 12 communities approved expansions, another half-dozen rejected them. The votes to ease access to adult use marijuana comes as the state's legal marijuana sector struggles to expand amidst high taxes, local bans and hindrances, and a black market that refuses to go away.

Psychedelics

Oregon's Rural Voters Reject Therapeutic Psilocybin Centers but Most Oregonians Will Have Access. On Election Day last week, 27 counties and 114 cities and towns asked voters to approve moratoria or bans on psilocybin therapy centers, which were approved by voters statewide last year. In almost every instance, voters rejected the therapy centers, but those areas account for only a small fraction of the state's population, and most Oregonians will have local access to such facilities. , Nearly three out of four of the state's 4.2 million residents live in localities where the centers are approved, including 17 of the state's most populous cities and 11 counties, including all of the most populous ones.

International

Philippine Police Force Lowballs Drug War Killings in Post-Duterte Era. The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday that they have arrested more than 22,000 people in a new drug crackdown under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. claimed that police had made efforts to reduce the use of lethal force and that only 46 people had been killed in their anti-drug operations since Marcos took office at the end of June. That figure is belied by numbers from the DAHAS database of drug war killings, which puts the death toll at 127 since Marcos took office, including 29 in October and seven more in the first week of November alone.

While the numbers reported killed under Marcos are a substantial reduction from the pace of killings under Duterte -- human rights groups estimate more than 30,000 people were killed during his bloody war on drugs -- they still represent an unacceptably high level of state violence directed at drug users and sellers. Still, Azurin patted himself and his police force on the back, claiming his reported death toll was "very minimal."

MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

Main Justice (DOJ headquarters). A coalition wants the attorney general to allow legal pot sales in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Broad Coalition Calls on Attorney General Garland to Adopt Non-Enforcement Policy Around DC Marijuana Sales. Although District of Columbia voters legalized marijuana in 2014, congressional riders have blocked the District from allowing taxed and regulated marijuana sales ever since. Now, a coalition of state, local, and national advocacy groups has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) asking him to break the logjam by adopting a formal policy of non-enforcement. The letter asks the attorney general to treat the situation in DC as "functionally equivalent to the non-enforcement approach it has traditionally taken with respect to the states that have reformed their laws allowing for the taxation and regulation of the adult use of cannabis." As things now stand, DC "is only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation."

Missouri Could See Legal Marijuana Sales as Early as January. Elections have consequences, and sometimes they have them in a hurry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Friday that existing medical marijuana companies will be able to apply for adult use ("comprehensive") sales licenses as early as December 8 and that sales could begin ahead of a 60-day post-election deadline on February 6. Some of those licenses could be completed "before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed," the agency said. "We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion."

Plans for Kansas City-Area Entertainment Complex with Marijuana Lounges Announced. That didn't take long. One day after voters approved marijuana legalization in the Show Me State, a Kansas City-area hospitality group has announced plans for a new metro area entertainment district project that will include marijuana consumption lounges. The Besa Hospitality Group announced a new entertainment district along the Missouri River about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City in the village of River Bend. It will be known as the Smokey River Entertainment District.

The Besa Hospitality Group is partnering with BesaMe Wellness, a medical marijuana company, which give it an early shot at procuring an adult sales retail license, and has a target opening date of 4/20/23. "We have an opportunity to showcase cannabis and the acceptance of cannabis in our everyday lives. We're normalizing cannabis through hospitality," says Joey Pintozzi, Vice President of Operations and Marketing. "This is an entertainment venue first and foremost. Cannabis just happens to be part of that experience. People will be free to legally consume in some of the venues and enjoy being themselves."

Psychedelics

Evanston, Illinois, Lawmaker Sponsors Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. Councilmember Devon Reid of the Chicago suburb of Evanston is sponsoring an ordinance that would make possessing, cultivating and delivering entheogenic substances like psilocybin punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. That fine could be waived for people who complete a drug treatment program or "reasonable public service work."

The ordinance also includes lowest priority language regarding the "investigation or arrest of anyone for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or engaging in practices with or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds." The legislation lists four examples of psychedelics that would be covered -- psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote and ayahuasca -- but it also says decriminalization would not be "limited to" those psychedelics.

Five Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Were on the Ballot, Two Passed [FEATURE]

Tuesday's election brought decidedly mixed results for marijuana legalization advocates with three out of five state-level campaigns going down in defeat, according to unofficial results early Wednesday morning.

Provided the results hold, Maryland and Missouri will become the 20th and 21st states to legalize marijuana, along with the District of Columbia. But Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota will not be joining those ranks after voters in those three states gave legalization a thumbs down.

In Maryland, Question 4 was winning with 65.5 percent of the vote. The measure would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

This is an amendment that came not from the people but from the legislature, which passed it as House Bill 1 in April. The legislature that same month also passed implementing legislation to go into effect if the measure passes. The legislation, House Bill 837, which would set legal possession limits at 1.5 ounces and allow for the home cultivation of two plants. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be legal if the measure passes.

The amendment contains no language about regulation or taxation. That will be left up to the legislature.

"The result of Maryland's cannabis legalization measure is monumental," said Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, which played a key role in building support for the measure. "With each state that successfully legalizes cannabis, we are one step closer to dismantling the federal prohibition of cannabis."

In Missouri, despite multi-sided opposition not only from the usual suspects in law enforcement and the political establishment but also from civil rights groups and marijuana industry insiders, with 89 percent of the vote counted, Amendment 3 was winning with 53.1 percent of the vote. The measure will allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones.

It also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses and "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022, the group behind the effort.

The initiative will tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote. It will also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The news from Arkansas and the Dakotas was grimmer. The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment garnered only 43.8 percent of the vote, while North Dakota's Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 managed only 45.1 percent, and South Dakota's Initiated Measure 27 came up short with only 46.6 percent of the vote.

The South Dakota defeat was especially bitter, given that just two years ago, voters there approved a broader marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote only to see it invalidated by the state Supreme Court.

That is it for a somewhat disappointing 2022 election, but there is already one state lined up and ready to vote on marijuana legalization next year. Organizers in Oklahoma gathered enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot this year, but delays in signature counting by state contractors left it unable to be certified by the official deadline for Tuesday's ballot. It will get a vote either in a special election or the next general statewide election.

NY Legal Pot Shops Set to Open by Year's End, Irish Decrim Recommendation, More... (11/7/22)

A federal judge throws out a lawsuit seeking gun ownership rights for medical marijuana patients, competing Bolivian coca grower factions prepare to clash again this week, and more.

marijuana seized in New York City (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

New York Recreational Marijuana Sales Licenses Coming Soon. The chief of staff of the state's Cannabis Control Board said last Thursday that the first set of Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will likely be issued at the board's next meeting on November 21. Axel Bernabe said the state was "in position" to issue the licenses then. He said the board had scored applications and will recommend that applicants representing the "top of the class" will be recommended for approval. Bernabe's comments were echoed by board chair Tremaine Wright, who said "we are on target" to open the first shops before year's end.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Lawsuit on Medical Marijuana Patients' Gun Rights. A federal judge last Friday rejected a lawsuit from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) that challenged the federal ban on medical marijuana patients' ability to buy and possess firearms. The Biden Justice Department had moved to dismiss the case last month, arguing that people who use medical marijuana are violating federal law and thus can be denied the right to have guns.

Judge Allen Winsor agreed, telling plaintiffs they "have standing but their claims fail on the merits." The judge acknowledged a congressional rider blocking federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana patients, but said that does not alter his decision. "Regardless of whether Plaintiffs are prosecuted (or whether Congress allocates funds for their prosecution), possession of marijuana remains a federal crime," Winsor held. "The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment at best precludes prosecution now; it does not forever bless Plaintiffs' actions."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. A coca grower union faction that is demanding the closure of an unofficial coca market linked to a different, government-backed grower faction has announced plans to stage street demonstration and roadblocks in various areas of La Paz beginning today. The faction said the protests would continue indefinitely and that it would not announce roadblock locations in advance. The conflict has festered for months and has resulted in various bouts of street fighting between the factions and between the factions and security forces. In one incident, the "parallel" market linked to the pro-government faction was burned to the ground by the anti-government faction.

Irish Task Force Recommends De Facto Decriminalization for Addicts, Mentally Ill. A high-level task force examining mental health and drug addiction has recommended that police be given the discretion to ticket some drug users instead of arresting and jailing them. People who are addicted to drugs or who suffer from mental illness would be eligible for the diversion from the criminal justice system provided their drugs are for personal use.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the government is willing to work through the plan, but warned it could be tricky to implement. "We have, as a government and not just this governmengovernments, agreed to look at this from a public health perspective in trying to work with and support people who have addiction problems," said McEntee. "Really this is just another iteration of that. It is not straightforward. "How do you differentiate and how do you look at people who have addiction problems and then other issues as well? But it is something we will work through as part of the recommendations."

PA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Ecuador Drug Gang Violence Spikes, More... (11/4/22)

A late poll has good news for the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative, drug gangs rampage in Ecuador, and more.

Sen. Tom Hickenlooper (D-CO) files a bill to set up a framework for federal marijunana legalization. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Sen. Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Develop Federal Marijuana Legalization Framework. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday announced a plan to roll out legislation to create a framework for federal marijuana legalization. His proposed bill, the PREPARE Act, would create a "Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis," which would make recommendations related to marijuana policy, but would not be empowered to set policies itself. "This bill will provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis," Hickenlooper's office wrote in a summary of the bill.

New Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Winning. Polling on the fate of the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative has been all over the place, with two recent polls showing it losing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote. But a third recent poll had it winning with 62 percent of the vote. That poll was from SurveyUSA, and now that polling organization is out with a new poll, again having the initiative winning, this time with 61 percent of the vote. Twenty-eight percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided, with those undecideds evenly split between potential supporters and opponents.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1393, which decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. It does so by no longer defining the test strips as drug paraphernalia under the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act of 1972. Pennsylvania thus becomes the latest of a number of states that have passed similar legislation this year in a bid to reduce the rising incidence of fentanyl-involved fatal drug overdoses. "Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste, and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is nearly impossible for an individual to know if it has been laced with fentanyl," said Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. "We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, individuals have an additional tool to fight the overdose crisis. This legalization is a big win in the harm reduction space."

International

Ecuador State of Emergency Declared as Drug Gang Violence Spikes. President Guillermo Lasso declared a new state of emergency Tuesday and a 9:00pm curfew in the Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country after an outbreak of gang violence that included two headless bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards taken hostage by inmates, a series of nine car bomb explosions in two coastal cities, and the shooting deaths of five police officers. President Lasso said the violence was "a declaration of open war" and that he was "prepared to act harshly" to suppress it.

Lasso added that soldiers and police had raided jails and seized weapons, included thousands of explosive and dynamite sticks, and arrested 28 people. Still, fresh clashes were reported in prisons in Guayaquil. Analysts say the local gangs are emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate authorities.

"In certain areas, the state has been displaced," said Col Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador's military intelligence, referring to parts of Guayaquil and Ecuador's Pacific coast. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence."

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