Pill Testing

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Senate Names Meth an "Emerging Drug Threat," UFCW Marijuana Industry Unionization, More... (12/14/21)

A bad batch of synthetic cannabinoids is sickening people in Florida, Chicago is handing out fentanyl test strips in a bid to bring down record overdose numbers, and more.

Meth seized in Nebraska. No, it was not cooked by Breaking Bad's Heisenberg. (netnebraska.org)
Marijuana Policy

UFCW Gains Another Victory in Marijuana Industry Unionization Drive. An ongoing drive by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) gained another victory this week as 70 employees of the four-store Sweet Flower Cannabis chain in Southern California voted to join the union. The chain just got a license for a fifth shop in Culver City, and staff there will also be able to join the union under a labor peace agreement. The UFCW has won several other unionization votes in California this year, as well as at pot businesses in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The union represents about 10,000 workers in the industry. The Teamsters are also active in unionizing the industry, winning victories in California and Illinois.

Methamphetamine

Senate Passes Grassley, Feinstein Methamphetamine Bill. The Senate on Monday passed the Methamphetamine Response Act of 2021 (S. 854), legislation introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). The bill designates methamphetamine as an emerging drug threat and directs the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) to implement a plan to address the rising use of methamphetamine. The bill "requires ONDCP to develop, implement and make public, within 90 days of enactment, a national emerging threats response plan that is specific to methamphetamine." The same bill passed the Senate last year but failed to move in the House.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Severe Bleeding From 'Spice' Synthetic Cannabinoid Leaves 35 Hospitalized in Florida. At least 35 people in the Tampa Bay area have recently been hospitalized with severe bleeding after ingesting the synthetic cannabinoid "Spice," the state's poison control center reported. Victims have reported bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, vomiting blood, blood in urine and stool, and heavy menstrual bleeding -- symptoms associated with a condition known as coagulopathy, where the blood's ability to clot is impaired.

The exact cause of the bleeding was not stated. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "...chemicals [in synthetic marijuana] are often being changed as the makers of spice often alter them to avoid drug laws, which have to target certain chemicals." Similar reactions in a 2018 incident involving Spice were attributed to the chemical brodifacoum having been added.

Florida has not legalized marijuana and allows only limited access to medical marijuana.

Harm Reduction

Chicago Now Passing Out Free Fentanyl Test Strips. With fentanyl now linked to most opioid overdose deaths in the city, the Chicago Department of Health has begun offering free fentanyl test strips to the public. The program first began in October, and so far, more than 7,000 strips have been distributed, mostly through harm reduction organizations. The Cook County Department of Public Health is also distributing fentanyl test strips in the city and its suburbs. Cook County registered a record number of opioid-related deaths in 2020.

Move to Ease Research Burdens on Schedule I Drugs Gains DEA Support, Colombia Pill Testing, More... (12/7/21)

Language protecting banks doing business with state-legal marijuana firms has been removed from a defense spending bill, Canada's Alberta province is looking into establishing a safe drug supply, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Language Now Not Included in Defense Bill. The House included language to protect financial institutions that deal with state-legal marijuana businesses in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which it passed in September, but now, after negotiations between the House and Senate, that provision has been stripped out. There is still, however, a chance it good be added back in before final votes in both chambers are taken. The House Rules Committee is meeting Tuesday, and Safe Banking Act sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who is a member of the committee, said he will file an amendment to restore banking language to the bill.

Drug Policy

DEA, NIDA Back White House Black to Ease Research Barriers on Marijuana, Psychedelics, and Other Schedule I Drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) has proposed a plan to ease barriers to research for Schedule I drugs, and now both the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have said they are on board with the plan. In written testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last Thursday, DEA said that "expanding access to Schedule I research is a critical part of DEA's mission to protect public safety and health. DEA supports the administration's legislative proposal's expansion of access to Schedule I research. DEA looks forward to continuing to work with the research community and our interagency partners to facilitate Schedule I research." NIDA Director Nora Volkow echoed the DEA support, saying existing procedures are "time consuming" and "cumbersome."

International

Canada's Alberta to Study Safe Drug Supply. The prairie province's United Conservative government has proposed that a committee of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) look into the pluses and minuses of offering pharmaceutical versions of opioids and other addictive substances to people dependent on them. "I want to look at objective evidence so both for and against," said Mike Ellis, associate minister of mental health and addictions. "I want evidence to be presented at this committee, and I look forward to seeing their findings." The committee will be required to submit a report with recommendations by the end of April. Both the province of British Columbia and the city of Toronto are already moving forward with efforts to win a federal exemption to allow for the distribution of controlled substances in a bid to reduce drug overdoses from an unsecured supply.

Colombia Party Scene Has Pill Testing. A group that originated seven years ago with university students demanding pill and powder testing at parties is now actually doing drug purity testing at clubs and festivals -- without government support but also without government interference. The group, Echele Cabeza, is now doing about 250 tests a month. The costs are covered by event organizers, with additional funding from an NGO that helps drug users. New Zealand recently became the first country in the world to formally legalize pill testing.

Mexico Supreme Court Throws Out Law Making Growing Low THC Marijuana Illegal. Even as the Mexican congress stumbles toward Supreme Court-mandated marijuana legalization, the Supreme Court has now thrown out a law that made growing low-THC marijuana illegal. The law barred the cultivation of marijuana with less than 1 percent THC, but the court held that law unconstitutional. The national health agency, COFEPRIS, had interpreted the law to bar all marijuana cultivation except for medical and scientific purposes, but now companies will be able to cultivate the crop to produced low-THC CBD products such as tinctures, oils, and beverages.

SD MJ Legalization Init Thrown Out, New Zealand Legalizes Drug Checking, More... (11/24/21)

A federal jury finds major drugstore chains culpable in two Ohio counties' opioid crisis, St, Louis decriminalizes marijuana possession, and more.

drug checking kits (SSDP)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Supreme Court Throws Out Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the voter-approved Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative violates the state constitution because it violated a provision limiting constitutional amendments to one subject. The court held that encompassing medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as well as setting out a taxation and regulatory structure made the amendment too broad to be considered a single subject.

While the ruling derails legalization for now, it may not be derailed for long. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group behind Amendment A, is already undertaking a signature-gathering drive to get another, single-issue initiative on the 2022 ballot, and the state legislature has already committed to taking up marijuana legalization in the legislative session that begins in January.

St. Louis Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession. The city's Board of Alderman voted unanimously Tuesday night to repeal an ordinance making it illegal to possess 35 grams or less of marijuana, and to bar police from enforcing state and federal law against small amounts or paraphernalia. Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (D) says she will sign the bill as soon as it reaches her desk.

Opioids

Ohio Jury Finds Drugstore Chains Culpable in Opioid Crisis. A federal jury has found that three major retailers -- CVS, Walgreens and Walmart -- helped flood two Ohio counties with opioids, contributing to the area's opioid crisis. The two counties, Lake and Trumbull, argued that the pharmacies did not do enough to stop large quantities of opioids from reaching the black market, and the jury agreed. Two other pharmacy chains -- Giant Eagle and Rite Aid -- previously settled with the counties for undisclosed amounts.

The counties' attorneys estimated the opioid epidemic cost each one more than a billion dollars. "For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law," the counties' legal team said. "Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market. The judgment today against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS represents the overdue reckoning for their complicity in creating a public nuisance."

No mention was made about the need to protect chronic pain patients from the spillover effects from opioid crackdowns. In 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control issued a statement detailing ways in which its 2016 guidance on pain prescribing had been misapplied to harmfully restrict patients' access to pain medications.

International

New Zealand Becomes First Country to Legalize Drug Checking. With a vote in parliament this week, New Zealand has made permanent and explicitly legal a pilot drug checking program. The pilot program approved last December was set to expire next month. The Health Ministry had recommended in April that the program be made permanent after data showed high percentages of people who took advantage of the drug checks changed their behavior and better understood the potential harms. The bill creates broad legal protections for people offering and using drug checking services.

HHS Secretary Vows More Federal Support for Harm Reduction, Poll Shows Support for DC Drug Decrim, More... (10/27/21)

Arkansas could soon see two seperate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns, a new poll shows DC voters are ready for drug decriminalization, and more.

HHS says there were 840,000 drug overdose deaths between 1999 and 2019. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launched. And then there were two. Activists with Arkansas True Grass already have a marijuana legalization initiative in the signature gathering phase, and now, a former state House minority leader has announced the formation of a new advocacy group, Responsible Growth Arkansas, to push a second legalization effort. That former lawmaker, Democrat Eddie Armstrong, says his proposed initiative would "allow the regulated sale of adult-use cannabis in the state." Armstrong has yet to file an initiative text with state officials but promised more information in coming weeks. Statutory initiatives require 71,321 valid voter signatures. If Armstrong's initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment, it would need 89,151 valid voter signatures. In either case, signature gathering must be complete by next July.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Bills to Restrict Cultivation by Caregivers Advance. A package of bills that would limit the amount of medical marijuana that caregivers can grow is headed for the House floor. Under the package, caregivers would have to obtain a new specialty medical marijuana grower license and comply with a variety of new regulations. Under current rules, caregivers can grow up to 72 plants and must register with the state, but do not need a license. Under the bill package, caregivers could grow only 24 plants without a license. Because the package of bills alters the voter-approved 2008 medical marijuana initiative, it must garner 75 percent of the vote in both houses to pass.

Drug Policy

DC Voters Support Drug Decriminalization, Poll Finds. Just a week after activists announced a push for drug decriminalization in the nation's capital, a new poll finds very strong support for the notion. The poll had 83 percent saying the DC Council should pass an ordinance to "remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of commonly-used controlled substances consistent with personal use." That includes 65 percent who strongly support the far-reaching reform. The reform is being pushed by a coalition called DecrimPovertyDC, which includes groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Harm Reduction

HHS Secretary Vows More Federal Support for Harm Reduction Measures. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday outline the Biden administration's approach to reducing drug overdoses and committed to more federal support for measures such as needle exchanges, increased access to naloxone, and test strips to check drugs for the presence of fentanyl. The strategy also includes expanding medication-based treatment, reducing "inappropriate" opioid prescribing (which could drive users into the more dangerous black market), and more support for drug treatment. Becerra even expressed some openness to safe injection sites: "When it comes to harm reduction, we are looking for every way to do that. … We probably will support the efforts of states that are using evidence-based practices and therapies." According to an HHS report released Wednesday, 840,000 people died of drug overdoses from 1999 to 2019. Becerra's comments reflect a statement of priorities for the administration’s first year released in March by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Taliban Say No More Opium Production Under Their Rule, CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, More... (8/19/21)

The harm reduction group DanceSafe releases new test kits for cocaine and ketamine, a North Carolina medical marijuana bil is moving, and more.

Will Afghan poppy fields become a thing of the past? The Taliban say yes. (UNODC)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Ready to Advance in Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday accepted revisions to the Compassionate Care Act, Senate Bill 711, laying the groundwork for formal approval at a later meeting. The bill had already passed Judiciary and one more committee last month but was referred back to Judiciary this month to deal with revisions. The proposal would allow patients with specified "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana, but with revisions now includes patients with terminal conditions who have less than six months to live, as well as those who qualify for hospice care. Under the legislation, patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted. The measure would provide for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries. Once the bill passes out of Judiciary, it must still be re-referred to the Health and Rules and Operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

Harm Reduction

DanceSafe Releases New Test Kit for Cocaine and Ketamine. DanceSafe, a nationally active and long-standing public health nonprofit, has released a new consumer drug checking kit that can reliably identify cocaine and ketamine, two of the most commonly used illicit drugs. The kit consists of two small bottles known together as Morris reagent. To use the kit, the user places one drop of liquid from each bottle onto a tiny amount of the drug and stirs the mixture with a toothpick for 20-30 seconds. The reaction turns bright blue in the presence of cocaine and purple in the presence of ketamine. The reagent can also detect two major ketamine analogues, DCK and 2-FDCK, which turn a navy blue color. Nearly all other drugs turn a dull green color, indicating a non-reaction. "This is a game changer," says Mitchell Gomez, DanceSafe’s Executive Director. "The cocaine and ketamine markets are highly adulterated, and this new test kit can help consumers avoid many of the counterfeit powders."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill to decriminalize the possession of many psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, passed a procedural hurdle in the Assembly on Monday, getting a second reading on the Assembly floor and being re-referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It now faces a "suspense hearing" August 26, after which it would head for a final Assembly floor vote if it passes. If it then passes the Assembly, it would go back to the Senate for approval of amendments made in the Assembly, all of which must be accomplished by September 10 in order to reach the governor's desk this year. If the bill doesn't advance by then, it would not be dead but wouldn't be acted on again until January. One amendment that irks advocates like Decriminalize Nature sets possession limits, such as two grams of DMT, four grams of mescaline, two grams of psilocybin, and four grams of magic mushrooms. The group has called for the bill to be tabled until the kerfuffle over possession limits is settle to its satisfaction, but bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco says he wants to move forward now while the bill has momentum.

International

Taliban Say No More Opium Production in Afghanistan Under Their Rule. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul Wednesday that there will be zero drug production or trafficking in the country in the near future. "There will be no drug production, no drug smuggling. We saw today that our young people were on drugs near the walls; this was making me very, very sad that our youth are addicted," Mujahid said. "Afghanistan will not be a country of cultivation of opium anymore, but we need international help for that. The international community needs to help us," he added. Throughout this century, Afghanistan has been the world's leading opium producer, responsible for more than 80% of global supply with an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Afghans and produces a sizeable chunk of the country's Gross National Product. Wiping out opium production would create a huge economic disruption in the country, but the Taliban was able to do it in 2000, the year before they were overthrown by a US invasion.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, Marijuana Gets Legalized in Three States This Week, More... (6/30/21)

South Dakota gingerly enters the medical marijuana age, governors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania sign bills that will ease burdens on patients, and more.

New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Okays Telehealth Prescriptions for Medical Marijuana. Governor Phil Murphy (D) has finally signed a bill allowing health care providers to recommend medical marijuana via telehealth. He originally vetoed SD 619/A 1635 back in April after criticizing it for including a 270-day waiting period before going into effect. The legislature then amended the bill and got rid of that waiting period so it will go into effect immediately. The amended bill also removed language requiring an in-person doctor visit before initiating telehealth.

North Carolina

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Wins First Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 711, the Compassionate Use Act. The measure would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and set up a system of taxed and regulated medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. It must also pass the Senate finance, health care, and rules and operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 1024, which updates the state's medical marijuana law to protect patient safety standards and product quality, as well as empowering the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to consider adding new qualifying medical conditions. "It's been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program's successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law," Gov. Wolf said. "This legislation provides important updates to our state's medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication."

South Dakota

South Dakota State Troopers Will No Longer Arrest People with Less Than Three Ounces of Weed -- If It's Medical. With medical marijuana becoming legal in the state as of July 1, the office of Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has announced that state Highway Patrol troopers will no longer arrest people possessing up to three ounces of "natural and unaltered marijuana" as long as they have a patient card, or even if they don't, if they claim the marijuana is for medical use and offer some sort of documentation. Meanwhile, the state's largest city, Sioux Falls, has announced it will no longer make arrests for small-time pot possession. "Even if you don't have a medical marijuana card, the decision was made that on low level, low quantity offenses, it's a waste of resources to try and enforce the very, very complicated version of medical marijuana that was passed by the voter," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said. In a state where people are still arrested for testing positive for marijuana, this is progress.

South Dakota Tribe Opens First Medical Marijuana Dispensary in the State. While the state's medical marijuana program, approved by voters last November, is not set to go into operation until next year, medical marijuana became legal in the state on July 1, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe isn't waiting for state regulators. The state's first medical marijuana dispensary opened on the reservation that same day. The tribe requires customers to first obtain a medical marijuana ID card through its medical marijuana program, which is independent of the program being crafted by the state Health Department. That is leading some skeptics to fear that non-tribe members could face problems with state law enforcement even though the Noem administration last week released Highway Patrol guidelines saying troopers would not arrest people with unexpired medical marijuana cards provided they possessed less than the legally allowed three ounces.

CT Marijuana Legalization Vote Coming This Week, British MPs Call for Festival Pill Testing, More... (6/7/21)

Connecticut is poised to become the fourth state to legalize marijuana this year, Mississippi's governor calls on the legislature to create a medical marijuana program, and more.

Connecticut could be the next state to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor, Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Marijuana Legalization Bill. Legislative leaders announced Saturday that they had reached a deal with Governor Ned Lamont (D) on a marijuana legalization bill. Some lawmakers had concerns with Lamont's initial proposal, particularly around what they portrayed as a lack of social equity provisions, but those have now been addressed, and the bill is expected to be voted on this week. The new compromise legalization bill is Senate Bill 1118.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Legislature Should Create Medical Marijuana Program. In the wake of a state Supreme Court decision invalidating the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, Governor Tate Reeves (D) says he wants lawmakers to craft a medical marijuana program. "I support the will of the voters. ... I think we will have a medical marijuana program in Mississippi," he said. It is imperative that we get it done, and get it done quickly."

International

British MPs Call for Pill Testing Amid Fears of Rise in UK Festival Deaths. The parliamentary Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee has called on the home secretary to roll out widespread pill testing services ahead of this year's musical festival season, saying it had reviewed the evidence and found "compelling" arguments that the procedure saved lives. "There have been no drug-related deaths at any festival [with pill testing]," the committee noted. The committee also noted that the government said in 2018 it would not "stand in the way" of pill testing, but that hadn't always been the case, especially since it required the okay of local police departments. "We are highly concerned that a compressed festival season, the likely circulation of high-strength, adulterated drugs and increased risk-taking after lockdown will lead to a spike in drug-related deaths at festivals this summer," the committee noted. "We heard compelling arguments that drug checking saves lives, but in many cases service providers and police forces are being constrained by a lack of clarity in the legal framework and the need for a stronger evidence base."

Czech Lower House Approves Medical Marijuana, Hemp Changes. The lower house of parliament last Wednesday approved a bill amending the country's laws around medical marijuana and hemp. Under the bill, medical marijuana exports would be legal, tinctures and isolates could be sold, medical marijuana could be grown by multiple licensed private groups, and hemp products with less than 1 percent THC would not be considered addictive substances, clearing the way for the production of hemp products. 

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, NM Patient Sues Over Purchase Limits, More... (5/20/21)

The Louisiana House rejected marijuana legalization but is now considering a legalization study resolution, Arizona's governor signs into law a bill legalizing fentanyl test strips, and more.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana House Committee Approves Resolution Calling for Study of Marijuana Legalization. Days after a marijuana legalization bill died in the House, a House committee has approved a resolution calling for the creation of a committee to study the impacts of legalization. The committee would include legislative leaders, prosecutors, sheriffs, medical marijuana industry representatives, criminal justice reform advocates, LSU, and Southern Ag.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient Sues State Over Medical Marijuana Purchase Limits, Plant Counts. Medical marijuana patient and activist Jason Barker is suing the state over limits on medical marijuana purchases. Under the state's new marijuana legalization law, people can buy up to two ounces at a time, but under state rules, patients may only purchase eight ounces every 90 days. "The law is clear, all medical cannabis patients may purchase at least two-ounces of medical cannabis at any one time, tax free, beginning on June 29, 2021," Barker's lawyer said. Barker also alleges the state's 1,750-plant cap on medical marijuana producers infringes on patients' rights by reducing supply and increasing prices.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that legalizes fentanyl test strips in a bid to reduce drug overdoses in the state. The bill is SB1486. Drug use claims far too many lives each year," Ducey said in a signing statement. "We want everyone who is using drugs to seek professional treatment. But until someone is ready to get "help, we need to make sure they have the tools necessary to prevent a lethal overdose."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of psychedelics, Senate Bill 519, has passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now headed for a Senate floor vote. The bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing or sharing numerous psychedelics -- including psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ibogaine, LSD and MDMA -- for adults 21 and older. Mescaline derived from peyote is not included because of concerns about its scarcity for Native American Church religious purposes.

MN House Votes to Legalize Marijuana, AZ Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test-Strips Goes to Governor, More... (5/14/21)

A Mississippi appeals court upholds a life sentence for a man busted with 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the Minnesota House votes to legalize marijuana, a South Carolina medical marijuana bill dies, and more.

Allen Russell is doing life without parole in Mississippi for 1.5 ounces of weed.
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Protect Marijuana Users from Losing Public Housing Filed. Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) has refiled a bill that would let people who live in federally subsidized housing use marijuana in compliance with state laws without fear of losing their housing. Under current federal law and policy, marijuana users can be evicted from public housing even in states where it is legal. "Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or fear eviction, for using a legal product," Norton said on Thursday. "Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana." The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Minnesota House Votes to Legalize Marijuana. The House on Thursday evening approved an omnibus marijuana legalization bill, House File 600. The bill would legalize weed for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The bill has the support of Gov. Tim Walz (D), but faces dim prospects in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Mississippi Man's Life Sentence for Marijuana Possession Upheld. A state appeals court on Tuesday upheld a life without parole sentence for Allen Russell after he was arrested with 1.5 ounces of marijuana in 2017. His sentence came after he was designated a habitual offender for having previous burglary and firearms possession convictions. The usual sentence for possessing 1.5 ounces of marijuana is up to three years in prison.

Medical Marijuana                                                   

Nebraska Activists Relaunch Medical Marijuana Initiative After Legislature Blocks Bill. After medical marijuana foes in the legislature filibustered and killed a bill there on Wednesday, activists aren't wasting a minute in relaunching a campaign to put the issue before voters next year. State Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who led the legislative effort, took to Twitter Thursday to urge supporters to go to a website to volunteer and/or sign the petition.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Killed. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, has died as the legislative session came to an end Friday. "Quite frankly, I thought this was the year of medical marijuana, which I think has great public support," said Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. "That will be at the top of the agenda when we come back."

Harm Reduction

Arizona Bill Legalizing Drug-Testing Strips Heads to Governor's Desk. The House has approved a bill that legalizes test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl, SB1486. Under current state law, the strips are considered drug paraphernalia. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

Mexico MJ Legalization Hits Senate Snag, CDC OKs Fed Funds for Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (4/9/21)

A bill to decriminalize buprenorphine is heading for the Vermont Senate, New Zealand makes a pilot pill testing program permanent, and more.

A deadly amount of fentanyl. The White House has approved federal funds for test strips to prevent overdoses. (DEA)
Harm Reduction

Biden Administration Allows Federal Funds to Be Used to Buy Rapid Fentanyl Test Strips. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) announced Thursday that federal funds can now be used to purchase rapid fentanyl test strips. According to a press release, organizations previously awarded funding through the CDC's Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement program can use funds to purchase the test strips. SAMSHA grants can be used to buy the strips so long as doing so aligns with "the purpose of the grant," a CDC spokesperson explained. "This is a major step forward in the ongoing and critical work to prevent overdose and connect people who have substance use disorders to evidence-based treatment options," said Tom Coderre, the interim leader at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). "This will save lives by providing tools to identify the growing presence of fentanyl in the nation's illicit drug supply."

Vermont House Approves Bill Decriminalizing Buprenorphine. The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve House Bill 225, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid dependence. The bill would people to possess up to 224 milligrams of the drug -- about two weeks' worth -- even if they don't have a doctor's prescription. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Hits Last-Minute Snag, Another Extension May Be Sought. The bill, which is just a Senate vote away from passage after being approved in the Senate and then amended in the Chamber of Deputies, has run into opposition from senators unhappy with the revised version of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal said Thursday he may seek an extension of the Supreme Court's latest deadline to end marijuana prohibition, which the court has held is unconstitutional. Under the current deadline, lawmakers only have until the end of the month to get it done. Now, action could be delayed until the legislature meets again in September.

New Zealand Makes Pill Testing Program Permanent. Pleased with the results of a one-year pilot program to allow drug users to get their drugs tested without penalty, the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday that it is making the program permanent. During the pilot program, nearly half of all samples tested contained contaminants, with cathinones being especially common in pills marketed as MDMA. The pill (or powder) testing has most commonly taken place at music festivals.

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