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The Public Stands Behind Oregon's Drug Decrim and Addiction Funding Law [FEATURE]

It has been nearly two years since Oregon voters approved Measure 110, a sweeping drug decriminalization and public health services funding initiative, and it still has strong public support. That could be because it is producing the kinds of results Oregonians want to see.

Measure 110 is bringing addiction recovery services not just to Portland, but to places like this, too. (Pixabay)
In voting for Measure 110, Oregonians sought to move the emphasis of drug policy from law enforcement to a public health approach, and that is what they are getting. Drug possession arrests, which had already dropped by half in 2020 because of the pandemic, significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, falling another 65 percent from the 2020 levels in the first six months of 2022.

And Measure 110, which tapped into marijuana tax revenues to fund a broad spectrum of addiction services -- from low-barrier drug treatment and peer support and recovery to overdose prevention and housing and employment support (but not drug treatment covered by Medicaid or insurance) -- is setting the stage for a massive expansion of those services by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the field.

Late last month, the Oversight & Accountability Council, the body tasked with overseeing the distribution of the funding, approved the remainder of the initial $302 million made available under Measure 110, and on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it had finished awarding that money to more than 237 service providers in the form of grants.

With the state suffering more than a thousand overdose deaths in the past year, there is criticism that authorities have moved too slowly. Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen acknowledged as much, saying the agency had learned it needed to give more support and technical assistance to the volunteer committee tasked with grantmaking decisions.

"We understand the frustration this caused in our communities," Allen said. "When you do something for the first time you're going to make mistakes."

But now the money is out there, and it will help fund 237 service providers in 36 Behavioral Health Regional Networks (BHRNs), aimed at ensuring that help is available in even the most remote rural corners of the state. That includes 111 groups providing screening and behavioral health needs assessments, 112 groups doing individual intervention planning, 113 groups doing low-barrier drug treatment, 172 groups doing peer support and mentoring, 88 groups providing housing services, 84 groups providing harm reduction services, and 51 groups doing job support.

The money is going to allow these groups to expand their services by hiring and training new staff, securing additional facilities, buying vehicles for mobile support services, and even purchasing housing.

"Measure 110 changes the system so that there is no wrong door to access services," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Thanks to Measure 110, you don't have to get arrested before you are maybe offered help. Measure 110 is changing the addiction recovery service landscape so that regardless of the path, supportive services will be more readily available closer to home."

"It's been a long road, but we're ecstatic to see all of the Measure 110 funding for the 2021-2023 biennium finally being approved and going out to service providers to expand critical addiction services in Oregon communities. This is the first step in ensuring Oregon delivers on its promise of replacing a criminal legal approach to drugs with a public health approach and offering the rest of the country a glimpse of what is ultimately possible when we offer people support instead of punishment," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was a key supporter of Measure 110 and which is partnering with the Health Justice Recovery Alliance on implementation.

Even with the slow rollout, Oregonians are liking what they are seeing. A poll released this month by Data for Progress found majority support for Measure 110 in every region of the state -- even the conservative eastern an southwestern areas -- and a strong bipartisan majority who agree that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

When asked whether Measure 110 should remain in place, 58 percent said yes. That included 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents, but only 31 percent of Republicans.

The polling suggests that tying drug decriminalization to the expansion of recovery services is key to getting it over the finish line. When asked about individual components of the program, 91 percent supported peer mentoring, 90 percent supported employment help, 86 percent supported funding addiction recovery, 84 percent supported housing assistance, but only 62 percent supported harm reduction measures and only 61 percent supported decriminalization itself.

It is almost as if Oregonians made a bargain with themselves: Give us strong measures to aid recovery and we will grudgingly accept such vanguard measures as harm reduction and decriminalizing drugs. These pollsresults should send a clear message to people contemplating future decrim initiatives about how to broaden support for them.

State Treasurers Group Renews Call for Marijuana Banking Reform, NY MedMJ Home Grow Regs Adopted, More... (9/21/22)

Indiana lawmakers will meet next week to hear a report on marijuana policy, Louisiana lawmakers have created a task force to look at employment protections for medical marijuana patients, and more.

Marijuana Policy

State Treasures Reaffirm Support for Federal Marijuana Banking Reform at Annual Meeting. The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) has reaffirmed its support for a resolution that calls on Congress to pass legislation to provide access to banks for the state-legal marijuana industry. The move came at its annual meeting Monday. The resolution says the NAST does not take a position on marijuana legalization but does back legislation to ease the industry's banking problems. The group cites the "ongoing conflict between states' laws legalizing cannabis and current federal laws, resulting in the vast majority of financial institutions refusing to provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses." Leaving the industry without access to banking services is "inefficient, expensive, and opaque, making illicit activity more difficult to track and posing a significant risk to public safety by increasing the likelihood of violent crime." The resolution comes as pressure mounts to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has repeatedly passed the House only to be stalled in the Senate by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who continues to hold out for a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Indiana Lawmakers to Meet Next Week to Hear Report on Marijuana Policy. Lawmakers will gather on Tuesday for the presentation of a study by a Public Health Summer Study Committee on the potential health benefits, decriminalization and consequences of Delta-8, Delta-9 and other THC products over the last few months. The study was promoted by reform advocates, who hope it will help lay the basis for medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana legalization. The state Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which opposes both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, will also be present at the capitol to plead its case.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Lawmakers Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. Lawmakers have created a special task force on medical marijuana with a special emphasis on ways to prevent employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients. The task force will also examine options for drug testing workers who use the drug. The task force's first meeting in set for a week from today.

New York Regulators Set Rules for Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Tuesday adopted regulations for home grows for medical marijuana patients, opening the way for home cultivation to get underway. Under the regulations, patients can grow up to six plants and caregivers, who can grow for up to four patients, can grow up to 12 plants. The regulations specify that landlords cannot penalize or refuse to lease to patients who grow their own. The regulations came after a public comment period where some advocates argued for higher plant limits to no avail. The board also approved conditional licenses for 19 cultivators and 10 processors.

Medical Marijuana Update

California medical marijuana patients get more protections, so do District of Columbia city employees, and more.

California

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Healthcare Discrimination. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 1954, barring doctors from discriminating against patients based on a positive test for THC if the patient is a registered medical marijuana user. The bill adds that healthcare professionals cannot be punished for treating a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law. He also signed into law Senate Bill 988, which amends an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that "health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements."

Nebraska

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt by Medical Marijuana Campaign to Block Nebraska Ballot Process. As medical marijuana campaigners ran into problems with signature gathering earlier this summer, they sued, arguing that the state's requirement that initiative campaigns not only reach a certain statew0ide signature threshold but also get signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties violated free speech and equal protection rights. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU prevailed in district court in June, winning a temporary injunction suspending the 5 percent requirement. But state officials appealed, and the US 8th Circuit quickly put a hold on the judge's order pending an appeals court ruling. That ruling came Wednesday, when a split panel of the court ruled for the state. "The district court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” Judges Raymond Gruender and David Stras ruled. Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that "if the right to vote is fundamental, I see no reason why it should not apply equally to the initiative process at the heart of Nebraska’s electoral and legislative system." The campaign and the ACLU said the effort would continue and that they may seek a ruling from the full 8th Circuit.

Washington, DC

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Poll Finds SAFE Banking Act Has Broad Support, DEA Fentanyl Scaremongering, More... (9/7/22)

Missouri's Republican governor rejects a call to include marijuana legalization in an upcoming special session, a DC court reverses the firing of a medical marijuana-using employee accused of being high on the job, and more.

"Rainbow" fentanyl--not aimed at kids, experts say. (Multnomah County Sheriff)
Marijuana Policy

Survey: Most Voters Support Federal Banking Reforms for Licensed Marijuana Retailers. The overwhelming majority of voters believe that federal law should be amended so that state-licensed marijuana businesses can readily utilize banks and other financial services, according to national survey data compiled by Morning Consult and commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Consistent with prior survey data, 65 percent of respondents “support allowing cannabis-related businesses to have access to banking services in states where cannabis is legal.” Moreover, 63 percent of voters agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system will help improve public safety, and 58 percent say that it is “important” that members of the U.S. Senate vote to establish a safe harbor for licensed cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), which would do just that, has repeatedly passed in the House only to be blocked in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and his allies, who are holding out for passage of a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Missouri Governor Will Not Include Marijuana Legalization in Special Session. Efforts to do a legislative end run around a pending marijuana legalization constitutional amendment (Amendment 3) have come to naught after Gov. Mike Parson's office said Tuesday that he will not expand the scope of his upcoming legislative special session to consider legalizing marijuana. "The call will not be amended to include marijuana legalization," Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said. Lawmakers hoping to blunt momentum for the measure had called on the governor to include marijuana legalization, but even though Parsons has called Amendment 3 "a disaster," he demurred.

Medical Marijuana

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Opioids and Opiates

DEA Warning that Colored Fentanyl Pills Are Aimed at Kids is Nonsense, Experts Say. On August 30, the DEA warned the public about fentanyl in colorful pills being sold by "drug cartels" to "made to look like candy to children and young  people," calling it "Rainbow fentanyl" and charging that it is "a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults." But drug policy experts said such statements were misleading—and used harsh terms in doing so.

The charge is "typical drug war bullshit," said Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. DEA's framing "was so divorced from any reality of what drug markets are actually like, it was almost laughable that our country's top drug enforcement folks are so out of touch.We've been talking about colored dope for years. This is like completely nothing new."

Claire Zagorski, a licensed paramedic, program coordinator and harm reduction instructor for the PhARM Program at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, described the DEA announcement as "old recycled drug propaganda" that echoes the perennial myth of dope-laced Halloween candy. "Why would someone give away their expensive drugs to some random person they don't know, just so they might have a bad experience? It doesn't make sense," Zagorski told Salon. "At the end of the day, drug sellers are business people, and they're not going to invest in some kind of change to their supply if they don't think there's some good return on it … Kids don't have a lot of money that their parents don't supervise or give to them. So it just doesn't make sense from a business standpoint."

AZ Churches Sue Feds Over Ayahuasca Seizures, Schumer's Legalization Bill Coming Within Days, More... (7/20/22)

Indonesia's Constitutional Court rejects medical marijuana but calls for "immediate" study, DC Mayor signs bill providing workplace protections for marijuana users, more.

Weed will be on the Senate's mind next week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Hearing on Marijuana as Filing of Legalization Bill Looms. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday on "Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms." The hearing, led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a strong proponent of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's pending legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, comes amid word that the bill will drop any day now. Schumer has blocked incremental marijuana reforms, such as the SAFE Banking Act, saying he wants a full-blown legalization bill.

Kentucky Democrats Announce Plan for Legalization Bill. Frustrated by the failure of the Republican-controlled state legislature to act even on medical marijuana, state Democrats announced Thursday they will be filing legislation to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. They said they would fill "LETT's Grow" bills in both house. LETT is short for Legalizing sales, Expunging crimes, Treating medical needs, and Taxing sales. "Our legislation is the comprehensive plan that Kentuckians deserve, and it builds on what's worked in other states while avoiding their mistakes," said Rep. Roberts of Newport. "This would be a boon for our economy and farmers alike, plus give state and local governments a major new source of revenue."

DC Mayor Signs Bill Providing Workplace Protections for Marijuana Users, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law a bill that most employers from firing or refusing to hire workers because they use marijuana. The bill would "prohibit employers from firing, failing to hire, or taking other personnel actions against an individual for use of cannabis, participating in the medical cannabis program, or failure to pass an employer-required or requested cannabis drug test, unless the position is designated safety sensitive or for other enumerated reasons." There are exceptions for police, safety-sensitive construction workers, people whose jobs require a commercial drivers' license, and people who work with children or medical patients. The new law must still be approved by Congress before it can go into effect.

Psychedelics

Arizona Churches Sue Over Seizure of Sacramental Ayahuasca. Two Arizona churches, the Arizona Yagé Assembly and the Church of the Eagle and the Condor, have filed suit in federal court over the seizure of ayahuasca, a key element in their religious practice, by federal agencies. In separate lawsuits, the two churches charge that the federal government has violated the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law bars the government from burdening the exercise of religion unless there is a compelling government interest and only if that action if the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

The Church of the Eagle and the Condor says that US Customs and Border Protection has been seizing and destroying its ayahuasca since 2020. The churches say drinking ayahuasca is "an essential mode of worship" for members, but federal agencies say any possession of ayahuasca, a Schedule I substance, violates the Controlled Substances Act. "The church and its members are aware that their sacrament is proscribed by law, but they have partaken in their sacrament both before and after the United States made a credible threat of enforcement of the CSA against them," the suit says. "Plaintiffs are violating and intend to continue to violate applicable law, rather than compromise or terminate their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices."

International

Indonesia High Court Rejects Medical Marijuana But Calls for Immediate Study. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday nixed a judicial review of the country's drug law that could have opened the door for medical marijuana. Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy backed by civil society groups had sought the review, arguing that marijuana could be used medicinally to treat medical conditions. The court held there was insufficient research to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but called on the government to "immediately" conduct research on the medicinal use of the herb… The results of which can be used to determine policies, including in this case the possibility of changing the law," said judge Suhartoyo.

House Approves SAFE Banking Again, Colombia Cocaine Production Down Slightly, More... (7/15/22)

The NYPD reverses course on testing cops for marijuana, Colorado's governor signs an executive order protecting marijuana-using workers from discrimination, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Coca and cocaine production remained relatively stable at high levels last year. (Pixabay)
House Approves More Marijuana Amendments as Part of Defense Spending Bill. The House on Thursday approved a half dozen marijuana amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, including amendments to protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses and allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients. The banking amendment came from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and contains the language of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has been included in other omnibus spending bills only to be stripped out in conference committee by Senate leadership, which is still holding out for a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Colorado Governor Issues Executive Order to Protect Marijuana Users from Workplace Discrimination. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has issued an executive order designed to protect workers from being punished or denied a professional license for using, possessing, or growing marijuana. The order includes people from other states. "The exclusion of people from the workforce because of marijuana-related activities that are lawful in Colorado, but still criminally penalized in other states, hinders our residents, economy and our State," said Polis. The order also directs the state Department of Regulatory Agencies to not provide information to aid in professional investigations related to legal marijuana-related activities in the state.

NYPD Says It Will Stop Testing Cops for Weed, Then Reverses Course. The NYPD on Wednesday announced it would quit drug testing officers for marijuana, only to reverse course within a matter of hours. "The New York City Law Department has directed the NYPD to cease all random, scheduled and pre-employment testing for marijuana," an NYPD spokeswoman said early Wednesday. "The Department will continue to administer marijuana screenings to personnel when there are indications of impairment and is reviewing its current policies in light of this directive." But later in the day, an NYPD spokesman said that the department was in discussions with the Law Department about possible conflicts with federal law and that in the meantime, it was back to the old policy. "While these discussions continue, there is no change in NYPD policies, procedures, or testing protocols regarding the use of Marijuana by uniformed members of the service," the spokesperson announced.

International

Colombian Coca, Cocaine Production Fell Slightly Last Year, Drug Czar's Office Says. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) reported Thursday that Colombia had seen slight reductions in coca cultivation and cocaine production in 2021. Estimated coca cultivation dropped from 600,000 acres to 578,000, while estimated cocaine production dropped from 994 tons in 2020 to 972 tons last year. Despite billions of dollars in US anti-drug and counter-insurgency funding over the past several decades, Colombia remains one of the world's top cocaine producer, with leftist rebel factions, former rightist paramilitaries, and criminal gangs competing earn black market profits from the trade. ONDCP also reported that Peruvian cocaine production and coca cultivation dropped slightly as well last year, but production was up slightly in Bolivia, leaving global cocaine production at near record levels.

Medical Marijuana Update

A North Carolina medical marijuana bill is moving, a Louisiana bill to protect medical marijuana-using state employees goes to the governor, and more.

Louisiana

Louisiana Bill to Protect State Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana Goes to Governor. Both houses of the legislature have now approved House Bill 988, which aims to protect state employees from any negative consequences for using medical marijuana. The bill's author, House Rep. Mandie Laundry explained, "This bill provides employment discrimination protections," bill sponsor Rep. Mandie Laundry (D-New Orleans) explained. "It basically means that they can't be precluded from employment or fired just for having a medical marijuana prescription." The bill is now on the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who has given no indication of whether he will sign it or not.

New York

New York Senate Approves Bill to Mandate Health Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana. The Senate last Wednesday approved Senate Bill 8837, which would require public health insurance programs to cover medical marijuana expenses and clarify that private insurers can do the same. The bill would define marijuana as a "prescription drug," "covered drug," or "health care service" under relevant state codes so that Medicaid and workers compensation would be required to provide coverage. The bill now heads to the Assembly.

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Advances to Senate Floor Vote. The Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 711, was unanimously approved by the Senate Rules Committee last Wednesday, clearing the way for a final Senate floor vote, which could happen as soon as today. If and when the bill passes the Senate, it then goes to the House, and if approved by the House, it would go to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who has said he supports medical marijuana. The bill would create a commission to issue 10 medical marijuana supplier licenses, with each supplier able to operate eight retail shops. Patients would be limited to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.

North Carolina Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate last Thursday voted 35-10 to legalize medical marijuana by approving Senate Bill 711, the Compassionate Use Act. That vote was a second reading of the bill, with another vote required next week before the bill is sent to the House, but after today's vote, that is considered a formality. The bill would let patients possess up to 1 ½ ounces of medical marijuana, but does not allow for home cultivation.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Tax Relief for Medical Marijuana Businesses. The House Finance Committee has approved an amendment to a broader tax code reform bill that would allow medical marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses for state tax purposes. Such businesses cannot deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns because the plant remains federally illegal, but the amendment would let the businesses add deductions after the fact to their federal corporate tax filings. The state Senate has already passed a bill to clarify that medical marijuana businesses may use the state's banking system, but the House has yet to act on its version of that bill.

State Banking Regulators Call for Passage of SAFE Banking Act, Colombia Could Elect a Drug War Critic as President, More... (5/27/22)

A congressman calls on the Transportation Department to adjust its drug testing policies for truck drivers to account for broad marijuana legalization, Michigan enacts a new asset forfeiture law for airports, and more.

Leftist Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro is a harsh critic of the US drug war in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

State Financial Regulators Urge Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Protections as Part of Manufacturing Bill. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), which represents state financial regulators from across the country, sent a letter Wednesday to House and Senate leaders urging them to include marijuana banking reform in the COMPETES Act, a large-scale manufacturing bill. "By granting a safe harbor for financial institutions, Congress can bring regulatory clarity to the financial services industry, address public safety concerns and ensure access to financial services for state-compliant marijuana and marijuana-related businesses," CSBS Acting President James Cooper said.

The group is calling on congressional negotiators to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking act in the version of the bill that will go to President Biden. The House included it in its version of the bill, but the Senate removed the language. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has consistently blocked passage of the SAFE Banking Act, arguing that outright federal legalization is the path to go down, but there is little sign that there is sufficient support in the Senate for a legalization bill to pass.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Bill to Let Airport Authorities Seize Suspected Drug Cash Signed into Law. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed into law a pair of Republican-sponsored bills, House Bill 4631and House Bill 4632, that will allow airport authorities to seize suspected drug cash or property without first obtaining a conviction or guilty plea if the cash or property exceeds $20,000. The seizure would still have to be upheld in a civil judgement. "Drug trafficking will not be tolerated in Michigan," said bill sponsor Rep. Graham Filler (R-Clinton County). "The men and women who keep our airports secure need to have the proper authority to keep drugs and drug money out of our state -- and this reform gives them the tools they need to get the job done."

Drug Testing

Lawmaker Calls on Transportation Department to Amend "Outdated" Marijuana Testing Requirements. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling on the department to change its policies that punish commercial truck drivers for using marijuana while off the job. "To date, 48 states have enacted laws that, to varying degrees, relax their prohibitions against the use of marijuana," wrote Blumenauer. "Nevertheless, your department's zero-tolerance policy sweeps up drivers who were unimpaired, drivers who have not used cannabis for weeks or even months, and drivers who have used federally-legal CBD oils. Blanket disqualifications are unjust, unfair, and cause widespread economic and social damage. Thousands of driving positions are unfilled, compounding our supply chain woes. Penalizing safe drivers who comply with state cannabis laws harms both the drivers and the supply chains they support." Amidst supply chain challenges and a driver shortage, more than 36,000 truckers have had their licenses suspended for testing positive for marijuana metabolites in recent months.

International

Leftist Critic of US Drug War Poised to Win Colombian Presidency. Former leftist guerilla and Bogota mayor and current Senator Gustavo Petro is poised to win the first round of Colombia's presidential elections (although he may be forced into a run-off if he comes in with less than 50 percent of the vote). Petro is a staunch critic of the US's drug war in Colombia, frequently noting that despite spending billions on military and law enforcement and decades of US pressure to reduce drug production, the country remains a top supplier of cocaine and is awash in prohibition-related violence. He has also recently questioned the extradition last month of the head of the Gulf Clan Cartel, Dairo Antonio Usuga and is more broadly critical of extradition.

"Extradition: it merits a discussion -- a review of the figures -- to see if what’s been done for 40 years has worked or not; if a million dead Latin Americans -- the majority Colombians and Mexicans -- has been worth it," he said in an interview last month. Despite all the violence and security spending, Colombian cocaine production has tripled in the past decade, according to US government data.

SD Not Legalizing, Israel Decriminalizing, TN Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Advances, More... (3/7/22)

Bills to produce marijuana-consuming workers advance in Illinois and DC, an Idaho bill to require drug tests for substitute school teachers is killed, and more.

Legislation legalizing fentanyl test strips as an overdose prevention measure is moving in several states.
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Approves Workplace Protections for Marijuana Users. The House last Thursday approved a bill that would bar most employers from firing workers or refusing new hires merely for testing positive for marijuana use. House Bill 4116 now moves to the Senate. "If we're going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Morgan (D) said. "We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it's not affecting the workplace."

South Dakota House Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill (Again). The House on Thursday killed a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, that had been revived via a procedure called a smokeout earlier in the week. The bill had already passed the Senate, only to be killed by the House State Affairs Committee last Monday. But 24 members rose last Tuesday to revive the bill, only to see the House kill it once and for all. That clears the way for a marijuana legalization initiative campaign that is already in the signature gathering process.

Washington, DC, Council Committee Approves Bill to Ban Most Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing. The DC Council's Labor and Workplace Development Committee voted unanimously last Thursday to approve a bill to ban most workplaces from subjecting job applicants to pre-employment marijuana testing. This is an important step towards eliminating historic inequities of cannabis use and ensuring that those who use cannabis medically or recreationally are not penalized in their workspaces [for what they do] on their private time," said bill sponsor Councilmember Trayon White (D). The bill now heads before the full Council.

Drug Testing

Idaho Bill to Drug Test Substitute Teachers Killed. A bill that would have required that substitute teachers be drug tested, House Bill 651, died in a House floor vote last Thursday. Bill sponsor Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) was worried that substitute teachers would either use drugs or sell them to children. "Substitutes come and go. Most districts have no qualifications other than, you're 18, you want to sub, let's go for it. This provides a horrid opportunity for people who want to either solicit drugs to our children or are on drugs themselves." The bill advanced to the House floor despite the opposition of school districts and educators only to be shot down on a 38-31 vote.

Harm Reduction

Tennessee Senate Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The state Senate has approved legislation legalizing the use of fentanyl test strips, HB2177, in a bid to reduce overdoses in the state. The test strips are currently banned as drug paraphernalia, but this bill removes them from that classification. The bill was supported by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee (R).

International

Israel Moving to Decriminalize Marijuana as Legalization Stalls in Knesset. With marijuana legalization stalled in the Knesset, Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced Sunday that the government is considering decriminalizing recreational marijuana use and expunging the criminal records of those convicted of personal possession or use of marijuana. Sa'ar is expected to sign regulations putting the move into effect in coming days, with approval at the Knesset expected shortly thereafter. The change would go into effect immediately upon approval by the Knesset.

SD Legal Pot Bill "Smoked Out" and Revived, UT Therapeutic Psychedelic Task Force Bill Passes, More... (3/2/22)

A coalition of marijuana and civil rights groups is demanding a House floor vote on a marijuana legalization bill, the Transportation Department is moving toward approval oral drug testing for truckers, and more.

A South Dakota marijuana legalization bill got "smoked out" Tuesday, but not like this. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana, Civil Rights Groups Demand House Vote on Legalization Bill This Month. A coalition of marijuana reform and civil rights groups convened by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Justice Coalition, sent a letter to House leadership Tuesday seeking a floor vote this month on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617). Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, the MORE Act passed the House in the last Congress and has passed out of the committee in this Congress in September, but has been stalled since then. "Given that nearly every minute one person in this country is arrested for a minor marijuana crime, the public deserves to know if members of the 117th Congress stand on the side of justice and against the outdated and cruel policy of prohibition and criminalization of marijuana," the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Bill Back from the Dead After Being "Smoked Out." Just one day after a House committee voted to kill the legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, it has been revived using a legislative procedure known as a "smoke out." Under that procedure, legislative leaders can poll lawmakers and if a majority signal they are in favor of proceeding with the bill, the bill can proceed to a House floor vote. "We just smoked out a weed bill," House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R) quipped when enough members stood to be counted. Voters had approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court, and the activists behind that initiative are currently in the midst of a signature gathering campaign to put the issue on the ballot this year if the legislature fails to pass the bill.

Psychedelics

Utah Legislature Overwhelmingly Approves Psychedelic Therapeutic Study Bill. With a final Senate vote last Friday, the state legislature has approved a bill to set up a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, House Bill 167. The House had passed the bill back on February 10. In each chamber, only one no vote was registered. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox (R) but has a veto-proof majority in case he balks. The bill would create a task force to "provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness."

Drug Testing

US Department of Transportation Publishes Proposed Rules for Oral Fluid Drug Testing. The Department of Transportation last Friday a notice of proposed rulemaking for oral fluid drug testing of transportation employees covered by federal regulations. DOT said that including oral testing would help employers combat cheating on urine drug tests. Oral testing to detect the presence of marijuana only has a 24-hour window, while urine testing can detect marijuana metabolites for days or weeks. Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking should be submitted by March 30, 2022.

Drug War Issues

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