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Psychedelics at the Statehouse 2021 [FEATURE]

A new front in the war against the war on drugs has opened up. It has been less than two years since voters in Denver decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms, but since then, a number of cities have moved in a similar direction. More dramatically, in last November's elections, Oregon voted to allow the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the primary active ingredient in those mushrooms (as well as voting to decriminalize the possession of all drugs) and Washington, DC, voted to effectively decriminalize "natural entheogens" by making them the lowest law enforcement priority.

Psilocbye mexicana. A magic mushroom. (Creative Commons)
This year, psychedelic reform is making its way to statehouses around the country -- and it has already scored its first victory in New Jersey (see below). Spurred by the potential of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders as well as by the dawning recognition that these drugs are just not that dangerous, and just possibly the racial and class composition of psychedelic aficionados, the movement to end the war on psychedelics is buzzing like never before.

The movement is not without controversy even among drug reformers, with some decrying "psychedelic exceptionalism" and demanding the decriminalization of all drugs, and others wondering why natural psychedelics like psilocybin should be treated differently from synthetic ones like LSD, but those debates are for another article. Here, we simply marvel at the rapid movement on the psychedelic front as we review what is popping up in the state legislatures.

And here is what is going on (with a big tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment, which provides a list of marijuana, psychedelic, and other drug reform bills to its paying subscribers):

California -- Psychedelic Decriminalization

Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and three cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 519, which would make it legal for persons 21 and over to possess and share psilocybin and psilocyin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA. The bill would also mandate that the Department of Public Health create a working group to make recommendations to the legislature on the regulation and therapeutic use of these substances. The bill has been referred to the Public Safety and Health committees and is set for a hearing on April 6.

Connecticut -- Psilocybin Health Benefits Study

Rep. Josh Elliott (D-Hamden) and five cosponsors have filed HB 06296, which would create a task force to study the health benefits of psilocybin. The measure has been before the Joint Committee on Public Health since January 29.

Florida -- Therapeutic Psilocbyin

Reps. Mike Grieco (D-Miami-Dade) and Nick Duran (D-Miami-Dade) have filed HO549, which would create a path for the use of psilocybin as a mental health treatment by establishing a Psilocybin Advisory Board and ordering the Health Department to adopt rules and regulations and exceptions for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill would also make psilocybin possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. It is now in the Professions and Public Health Services Subcommittee of the Health and Human Services Committee, and has also been referred to two more subcommittees.

Iowa -- Therapeutic Psilocybin

Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham) has filed House File 636, which would create the Psilocybin Services Act with the Department of Public Health in charge of developing rules and regulations allowing for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin. The bill envisions licensed psilocybin service centers, psilocybin service facilitators, and psilocybin testing laboratories. It is currently before the Senate Public Safety Committee. The bill is a fallback for Shipley, whose earlier House File 459, which would have simply decriminalized psilocybin and psilocyin, has already been killed in subcommittee.

New Jersey -- Reducing Psilocybin Penalties

Senator Nick Scutari (D-Linden) filed S3256, which lessens the penalty for the possession of any amount of psilocybin from a third degree misdemeanor to a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The bill passed both the Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in February.

New York -- Psilocybin Decriminalization

Rep. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) has filed AO6065, which would decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin by deleting them from the state's register of controlled substances. The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee on March 8.

Texas -- Therapeutic Study

State Rep. Steve Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has filed House Bill 1802, which calls for a study by the Health Department and the Texas Medical Board of the therapeutic efficacy of alternative therapies including MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine for the treatment of mental health and other medical conditions, including chronic pain and migraines. The bill was referred to the House Public Health Committee on March 11.

Vermont -- Natural Psychedelic Decriminalization

Rep. Brian Cina (D) and nine cosponsors have filed H0309, which would decriminalize the possession of ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, peyote, and psilocybin and psilocin and "any plants or fungi containing the substances" by removing them from the state's schedule of regulated drugs. The bill has been in the Committee on the Judiciary since February.

We will have to check back on this once the legislators have gone home.

CA Coerced Treatment Bill Draws Opposition, WY Committee Advances Marijuana Legalization, More... (3/15/21)

New Mexico lawmakers have less than a week to get their act together and legalize marijuana, Republican US senators target drug cartels with a new bill, a fight is brewing over no-knock raids and warrants in the Kentucky House, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are now the lowest law enforcement priority in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Hits Stalemate on Marijuana Legalization. With the legislative session set to end this week, lawmakers remained at loggerheads Monday over two competing marijuana legalization bills. A hearing set for Sunday was called off minutes before it was set to begin, as lawmakers diverge on issues around taxations, licensing, and expungement for past convictions. The two measures under consideration are Senate Bill 288 and House Bill12.

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Judiciary Committee voted last Friday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 209. That is the first time any marijuana legalization effort has advanced in the state legislature. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Deprioritization Initiative Now in Effect. As of Monday, possession or use of a wide range of natural psychedelics is now the lowest priority for law enforcement in the nation's capital. That's because a voter-approved natural psychedelic initiative has gone into effect.

Law Enforcement

GOP Senators File Bill Targeting Drug Cartels. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI). The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). "Criminal organizations and drug cartels that terrorize our communities and wage war at our borders ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the US government. This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups-and anyone who helps them-face dire consequences for their actions," said Cotton. The bill is not yet avialable on the congressional web site.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Allow Forced Drug Treatment for Drug Offenders. A bill that would allow a pilot "secured residential treatment program" in Yolo County, near Sacramento, is drawing increasing concern. Assembly Bill 1542, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would "authorize the court to divert an offender to confinement in a secured residential treatment facility if it determines that the crime was caused in whole or in part by that individual's substance abuse." The bill has drawn the ire of critics such as JusticeLA, which warned that "AB 1542 would implement a pilot program in Yolo County that could easily become a statewide model and would jail houseless community members for misdemeanors such as trespassing and minor thefts under the guise of offering treatment," the group warned. "The pilot program tries to sell punishment as treatment. Our communities call for supportive services for people with mental health conditions, including those related to substance abuse -- not a new mode of incarceration."

Kentucky Bill Restricting No-Knock Raids Faces Amendments in House. In the wake of the killing of Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid last year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, which restricted no-knock warrants to cases where there is "clear and convincing" evidence of violent crime and to bar them between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Now the bill faces amendments from House Republicans and former police officers that would instead expand the use of such warrants. At the same time, House Democrats want to amend the bill to make it even more restrictive.

International

Four Mexican Police Officers Killed, Burned in Zacatecas. Presumed drug cartel gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the north-central state of Zacatecas, killing four officers, then pouring gasoline on their patrol car and burning their bodies. State police said late last Thursday they had captured seven attackers and killed two others. Police also said they discovered a drug cartel camp nearby. The state is increasingly a battle zone as remnant Zetas, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels and the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel fight for control.

Fed Bill Would End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity, SD MedMJ Will Happen on Schedule, More... (3/11/21)

The South Dakota Senate has blocked the governor's effort to delay the implemenation of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, the Mississippi House has killed a bill that would have substituted for the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative there, and more.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has authored a bill to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. (CC)
Medical Marijuana

Mississippi House Kills Substitute Medical Marijuana Bill. The House late Wednesday killed Senate Bill 2765, which had been filed as a more restrictive alternative to the medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November and now under challenge in the state Supreme Court.

South Dakota Senate Blocks Governor's Effort to Delay Medical Marijuana Rollout. The state Senate has killed Gov. Kristi Noem's (R) effort to delay implementation of the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November. The House had already passed House Bill 1100, which would have enacted the delay, but the Senate amended the bill to include immediate decriminalization, and when the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise on Wednesday, the bill died.

Sentencing

Bill to End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Awaits Action in Senate. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has filed S. 79, the EQUAL Act, to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. For years, the disparity was 100:1, but was reduced to 18:1 under legislation passed in the Obama era. This bill would end the disparity entirely, and it would allow for people still serving time for crack sentences under the old law to file motions for reduced sentences. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is sympathetic.

Biden AG Nominee Addresses Marijuana & Mandatory Minimums, El Chapo's Wife Busted at Dulles, More... (2/23/21)

Republcan legislators continue to try to wreak havoc with voter-approved marijuana initiatives, Judge Merrick Garland speaks out on marijuana and sentencing policy at his confirmation hearing, and more.

Attorney General nominee Judge Merrick Garland, here chatting with Sen. Chuck Schumer. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Attorney General Nominee Sets Gentler Line on Marijuana, Cites Discriminatory Enforcement. Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden's pick as attorney general, said Monday that prosecuting people complying with state marijuana laws is not "a useful use of limited resources" and that there is "a question of prioritization about resources and discretion" around the issue. Garland was responding to a question from Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also said during the hearing that the enforcement of marijuana prohibition is a "perfect example" of how the criminal justice system is racially biased and imposes disproportionate impacts on communities of color.

Montana GOP Bill Would Delay Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. Saying the voters' decision to legalize marijuana with a quick timeline "doesn't make any sense," State Representative Bill Mercer (R) has filed a bill that would push back the October 1 deadline until sometime in 2023. The bill is set to be heard this week in the House Business and Labor Committee.

Medicial Marijuana

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Supporters Float Compromise to Forestall GOP Effort to Delay Implementation. Supporters of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law are seeking to scale back Republican efforts to delay the implementation of the medical marijuana program. Lawmakers are considering House Bill 1100, which would form an interim committee to essentially rewrite the voter-approved law. The proposal moves back the deadline for implementing much of the measure to next January during the 2022 legislative session.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Illinois Bill Would Give Protection to Overdose Victims. Representative Janet Yang Rohr (D-Napierville) has filed House Bill 3445, which would mandate that people seeking assistance for a drug overdose would not be criminally charged or prosecuted if they make a good faith effort to seek drug treatment. It also includes language protecting parolees from having their status revoked in case of an overdose. The bill would expand a Good Samaritan law passed in 2012 to include the person who is actually overdosing.

Law Enforcement

El Chapo's Wife Busted on Drug Trafficking Charges at DC Airport. Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of imprisoned Mexican drug trafficking kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested Monday night after flying into Dulles International Airport. She faces federal charges of conspiring to help distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the US. She is accused of helping El Chapo continue to run his enterprise while behind bars. She is a joint US and Mexican citizen.

Sentencing

Biden Attorney General Nominee Endorses Ending Mandatory Minimums. Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden's nominee for attorney general, said Monday that he agrees with a Biden administration policy of ending the use of mandatory minimum sentences. His comments came in response to a question from Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and can be heard at the 28-minute mark of the linked video.

CA Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed, NJ Marijuana Mess Continues, More... (2/18/21)

A Minnesota marijuana legalization bill moves, Wisconsin's governor calls for legal marijuana, the South Dakota House quashes telehealth for medical marijuana patients, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins First Committee Vote. The House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee voted 10-7 Wednesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House File 600. The bill advanced on a partisan vote, with all Republicans opposed. Republicans control the state Senate, making the bill's prospects cloudy.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Standoff. Efforts to advance marijuana legalization implementation legislation remained stymied Thursday after a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on a "cleanup" bill was cancelled for the second day in a row. Legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) remain at loggerheads over how to handle underage marijuana possession. Now, Murphy will likely have to decide whether to approve two pending bills or veto them, which would contradict his campaign promise to legalize marijuana, as well as contradicting the will of the voters, who approved it in a referendum in November. "The governor has two bills on his desk that he has articulated problems with, and it doesn't appear that the Legislature is going to solve those problems," said Bill Caruso, an attorney and founding member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. The governor's deadline to act is noon Friday, although that could be pushed back to Monday.

Wisconsin Governor's Budget Plan Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Tuesday released a budget plan that includes legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. The move comes despite strong resistance in the Republican-controlled state legislature. "The Governor believes it is time to join other states, including two of our neighbors, who have legalized recreational marijuana," an explanatory document from his office said. The proposal would allow adults to possess up to two ounces and grow up to six plants at home.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Votes to Deny Telehealth for Medical Marijuana. The House voted 38-30 on Wednesday to defeat House Bill 1147, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to use telehealth to consult with practitioners in order to obtain recommendations. One Republican opponent called the idea "premature," while another called it "not ready for prime time." South Dakota okayed medical marijuana with 69% of the vote in November.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) filed Senate Bill 519, which would decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic drugs in the state. "People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs," Wiener said. "It's a health issue, not a criminal issue, and I hope that we get all the way there." The bill would also expunge criminal records for people convicted of psychedelic possession offenses and create a task force to address regulatory issues.

Asset Forfeiture

South Dakota Bill Would Limit Asset Forfeiture in Drug Cases. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 164, which would bar asset forfeiture in drug cases where the amount of the drug in question was no more than a personal use amount. The bill would originally have banned asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction but was amended in committee to strip out that section. Under the bill, it would take at least half a pound of marijuana to trigger asset forfeiture. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Senate Committee Approves Legalizing Drug Testing Strips. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has approved Senate Bill 1486, which would legalize the use of test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid which accounts for a majority overdose deaths in the US, mostly by people who didn't know they were taking it. The test strips are currently considered illegal drug paraphernalia. The bill now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Biden IRS Doesn't Support Pot Shop's Tax Fight, Myanmar Opium Down But Meth Is Up, More... (2/15/21)

South Dakota's Republican attorney general won't defend the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization amendment any further, a Michigan court rules people on probation can use medical marijuana, and more.

Meth is making big bucks for Asian crime syndicates, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Administration Opposes Marijuana Dispensary's Tax Fight for Supreme Court Review. In one of the first actions regarding marijuana in the Biden administration, the IRS has argued against a Denver-based dispensary, Standing Akimbo LLC, having its case heard in the US Supreme Court. The dispensary is seeking to challenge an IRS rule that business tax deductions cannot be taken by marijuana businesses because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming Soon. State Rep Ed Osienski (D-Newark) says he plans to submit a marijuana legalization bill by the time lawmakers return from their February break on March 9 and that he is optimistic about its prospects. "It's close, it's close," he said. "We're talking one or two votes" away from approval in the House." Gov. John Carney (D) has consistently opposed legalization, but Osienski is suggesting Carney could let the bill become law without signing it.

South Dakota Attorney General Will Not Join Appeal of Ruling That Marijuana Legalization Amendment Is Unconstitutional. Although the attorney general's office generally defends state laws when they are challenged in court, SD Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's (R) office will not help appeal a state judge's ruling that the marijuana legalization amendment passed by voters last November is unconstitutional. Ravnsborg's boss, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) opposes marijuana legalization. A deputy attorney general defended the amendment in lower court, and Ravnsborg's office says that satisfies the state law's requirements. An appeal to the state Supreme Court by attorneys associated with the campaign is ongoing.

(The South Dakota code states that ""... the attorney general shall... appear for the state and prosecute and defend all actions and proceedings, civil or criminal, in the Supreme Court, in which the state shall be interested as a party.")

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Appeals Court Upholds Right of People on Probation to Use Medical Marijuana. The state Court of Appeals has ruled that judges cannot prevent people from using medical marijuana as a condition of probation. The ruling came after a Traverse County district court judge barred Michael Thue from using medical marijuana while on probation, saying it was a policy of circuit court judges in the county. But the appeals court ruled that anyone who has a state-issued medical marijuana card is immune to such penalties.

Criminal Justice

Key Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Gets Booker, Cotton as Chair, Ranking Member. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Sunday that the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, where issues extremely relevant to drug and sentencing policy are the focus, will be chaired Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) named ranking member. Booker is a criminal justice and drug law reform stalwart; Cotton is one of the most regressive members of the Senate on criminal justice.

International

UNODC Reports That Myanmar Opium Production Drops While Meth Surges. A UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released last Thursday finds that opium production has dropped in Myanmar, the world's second-larges poppy producer after Afghanistan has dropped to around 405 metric tons, about half the amount recorded in 2013. Instead, the Golden Triangle drug trade is now dominated by methamphetamine production. "Opium production is down 11 to 12% on the previous year," said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional representative. "This decline is intimately linked to the surge of synthetic drugs."

Drug Companies Seek Big Tax Write-Offs for Opioid Settlements, VA Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (2/12/21)

South Dakota's obstinate governor continues to get in the way of marijuana legalization, a freshman Kansas state representative files a drug decriminalization bill, and more.

Pills, pills, pills. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Kentucky Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Campbell County) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 467. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce, provide free expungement of marijuana-related offenses, and dedicate up to 25% of the state's marijuana tax revenues to funding addiction treatment. Personal cultivation of up to five plants would be allowed but would require a $250 permit.

North Carolina Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. An Elon University poll released Thursday has support for marijuana legalization at 54%, with 34% opposed. That's a big swing in favor of legalization since 2017, when another Elon University poll had 51% opposed.

South Dakota Bill to Expunge Some Marijuana Convictions Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve Senate Bill 141, which would expunge some misdemeanor marijuana convictions from background checks. The bill would provide for the automatic expungement of marijuana possession convictions from public background reports. It still faces a Senate floor vote and action in the House.

South Dakota Governor Likely to Veto Any Marijuana Legalization Bills This Year. Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who has already moved to invalidate a voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative, said Thursday she would probably veto any effort to achieve legalization through the legislature. She said at a news conference she would "not be inclined" to sign such a bill. Some legislators have indicated support for a legalization bill, saying it would reflect the will of the voters.

Virginia Marijuana Legalization Effort Advances. With both chambers having already approved marijuana legalization bills last week, the House General Laws Committee this week approved Substitute Senate Bill 1406, which amends the Senate bill to conform with the House's legalization bill. The Senate bill had allowed localities to opt-out of retail marijuana sales, the House bill doesn't.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Companies Seek Billions in Tax Deductions from Opioid Settlement. A major pharmaceutical company and three drug distribution companies who have agreed to pay $26 billion to settle claims related to their role in stoking the opioid epidemic are now seeking to write off some of those costs from their taxes and pocket about $1 billion each. The companies are drug maker Johnson & Johnson and distributors Cardinal Health, Amerisource-Bergen, and McKesson.

Psychedelics

Texas Bill to Study Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelics Filed. Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) has filed a bill, HB 1802, that would mandate a state study of the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine in the treatment of certain mental health conditions. The Department of State Health Services would conduct the study along with the Texas Medical Board and issue a report by December 2022.

Drug Policy

Kansas Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Aaron Coleman (D-Kansas City), a 20-year-old freshman legislator, has filed a bill to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs. HB 2288 would make drug possession a civil offense punishable by a fine of $100, but it would also create the offense of "failure to comply with drug abuse treatment." The bill is currently before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

SD Judge Throws Out Marijuana Legalization Init, IL Drug Defelonization Bill Coming, More... (2/10/21)

A South Dakota court throws out the voter-approved marijuana legalization amendment, Idaho medical marijuana campaigners can begin signature-gathering for 2022, and more.

A bill to requiring reporting on COVID in federal prisons is about to be filed. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New National Poll Has Three-Fifths Saying Marijuana Legalization is a "Good Idea." A new national survey from Emerson College Polling has 61% of respondents saying marijuana legalization is a "good idea." The poll asked about various issues -- new pathways for citizenship, raising the minimum wage, for example -- but none had as much support as marijuana legalization.

Connecticut Bill Would Require "Labor Peace" for Marijuana Businesses. A bill now before the Labor and Public Employees Committee, HB 6377, would require that marijuana businesses enter into labor peace agreements with a union before being granted licenses. The bill would require an agreement "between a cannabis establishment and a bona fide labor organization that protects the state's interests by, at minimum, prohibiting the labor organization from engaging in picketing, work stoppages or boycotts against the cannabis establishment." Under the bill, marijuana employers would give up some rights, including the right to speak to employees about union organizing efforts.

South Dakota Judge Rejects Amendment Legalizing Marijuana. A circuit court judge in Pierre appointed by marijuana legalization opponent Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has thrown out the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana that was approved by 54% of the voters in November. The judge held that the measure violated the state's requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject and would have created broad changes to state government. Amendment sponsors led by former US Attorney Brendan Johnson said they would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Campaigners Cleared to Begin Signature Gathering for 2022 Medical Marijuana Initiative. Kind Idaho, the group leading the campaign for a 2022 medical marijuana initiative, has been cleared to begin signature gathering. A 2020 signature-gathering campaign was disrupted by the coronavirus and ultimately failed to back the ballot. This move comes as a medical marijuana bill has just been introduced in the legislature and as the legislature also considers legislation that would prevent the state from legalizing any currently illicit drugs.

South Dakota Governor Seeks Delay in Implementing Medical Marijuana Initiative. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said Wednesday that while she will not stand in the way of implementing a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, the state will need more time to get the program up and running. "We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly," Noem said. "The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time." Under state law, voter-approved ballot measures are supposed to take effect the following July 1, but Noem and the state's Republican legislative leadership say they will delay implementation until July 1, 2022.

Incarceration

Progressive Lawmakers Will Reintroduce COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act. United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) will reintroduce of the COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act, bicameral legislation that would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the United States Marshals Service (USMS), and state governments to collect and publicly report detailed data about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccinations in federal, state, and local correctional facilities. "As a result of their confinement, incarcerated people are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and reports show that COVID-19 has spread like wildfire in correctional facilities across the country. This bill takes a necessary step towards containing the pandemic and supporting the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, correctional staff, and the general public by strengthening data collection, reporting, and transparency," Senator Warren said.

Sentencing Policy

Illinois Drug Defelonization Bill Coming. Criminal justice reform advocates were thwarted in getting a drug defelonization bill passed in 2019, and now they are preparing to try again. The proposed bill would not only defelonize drug possession, it would also seek to divert drug users from the criminal justice system.

NJ Governor Signs Bill to Reduce Psilocybin Penalties, VA Drug Decrim Bill Killed, More... (2/8/21)

New Jersey reduces penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms, an Idaho medical marijuana bil lis filed, a Minnesota asset forfeiture reform bill advances, and more.

psilocybin molecule (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Deadline for Marijuana Legalization Legislation Extended. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) last Friday bumped back a procedural deadline for gubernatorial action on two already-passed marijuana legalization implementation and decriminalization measures from Monday to February 18. Governor Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders are making progress on changes to those bills to address concerns raised by the governor.

South Dakota Bill to Ban Smoking Marijuana in a Motor Vehicle Gets Hearing. A bill that would ban smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle got a hearing Monday. The bill, House Bill 1061, is a response to the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative that passed in November.

Wisconsin Governor Proposes Legalizing Marijuana. Governor Tony Evers (D) announced Sunday that he is proposing that the state legalize marijuana. Evers' plan would allow people 21 and over to possess up to two ounces and grow up to six plants, as well as set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Medical marijuana would be available for people 18 and over.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. The House Health and Welfare Committee has filed a bill to allow for medical marijuana in the state. In a hearing Friday, witnesses including a prominent medical oncologist urged support for the legislation. No action was taken.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Workers Can't Unionize, NLRB Rules. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has squashed an attempt to unionize workers at a medical marijuana facility near Philadelphia. Workers at the AgriKind growing operation cannot be unionized because they are agricultural workers, the NLRB held. Agricultural and farm workers are usually considered to be exempt from federal labor law. The NLRB has ruled in favor of unionizing marijuana workers if their work includes packaging or delivering marijuana.

Psychedelics

New Jersey Governor Signs Bill to Reduce Penalties for Psilocybin Possession. Governor Phil Murphy (D) has signed into law A 5084 / S 3256, which reduces the penalty for people caught with small amounts of psilocybin from up to five years in state prison to a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), who first introduced the mushroom amendment, said Thursday the change mushrooms are still illegal in New Jersey, "but it's not going to ruin lives for a first offense."

Asset Forfeiture

Minnesota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would limit cash seizures to amounts greater $1,500 unless drug trafficking is alleged and bar the seizure of vehicles except for repeat drunk driving offenders or vehicles used for drug trafficking -- not possession -- passed the House last Friday. HF 75 passed the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee and will now be considered by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee.

Sentencing

Virginia Drug Defelonization Bill Killed in Committee. A bill that would have eliminated felony drug possession charges and shift the focus toward drug treatment instead of punishment, House Bill 2303, was defeated in the Committee on Courts and Justice last Friday.

Purdue Consultant to Pay $573 Million in Settlements, Idaho Bill to Ban Marijuana Legalization Advances, More... (2/4/21)

Another massive settlement resulting from Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing of OxyContin, a Maryland marijuana legalization bill gets filed with support from the leadership, South Dakota lawmakers begin working to implement their marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Idaho Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marijuana Legalization.The state Senate on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would make it impossible for voters or legislators to legalize marijuana -- or any other drug not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 101, now heads to the House, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority. If it passes the House, it would then have to be approved by a simple majority of voters in the November 2022 election.

Maryland Senate President Cosponsors Marijuana Legalization Bill. Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D) is cosponsoring a marijuana bill, Senate Bill 708, that was introduced this week. Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chair Brian J. Feldman (D) is the lead sponsor, and he has several other powerful cosponsors, including Budget and Taxation Chair Guy J. Guzzone (D), Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith Jr (D), Vice-Chair Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D). The bill would tax and regulate marijuana sales, but also include several social equity provisions.

Oregon Marijuana Social Equity Bill Filed. A coalition of legislators has filed House Bill 3112, which is also backed by numerous marijuana companies, the NuLeaf Project, the Oregon Cannabis Association, the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, the City of Portland, Urban League, and law students from Willamette University. The bill would use marijuana tax revenues to invest in communities adversely affected by decades of marijuana prohibition. The bill includes automatic expungement of past marijuana convictions, direct investment in marijuana businesses owned by minorities and people with marijuana convictions, and equity licenses with reduced fees and modified requirements for those communities.

South Dakota Lawmakers Take Up Bill to Implement Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. A bill designed to implement taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, House Bill 1225, was filed Wednesday. Titled "An Act to establish provisions concerning the sale of adult-use retail marijuana," the bill contains 72 separate sections addressing a wide range of rules and regulations related to recreational marijuana. Also, a bipartisan group of legislators has formed a Cannabis Caucus to study issues around managing legalization. Meanwhile, a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative backed by Governor Kristi Noem (R) remains pending.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. The Senate Finance Committee has approved Senate Bill 2765, which would make medical marijuana available to people with specified debilitating and chronic diseases. Last November, voters approved a broader medical marijuana initiative, but it is being challenged in court. The bill sponsor says if the court strikes down the initiative, there will be a bill ready to replace it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Big Pharma Consulting Company Agrees to Pay $573 Million for Role in "Turbocharging" Prescription Opioid Sales, McKinsey & Company, a high-end consulting firm for big corporations, including major pharmaceutical companies, has agreed to pay $573 million to settle lawsuits that charged it with "turbocharging" the sale of prescription opioids. Attorneys general in 47 states, five US territories, and the District of Columbia sued the firm, unearthing documents showing how McKinsey worked to drive up the sales of Purdue Pharma's OxyContin -- even after Purdue pleaded guilty to federal charges of misleading doctors and regulators about OxyContin's risks.

Psychedelics

Cambridge Becomes Second Massachusetts City to Move to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The Cambridge city council voted Wednesday to decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics, following in the footsteps of Somerville, which passed a similar measure last month. The Cambridge resolution called for making enforcement of laws against the use and possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority, and it calls on police to stop arresting people for possessing or using any illicit drugs.

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