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MI Police Admit Pot Driving Drug Tests Are No Good, CA Pot Bills Go to Governor, More... (9/1/22)

Indonesia has more than 200 people on death row for drug offenses, an effort by a Nebraskas medical marijuana campaign to block part of the state's signature-gathering requirements is rejected by an appeals court, and more

Michigan State Police alerted prosecutors that their drug tests for THC instead alerted for CBD. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Has a Pile of Marijuana Bills on His Desk. Lawmakers were busy as the legislative session came to an end Wednesday, sending another batch of marijuana-related bills to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Now, there are more than a dozen bills awaiting his signature. One would bar localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries, another provides employment protection for off duty marijuana-using workers, another streamlines record-sealing procedures for past marijuana offenses, another would allow the state to set up interstate cannabis commerce, another would authorize medical marijuana for pets, another would protect the rights of marijuana-using parents, another would allow for insurance coverage for marijuana businesses, another changes the state's cannabis tax policy, another would bar doctors from discriminating against registered patients for a positive THC test, another amends the state law requiring medical facilities to accommodate medical marijuana use, another would allow cannabis beverages to be packaged in clear containers, another would add advertising and labeling requirements for vape products, another would bar marijuana regulators from denying temporary event license applications solely because the licensee also has a liquor license, and, last but not least, one would require reporting on marijuana tax revenues distributed to a youth education and prevention program.

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Testing

Michigan State Police Say Tests for THC in Drivers Actually Showed CBD; Thousands of Cases Could Be Impacted. State police notified prosecutors late last month that drug tests designed to detect THC in the blood of drivers instead alerted to the presence of non-psychoactive CBD and that they have now halted the blood toxicology testing program. "After further review, we now believe this discrepancy may impact cases that occurred on or after March 28, 2019, where the alleged violation is based on the finding of THC alone and there is insufficient evidence of impairment, intoxication, or recent use of marijuana to otherwise support the charged offense," state police said Wednesday. "Laboratory data indicates there are approximately 3,250 laboratory reports that may be impacted," state police said. "These are reports in which there was a THC-confirmed result without other drugs present or alcohol detected above the 0.08% blood-alcohol content legal threshold." March 28, 2019, is when CBD became legal in the state.

International

Indonesia Has More Than 200 People on Death Row for Drug Offenses. There are 404 death row inmates in the island archipelago, and more than half of them are there for drug offenses. It has already executed another 80 drug offenders since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic out of 94 executions overall. Those executed include seven foreign nationals. The resort to the death penalty comes even as the country has since 2009 softened its drug laws, allowing judges to impose rehabilitation instead of prison for drug users and health authorities established guidelines for rehabilitation and treating drug use. 

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United States

These Six States Could Legalize Marijuana on Election Day [FEATURE]

It is just a little over two months until Election Day, and the picture around marijuana legalization in the states is becoming clear. Six states -- Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota -- have seen initiative campaigns came up with sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, and if all of them succeed, that would bring the number of states where marijuana is legal to 25 -- half the states in the country.

But a couple of those states should come with asterisks: The Arkansas initiative will be voted on, but the votes may not count as the state Supreme Court weighs whether to uphold the state election commission's decision not to certify the ballot title and popular names on the grounds that they are "misleading." And the Oklahoma initiative may be pushed back to a later special election or the next general election after delays in signature counting by a state contractor left it unable to be certified by the official deadline for the November ballot. The state Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow the initiative onto the ballot.

The Missouri initiative is also facing a legal challenge from prohibitionists, but that initiative is still on the ballot at this point, so no asterisk here.

Those caveats aside, here is a rundown of the legalization initiatives in the six states that could free the weed in November:

Arkansas

The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment from Responsible Growth Arkansas would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and create a system of licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail sales. It would also allow existing medical marijuana infrastructure (dispensaries, grow operations, etc.) to be integrated into the new adult use market. The Arkansas Beverage Control Board would be the regulatory agency.

Retail sales would face normal sales taxes plus an additional 10 percent tax. Fifteen percent of tax revenues would go to law enforcement, 10 percent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, five percent to fund drug courts, and the remainder to go into the general fund. There are no provisions for home cultivation or to promote social equity, although there is language deferring a criminal background check for people owning less than five percent of a marijuana business.

The most recent poll, from February, had support for legalization at 53.5%. That is a majority, but not a comfortable one.

Maryland

Question 4 would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

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

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

A March poll had support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.

Missouri

Sponsored by Legalize Missouri 2022, Amendment 3 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones. The measure also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

The initiative also "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022.

The initiative would tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote.

It would also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The measure had drawn organized opposition from within the cannabis community, with critics saying it does not do enough to promote social equity, that it favors existing operators, and that because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have little say. Still, despite the dissension, a July poll has support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.

North Dakota

Sponsored by New Approach North Dakota, Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

The measure includes specific child custody protections for parents who use marijuana in accord with state law, but employers could continue to prohibit marijuana use and there is no provision for expungement. New Approach North Dakota says it intends to address that in the legislature next year. The measure would also allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses.

The initiative also creates a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of marijuana with the Department of Health and Human Services (or a different agency designated by the legislature) developing rules and regulations and overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses. Regulators would have until October 1, 2023, to come up with rules for advertising, labeling, packaging, security, and testing standards.

There would be no new tax for marijuana, but the state's 5 percent retail sales tax would apply to marijuana sales. Those tax revenues are not designated for any particular fund. Commercial cultivators would have to pay an annual $110,000 registration fee and retailers would have to pay an annual $90,000 fee.

The number of retailers would be limited to 18 and the number of grow facilities limited to seven. In a bid to reduce monopolistic tendencies in the industry, no one person or entity could own more than one grow facility or four retail stores.

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but that was a more wide-open measure. There is no recent polling data for this measure.

Oklahoma

State Question 820 would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana, eight grams of concentrate, or eight grams of marijuana-infused products for people 21 and over. People would be allowed to grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be the regulatory agency for legal marijuana commerce, and retail marijuana sales would be taxed at 15 percent. Tax proceeds would go to the general fund (30 percent), public school programs (30 percent), drug treatment and overdose prevention programs (20 percent), the judicial revolving fund (10 percent), and municipalities or counties where marijuana is sold (10 percent).

The measure also would create a process for people to seek expungement of certain marijuana-related conviction or modification of sentences currently being served.

There is no recent polling on SQ 820.

South Dakota

Two years ago, voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote, only to see it thrown out in the state Supreme Court for violating the state's one-subject rule for initiatives. (It legalized marijuana and contained tax and regulatory provisions). Initiated Measure 27 seeks to get past that hurdle by not establishing a tax or regulatory structure for commercial sales. Instead, it would those issues for the legislature to decide.

It would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over. It would also legalize the home cultivation of up to three plants -- but only in localities where there is no retail marijuana outlet, and there will not be any retail marijuana outlets unless and until the legislature acts to allow them.

An August poll had the initiative failing with only 44 percent of the vote, but that poll may be a fluke. It had support in the state's most liberal and populous region, the Sioux Falls metro area at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent. Maybe there has been a radical shift away from supporting legalization in two years, but most likely not.

As in the other five states, the real test comes on November 8.

Medical Marijuana Update

Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaigners make a last gasp effort to get on the November ballot, and more.

Florida

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Nebraska

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

CA Bill to Protect Workers' Off-Duty Marijuana Use Passes, OK Supreme Court to Decide If Legal Pot Initative Makes Ballot, More... (8/31/22)

Workers' rights to use marijuana off duty are in the news, a Missouri marijuana legalization campaign draws organized opposition from within the cannabis community, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Workers from Firing for Off-Duty Marijuana Use Heads to Governor's Desk. A bill that would provide broad employment protections for workers who use marijuana off the job, Assembly Bill 2811, has been approved by the legislature, easily winning a final concurrence vote in the Assembly late last week. The bill would "make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person" solely because of off-duty marijuana use. The bill would also bar employees from demanding that workers or potential hires undergo marijuana testing, with exceptions for federal employees and some safety-sensitive positions. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Draws Organized Opposition—from Within the Cannabis Community. The marijuana legalization initiative from Legal Missouri 2022 has drawn its first organized opposition, and those foes are coming from within the Kansas City cannabis community and allied lawmakers. The critics say the initiative does not offer social equity provisions and that by legalizing marijuana through a constitutional amendment, it removes legislators from the process and prevents legislative oversight. Members of the Impactful Canna Reform Coalition include state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City), a pair of Kansas City medical marijuana businesses, a cooking and catering business, a holistic wellness company, an herbal remedy company, and Kansas City-based community organizers. "The capitalism monster loves to exploit you, and that is what’s happening with this petition," Bland Manlove said in a statement. "Myself and like-minded community partners realized people from politicians to Bob on the street didn’t know the details. We want to make it known."

Nevada Supreme Court Rules That Recreational Use of Marijuana Is Not Protected Off-Duty Conduct. The state's highest court has ruled that a casino employee who was fired after he was injured on the job and then tested positive for marijuana does not any legal recourse. Under state law, workers cannot be punished for the "lawful use" of products while not on duty, but the Supreme Court held that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, its use is not "lawful," and the employee is therefore not protected. The case is Ceballos v. NP Palace LLC.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Whether Marijuana Legalization Initiative Should Be on November Ballot. Organizers behind the State Question 820 marijuana legalization initiative handed in sufficient signatures to meet state requirements, but the initiative still might be kept off the ballot because, for the first time, the state used a private contractor to count signatures and that contractor slow-walked the signature counting process so long that the statutory deadline to put the question on the ballot passed last week. The count, which normally takes two or three weeks, took seven weeks this time, and now, proponents have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the issue. If it rules against the initiative campaign, the measure would then go before voters either in a later special election called by the governor or on the November 2024 ballot.

CA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, FL Sets MedMJ Rules, More... (9/30/22)

Residents of La Paz, Bolivia, are growing weary of coca grower clashes, Colombia's new president calls for a regional assembly to plot alternatives to the war on drugs, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro at the Andean Presidential Council in Lima Monday. (Presidency of the Republic, Peru)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 1598, which er decriminalizes the possession of fentanyl test strips. The bill from Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) amends the state's controlled substances law by removing drug testing equipment from its definition of drug paraphernalia. Similar bills have passed in numerous states this year. 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Spurs Protests by Residents Tired of Clashes. Activists and residents of the La Paz neighborhoods of Villa El Carmen, Villa Fatima, and Periferica were set to hit the streets to day to demand an end to the coca grower conflict that has disrupted normal life there for nearly the past month. The conflict pits two factions of the Adepcoca coca growers union, one pro-government and one anti-government, against each other and has resulted in weeks of clashes on the streets of the capital, especially around a disputed coca market in Villa El Carmen. Residents were planning to stage protests and erect roadblocks in all three neighborhoods today. They are demanding the government resolve the coca grower dispute.

Colombian President Seeks Regional Assembly to Rethink Drug Policy. At the Andean Presidential Council in Lima on Monday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for a regional assembly to come up with alternatives to what he called the "failed" war on drugs. "We have failed in something called the war on drugs and its toll is a million dead Latin Americans, most of them Colombians, and more and more Mexicans and Central Americans," he said. “If we project further forward, we would have another million Latin Americans killed by homicide, millions of Latin Americans and North Americans in prison, most of black race, and there would be 2,800,000 Americans dying of overdoses from something we don't produce: fentanyl," he warned. Instead Petro proposed convening an assembly of Latin American countries to discuss alternative drug policies. In addition to the Colombian president and his Peruvian host, the leaders of two of the world's largest coca and cocaine producing countries, the Lima meeting was also attended by the presidents of Ecuador an Bolivia, the third largest coca and cocaine producer. 

NY Now Taking Applications for Pot Shops, Bolivia Coca Clashes Continue, More... (8/26/22)

A strike in British Columbia is impacting retail marijuana shops, there is still a sliver of hope for Nebraska's medical marijuana initiataive, and more. 

Will the Cornhusker State get to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Starts Taking Applications for Legal Pot Shops. The state began accepting applications Thursday from people wanting to open legal recreational marijuana retail outlets, and it is making a strong social equity statement by reserving the first 150 licenses for people with past marijuana convictions or their family members. It is a "unique strategy that we’re implementing to try to make sure that those most impacted have real opportunity to participate here," state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said. "It's really about writing a wrong," he added. There is not yet a firm date for when the first shops will open their doors. After this initial batch of licenses is issued, more licenses will be issued, with a focus on people of color, women, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that endured heavy pot policing. The state is seeking to issue half of all licenses to such applicants.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Conflict Continues to Fester. Clashes among competing groups of coca growers and with police in La Paz continued for a third week Tuesday even as pro-government coca union leader Arnold Alanes, who manages a "parallel market" in coca that is not officially sanctioned, filed a complaint against the leader of the rival coca growers, Freddy Machicado, for "public instigation to commit a crime." Both men claim to be leaders of Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) of La Pa, with Alanes assumed to be the legitimate leader of the union but Machicado leading a bloc that considers itself independent—both of the union leadership and the government.  "We have been victims of harassment, violence and dynamite blows and we are presenting (the complaint) in an emergency, given all the violence we have suffered, Alanes said as he delivered the complaint to the local prosecutor's office. The conflict dates back to last September when Alanes was elected leader of Adepcoca and recognized as such by the government. Some sectors of the union rejected him because of those government ties and took over one of the two legal markets for the sale of coca leaves, so the Alanes faction opened a new market near the traditional one in La Paz. The anti-government faction has been mobilizing this past month to pressure the government to close down Alanes' "parallel market," and that is what has been leading to weekly street clashes.

British Columbia Pot Shops Shutting Down Because of Lack of Supply Due to Unrelated Labor Action. The British Columbia General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has been on strike at government distribution warehouses for the past 10 days, and now the province's 400 retail marijuana outlets are facing shortages, with some of them already shutting their doors. The pot shop chain Burb shuttered stores in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody and lay-offs of pot shop workers have already begun. A provincial initiative to let retailers buy directly from BC producers was supposed to start last week, but did not, and the BC Ministry of Finance have not responded to questions about that initiative. The BCGEU, which represents 33,000 workers, agreed Tuesday to resume bargaining at the request of the province. What it will take to reach a settlement isn’t clear. In the meantime, it's hard times for legal marijuana retailers. 

Oklahoma Legalization Init May Miss November Ballot, San Francisco Could Open Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/24/22)

A bipartisan coalition of senators is demanding justice for another American medical marijuana user imprisoned in Russia, a Nebraska senator vows to file a medical marijuana bill next year after an initiative campaign came up short, and more.

Even though Gov. Newsom (D) vetoed a safe injection site bill, San Francisco may move forward anyway. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma's Use of Private Vendor to Count Signatures Could Cause Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Miss November Ballot. Yes on 820, the group behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, is warning that the state's use of a private vendor for the first time to count signatures caused delays that may result in the measure being bumped from the November ballot. The initiative has met the signature threshold to qualify, but the count must now be approved by the state Supreme Court, and after that, a 10-day period for anyone to challenge the signatures. That is running up against a Friday election board deadline, and could keep the initiative off the ballot. "The last petition Oklahomans voted on took 17 days to count 313,000 signatures," Yes on 820 said. "In contrast, we submitted half that amount and it has taken three times as long. This delay means the election board may not receive the green light to print the ballot in time for voters to vote on it in November."

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska State Senator Pledges to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill After Initiative Campaign Come up Short. After a campaign to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot came up short on signatures, state Sen. Jen Day (D-Gretna) vowed to file a medical marijuana bill in the 2023 legislative session. She said she was also exploring the possibility of calling a special session this fail to take up the issue. "We will exhaust every measure possible to get Nebraskans the medical freedom they deserve and want," Day said. "We know that Nebraskans strongly support this."

Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Senators Demand Justice for Another US Citizen Imprisoned in Russia for Medical Marijuana. A bipartisan coalition of senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling on the State Department to classify imprisoned US medical marijuana patient Marc Fogel as "wrongfully detained" in Russia, the same status that has been afforded to WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner. "Mr. Fogel's recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime," the senators wrote. "Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp. As the US highlights Griner's unjust detention, Fogel's case "warrants the same degree of political attention and diplomatic intervention," the senators said.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Could Still Move Ahead with Safe Injection Sites Despite Veto of Bill. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco on Monday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said that he would support a nonprofit opening such a site in the city. "To save lives, I fully support a non-profit moving forward now with New York's model of overdose prevention programs," Chiu said in the statement. New York City has a nonprofit group running two safe injection sites. Two city nonprofits, HealthRight360 and the AIDS Foundation, said they are willing to operate sites, but need a location and funding, either from the city or from private donors, as is the case in New York City.

OK Legalization Init Has Enough Signatures, CA Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/23/22)

Prohibitionists file a legal challenge to a Missouri legalization initiative, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign comes up short, and more.

Marijuana is going to be on the ballot in a number of states, but it is not all set yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hit by Legal Challenge from Prohibitionists. The Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC, a marijuana prohibitionist group, filed a lawsuit Monday against Legal Missouri's marijuana legalization initiative, which qualified for the ballot last week. The lawsuit charges that the initiative violates the state constitution's single-subject rule. It also argues that the initiative did not really collect enough signatures to qualify and that the state wrongly certified the measure. The lawsuit was filed by a staff member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), but on behalf of the Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC. It was filed on the last day of the 10-day window to file challenges. A similar legal challenge to a legalization initiative is already underway in Arkansas.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Make Ballot, But Hurdles Remain. The SQ 820 marijuana legalization has been certified as having collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but hurdles remain before it becomes official. The state Supreme Court still has to approve the signatures and if and when that happens, the secretary of state will put out a notice that opponents then have 10 days to challenge the validity of the petition. Those two things need to be accomplished by the end of September or the measure will not make the November ballot. If it doesn't make the November ballot, voters will take it up at a later election.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiatives Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. An initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state will not go before voters in November because cash-strapped activists came up short on valid voter signatures. Activists had hoped to put a complementary pair of initiatives on the ballot, but the campaign came up short both on the statewide number and on the number of counties where a 5 percent of the voters threshold was met. Each initiative needed 87,000 valid voter signatures, but one came up with only 77,843 and the other with 77,119 valid voter signatures. Both needed to get 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of the state's counties, but one achieved that goal in only 26 counties and the other in 27.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Pilot Program Bill. Despite past comments that he was "very open" to allowing safe injection sites to operate in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would do just that, Senate Bill 57. He cited "concerns" about its implementation. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom maintained that he has "long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies," but was "acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans."

Newson left open the possibility that he could support similar legislation in the future, saying "We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts. Therefore, I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program -- with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively."

Oakland Entheogenic Church Sues Over Raid, Thai Minister Discourages Pot Tourism, More... (8/19/22)

Wisconsin's Republican legislative majority is out of step with the people when it comes to freeing the weed, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign takes a first step, and more.

Magic mushrooms. An Oakland church argues that they are a protected religious sacrament. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Marquette Law School shows support for marijuana legalization in the state at an all-time high of 69 percent of registered voters. That's an eight-point jump since the school's last poll just five months ago. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans said they back legalization in the latest poll. A GOP legislative supermajority entrenched through gerrymandering does not care. It hasn't even approved medical marijuana except for low-THC cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Launch Medical Marijuana Ballot Push for 2024. Activists organized as Kind Idaho have filed a proposed 2024 medical marijuana ballot initiative that is essentially identical to one it filed two years ago but which did not end up qualifying for the ballot. The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy medical marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries or grow up to six plants at home if a dispensary were unavailable or getting to one would impose a hardship on the patient. "Now the waiting game begins," said Joseph Evans, the group's treasurer. "We will be in contact again in five weeks when we come in to pick up and review the changes the [attorney general] suggests."

Psychedelics

Oakland Church That Uses Psychedelic Mushrooms as Sacrament Sues over Police Raid. The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, an assembly of the Church of Ambrosia, has filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations against the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department after police raided the church, which used magic mushrooms as a sacrament, in 2020. The suit charges that the police raid violated its 1st and 14th Amendment rights and that the city's land use code bars them from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments with psychedelics and marijuana inside the church.

Oakland Police say the church was operating as a dispensary, and they acted after receiving a complaint. One officer, John Romero, applied for church membership, signed an agreement acknowledging the church is not a dispensary and bought 3.5 grams of marijuana, which the church says is intended for on-site consumption as part of its sacrament. Romero returned with a search warrant, damaged five safes, seized paperwork, inventory logs, $200,000 worth of marijuana and mushroom inventory, a computer, and $4,500 in cash. The church says it is about spirituality, not dope dealing."This is not just an excuse for selling drugs," church founder Dave Hodges said. "This is a sincere faith, and the work that I personally do with mushrooms is with the really high doses. There's no doubt in my mind that mushrooms were the first way our ancient ancestors understood there was more to this existence. They raided us like we were some kind of crime family they were taking down or a meth house," Hodges said. "They came in guns blazing, which they didn't need to do. They could've accomplished the same thing with two officers without their guns drawn. This was a classic smash-and-grab scenario where they took our sacrament, they took our money and they never filed any charges." The church is seeking a permanent injunction forcing the city to approve its land use application and to exempt religious use of entheogenic plants as part of the application process. "We would like for the Oakland PD to leave us alone and for the city of Oakland to consider us legitimate," Hodges said.

International

Thai Health Minister Says Pot-Smoking Tourists Not Welcome. Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul discouraged people from visiting the country only to smoke weed. "We don't welcome those kinds of tourists," Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors. The comments come just two months after Thailand largely decriminalized marijuana, leading to an influx of tourists and the opening of "cannabis cafes." Marijuana tourism could be a boon to the country's important tourism industry, which was badly wounded by the coronavirus pandemic, but the government says recreational use of the drug is not okay. But that could change, Anutin said: "It might come in the near future."

NYPD Busts Unlicensed Pot Trucks, Meth Use/Arrests/OD Deaths All Up in Recent Years, More... (8/18/22)

Nevada's Supreme Court rules against employees who smoke marijuana, Ireland is about to see its first pilot drug checking program, and more.

The Electric Picnic festival in Ireland. This year, there will be onsite drug checking. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada High Court Rules Recreational Marijuana Is Not "Lawful Off-Duty Conduct." In a decision last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that recreational marijuana use is not "lawful off-duty conduct" in upholding the firing of a Las Vegas casino dealer who tested positive for marijuana. State employment law provides protections for "lawful off-duty conduct," but the court held that since marijuana remains federally illegal, its use can not be considered "lawful off-duty conduct" in the casino dealer's wrongful termination claim. The ruling means that Nevada employers are free to fire or refuse to hire workers who use marijuana.

New York City Cracks Down on Unlicensed Weed-Selling Trucks. The NYPD said it seized 20 trucks used to sell unlicensed marijuana on Tuesday. "If you are looking to buy illegal cannabis from the Weed World Bus located on 5th Avenue & 40th Street it is no longer open for business," NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey tweeted. "We do not anticipate it opening for business anytime soon!" The state legalized marijuana in 2021 but has yet to see legal commercial sales. In the meantime, unlicensed vendors have emerged to serve the market. NYPD said the seizures were part of efforts to address quality of life issues, but some New Yorkers may feel their quality of life is reduced if they can't find a place to buy weed.

Methamphetamine

Meth Use, Arrests, and Overdose Deaths Rose Sharply in Recent Years. A new report from the Pew Trusts finds sharply increasing methamphetamine use, arrests, and overdose deaths in the period from 2015 to 2019. Pew said the results "highlight the need for improved responses to a worsening public health problem." Arrests for meth possession jumped 59 percent, meth use was up 22 percent, meth use as a substance-abuse disorder was up 37 percent, and meth-related overdose deaths more than doubled.

"The general response to these trends highlights a reliance on the criminal legal system that has often proved costly and ineffective," Pew said. "Meaningful reductions in drug possession arrests and drug-related deaths may not be achieved without shifting to a public health response that prioritizes evidence-based approaches to treatment and harm reduction." Meth use varies from state, with 16 states reporting at least one in a 100 adults reporting past year use. The states with the highest rates were Arizona, Montana, and West Virginia.

International

Ireland to See Pilot Drug Checking Program at Music Festival, At the Electric Picnic Festival the first weekend of September, the Health Service Executive will operate the country's first pilot drug checking program. Users will deposit drugs in bins for chemical analysis, and if a sample is found to create cause for concern -- say, for unusually high potency or the presence of dangerous adulterants -- authorities will issue warning via social media.

"I am pleased to launch this new project as part of our efforts to reduce drug-related harm in Ireland," says HSE National Clinical Lead, Professor Eamon Keenan. "We are currently very concerned about the emergence of new psychoactive substances and high potency substances which pose a threat to health. This project will provide us with vital information that we otherwise can't access in real time. While this is a progression, the HSE messaging will remain clear, it is safer not to use drugs at all. For those who choose to, they should still follow the practical steps recommended by the HSE to reduce the harms. We will issue a series of health information on social media before and during the event, I encourage the public to follow drugs.ie and engage with our teams at Electric Picnic. It is important to note that our results will only be representative of what is submitted and this will not guarantee the safety of drugs across the drug market."

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