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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. 

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."

Biden Pot Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Afghan Opium Crop Up, More... (11/2/22)

A Colorado psychedelic initiative needs just a bit more support to get over the top next week, the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative is in the same boat, and more.

freshly harvested opium resin in Afghanistan (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Marijuana Pardons Have Broad Public Support, Poll Finds. A new Monmouth University poll finds broad public approval of President Joe Biden's (D) decision to issue blanket pardons to anyone convicted of simple federal marijuana possession charges. The poll also found broad public support for marijuana legalization, with 68 percent in favor, just one point less than the number of those who supported the Biden pardons. "Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years. Biden's action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative Leading but Under 50 Percent. The Missouri marijuana polling muddle continues. One recent poll had Amendment 3 with 43 percent of the vote -- not a majority, but a higher figure than those who said they opposed it -- while another poll had the initiative cruising to victory with 62 percent support. Now, the latest poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill -- the same folks who had the 43 percent poll just weeks ago -- has the initiative again leading but under the 50 percent required to win. This time the poll had support at 48 percent support, with 35 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided. While initiative campaigns would like to see support at 60 percent or so going into the election, or at least above the 50 percent needed to win, if these latest poll numbers are accurate, the campaign would need only to peel away about one out of five undecided voters, and keep the supporters it has now, to emerge victorious next week.

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psychedelic Initiative Under 50 Percent. The initiative to legalize the possession of psychedelics and create licensed "healing center" where people can use psilocybin under therapeutic supervision, Proposition 122, is trailing slightly according to a new poll, but has gained support since the same poll queried voters in September. The measure has 43 percent support, up from 36 percent in September, but opposition remains higher, increasing from 41 percent in September to 44 percent now. That is a statistical dead heat between "yes" and "no" votes, but still has the initiative below the 50 percent needed to win. Nearly 13 percent of voters remain undecided; the initiative will need to get a majority of those undecideds to get over the top next week.

International

Afghan Opium Crop Up One Third Despite Taliban Ban, UN Says. The 2022 opium crop in Afghanistan is the most profitable in years with cultivation up by nearly a third amid soaring prices, and despite the multiple humanitarian and economic crises facing the country and its Taliban rulers, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Tuesday. The authorities banned all cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics under strict new laws, in April 2022. This year's harvest was largely exempted from the decree, said UNODC, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the Taliban will enforce the ban. Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November this year.

"Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated," said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. "The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world."

DC Voters Still Like Marijuana Legalization, Native Plans to Sue Feds Over Reservation Pot Raid, More... (9/28/22)

Pot prohibitionists are backing a marijuana research bill, the Philippine DEA says it is okay with medical marijuana, and more.

Washington, DC (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pot Prohibitionists Get Behind Effort to Pass Federal Marijuana Research Bill. As the Senate turns toward considering marijuana banking reforms in the form of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking or a SAFE Plus bill, researchers associated with the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) are instead urging Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to move on a bill that would greatly expand marijuana research. The House has already passed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR8454), but the bill has seen no action in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act Plus includes a marijuana research provision, but the SAM researchers want to see the standalone bill passed instead, saying it was "vital" to pass it because marijuana use rates are rising.

DC Voters Support Marijuana Legalization, Oppose Crackdown on Gifting Grey Market, Poll Finds. Eight years after voters in the District of Columbia approved marijuana legalization, they still approve, a new poll finds. The poll from Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies found support for legalization at 72 percent. While DC legalized pot, it has been barred from implementing legal recreational sales by Congress, resulting in a thriving grey "gifting" market. DC residents want a regulated market, not a crackdown, the poll found, with 76 percent supporting a regulated market and only 19 percent supporting shutting down the informal market.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Plans to Sue Feds Over Raid on Tribal Land. Pueblo of Picuris tribal member Charles Farden is preparing to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) over a raid on his medical marijuana garden on tribal land last year. The raid destroyed nine plants he was growing. Now, he has filed a tort claim indicating he intends to sue the federal government, charging that the raid was carried out without a warrant and that it unveiled a federal double standard that discriminates against Native people. A congressional rider blocks the Justice Department from interfering in state-legal medical marijuana programs, but no such rider applies to the BIA, leading Native people uniquely vulnerable to federal marijuana efforts.

International

Philippine DEA Not Opposed to Medical Marijuana. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is ready to legalize medical marijuana, its director, Wilkins Villanueva, told a Senate committee hearing. But the island nation's other drug control body, the Dangerous Drug Board, said its position would be determined by its member health experts. "We have members from the Department of Health who are experts in these medical matters, so we defer to the position and recommendation of the DOH and the Philippine Medical Association," the board said. Medical marijuana is currently available for "compassionate use," but only at great expense. A bill to make medical marijuana available to all who need it is currently pending in the legislature.

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.

Colombia President Tells UN Drug War Must End; Good MA, MO Pot Polls, More... (9/20/22)

The Missouri Democratic Party can't bring itself to endorse the marijuana legalization initiative, clashes between coca grower union factions in Bolivia continued for another week, and more.

Colombian President Petro remains on message about ending the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. A new Goucher College poll consisting mostly of likely voters has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization ballot question at 59 percent, with 34 percent opposed and seven percent undecided. The ballot question is a legislatively-initiated measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. If it passes, a bill already passed by the House that would allow for the possession of up to 1,5 ounces of marijuana would be legalized and between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would be decriminalized.

Missouri Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new SurveyUSA poll of registered voters has support for the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative at 62 percent, with 22 percent opposed, and 16 percent undecided. If these numbers hold true, even if all undecideds decided to vote against the initiative, it would still win.

Missouri Democratic Party Declines to Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Democratic Party has decided to maintain a stance of neutrality on the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative. The party said that while it supports marijuana legalization, it is concerned that the measure "may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,"in a news release Monday. "Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,"the party said. The initiative gives existing medical marijuana businesses a head start on recreational licensing, and that, too, is causing concerns among Democrats.

International

Colombia President Tells UN Democracy Will Die in World Doesn't End Drug War, Pursue Different Strategy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that "democracy will die" if world leaders don't come together to end the current war on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed," he said. "The war on drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses [from fentanyl], which is not produced in our Latin America,"he said. "You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The [Black] prisoner will become a business of prison companies." Petro has previously said the war on drugs has left a million people dead in Latin America, and at the UN on Tuesday, he warned that if current policies continue, another million would die and "they will fill our lives with blood."

Another Week, Another Coca Clash in Bolivia. The two competing factions of coca growers seeking control of the Adepcoca coca growers' union clashed with stones in central La Paz Monday after separate marches into the city. On one side is a faction led by Arnold Alanes, which is close to the government and operated an officially unsanctioned "parallel" coca market in La Paz until it was burned down two weeks ago by member of a faction led Freddy Machicado, who is currently in jail after being arrested for the destruction of the "parallel" market. 

New Gallup Pot Poll, Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues, More... (8/17/22)

South Korean prosecutors sign on for more, better drug war, a group of French senators makes an urgent call for marijuana legalization, and more.

Pro- and anti-government coca growers in Bolivia clashed for the third straight week. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll: Support for Marijuana Legalization Remains High, But Americans Are Split on Whether Pot is Good or Bad for Society. In a Gallup poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization was at 68 percent, equaling previous Gallup highs on the question. But Americans were evenly split on whether it is good or bad for society, with 49 percent saying it was a positive and 50 percent saying it was a negative. People who have used marijuana -- nearly half of American adults -- were much more likely to view it positively for both users (70 percent) and society (66 percent). Those who have not used marijuana were more likely to say has negative effects on users (62 percent) and society (72 percent). Some 16 percent of respondents said they currently use marijuana.

International

Bolivia Sees Third Week of Clashes Among Coca Growers. For the third week in a row, hundreds of coca growers from La Paz department marched on Monday to demand the closure of a "parallel" coca market affiliated with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party. Under the country's coca laws, only two markets are recognized -- one in La Paz and one in Cochabamba -- but the "parallel" market has been operating anyway without any government action.

The La Paz coca growers, organized as Adepcoca, marched toward the parallel market in Villa El, where residents put up barricades to protect themselves and their homes from police and protesters. They had suffered damage during street clashes in the past two weeks. Hundreds of police officers protected the market, shooting teargas at the marchers and arresting 24 of them. But more signs of division among coca growers are becoming apparent. The coca growers of the tropics of Cochabamba declared themselves in a "state of emergency" and said it was not possible "to side with the pro-coup right wing." The government, for its part, on Monday sent a letter to the Adepcoca unionists with an invitation for talks to resolve the issue.

French Senators Petition Macron's Government for Urgent Marijuana Reform. Some 31 senators from the Socialist, Ecologist, and Republican group -- a socialist bloc making up about one-fifth of parliament -- published a letter in the Le Monde newspaper calling on the government of President Macron to launch a consultative process to introduce new legislation to legalize marijuana. The senators rejected the half-step of decriminalization, saying it was a demagogic option and would merely "perpetuate the existing ban." In a commentary published with the letter, Le Monde said that marijuana prohibition is "unsustainable" and it is time to "face reality head-on."

South Korean Prosecutors Vow All-Out War on Organized Crime, Drugs. Prosecutors on Tuesday declared all-out war on drugs and organized crime amid a rising number of such offenses. Drug seizures are at an all-time high and drug arrests are up 13 percent over last year. Prosecutors from six district prosecutors' offices met at the Supreme Prosecutor Office (SPO) in Seoul to plot strategies to suppress organized crime and drug crimes. The prosecutors said the increase in drug crimes was because ordinary citizens are using social media to buy and sell drugs. The SPO said it will construct a database on organized crime and drug crime and would strengthen cooperation with international organizations, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It also said it would form a consultative group with police and the state intelligence agency.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Dies, Mexico Cartels Wreak Havoc, More... (8/15/22)

Another Texas poll has solid majority support for marijuana legalization, cartel violence flares in Mexico, and more.

Mexican security forces deployed to several major cities to deal with cartel violence. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Another Texas Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler has support for marijuana legalization at 55 percent. Support is even higher for medical marijuana at 72 percent. Legalization had the support of 65 percent of Democrats 63 percent of independents, but only 43 percent of Republicans. Recent state polls have consistently had majorities for legalization, but one poll released late last year had support even higher at 67 percent. Regardless of popular support, marijuana legalization has made no progress in the GOP-dominated state legislature.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Dies. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is walking away from his bill to decriminalize the possession of some psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, after it was amended in committee to delete the language decriminalizing psychedelics. "I've now confirmed that SB 519 -- decriminalizing possession and use of small quantities of certain psychedelic drugs -- was amended by the Assembly Appropriations Committee to remove the decriminalization aspect of the bill," Wiener said. "(SB 519) is limited to a study. While I am extremely disappointed by this result, I am looking to reintroducing this legislation next year and continuing to make the case that it's time to end the War on Drugs. Psychedelic drugs, which are not addictive, have incredible promise when it comes to mental health and addiction treatment. We are not giving up."

International

Mexico's Coahuila State Sees Clashes Between Security Forces, Cartel Gunmen. Mexican security forces killed seven members of a drug cartel Sunday after a convoy of cartel trucks rolled into the town of Villa Union and attacked the city hall on Saturday. Soldiers killed seven more cartel gunmen Saturday. The clashes also left four police officers and two civilians dead. Bullet-riddled trucks left abandoned on the streets carried the initials CDN, the Spanish initials for the Cartel of the Northeast.

Mexican National Guard Troops Swarm Tijuana After Cartels Shut Down City Friday Night. Armed and hooded men believed to be cartel operatives caused mayhem across the city Friday night, burning at least 15 cars and buses in the city and using them to block roadways. Nine more vehicle fires were reported in nearby in Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, Tecate and Ensenada. At the same time, The Jalisco New Generation Cartel declared it was implementing a curfew in the city. Now, the Mexican government has sent in 3,000 National Guard troops to restore order.

Mexican Cartel Wreaks Havoc in Guanajuato and Jalisco After Mexican Army Raids Gang Boss Meeting. An army raid at a meeting of drug gang bosses in the state of Jalisco last week has led to revenge attacks in that state and neighboring Guanajuato state. Drug cartel gunmen burned more than two dozen convenience stores and blocked roads with burning buses in a number of municipalities across the two states. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the initial raid had led to a shoot-out between police and gang members "this provoked protests of burned vehicles, not only in Jalisco, but also in Guanajuato." The US Consulate in Guadalajara warned Americans that: "Local authorities and media are reporting multiple road blockades, burning vehicles, and shootouts between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in various parts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area."

Mexican Troops Head to Ciudad Juarez After Cartels Clash in Deadly Prison Riot. Hundreds of Mexican soldiers were deployed to Ciudad Juarez Friday after a prison battle and shoot-outs between Los Chapos -- members of the Sinaloa Cartel -- and local gang Los Mexicles left 11 dead, most of them civilians, a day earlier. In the prison riot, two Mexicles were shot and killed, and afterwards they rampaged through the city, killing nine civilians including four employees of a radio station.

Poll Finds Support for Psychedelic Research for Military Members, Federal Marijuana Expungement Bill Filed, More... (8/1/22)

Last weekend's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago featured not only music but harm reduction measures, a new poll finds support for federal -- as opposed to state-level -- marijuana legalization, and more.

Chicago officials handed out Narcan and fentanyl test strips at last weekend's Lollapalooza festival. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Federal Marijuana Expungement Bill Filed. Reps. Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-LA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) filed a bill last Friday that would pave the way for federal misdemeanor marijuana offenses to be expunged. The bill is the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act. "These misdemeanors -- even without a conviction -- can result in restrictions to peoples' ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing and even foster parenting," said Carter. "Delivering justice for our citizens who have been impacted by marijuana-related misdemeanors is a key component of comprehensive cannabis reform."

Americans Favor Federal Marijuana Legalization Mandate in Polling. Support for marijuana legalization remains high, but a new poll from The Economist and YouGov.com shows an increasing number of people want legalization to come from the federal government. Some 45 percent said the federal government should legalize it, while another 21 percent said legalization should primarily be left up to the states. Between them, that's two-thirds support for some form of freeing the weed. Only 20 percent thought "marijuana should be banned nationally."

Psychedelics

Poll Finds Majority Support Psychedelic Research for Military Members. A new poll from YouGov.com finds that 54 percent of respondents said they support "allowing research into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelic substances for active-duty military members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." Support was strongest among Democrats (60 percent), followed by independents (54 percent) and Republicans (45 percent). Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) both sponsored psychedelic research amendments that made it into the 2023 Fiscal Year National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House earlier this month.

Opioids

City of Chicago Warned Lollapalooza Festivalgoers About Fentanyl. The city's Department of Public Health last Friday issued an alert on its social media accounts warning fans of the massive Lollapalooza music festival that ended Sunday that fentanyl can easily cause an overdose and that they should take steps to know what is in their drugs. The city cautioned that fentanyl is being found not only in heroin, but also non-opioid drugs such as meth, Ecstasy, and cocaine. "Every year, we see young people end up admitted to the hospital because they've experimented -- at a time when we really want people to have fun, but have fun safely," said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

New Poll Could Bolster Vermont Drug Decrim Push [FEATURE]

A recent poll could help breathe new life into a Vermont campaign to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs that died in the House earlier this year. The poll, from Data for Progress and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) found a whopping 84 percent of Vermont voters support removing criminal penalties for small-time drug possession.

The legislature didn't get a decrim bill done this year, but a new poll bodes well for the future. (Creative Commons)
Support for decriminalization included a majority of voters across all major demographic groups and party affiliations. The poll also found that 81 percent of voters support reframing the state's approach to drug use as a health issue with a focus on reducing the harms of addiction and offering health and recovery services.

"With Vermont having one of the highest increases in overdoses in the country last year, it's clear that the existing approach of criminalizing people who use drugs isn't working to keep people safe. In fact, it has only made things worse," said DPA senior staff attorney Grey Gardner. "This survey makes it abundantly clear that Vermont voters want a different approach - one focused on health rather than arrest and punishment."

Overdoses are not the only issue plaguing the state's enforcement of drug prohibition. Last November, the Council of State Governments (CSG) issued a report on Vermont prosecutions and court outcomes that found pronounced racial disparities in charging and sentencing decisions. That report found that Black people are over 14 times more likely to be charged with drug felonies that White people. The report also found that Black people are six times more likely to be sent to prison for certain felony offenses -- including drug offenses -- while White defendants more often receive alternatives to imprisonment.

That CSG report was buttressed by years of statewide police data that consistently shows Black motorists being stopped, searched, and cited at higher rates even though they are less likely to be found with contraband than Whites.

"For anyone committed to advancing racial justice in their communities, these findings are critically important and should be acted on immediately," ACLU of Vermont (ACLU-VT) Advocacy Director Falko Schilling said at the time. "They show that extreme racial disparities in Vermont state prosecutions and sentencing decisions are real, and can't be attributed to racist tropes about 'out-of-state drug dealers' when they are, in fact, the result of systemic racism in state prosecutors' offices and courthouses. These findings also help to explain why, year after year, Vermont's prisons have some of the worst racial disparities in the country.

That report helped spur both the creation of broad coalition to push for drug decriminalization, @DecriminalizeVermont, which consists of the ACLU-VT, Better Life Partners, End Homelessness Vermont, Ishtar Collective, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Next Generation Justice, Pride Center of Vermont, Recovery Vermont, Rights and Democracy (RAD), Vermont Cares, Vermont Legal Aid, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Vermont Interfaith Action, and the Women's Justice and Freedom Initiative.

"Reforming our criminal justice system requires a fundamental shift away from criminalizing behaviors that need not involve police, prosecutors, and incarceration," said the ACLU-VT. "While Vermont has decriminalized possession of marijuana, there is still progress to be made in finally treating substance use disorder as the public health issue that it is. Vermont needs to decriminalize other drug offenses and better account for substance abuse disorder in related offenses, such as trespassing, sex work, and writing bad checks."

The CSG report also prompted a push in the state legislature to get a decriminalization bill passed. That bill, H.644, was cosponsored by nearly one-third of the House, with 42 Democrats, Progressives, and Independents signing on. It was designed to set up a board of drug policy experts to determine threshold levels for personal use amounts, which would then be decriminalized, and to establish a drug treatment referral system to help people access treatment services.

"The whole question of arresting and prosecuting drug possession -- we're not seeing a lot of value. In fact, we're seeing a lot of harm historically," said bill cosponsor Rep. Selene Colburn (P-Burlington).

The bill was introduced on January 14 and got a series of House Judiciary Committee hearings in the next month at which several coalition members testified.

If passed, H.644 would eliminate criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use; establish a treatment referral system by which Vermonters who need help with substance use disorders can access treatment services; set up a board of drug policy experts to determine appropriate personal use threshold levels for each drug; and create a financial incentive for people with substance use disorder to participate in a health needs screening.

"Our current drug laws are overly punitive and deeply harmful. Decriminalize Vermont is working to support a new approach that prioritizes public health and social justice," said Tom Dalton, Executive Director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. "We are thrilled to see such a positive response to this bill so far this legislative session."

But that is as far as it went. After the hearings, House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Washington) never put the bill up for a committee vote. It died when the legislature adjourned in May.

But now, given that new polling data, there is more evidence than ever that Vermonters are ready for a change.

"What's clear from this poll is that Vermont voters want to prioritize preventing overdose and ending the harms of criminalization, and they want their elected officials to take leadership on this," said DPA's Gardner.

The push for decriminalization may have been thwarted this year, but it isn't going to go away. Look for another attempt next year, and those poll numbers can only help.

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