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Gallup Poll Has Support for Legalizing Pot at All-Time High, House Move to Block Weed Rescheduling, More... (11/8/23)

The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments over whether a marijuana legalization initiative will appear on the November 2024 ballot, a key House committee chair is moving to block marijuana rescheduling, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Gallup survey released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high of 70 percent, with 29 percent opposed. Support for legalization had been rising for years before holding steady at 68 percent for the last three years, but now it has bumped up again.

Some 87 percent of Democrats were down with legalization, as were 70 percent of independents, as well as even 55 percent of Republicans. Among non-white adults, support was at 72 percent; among white adults, it was 69 percent.

Support also correlated with youthfulness, with 79 percent of 18-34-year-olds in favor, compared with 71 percent between 35 and 54 who said the same, while among people 55 and over, support was at 54 percent.

The poll comes a day after Ohioans voted to become the 24th marijuana legalization state, pushing the number of Americans who live under legalization to more than half.

House GOP Leader Files Spending Bill Amendment to Block Federal Marijuana Rescheduling. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), powerful chair of the House Rules Committee, which has blocked numerous marijuana reform amendments, has filed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that would bar the use of federal funds to reschedule marijuana.<

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services urged the DEA to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA is currently proceeding with its review.

Sessions' amendment would prohibit any funds from being used to "to deschedule, reschedule, or reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act." If passed by the House, the only recourse would be for House and Senate negotiators in conference committee to excise that language and for the House to then agree to it.

Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Marijuana Legalization Amendment. The state Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today that will determine whether a marijuana legalization initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment will appear on the November 2024 ballot.

The measure from Smart & Safe Florida gathered more than a million signatures to qualify for the ballot, but has been challenged by state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R). In June, Moody filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing that the measure should be thrown out because its language is misleading to voters and that it does not clearly state that marijuana would remain illegal under federal law. She also claimed the measure would prevent the legislature from regulating amounts greater than the three ounces the measure legalizes.

"If the amendment passed, not even the legislature would be able to clear the way for possession of greater amounts of marijuana. Were voters warned that the amendment would restrict marijuana possession in this way -- effectively banning most or all marijuana cultivation -- they might reconsider their support for the initiative," Moody wrote.

Smart & Safe Florida responded that it has followed the roadmap established by the court for past sponsors of marijuana-related initiatives and that the legislature would not be blocked from regulating larger amounts of weed.

"This Court approved the language for a reason: It unambiguously informs voters that the amendment does not alter federal law or immunize violations of federal law. And SSF relied on this Court's clear guidance in undertaking the costly campaign to put the issue on the ballot," the group said in a brief it filed with the court.

The court has until April 1 to render its decision.

House Committee Blocks DC Legal Weed Sales, Colombia Hack Exposes DEA Agents, More... (11/7/23)

A New York assemblyman wants to ban marijuana billboards, Utah medical marijuana dispensary workers vote to unionize, and more.

Congress can't keep its hands off DC marijuana laws. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Committee Kills Bid to End Ban on DC Pot Sales. The Republican-led House Rules Committee has blocked an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that would have allowed the District of Columbia to enact legal marijuana sales in the nation's capital. It also killed an amendment to prevent drug testing federal job applicants for marijuana.

Voters in the District approved marijuana legalization a decade ago, but the District's ability to allow legal sales was blocked by a congressional rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that has been maintained ever since. Even the Democrats controlling the Senate Appropriations Committee maintained the rider, as did President Biden's Fiscal Year 2024 budget request.

The amendment to get rid of the rider was filed by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

New York Bill Would Ban Roadside Marijuana Billboards. Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown) has filed a bill that would ban marijuana advertising billboards along highways, Assembly Bill 8200, the Roadside Cannabis Advertising Prohibition Act.

The bill provides an exemption for marijuana retailers to display signs on their premises, but they would not be allowed to install large signs that show specific products to passersby.

Gray said he was inspired after seeing a billboard that advertised marijuana with "Got Weed?" slogan and he feared that it deliberately resembled ads that focus on children and teenagers.

"A number of scientific studies have shown serious effects from marijuana on teenagers' brains, and this legislation will ensure that products are not advertised in a harmful way, while protecting the rights of authorized establishments to have signage acknowledging the location of their venue," Gray said.

The bill was filed late last month and is currently before the Assembly Economic Development Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Dispensary Workers Unionize. The movement to unionize marijuana industry workers continues apace. The latest pot shop to see a vote by employees to join a union is Utah's Dragonfly Wellness Cannabis Dispensary, which was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state back in 2020 and voted to become a union shop last month.

Both the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are involved in industry organizing efforts. Dragonfly workers opted to join UFCW Local 99, which also represents marijuana workers in Arizona and New Mexico.

Dragonfly workers said the store fought the unionization bid, hiring the Crossroads Group, a company notorious for union-busting measures. But to no avail -- employees voted 19-4 to join the union.

"For more than a decade, our union has been proud to help lead the development and stabilization of the emerging cannabis industry through our innovative Cannabis Workers Rising campaign." Said UFCW Local 99. "We represent tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the US in dispensaries, labs, delivery, kitchens, manufacturing, processing, grow facilities and more helping workers secure better wages, protection from unfair discipline, and great benefits with a union contract."

"Workers are seeing profits being made, but not feeling it in their paychecks," UCFW spokesperson Drake Ridge said. "Part of this is to ensure the workers that are making the industry thrive, that are building direct relationships with patients and giving them the medicine they need to get through the day, are seeing their fair share of the profits."


Colombia Prosecutors' Office Leak Exposes Dozens of DEA Agents. A cyber breach at a Colombian prosecutor's office has exposed the identities of more than 90 DEA agents and 15 Homeland Security Investigations agents, as well as similar numbers of their Colombian and foreign counterparts.

Journalists have not so far published the names of identifying information about the exposed agents, but the breach reveals a lack of safeguards in Colombia, a key US ally in the fight against hemispheric drug trafficking organizations.

"It's one of their nightmares because (cartels)… can identify agents and informants, especially if you are still in-country," said Mike Vigil, a former DEA international operations chief who helped the agency expand its global intelligence footprint worldwide. "Anytime that unauthorized people have the name of an agent or an informant, it's not difficult to locate them."

A cartel might not want to risk the consequences of killing a DEA agent, Vigil said, but "to them, informants are fair game because they are considered traitors and will kill them to send a message to others thinking of cooperating."

The leak has provided the basis for the NarcoFiles, an investigative reporting operation from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in conjunction with the Miami Herald and more than 40 other news outlets. The reporting on the leak has been ongoing since October 22 and has also included revelations about links between the Venezuelan government and the drug trade.

The leak came from a "hacktivist" organization calling itself Guacamaya, a common South American word for the macaw parrot, which has also claimed hacks of the Mexican Defense Ministry, as well as the defense departments of Chile and Colombia. Guacamaya said the Colombian prosecutor's office was "one of the most corrupt organizations in the country," and accused it of being servile to US interests."

House Legal Weed Bill Reintroduced, Peru Eradicates Coca Crops, More... (11/3/23)

Most Michigan state job seekers will not have to worry about pre-employment pot tests anymore, the Senate approves a bill that would allow VA docs to recommend medical marijuana for veterans, and more.

coca eradication operation (Peru Ministry of Interior)
Marijuana Policy

House Members Reintroduce Legislation Repealing Federal Marijuana Prohibition. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) have reintroduced legislation repealing the federal prohibition of cannabis and providing resources to assist in regulating the state-licensed cannabis industry.

House Bill 6028, The States Reform Act, removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, facilitates record expungement for those previously convicted of certain marijuana-related offenses, and provides regulatory oversight for state-legal cannabis markets.

The bill's reintroduction comes just weeks after Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler reintroduced legislation, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, that also seeks to repeal federal marijuana prohibition. House members have twice passed the MORE Act, but members of the Senate have never considered the bill.

It is unlikely that newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) will prioritize either measure. Representative Johnson has repeatedly voted against proposed legislative changes in federal marijuana policy, and he has criticized Democratic leadership for advancing similar measures, particularly the MORE Act.

Michigan State Job Seekers Will No Longer Face Pre-Employment Pot Tests. The state Civil Service Commission has announced that pre-employment drug screenings for marijuana will no longer happen. And anyone who previously failed a screening and lost a state job opportunity can request the removal of that record. This is after the commission approved an amendment to that effect this past July.

Under the commission's revised rules, the "authority shall not require testing for marijuana for a pre‐employment drug test of a new hire to a position that is not test‐designated."

A significant portion of the state work force, however, is "test-designated," including positions calling for a commercial driver's license (CDL), jobs operating heavy machinery, law enforcement officers (LEO) and corrections workers, healthcare workers, and positions working with controlled substances or hazardous or explosive materials. They could account for up to a third of state employees.

Last year, more than 150 applicants lost state job opportunities because of positive marijuana test results. Now, they and dozens more can move to restore their eligibility for state employment.

Medical Marijuana

Senate Votes to Allow VA Docs to Recommend Medical Marijuana to Veterans. The Senate has approved the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which includes an amendment from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) that would allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue medical marijuana recommendations to veterans in states where it is legal.

The House has previously passed similar legislation, setting the state for a conference committee from the two chambers to deal with remaining differences in the two bills.

"Veterans face too many roadblocks in getting the care they need and deserve. That's why I have consistently led an effort to ensure VA doctors are able to discuss the full range of legal treatment options with their patients," said Merkley. "Outdated laws should never censor veterans' doctor-patient relationships. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate to make this the time we make this important option a reality for America's veterans."

"We need to start conferencing our appropriations bills," Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) said Wednesday. "That will require House Republicans to get serious about governing, get back to the spending agreement they negotiated, and work with us to finalize bipartisan bills that meet this moment and address the needs of our families."


Peru Has Eradicated 45,000 Acres of Coca This Year. The Ministry of the Interior has reported that some 45,000 acres of illicit coca crops have been eradicated so far this year by the Special Project for Control and Reduction of Illegal Crops in Alto Huallaga.

Eradicators hit nearly 10,000 separate plantings in the Ucayali, San Martin, Huanuco, Pasco, Loreto, and Junin regions.

The ministry also reported destroying eight clandestine cocaine laboratories, six in Huanuco, one in Ucayali, and one in Pasco.

Peruvian coca cultivation was estimated at more than 200,000 acres in 2021, the most recent year for which numbers are available. That created the potential for the production of 785 metric tons of cocaine.

Buckeye Voters Could Make Ohio the 24th Legal Marijuana State on Tuesday [FEATURE]

On Tuesday, Ohioans will head to the polls to address a pair of initiatives, both of which seem set to energize progressive voters in an off-year election and whose synergy should propel both to victory. Issue 1 is an abortion rights initiative, while Issue 2 would legalize marijuana.

Recent polls show both initiatives winning. The abortion rights initiative is polling at 65 percent in an Ohio Northern poll and 58 percent in a Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse poll, while Issue 2 is polling at 65 percent in the Ohio Northern poll and 59 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey.

If approved by voters, the marijuana legalization initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of extracts. The initiative also includes a home grow provision allowing for up to six plants, with a limit of 12 per household, but landlords would be allowed to bar home grows in their properties.

The initiative would impose a 10 percent retail sales tax on marijuana purchases above and beyond state and local sales taxes. Marijuana tax revenues would go to public safety, road improvement, drug treatment and prevention, with more than 30 percent reserved for social equity investments for people and communities "disproportionately affected by Ohio's marijuana policy." (That is the only social equity provision in the initiative; it does not include any provisions for expungement of marijuana-related criminal records -- a task presumably to be left to the legislature.)

Issue 2 would create a Division of Marijuana Control inside the state Department of Commerce and would place the state's existing medical marijuana regulators in charge of licensing and setting rules for implementing the new law. Existing medical marijuana operations would be able to obtain new adult-use licenses, and regulators will also have 40 new licenses to hand out for smaller commercial cultivators and 50 licenses for new adult-use retail outlets. No one would be able to hold more than eight retail licenses or one cultivator license, but cultivators would be allowed to expand their size by four- or five-fold to serve a growing customer base.

Where retail or cultivation operations can operate will be up to municipal authorities, who could prohibit them from operating, but who could not force closure or limitation of existing marijuana facilities.

And Issue 2 would allow employers to fire or refuse to hire employees who fail marijuana drug tests.

It has been a long and winding road to Election Day for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has spent the last several years navigating the state's labyrinthine initiative process. It had to successfully complete two signature-gathering campaigns before taking the issue to the legislature, which could enact the measure but refused to do so, and then undertake another signature-gathering campaign to be able to finally bring the issue directly to the voters.

It's about time, the campaign says in its official argument, which leads with an economic argument: that legal marijuana will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for the state. The coalition put the figure at $400 million a year, while an Ohio State University study estimated recreational marijuana's annual tax revenue potential at between $276 million and $403 million, after the industry has been operating for five years.

But it is not just an economic issue, the coalition argues. Passing the initiative would be a remedy to the state's "failed marijuana policy," the group said. "Our current marijuana laws can ruin lives based on one mistake. This measure will end unfairly harsh punishments for minor marijuana offenses, freeing local law enforcement to focus on serious, violent and unsolved crimes. Passing this measure will create a legal marijuana market in Ohio with clear, regulated and enforced safety standards, thus drying up the black market."

Because Issue 2 takes the form of a statutory initiative and not a constitutional amendment, the legislature will be able to attempt to revise or reverse it. And the current Republican-dominated legislature is indeed hostile to the initiative. It is up to Ohio voters to show lawmakers just what marijuana policy they want, and the more they can run up the margin, the stronger their statement will be.

CT Doubles Amount of Weed You Can Buy Legally, Bolivia Coca Cultivation Drops, More... (11/2/23)

Vancouver Police crack down on shops selling magic mushrooms, Pennsylvania lawmakers consider marijuana legalization -- including a state liquor store model -- and more.

Chewing coca leaf in Bolivia. Overall coca cultivation was down last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut to Double Amount of Weed You Can Buy in a Single Transaction. The state Department of Consumer Protection has announced that as of December 1 the weight limit for marijuana purchases as a licensed retailers will double from one-quarter ounce to one-half ounce of bud. People can possess up to 1.5 ounces (or its equivalent) and up to five ounces in a locked container at home.

Medical marijuana patients may currently purchase up to five ounces per month and are not subject to individual transaction limits. Those limits will remain unchanged.

"DCP has continually reviewed available supply and demand since prior to the launch of the adult-use cannabis industry in January 2023," said DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. "As more retailers, production companies and other supply chain licensees have come online, the capacity of the industry has increased. We are confident this measured approach to adult-use sales has resulted in a healthy market for businesses, and a safe and fair marketplace for adult-use cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients."

Pennsylvania House Committee Holds Legalization Hearing; Lawmakers Ponder State Liquor Store Model. The House Health Subcommittee on Health Care held an informational hearing Wednesday as lawmakers work to find a path to marijuana legalization, a path that the committee chair says may involve consideration of a state-run marijuana sales model.

The committee was not taking up any specific marijuana legalization bills, but had an opportunity to hear testimony from professors, addiction specialists, and advocates about the health concerns of moving forward with legalization.

"Many of us want the same things. We want the products we sell to be tested and safe. We want to ensure teens with developing brains aren't impacting their development by utilizing cannabis. And we want to protect young children from the kinds of accidental overdoses have put kids in the hospital and led to one death," said full Health Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Frankel (D) in his opening remarks.

"We want to right some of the wrongs of the past by ensuring that those who have been the target of cannabis criminalization don't continue to carry the stigma now that cannabis is not considered a crime" under legalization, he said. "We'd like to see our economy benefit from legal sales rather than illegal sales."

He added that "there are legitimate concerns for health and safety," so lawmakers "want to start from a place of recognizing those concerns and think about how we might mitigate through appropriate regulation and oversight."

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R), the ranking GOP member of the Health Committee, said that while she's "adamantly opposed to legalization of marijuana" and doesn't believe regulated sales will lend to significant tax revenue for the state, she appreciates that informational hearings are being held and acknowledged that the issue will ultimately be decided "when we do a floor vote."


Bolivia Coca Crops Dip for First Time in Seven Years, UN Says. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) said Tuesday that Bolivia has for the first time in seven years seen a reduction in the area under coca cultivation, with the extent dropping from 75,000 acres in 2021 to just over 73,000 acres last year.

"There was a reduction of two percent from 2021 to 2022," it said in an annual report.

Bolivia allows for the growth and marketing of coca leaving for traditional uses, including chewing, use in tea, and religious rituals, as well as "industrial" uses, such as toothpaste and other coca products. Legal cultivation is capped at just under 60,000 acres.

It is the world's third largest coca producer, after Colombia and Peru, which typically compete for first and second place in coca production.

Vancouver Police Raid Three Magic Mushroom Shops. A week after raiding an unlicensed "safe supply" retail drug outlet in the city, Vancouver police were at it again Tuesday, this time hitting three storefronts that offer magic mushrooms for sale. Longtime drug reform advocate Dana Larsen has confirmed that the businesses hit were his three licensed shops he operates on East Hastings Street, West Broadway, and Granville Street. Larsen said he had been arrested and held behind bars for several hours Tuesday before being released.

"I think this is very clearly a motivated raid," said Larsen, who believes he was targeted for advocating for drug legalization. "Took all of our products -- all of our mushrooms and psychedelics and coca leaf."

He recorded one of the raids live on Facebook. It was "very unexpected," he said. "Very surprised to see a raid happening when there's at least a dozen other dispensaries in the city operating without any legal problems, where we actually do have business licenses," he added.

Larsen has been fighting the city over the storefronts for months, with the city attempting to strip his licenses and a court hearing on the issue pending.

"I thought that the city would let the bureaucracy deal with us like they have with cannabis dispensaries in the past," Larsen said in his Facebook video. "We've been here at this location for three years operating very openly and transparently."

But Vancouver Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said the sudden enforcement should serve as a warning to other dispensaries operating illegally in the city.

"This relates to an ongoing investigation into what we believe is the illegal purchase and sale of psychedelic drugs, psilocybin and other products," Addison said. "If you do violate the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act… you could face arrest and charges."

"If you look at the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, yes, we're in violation of that. But there's a Charter of Rights and a constitution in this country that overrides those laws and I believe at some point, the courts in Canada and the politicians will agree with me," Larsen replied.

OH Polls Say Pot Initiative Will Pass Next Week, White House Urges Naloxone in Schools, More... (11/1/23)

A Colorado safe injection site bill gets pulled in the face of a gubernatorial veto threat, the New York Senate attempts to address issues hampering the rollout of the legal marijuana industry, and more.

Naloxone. The White House wants the overdose reversal drug in all schools. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Late Polls Say Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Poised to Pass Next Week. The Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative is set to pass on Election Day next Tuesday if two recent polls are to be believed. A poll from Ohio Northern University has just under two-thirds support for legalization, while a Public Policy Polling survey has support at 59 percent.

The measure would allow adults to grow their own crop at home or resort to licensed market for the sale of marijuana products. But because it is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, the legislature could attempt to amend it after it passes.

Early voting has been going on since October 23, and voter turnout is already well above normal levels. That is because even though this is an off-year election, not only marijuana legalization but also abortion rights is on the ballot. Both issues are generating enthusiastic support.

New York Senate Seeks Solutions to Marijuana Industry Hurdles. The state Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis held its first public hearing Monday as it looks to address complaints over consumer accessibility and licensing hurdles in the struggling nascent legal industry.

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) said that many of his constituents have been frustrated by the challenges of trying to get licensed and say they are drowning in a sea of red tape. The first licenses were issued last year, but the legal industry remains challenged by unlicensed operators and the number of legal retail outlets remains relatively small.

The state Office of Cannabis Management acknowledged those frustrations. "While we see clearly what New York cannabis will be, we have a long way to go before we say that the supply chain is functioning as intended," said Chris Alexander, head of the agency. "Small farmers are struggling and we need more retail shelves for their product. We are working to make that a reality and are committed to providing stability to a more volatile industry."

Harm Reduction

White House Calls on All Schools to Carry Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug. The Department of Education has sent a letter to every state education agency, intergovernmental groups, and local, state, and national education associations urging schools to "focus on measures to prevent youth drug use and ensure that every school has naloxone and has prepared its students and faculty to use it."

"Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) director Rahul Gupta wrote in the letter.

"Overdose deaths among adolescents doubled from 2019 to 2020 and continue to rise, even though youth rates of drug use have remained stagnant. That's because a teenager today can log onto social media with a smartphone and buy what they think is an opioid pain medicine or a prescription stimulant to help them study -- and instead die from one pill that actually has fentanyl in it. Just one pill," the letter said.

"And data show that two-thirds of adolescent drug poisoning deaths occurred with a potential bystander nearby, but naloxone was often not administered," it added, citing a recent study that found that among persons aged 14-18 years, overdose deaths increased 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021.

The study also found that the median monthly overdose deaths among persons between 10 and 19 years old increased 109% from July-December 2019 to July-December 2021.

Colorado Safe Injection Site Bill Pulled in Face of Governor's Veto Threat. The legislature's Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee on Monday approved a slew of drug policy reforms to be considered during next year's legislative session but dropped plans to include approving safe injection sites in the face of a veto threat from Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Committee Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy said Polis' office issued the veto threat on the bill last week, three days before the committee was set to meet for a final time. Polis' office also called Sen. Kyle Mullica, a swing vote on the supervised use issue who had worked with deGruy Kennedy throughout the summer on a compromise.

The committee draft would have given the state oversight over safe injection sites and would have required local government approval before sites could open in any given jurisdiction. Mullica and one other Democrat joined with four Republicans on the committee to kill the measure.

"This isn't really a resource question with this bill," said deGruy Kennedy. "This is giving permission for an organization that's ready to do this, to go do it. And I'm incredibly disappointed that it's not going to be moving forward today… Here's to saving more lives next year."

But the committee approved four other drug reform measures aimed at preventing overdoses and improving drug treatment options statewide. The bills would ease access to opioid treatment medications, expand a proven meth treatment, increase fundings for health in prisons and jails, and broaden immunity for organizations that work with drug users. But they have to get through the legislature next year.

San Francisco Task Force to Charge Fentanyl ODs as Homicides, Peru Healer Stabbed, More... (10/30/23)

A Kansas poll has two-thirds support for marijuana legalization, a bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DEA to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Ancestral healer Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta (Xanen Weni in his native Shipibo) remains under medical attention. (
Marijuana Policy

31 Bipartisan House Lawmakers Push DEA To Consider 'Merits' of Marijuana Legalization as It Completes Scheduling Review. A coalition of 31 bipartisan House lawmakers has sent a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it carries out a review into cannabis scheduling. They also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The letter last Friday to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, with lead signatures from Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dave Joyce (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) says that the review represents a "necessary step in the work to end the federal government's failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis." As DEA completes its review, the lawmakers said that the law enforcement agency should consider that Congress has been working to comprehensive reform federal cannabis laws.

The letter says that "the administration and relevant agencies such as yours should recognize the merits of full descheduling and work with congressional leaders to ensure this happens," adding that prohibition "does not reflect the will of the broader American electorate" and "it is time that [DEA's] work fully reflects this reality as well."

Other signatories of the letter Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Lou Correa (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Katie Porter (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD) and others.

Kansas Poll Has Two-Thirds Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Fort Hays State University has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 67%, even as Republican legislators continued to block any progress toward that goal or even toward allowing medical marijuana. Kansas does not have a citizens' initiative process that would allow the public to get around recalcitrant lawmakers.

Republican Sen. Rob Olson, who held Statehouse committee hearings for a medical marijuana bill last year, said Senate President Ty Masterson and Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley -- both Republicans -- don't want a bill to pass. "The majority of the state (does) want medical marijuana," Olson said, "and I don't see a reason why we don't pass a bill."

"We get support from quite a few legislators," said Cheryl Kumberg, President of the Kansas Cannabis Coalition Kumberg, "but the ones that are in power are not supportive for various reasons, and they don't let it go forward."

Drug Policy

California Governor Announces San Francisco Task Force Will Treat Overdoses as Homicides; Advocates Decry Move. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last Friday a joint law enforcement task force that will treat overdoses as homicide in the city, fulfilling a law enforcement promise made by San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins back in October 2022.

"Making sure that these dealers are admonished, that should they be connected to selling fentanyl to someone who overdoses, that they could be charged with murder because we have to hold these people accountable," Jenkins said in an October 2022 debate. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

"These people who are dealing these drugs need to be held accountable in a way they have not been before," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

But people directly involved on the ground are skeptical. "I think really what we're concerned about is how is this policy going to be implemented and recognizing that the law enforcement activities to date, including increases in law enforcement overall have not reduced the suffering that we're seeing on the streets," Michael Discepola, the Director of Health at the nonprofit GLIDE said. "One of the challenges I think that this type of policy creates is, I think drug dealers also prevent overdoses because we get Narcan in their hands, and will this prevent other individuals on the street from being willing to get involved to be able to reduce overdose on the street," he said.

The Gubbio Project is a another nonprofit helping people on the streets. "I understand people's desire for accountability but the question is what are they trying to achieve? Punishment does not reduce use," said Lydia Bransten, director of the Gubbio Project.

And the San Francisco Public Defender issued the following statement last Friday: "The task force's announcement today is another step in the wrong direction toward the continued revival of the failed War on Drugs in SF... Threatening to charge people with murder is unfortunately likely to result in more overdoses, as people will be afraid to call for help."


After Indigenous Healer Stabbed in Peru, Indigenous Medicine Conversation Fund Calls for Increased Protection of Ayahuasca, Other Traditional Medicines. A French tourist is being held in jail as he awaits trial for attacking Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta, a 76-year-old ancestral healer (Onanya), in his home village of Nueva Betania in northeastern Peru on the morning of October 11. Sinuiri, who was seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times, has provided healing for many decades to local and international people in his practice, which incorporates the use of plant medicines, including ayahuasca. This is the second such violent attack against Shipibo ancestral healers in the last five years, with the previous incident in 2018 resulting in the death of Olivia Arevalo.

The young French tourist who traveled with his mother was reportedly seeking cocaine from community members and had not used ayahuasca before the attack.

"This tragic episode, yet again, underscores the risks to Indigenous healers and the urgent need to support them in their efforts to protect and preserve traditional medicines," said Miriam Volat, director of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation (IMC) Fund, which stands in support of Sinuiri, his family, and his Shipibo community in this time of healing. Sinuiri's son, Jheison Romulo Sinuiri Ochavano, is president ofOrganización Intercultural Oni Xobo, an IMC Fund-supported project focused on the preservation and conservation of the Shipibo culture, including ancestral medicine practices.

This is not the first time a foreigner has harmed an Indigenous Shipibo healer. In 2018, a Canadian man shot and killed ancestral healer Olivia Arevalo at her home in an urban community near Coronel Portillo in northeastern Peru. Community members quickly retaliated and the man was killed by a mob that had formed. In this case, Indigenous community members chose to trust the judicial system and, after apprehending the assailant, turned him over to police. The family, local Indigenous Organizations, and the Shipibo people, more broadly, continue to demand justice for Sinuiri.

The Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund seeks to educate the public, including the psychedelics boom, about the need to protect five traditional medicines -- Ayahuasca, Toad, Iboga, Peyote, and Mushrooms -- and their related ecologies, which are threatened by the combined crises of climate change, commercialization, overharvesting, and cultural appropriation. In the year since its launch, IMC Fund has raised more than $10 million to support 22 Indigenous-led conservation projects in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. To learn more about the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund, go to:

NH Commission Holds Legalization Hearing, Vancouver Cops Raid Unsanctioned Drug Suppliers, More... (10/26/23)

A MAGA marijuana legalization bill gets refiled, German parliamentarians finally get around to debating marijuana legalization, and more.

Lab-tested meth and heroin packets sold at cost by Vancouver's Drug Users Libertation Front (DULF).
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Marijuana Legalization Bill Refiled in Congress. A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill first filed in 2021 by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) that served as an alternative to a Democratic-led marijuana legalization bill that has twice passed the House has now been refiled. The first time around, Mace's bill, the States Reform Act, had only GOP support, but this time, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have already signed on.

Mace said she had secured a commitment from then Speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to hold a committee markup on her bill in return for her vote to raise the debt ceiling and cut certain federal programs. But Mace then became one of eight House Republicans to vote against keeping McCarthy is the leadership, his departure in turn endangering the prospects for any further progress on marijuana legalization after McCarthy was eventually replaced by anti-weed Rep. Michael Johnson (R-LA) as House Speaker.

The text of the new version of the bill is not yet available and it is not clear what changes -- if any -- have been made, but the original bill would have ended federal pot prohibition and, in a bid to win bipartisan support, incorporated equity provisions such as expungements for people with non-violent pot convictions and the imposition of an excise tax that would have supported community reinvestment, law enforcement, and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.

The bill is primarily aimed at having the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. Cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), with retroactive effects for people previously punished.

Cosponsors of this year's bill include Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as well as Democrat Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Rep. David Trone (D-MD).

New Hampshire Legislative Panel Discusses Marijuana Legalization Recommendations. A bill signed into law in August established the Commission to Study With the Purpose of Proposing Legalization, State Controlled Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis Products with the intention of presenting draft state liquor store marijuana legalization bill recommendations by December 1. The commission has been busy, holding five meetings already, with one more set for early November.

"New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide," said Gov. John Sununu (R) as he signed the bill. "By establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales, this bill will bring stakeholders from across New Hampshire together to ensure that preventing negative impacts upon kids remains our number one priority."

"We're not here to discuss legalization, we're here to discuss how to put a bill forward that would do legalization, but do it in the matter that is most protective of our citizens and our regulations," said Sen. Timothy Lang. "The charge of the commission is to put the best bill forward possible if legalization were to happen in a state-controlled model."

Look for the state legislature and the governor to advance a state liquor store-model bill before the year's end and to try to get it passed next year.


Sen. Maggie Hassan Uses International Narcotics Control Hearing to Question Officials Over the Opioid Precursor Pipeline. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned officials from the Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security during a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing about how US agencies can use international partnerships to address the precursor chemical pipeline that cartels are using to produce fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs. Senator Hassan discussed her recent trip to China as part of a bipartisan Congressional Delegation, and how the U.S. can build on the conversations that they had in order to continue pushing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese officials to limit the export of precursor chemicals.

First, Sen. questioned Maggie Nardi, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State: "I was on a recent bipartisan congressional delegation trip to China where we met with a number of senior leaders. I pressed Chinese President Xi to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl precursors that are made in China and as you all have outlined, sold to cartels in Mexico… President Xi indicated that he might be willing to take action on this, he said he would look into appointing senior leadership to start communication with us and we obviously now have to hold him to this. What steps will the State Department take, can it take to proactively engage with its Chinese counterparts to push China more to address the development and sale of fentanyl precursors, and what specific goals or benchmarks will the State Department set to track progress?" asked Hassan.

Nardi thanked Hassan for the message she delivered to Chinese leaders and discussed how the State Department has encouraged China to participate in the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats and that Chinese officials have attended some meetings.

Senator Hassan also asked William Kimbell, the Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice, and Ricardo Mayoral, the Deputy Assistant Director for International Operations for the Department of Homeland Security, "What role can US law enforcement play in disrupting the precursor pipeline if China agrees to work with us? For instance, could US law enforcement work with China to stop illegal money laundering that bankrolls the production of fentanyl precursors?" Mr. Kimbell pointed to recent meetings with Chinese officials about companies that they believe are selling precursors for the manufacturing of fentanyl and said that "the DEA is ready and willing at any given time to share information with them and to provide them with intelligence it needs to stop these companies from this behavior."


Vancouver Police Crack Down on Unsanctioned Safe Supply Program. Vancouver Police on Thursday raided the offices of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) on Hastings Street on the Downtown Eastside, as well as two nearby homes, in a crackdown on unsanctioned "safe supply" drug sales amidst the city's ongoing overdose crisis. Two people were arrested.

DULF initiated the program of sales of lab-tested drugs in an effort to reduce fatal overdoses by ensuring that consumers knew what they were getting, something police acknowledged in a press release on the raid.

Even while noting DULF's harm reduction efforts, police said the group has "publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

"We understand the magnitude of the ongoing overdose crisis and the impact drug toxicity deaths have in communities throughout the province," Insp. Phil Heard of the VPD's Organized Crime Section said in a statement. "While DULF's actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges. This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it."

DULF has said it has been selling tested drugs at cost for more than a year, and that its efforts had resulted in fewer overdoses, reduced drug use among some clients, and zero associated overdose deaths.

British Columbia has responded to the overdose crisis by embracing the decriminalization of the possession of personal use amounts of drugs, but that is not nearly enough, according to DULF.

"Decriminalization as a response to overdoses is a drop in the bucket," said group cofounder Jeremy Kalicum.

Marijuana Legalization Debate in Germany's Bundestag Heats Up. The federal legislature, the Bundestag, has for the first time debated a draft marijuana legalization bill proposed by the federal government. The deTbate had originally been set for last week but was delayed by the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.

The bill would legalize the use and possession of marijuana by adults, but was "scaled back" from full-blown commercial legalization following consultations with the European Union.

A Social Democratic Party member made the case for legalization, cited profits to organized crime and the fact that illegal marijuana "is often contaminated."

Both the rightist Union Party and the rightist Alternative for Germany spoke against the bill, arguing that it would turn the country "in the wrong direction" and arguing instead for only the legalization of medical marijuana.

Rate of Black Men in Prison Has Dropped by Nearly Half, New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, More... (10/13/23)

Ohio's Republican Senate leader is threatening to mess with a marijuana legalization initiative if it passes, the Israel-Hamas war has caused a pause in Germany's march toward marijuana legalization, and more.
A new opioid overdose reversal drug, OpVee, has hit the market.
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate President Vows to Mess with Marijuana Legalization Initiative If It Passes. The GOP-dominated state Senate has already passed a resolution opposing the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative (as well as the Issue 1 abortion rights amendment), and the Republican Senate leader now says that while the legislature would not try to repeal the initiative if it passes, it is likely to try to modify it.

In the Senate, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that passage of the initiative would cause a "mental health crisis," adding that "this initiated statute is coming right back before this body."

When pressed after the session about precisely what he meant, Huffman clarified. "I will advocate for reviewing it and repealing things or changing things that are in it," he said.

He said he was perturbed about a social equity provision that allocates some marijuana tax revenues for programs aiding people with marijuana convictions to get licenses and financial assistance.

Harm Reduction

New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Opvee Comes to Market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new opioid overdose reversal drug, Opvee, back in June, and now, the manufacturer, Indivior, has begun shipping the drug to pharmacies and first responders.

Opvee is a nasal spray containing the opioid receptor-blocking drug nalmefene. It is approved for use in people 12 and over and requires a prescription.

While the market for overdose reversal drugs is growing crowded, with Narcan already widely available and now available without a prescription at major drug store chains a second naloxone nasal spray, RiVive from Harm Reduction Therapeutics aimed at community groups coming soon, Opvee aims to position itself as being better able to respond to fentanyl overdoses. The company says it is a better match against fentanyl because its formulation is more powerful than Narcan or other forms of naloxone.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams called Opvee a "fentanyl fighter" and another tool for public health officials to counter illicit fentanyl driving the nation's overdose deaths. "It's as if it was designed to combat fentanyl," Adams said. "It matches up well with the potency and the longevity of fentanyl, so it's a new valuable tool that is available."

But as with other opioid overdose reversal drugs, cost is an issue. Opvee will go for $75 per kit for public interest and government purchasers and $98 for others with no insurance. Narcan now goes for $44.99 for a two-dose kit, while RiVive will go for $36.


Rate of Imprisonment for Black Men Has Dropped by Nearly Half Since 2000, Report Finds. The Sentencing Project released a new report, "One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration," that presents an overview of trends in incarceration and community supervision. The report identifies the progress made in the 21st century in reducing the US prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities, while sounding the alarm about the future of reforms. One in five Black men born in 2001 is likely to experience imprisonment within their lifetime, a decline from one in three for those born in 1981. But rather than accelerate the pace of reforms, pushback from policymakers threatens further advancement.


According to the report, the imprisonment rate of Black men in 2021 declined substantially, falling by almost half (48%) since 2000, yet Black men were still imprisoned at 5.5 times the rate of white men. The imprisonment rate of Black women declined even more, by 70% since 2000, but Black women remained imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The report also found that the total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009; while all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most; and American Indian and Latinx people were imprisoned at 4.2 times and 2.4 times the rate of whites in 2021, respectively.

The momentum for continued progress is precarious. We've seen a backlash to the progress we've made on criminal justice reform. In fact,preliminary data from the Department of Justice shows that the prison population increased for the first time in almost a decade between 2021 and 2022.

In an effort to protect and expand the progress, The Sentencing Project is producing the "One in Five" series of four reports to examine both the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as to highlight promising reforms.


German Marijuana Legalization Debate Delayed Because of Israel-Hamas War. The Bundestag was set to take up debate on a government-backed bill to legalize marijuana Friday, but that debate is now delayed because of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The "global political situation" is the reason for the delay, said lawmakers Carmen Wegge and Dirk Heidenblut of the Social Democratic Party, but lawmakers "will make sure that everything gets done somehow in the next week."

But Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christian Democratic Union -- not a member of the governing coalition -- said the debate cancellation was "surprising" and reflected internal concerns about the bill more than foreign wars.

Any delay could make it more difficult to get the bill passed by a December 15 deadline, and if that does not happen, further consideration would be pushed back to next February at the earliest. But a revised parliamentary schedule suggests that it could get done by mid-November.

CDC Says ODs Hit Record High Last Year, CA Bans "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death, More... (10/12/23)

More usual suspects come out against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, the FDA issues a warning about the home use of prescribed ketamine, and more.

prescription ketamine (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Senate Urges Voters to Reject Marijuana Legalization Initiative. On Wednesday, the day early voting began for next month's election, the Republican-led Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative. The measure, Senate Resolution 216, resorted to Reefer Madness-type arguments in its bid to scare voters into a "no" vote. "The proposed statute authored by the commercial marijuana industry," it says, "does not serve the best interests of the people of Ohio, will bring unacceptable threats and risks to the health of all Ohioans, especially children, will create dangers in the workplace and unacceptable challenges and costs to employers, will make Ohio's roads more dangerous, will impose significant new, unfunded costs to Ohio's public social services, and serves only to advance the financial interests of the commercial marijuana industry and its investors."

The resolution asserts that marijuana is "a gateway drug," that drug overdoses "have been the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio" since 2007 (but the 33,000 overdose deaths in a decade are fewer than the 42,000 people killed by COVID), and that a whole litany of dire consequences would arise from legalization, including more emergency room visits for children, increased risk of young people developing psychosis, lower intelligence and learning ability, more car crashes, higher crime rates, a bigger illicit cannabis market and "great risks at the workplace to employers, other workers, customers, and others."

Polling last month had the initiative at 59 percent.

Drug Policy

CDC Says Drug Overdose Deaths Hit All-Time High Last Year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an estimate of drug overdose deaths and projects that 112,024 people died in the 12 months ending in May of this year, some 2,700 more than the previous year. That is a 2.5 percent increase, which indicates a slight leveling off of the still-increasing overdose numbers.

Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, noted that the increase is leveling off.

"We still have an extraordinary number of overdose deaths that is orders of magnitude higher than we've seen in previous years," said Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. However, "the increase that we [saw] in 2021 has slowed down. There were extraordinary increases in 2020 and 2021 that have started to flatten out in 2022 -- now going into 2023. They're not declining yet," Keyes said. "But the pace of the increase is certainly slowing. So that is both good news and indicative of a continuing public health crisis."

The death toll rose especially sharply in Western states, with Washington seeing the biggest increase, a jump of 37 percent from the previous year. That increase is likely a function of the late introduction of fentanyl into drug markets in the Pacific Northwest.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in the vast majority of overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is an unpredictable product, and people who use too much can rapidly have an overdose," Keyes said, adding that the drug is particularly dangerous for people who don't know they are consuming it. "Many people who use drugs are more tolerant to fentanyl and prefer it," she said. "Other people use it without knowing it, and that can be very dangerous because people who don't have a tolerance to opioids who are exposed to fentanyl only need a very small amount of exposure to rapidly induce an overdose."

FDA Issues Warning Over Home Consumption of Telemedicine-Prescribed Ketamine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert warning about the dangers of unsupervised use of compounded ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders. The drug, a powerful anesthetic, is increasingly popular for treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other difficult-to-treat mental health issues.

Compounded drugs are drugs created in pharmacies (as opposed to manufactured in pharmaceutical plants) that are modified for the specific needs of individual patients. Ketamine is often used under supervision as part of psychiatric therapy at clinics or "wellness centers," but is also prescribed by online marketers who prescribe it via telemedicine for unsupervised home use.

"Patients who receive compounded ketamine products from compounders and telemedicine platforms for the treatment of psychiatric disorders may not receive important information about the potential risks associated with the product," the FDA warned.

Ketamine is unapproved and unregulated for psychiatric use, but doctors can prescribe it "off label" for any condition they desire. The boom in telemedicine during the pandemic has seen large numbers of online prescribers emerge, who dispense the medication after a brief video interview. Some prescribe as many as 30 doses at a time.

"Whenever you have something new, there may be people who run ahead with it. And there will be people who do things based on less evidence rather than more," said Dr. Joshua Berman, medical director for interventional psychiatry at Columbia University, who helped develop the department's ketamine program.

"Our concern is that these online sellers are going to ruin it for everybody," said Peter Koshland, who runs a compounding pharmacy in San Francisco. "Our fear is that regulators, if they perceive a threat to public health, will move to take this amazing medicine away and leave patients at risk."

Law Enforcement

California Becomes First State to Ban "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death in Police Encounters. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 360, which bars coroners or medical examiners from using the term "excited delirium" on death certificates.

The state becomes the first to ban the phrase, which medical associations have said is rooted in racism and which has often been used to justify the deaths of people in police custody, especially those using stimulant drugs.

The signing of the bill was a victory for "justice, police accountability, human rights and health," said Dr. Michele Heisler, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights. "This baseless concept can no longer be used in California to absolve law enforcement for deaths in custody, misinform responses to people facing medical and behavioral crises, or block access to legal remedies."

Two years ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its opposition to the use of the term, saying reports showed a pattern of using the term as "justification for excessive police force, disproportionately cited in cases where Black men die in law enforcement custody."

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