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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Harm Reduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

International

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

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

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

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. 

Gallup Poll Has Pot Use at All-Time High, DEA Walks Back Proposed Ban on Two Psychedelics, More... (8/29/22)

A trio of marijuana bills are on the California governor's desk, New York City cocaine users are adopting fentanyl test strips, Colombia's new president announces a coca growers' assembly, and more.

Everybody's doing it. Well, not everybody, but more people than ever. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Finds Marijuana Use at All-Time High. A new Gallup poll has marijuana use at a record high—and for the first time, more Americans reported smoking marijuana than smoking cigarettes. The new poll has 16 percent of respondents smoking marijuana within the past week, up from 12 percent a year ago and more than double the historic low of seven percent. The number of people who reported cigarette smoking in the past week was 11 percent. That's down from 16 percent last year and a whopping 45 percent during cigarette smoking's peak in the 1950s.

California Interstate Marijuana Commerce, Other Pot Bills Go to Governor's Desk. Bills to create a framework for interstate marijuana commerce, streamline expungement for past marijuana convictions, and safeguard companies providing insurance to the legal marijuana industry have all passed out of the legislature and are on the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). A passel of other marijuana bills are also advancing as the session end approaches. The interstate commerce bill is Senate Bill 1326, the marijuana convictions bill is Assembly Bill 1706, and the insurance bill is Assembly Bill 2568.

Harm Reduction

Fentanyl Test Strips Are ‘Catching On’ Among Cocaine Users. Rising overdoses are prompting some drug users to make testing their stashes for the presence of fentanyl a regular part of their drug-taking ritual. New York City cocaine users say their fear of overdosing on fentanyl-contaminated cocaine has made them wary of using any cocaine that has not been tested. Dozens of bars, clubs, and restaurants in the city are now offering fentanyl test strips as well. A Lower East Side taco restaurant owner said he began stocking the strips this spring after two people he knew died from fentanyl-adulterated cocaine. "It was a no-brainer for us," he said. "When we first put them out, we had customers say, ‘What is that?’ They were like, ‘Let me get one for my friend,’" Mr Tirado said. "It’s catching on."

New Mexico Now Providing Fentanyl Test Strips. Thanks to a change in the state's Harm Reduction Act, state officials are now distributing fentanyl test strips by the thousands. The Department of Health has handed out 15,000 test strips since May and has already ordered another 30,000. At least 1,215 people in the state have died from an overdose involving fentanyl since 2019, but more than 12,000 people have been saved from overdoses by the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Psychedelics

DEA Walks Back Plan to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA has backed away from plans to place two obscure psychedelics, DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The retreat came after the proposal encountered strong opposition about psychedelic companies and academic researchers. The Panacea company filed a motion requiring the DEA to respond by today, with the possibility of a public hearing to defend its proposal. Instead, the DEA folded without stating any specific reasons.

International

Colombia President Announces First Assembly of Coca Growers.  President Gustavo Petro announced last Friday that the country's first assembly of coca growers will be held in the Catatumbo region in the northwest of the country. "I propose you to get out of that first place (in hectares of coca) last year and build the peace capital of Colombia. That here in Catatumbo the talks of society can be developed and that somewhere talks can begin to leave the weapons behind and move to the era of peace," he said. "I have admitted the idea of carrying out in Catatumbo the first assembly of coca leaf farmers (…) with one intention: to show this government the ways (…) that allow us to achieve that a peasant family that today is dedicated to coca leaf can substitute this for an activity that guarantees them more quality of life", he explained to local residents. Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. 

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."

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

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

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

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

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

Psychedelics

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

Opioids

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

Australia's First Drug Checking Site Opens This Week, TX Bill Would Make Legal Pot a Local Option, More... (7/19/22)

There are marijuana reform rumblings in the Lone Star State, Ohio becomes the latest state to see a fentanyl test strip decrim bill, and more.

Texas State Capitol (Daniel Mayer, Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Bill Would Let Cities, Counties Legalize Marijuana. State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) has filed a bill, House Bill 3248, that would let cities and counties the option of locally legalizing recreational marijuana use, possession, and sales. The bill would also impose a 10 percent tax on marijuana products, with 10 percent of that going to pay for regulation, another 10 percent to pay for marijuana testing and quality control, 20 percent to participating local governments for oversight, and the rest would go into the state school fund. "While Texas has made progress with the Compassionate Use Act, we have been left behind on a potential revenue source that would increase investments in public education, stop the unnecessary arrests for cannabis possession and create jobs in our state," González said. "We should allow our local communities to make the best decision for themselves in regards to cannabis legalization, and HB 3248 would allow that for adults 21 years or older." The bill faces long odds in the GOP-dominated legislature.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Calls for Expanded Medical Marijuana Access. State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R) says he supports the expansion of medical marijuana access and nodded toward other conservative states that have fully legalized medical use. Governments should only be able to make something illegal "for a powerful reason or set of fact," he wrote in a letter, comparing pot prohibition to the alcohol Prohibition of the 1920s. "As I look back, I believe that cannabis prohibition came from a place of fear, not from medical science or the analysis of social harm. Sadly, the roots of this came from a history of racism, classism, and a large central government with an authoritarian desire to control others. It is as anti-American in its origins as could be imaginable,"he wrote. It is time for all of us, including the Governor, members of the Texas Legislature and others to come together and set aside our political differences to have an honest conversation about cannabis: where we have been, where we are going and what role government should properly play," Miller ended his letter. "We owe it to our fellow Texans, especially those who are suffering, to lead or just get out of the way if we cannot formulate effective cannabis policy for Texas."

Harm Reduction

Ohio Bill Would Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips. Ohio could become the latest state to decriminalize or legalize fentanyl test strips as a harm reduction measure aimed at reducing overdose deaths. State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) has filed House Bill 456 would decriminalize fentanyl drug testing strips. They are currently classified as drug paraphernalia, but that hasn't stopped them from beginning to pop up in bar bathrooms in Cincinnati. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is increasingly adulterating other illicit drugs or appearing as counterfeit prescription opioids. In Ohio, nearly two-thirds of 1,497 cocaine overdose deaths last year were caused by drugs laced with fentanyl. The bill has just been filed, but has garnered no opposition so far.

International

Australia's First Fixed Drug Checking Site to Open This Week in Canberra. Beginning on Thursday, Australia's capital city, Canberra, will host the country's first fixed location drug checking site. Previously, drug testing has twice been done at music festivals. The move comes as the Australian Capital Territory prepares to implement drug decriminalization. "This Australian-first program will help people who use drugs better understand or avoid unknown and potentially dangerous substances in illicit drugs," said ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

"We know the safest option is not to take drugs and this will always be our advice to the community. However we recognize some people will choose to use drugs and there is a need for initiatives that reduce the harms associated with drug use."

Fed Judge Rules for Opioid Distributors in WV Lawsuit, CA Kills Marijuana Cultivator Tax, More... (7/5/22)

A Washington state county commissioner demonstrates her cluelessness about harm reduction, Senate drug warriors file the END FENTANYL Act, and more.

pain pills (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Bill Ending Cultivation Tax on Marijuana Growers. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 195, a wide-ranging bill to restructure the state's legal marijuana system whose most striking feature is the removal of the wholesale tax on marijuana growers. The aim of the bill is to provide relief to the struggling industry and further erode the marijuana black market. The bill also shifts collection of the state's 15 percent excise tax from the distributor level to the retail level, and it freezes the excise tax for at least the next three years. Aiming at unlicensed operators, the bill allows for fines of up to $10,000 per day for property managers who knowingly rent or lease space to unlicensed marijuana businesses. It also includes $40 million in tax credits, half for equity operators and half for microbusinesses. Social equity operators will also be eligible for a $10,000 tax credit and will be able to keep 20 percent of excise tax revenues for reinvesting in their businesses.

Opiates and Opioids

Bipartisan Group of Senate Drug Warriors File END FENTANYL Bill. Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) have filed the cutely-acronymed Eradicating Narcotic Drugs and Formulating New Tools to Address National Yearly Losses of Life (END FENTANYL) Act (Senate Bill 4440). The bill would require the Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to update its policies at least once every three years to ensure drug interdiction guidance is up to date. The legislation was prompted by a 2019 GAO report, Land Ports of Entry: CBP Should Update Policies and Enhance Analysis of Inspections, which found drug interdiction guidance has not been updated in 20 years. Scott used a press release about the bill to slam President Biden for his "failed open border policies" even though DEA figures show that 80 percent of fentanyl comes through ports of entry, not in the backpacks of refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented border crossers.

Federal Judge Rules for Opioid Distributors in West Virginia Lawsuit. A federal judge ruled against West Virginia plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking damages from three major drug distributors who they accused of causing a public health crisis by distributing 81 million pills in eight years in one county hard hit by opioid addiction. Cabell County and the city of Huntington had sued AmerisourceBergen Drug Company, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corp.

Plaintiffs argued that the companies sent a "tsunami" of prescription pain pills into the county and that their conduct was unreasonable, reckless, and disregarded the public health. "The opioid crisis has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington. And while there is a natural tendency to assign blame in such cases, they must be decided not based on sympathy, but on the facts and the law," US District Judge David Faber wrote in the 184-page ruling. "In view of the court's findings and conclusions, the court finds that judgment should be entered in defendants' favor. Plaintiffs failed to show that the volume of prescription opioids distributed in Cabell/Huntington was because of unreasonable conduct on the part of defendants," Faber wrote, noting that the plaintiffs supplied no evidence that the companies distributed opioids to any entity that was not properly registered with the DEA or the state Board of Pharmacy. The city and the county had sought more than $2.5 billion that would have gone toward opioid efforts. The goal of the 15-year abatement plan would have been to reduce overdoses,

Harm Reduction

WA County Commissioner Fears "Normalization" of Naloxone. Amanda McKinney, a Republican Yakima County Commissioner, is concerned that the use of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone will be "normalized." She was responding to a presentation by the Board of Health about the increase in drug overdose deaths and the district's overdose awareness campaign, but zeroed in on one sentence: Among the goals of the campaign was "Increase awareness and education about the benefits of naloxone to normalize its use."

That set off McKinney: I'm really concerned about that last slide where it says normalize use. I would really like for us to expand on what that means," McKinney said. "I'm just wondering if there is a better term than normalize, 'cuz normalize to me means we're accepting this and promoting this as part of our daily lives and I think that that word is inappropriate."

Apparently unfamiliar with the notion of harm reduction, she also questioned the effectiveness of needle exchanges and fentanyl test strips. "I'd really like to know what the effectiveness is of fentanyl testing strips and syringe exchange services for actually successfully getting people off and away from being someone who is a habitual drug user," McKinney said. "I question those methods as being methods that are successful in getting people actually off the drugs." Following McKinney's comments, Health District Director Andre Fresco explained that harm reduction's primary goal is not to end drug use, but to save lives, and added that the district is involved in efforts to get people off drugs.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of "Pill Mill" Docs, UN Human Rights Experts Call for End to Drug War, More... (6/27/22)

Drug charges account for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, Pakistan moves toward licensing medical and industrial cannabis production, Spain moves toward medical marijuana sales, and more.

The Supreme Court holds prosecutors to a high standard on charging doctors over prescribing. (Pixabay)
Opiates and Opioids

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Doctors Accused of Overprescribing Opioids. The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the convictions of two doctors accusing of running opioid "pill mills," making it more difficult for the government to prosecute doctors who overprescribe drugs. In seeking to distinguish between legitimate medical conduct and illegally overprescribing, the court held that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the doctor knew or intended to prescribe drugs in an unauthorized manner. "We normally would not view such dispensations as inherently illegitimate; we expect, and indeed usually want, doctors to prescribe the medications that their patients need," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court. The cases involved a doctor in Alabama whose clinic dispensed nearly 300,000 opioid prescriptions over a four-year period and a doctor who practiced in Arizona and Wyoming who operated mostly on a cash-only basis, but who also accepted property as payment, including firearms.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Quarterly Report Shows Drugs Remain Most Common Federal Offense. Enforcing federal drug prohibition accounts for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, according the US Sentencing Commission's latest quarterly report. Drug offenses accounted for 32.3 percent of all prosecutions in the last two quarters, with methamphetamine accounting for nearly half (48.6 percent) of all drug offenses and fentanyl continuing to increase, now accounting for 11.8 percent of all drug offenses. Immigration was the second largest category of federal prosecutions, accounting for 26.5 percent of all federal prosecutions, followed by firearms offenses at 14.9 percent. No other federal crime category accounted for more than 10 percent of federal prosecutions. A decline in prosecutions that took place during the coronavirus pandemic has now ended, with about 5,000 federal drug prosecutions every six months.

International

UN Human Rights Experts Use International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking to Call for End of War on Drugs. UN human rights experts have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called "war on drugs"and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June 2022, the experts issued the following statement:

"Data and experience accumulated by UN experts have shown that the 'war on drugs' undermines health and social wellbeing and wastes public resources while failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug market. Worse, this 'war' has engendered narco-economies at the local, national and regional levels in several instances to the detriment of national development. Such policies have far-reaching negative implications for the widest range of human rights, including the right to personal liberty, freedom from forced labor, from ill-treatment and torture, fair trial rights, the rights to health, including palliative treatment and care, right to adequate housing, freedom from discrimination, right to clean and healthy environment, right to culture and freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to equal treatment before the law."

Click on the link above for the rest of the statement.

New Zealand Poll Shows Most Support Replacing Punitive Drug Laws with Health-Based Approach. A new poll produced by The Navigators on behalf of the NZ Drug Foundation finds that a solid majority of New Zealanders support replacing the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act with a health-based approach. Some 68 percent of respondents favored the change. A strong majority -- 61 percent -- also favored drug decriminalization and introducing more support for education and treatment. The poll also showed that there is strong support for more funding to be provided for treatment and education (82 percent) and harm reduction initiatives like drug checking (74 percent).

Pakistan Moves to Allow Cannabis Farming for Medical and Industrial Use. The Ministry of Science and Technology will form an authority to regulate and facilitate the farming and use of cannabis, or "Bhang," as it referred to in the country. The authority will issue 15-year licenses for industrial, medical, processing, research, and development purposes. The Department of Commerce will issue licenses for cannabis exports.

Spain Moving Toward Allowing Medical Marijuana Sales in Pharmacies. A subcommittee in the Congress of Deputies has accepted a draft bill to regulate medical marijuana sales and referred the bill to the Commission on Health for a vote this week. While the proposed bill has very tight distribution rules, it is being lauded as the first step toward providing greater access. Once the bill is approved by the Health Commission, the Spanish Medicines Agency will have six months to draft appropriate regulations. The draft bill will make THC-containing flowers available by prescription for the treatment of specified illnesses and conditions.

Brazil Court Okays MedMJ Home Grows, NC MedMJ Bill Stalled, More... (6/15/22)

The North Carolina Compassionate Use Act is stuck in the House, the European Union's drug monitor reports increasing drug production on the continent, and more.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Stalled in House. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but is now stalled in the House, and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) says it is unlikely to be taken up before the legislative session ends on June 30. The bill passed the Senate easily on a 36-7 vote and recent in-state polling shows wide support for its passage. The bill envisions a network of 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each operating up to 10 dispensaries to provide medicine for people who have registered with the state for the treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions.

International

Brazil Court Approves Home Cultivation of Medical Marijuana. Under current Brazilian law, medical use of products derived from marijuana is limited to imported goods, but a five-judge panel of the Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that three patients had the right to grow their own medicine. The ruling came after the Health Ministry failed to craft regulations for home cultivation and will likely set a national precedent. Judges on the panel ripped into the government's failure to act as based on "this prejudice, this moralism" and accused it of taking "a deliberately backward action toward obscurantism" in delaying action.

EU Drug Monitor Warns of Rising Drug Production in Europe. In its annual report released Tuesday, European Drug Report 2022, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) warned of rising drug production on the continent amidst a proliferation of old and new psychoactive substances (NSP) being peddled and gobbled. "Synthetic drug production continues to increase in Europe," EMCDDA noted, citing illegal labs cranking out large quantities of amphetamines, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, cathinones, and other, more exotic NSPs. Some 350 such labs were busted in 2020, the last year for which data is available The report also warned that European crime groups are increasingly working with foreign trafficking networks to cut costs for drug production and trafficking. NSPs, meanwhile, "continue to appear in Europe at the rate of one per week," the report said.

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