2020

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NE MedMJ Activists Take Aim at 2022, Study Finds Heroin, Fentanyl Use Up During Pandemic, More... (10/16/20)

Virginia's governor signs a minor marijuana reform bill into, the Mexican government has captured a major cartel leader, heroin and fentanyl use is up during the pandemic, and more. 

Fentanyl use has gone up during the COVID pandemic, data from Quest Diagnostics shows. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Governor Signs Marijuana Reform Bill into Law. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed into law a bill, SB 5013, that will allow people to issued summonses for decriminalized marijuana possession to prepay their fines rather than having to show up in court. Other marijuana-related bills are still alive in the session, including one already on the governor's desk that would bar police from conducting searches bases solely on the odor of marijuana and a set of competing expungement proposals that are now in conference committee.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Legalization Activists Get Working on 2022. After qualifying for the 2020 ballot and then getting stiffed by the state Supreme Court, which held that the initiative embraced more than one subject, the two state senators who lead Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld, recently filed new petition language with Secretary of State Bob Evnen for voters to consider for the 2022 ballot. The new language is simple and straightforward: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes." Now, they will have to recreate the successful 2020 signature-gathering campaign to get back on the ballot in 2022.

Drug Policy

Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Study Finds Fentanyl and Heroin Misuse Skyrockets During COVID-19 Pandemic. A new Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study indicates that misuse of fentanyl, heroin and nonprescribed opioids are on the rise, potentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on healthcare access and support for individuals most at-risk for substance use disorder. The full study, from researchers at Quest Diagnostics and published online in the peer reviewed journal Population Health Management, can be found here. The researchers compared testing positivity rates for January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020 (during the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak). Among individuals tested, the drug positivity rate increased 35% for non-prescribed fentanyl and 44% for heroin during the pandemic compared to the period prior to the pandemic. Nonprescribed opioids also increased, by 10%. The study also found a massive surge in the positivity rate of drug combining with non-prescribed fentanyl during the pandemic compared to prior to the pandemic. Positivity for non-prescribed fentanyl increased substantially among specimens that were also positive for amphetamines (by 89%), benzodiazepines (48%), cocaine (34%), and opiates (39%; P <0.01 for all comparisons).

International

Mexico Captures Major Cartel Leader. Mexican security forces have captured the head of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, Guanajuato Gov. Diego Sinhue announced Wednesday night. Adan Ochoa, known as "El Azul," rose to lead the cartel after the capture of its former leader Jose Antonio Yepez, known as "El Marro." The cartel has been involved in violent conflict with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over which will control the drug trade in the central Mexican state.

AZ, MT Marijuana Legalization Polls, NM MedMJ Reciprocity Expansion, British Drug Deaths Up, More... (10/15/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance is in a new push to move the MORE Act, there are new polls on the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives, and more. 

Turnout is going to be crucial for the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Drug Policy Alliance & JustLeadershipUSA Lead Extensive Coalition of Organizations Representing Directly Impacted People in Calling on Congress to Support Marijuana Reform. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) Thursday led a group of 34 organizations founded and led by people directly impacted by the country’s criminal legal system in urging members of Congress to support comprehensive marijuana reform by passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) when it comes up for a vote on the House floor following the November 2020 election.. They sent a letter to Congress that argues that ending marijuana prohibition through the MORE Act is critical to addressing extensive racial disparities within the criminal legal system and providing economic relief for the communities that have borne the brunt of these draconian drug policies, creating a clear pathway for them to participate and benefit from the legal marijuana economy.

Arizona Polls Have Marijuana Legalization Initiative with Majority Support. Two new polls have Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act at over 50% support. A poll from OH Predictive Insights has the measure winning 55% to 37%, while a new Monmouth University poll has it winning 56% to 36%, up five points from a previous Monmouth poll last month.

Montana Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Leading, But Still Under 50%. A new Montana poll has the  I-190 and CI-118 marijuana legalization initiatives with 49% support from likely voters, with 39% opposed, 10% undecided, and 2% saying they will not vote on the initiatives. That means the initiatives must pick up at least one out of five undecided voters to get over the top.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Judge Orders State Health Department to Loosen Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Rules. First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson in Santa Fe ruled Tuesday that reciprocal medical marijuana patients can buy, possess and use medical marijuana in New Mexico, regardless of whether their identification matches the state where their medical recommendation to use cannabis came from. His order will also allow New Mexicans to get a recommendation to use medical marijuana from another state and become a reciprocal patient in New Mexico. 

International

England and Wales Had Record High Fatal Drug Overdose Levels Last Year. The British Office for National Statistics reported Thursday that drug-related deaths hit a record high last year in England and Wales. There were 4,393 drug-poisoning deaths in England and Wales in 2019, compared with 4,359 in 2018, the highest number since comparable records began in 1993. The rate of drug deaths for men actually declined, but that for women increased.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Supreme Court Won't Hear Marijuana Rescheduling Case, New Zealand Marijuana Vote Saturday, More... (10/14/20)

The Supreme Court slaps down the latest effort to reschedule marijuana, Pennsylvania's governor is again calling on the legislature to legalize marijuana, New Zealand votes on marijuana legalization on Saturday, and more.

Marijuana Policy

US Supreme Court Won't Hear Marijuana Legalization Case. The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a case arguing that marijuana's classification as a Schedule I controlled substance is unconstitutional. The three-year-old case was filed by former NFL player Marvin Washington and several other medical marijuana patients. The 2nd US Circuit Court had dismissed the case after the plaintiffs rejected an offer to ask the DEA to voluntarily reschedule the drug, and the plaintiffs then sought review by the Supreme Court. They didn't get it.

Montana Catholic Bishops Urge No Vote on Marijuana Legalization. The Montana Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, has released a statement urging a "no" vote on the state's marijuana legalization initiatives. I-190 would legalize marijuana, while CI-118 would amend the state constitution to allow for the age of majority -- set at 18 -- to be raised for marijuana as it is for alcohol. Legalizing marijuana would be "a threat to the flourishing" of Montanans, especially "the young, the poor, and those who struggle with either substance abuse or mental health challenges," the bishops wrote.

Pennsylvania Governor Reiterates Call for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Tom Wolfe (D) called again on Tuesday for marijuana to be legalized, saying it would help shore up the state's economy. He said he would renew calls on the state legislature to move on marijuana legalization. "I'm here today to ask once again to focus on two particular benefits or legalization: one, the potential economic benefit that Pennsylvania would get and second, the much-needed restorative justice [related to criminalization]," Wolf said. "The growth of the adult-use cannabis industry would help provide jobs, of course, and bolster our economy -- and the revenue from the industry could be used to help support Pennsylvania's small businesses that have suffered because of the pandemic."

International

New Zealand To Vote on Marijuana Legalization Saturday. New Zealanders will vote Saturday in a nationwide referendum on whether to legalize marijuana for people 20 and over. If the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill wins public support, the parliament would then be required to set rules and regulations for the commercial production and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. Polling has the population evenly split on the issue.

The Psychedelic Revolution is Coming to the Ballot Box -- This Year [FEATURE]

The psychedelic renaissance that has been emerging in recent years will finally get a chance to be ratified by voters in November. On one side of the country, Oregon will be voting on an initiative to legalize the strictly regulated therapeutic use of psilocybin, while on the other side of the country, Washington, DC will be voting on an initiative that essentially (but not formally) decriminalizes a whole range of plant- or fungi-based psychoactive substances, from ayahuasca to peyote and magic mushrooms.

The measures build on nascent efforts to get city governments to ease access to psychedelics, moves that have so far seen success in Denver, which in 2019 made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, and Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor, which have followed this year. Most -- but not all -- of this activity is taking place under the rubric of Decriminalize Nature, which describes its mission as "to improve human health and well-being by decriminalizing and expanding access to entheogenic plants and fungi through political and community organizing, education, and advocacy."

The Oregon initiative, Measure 109, isn't part of that. Also known as the Psilocybin Services Act, it would create a program to allow the administration of psilocybin products, such as magic mushrooms, to adults 21 and over for therapeutic purposes. People would be allowed to buy, possess, and consume psilocybin at a psilocybin services center, but only after undergoing a preparation session and under the supervision of a psilocybin service facilitator.

The measure would direct the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to develop a program and create regulations for it within two years. The OHA would also be responsible for determining who could be licensed as a facilitator and what qualifications and training they would need, as well as creating a code of professional conduct for facilitators. And the OHA would also set dosage standards and come up with rules for labeling and packaging.

The measure also bars the establishment of psilocybin service centers within residential areas inside city or town limits and gives local governments the ability to ban them in unincorporated areas within their jurisdictions.

The initiative is the brainchild of Portland psychotherapists Tom and Sheri Eckert, who formed the Oregon Psilocybin Society in 2016 and are the co-chief petitioners for the measure. Unlike the broader psychedelic reform movement, their goal is strictly limited to therapeutic ends.

"We see psilocybin therapy as an end in itself. We see the measure as a template and we plan to help organize the new profession and spread the template in the years to come," Tom Eckert said in an email interview.

"A growing body of research suggests that 'psilocybin' -- a natural compound found in many species of mushrooms -- can, as part of therapy, help relieve a variety of mental health issues, including depression, existential anxiety, addictions, and the lingering effects of trauma," Eckert explained. "Psilocybin therapy demonstrates an excellent safety record and often achieves lasting results after just one or two psilocybin sessions."

While the campaign has an impressive list of endorsers, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the state Democratic Party, four state senators, and a raft of state and national social justice, civil rights, and drug reform groups, it is also catching flak from some in the Decriminalize Nature movement.

In a Facebook post, Decriminalize Nature Portland lambasted Measure 109: "This initiative would create one more medical model which serves the privileged members in society and makes it harder for the most vulnerable people to heal. The cost and hard-to-access system being created by M109 would make it very difficult for lower income people, indigenous communities, immigrants, undocumented people, people who cannot afford an ID, and non-English speaking populations to gain entry into the closed and privileged system being created by this measure. We are concerned about the implications of an elite group of beneficiaries putting a free medicine that grows naturally out of the ground behind a paywall," the group said.

"The greatest danger of M109 is that it would create a special class of permit-holders who would be motivated to lobby to prevent progressive measures such as those passed in Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Ann Arbor, which are designed to enable access to the most vulnerable people by enabling them to grow, gather, gift, and share their own entheogenic plants and fungi," they argued.

When asked how the campaign responds to critiques like that from Decriminalize Nature Portland, Eckert was terse and blunt: "We don't," he said.

(It should be noted that at the same time Oregonians are voting on the psilocybin initiative, they are also voting on Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs -- including psychedelics.)

Instead, the campaign is relying on a big budget, support from medical figures, and a lack of organized opposition to find a path to victory. The campaign has raised nearly $3 million, with more than $2.5 million of that coming from the New Approach PAC, which supports marijuana and drug reform efforts around the country, and one of whose major donors is David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

"We are extremely appreciative of the support extended by the whole Bronner family," Eckert said. "David is intimately involved as part of our executive committee and is a great friend. Dr. Bronner's is a towering example of a conscious company and steward of the Earth."

Will Measure 109 win in November? The only known poll on the issue, from DHM Research in January 2019, had it in a dead heat, with 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Eckert said the campaign has done internal polling but didn't reveal any results. "What I can tell you is that it's close," he said. "Back in 2015, when we first took aim at 2020, this was basically 'mission impossible.' Now we have a real and historic opportunity and we're excited to finish the job."

Back on the East Coast, residents of the nation's capital will be voting on Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungi Policy Act of 2020. That measure would have police treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of natural plant medicines (entheogens) as their lowest law enforcement priority. The measure also ask the city's top prosecutor and its US Attorney to not prosecute such cases.

It looks likely to win. The measure has been endorsed by the DC Democratic Party, and according to a September FM3 poll, when read the ballot language, 60 percent of likely voters supported it. That figure jumped to 64 percent when respondents were given a plain-language explanation of the measure.

The initiative is also well-financed, with the New Approach PAC kicking in nearly half a million dollars. There are no registered opposition campaign committees.

For Initiative 81's chief petitioner and campaigns spokesperson Melissa Lavasani, the measure is an outgrowth of her own personal story.

"How I got here was that I healed myself from post-partum depression with psychedelics," she said in a phone interview. "I had no mental health issues like that before, nor did I have any experience with psychedelics. I had an image of psychedelics shaped by propaganda. But then I listened to Joe Rogan when he had [mushroom maestro] Paul Stamets on. My husband grew up in the South and he said it was common to pick mushrooms and eat them, and he said the podcast made a lot of sense. So we decided to give it a try," she related.

"I was insistent on not taking pharmaceutical antidepressants because I saw one friend take his life on them and saw others have their personalities changed. I was a career woman and growing my family. I had a lot to lose, but I tried microdosing, and within a few days I was shocked at how quickly it worked. I was interacting differently with people and the change was so profound," Lavasani continued.

"At the same time, I was watching the Denver magic mushroom campaign -- and Oakland and Santa Cruz quickly followed -- and got inspired. My husband worked for a city council member, and DC was on the forefront of marijuana reform, so why not be a leader on psychedelic reform?"

"I never thought I would be doing this, but this issue is extremely important. How many people in my demographic are on medications? When you did into the research, you see these therapies are extremely effective, so I asked why aren' we acting on this. Our health care system doesn't address these serious mental health issues."

Lavasani acknowledged that passage of the measure would chip only a few flakes from the façade of drug prohibition, but said you have to start somewhere.

"Our measure is a very small step, it's just asking for the Metro police to make it the lowest law enforcement priority so that someone cultivating psilocybin or other substances at home is provided a layer of protection knowing the police won't came after them. I lived in fear and secrecy because I was in possession of a controlled substance. I don't want others to have to do that," she said.

"We are limited in the District because of congressional oversight," Lavasani explained. "We've been talking to allies in Congress while campaigning, and if we win, and the Democrats take the majority in the Senate, we can get restrictive riders removed, and then we can take it further.

"This campaign is a good start, but there's a lot more work to do," she said. "We're okay with it being a first step. When we start talking about psychedelics, the first thing the black community thinks of is PCP. We have to undo a lot of that, so we're out in the community talking to people about plant medicines and talking about what kind of infrastructure we need to stay safe."

The measure's endorsement by the DC Democratic Party showed how attitudes are changing, and quickly, Lavasani said.

"This was a safe yes for the DC Democrats," she noted. "They learned a lesson from cannabis reform -- when it happened it happened very quickly. You know, police reform is on the top of everyone's list right now, and this is the only thing on the ballot that touches on that. The majority of the party understood that the small step we're taking is a positive step toward ending the war on drugs. It's a no brainer -- we all know why it exists and it's time for us to make a change."

For David Bronner, both the Oregon and the DC initiatives are part of a broader push for psychedelic liberation -- and not just natural plant psychedelics.

"In my book, it's strategic because LSD has the most baggage and is the end game, but it's my favorite psychedelic," said Bronner. "'Plant medicines that you can grow naturally resonate with voters, and key stakeholders in the Decriminalize Nature movement definitely favor natural plant medicines versus synthetic psychedelics. I'm a fan of all of them and have experienced the incredible healing and spiritual power of both. It's important to note that the incredible clinical research with synthetic psilocybin at Johns Hopkins for end of life, anxiety, depression, and addiction is supporting the Decriminalize Nature movement," he added.

And this year's psychedelic initiatives are just the beginning, he said.

"Our hope in future election cycles, is to combine broad based treatment not jail and decriminalization (Measure 110 in Oregon) with the Decriminalize Nature ethos where the cutoffs for plant medicines are much higher or eliminated, and that also has a therapeutic psychedelic program like Measure 109 in Oregon, basically combining all three approaches into single state wide ballot measures in Washington and maybe Colorado in 2022," Bronner said.

But first, the movement needs to rack up a couple of victories this November.

NJ Police Chiefs Warn on Marijuana Legalization, European Drug Tends, More... (10/13/20)

Mississippi's Republican governor tries to undermine a medical marijuana initiative, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction has a new report out, and more.

Cocaine en route to Europe seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Police Chiefs Present Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization. In an open letter, the state Association of Chiefs of Police did not explicitly come out against the state's pending referendum on marijuana legalization, but instead presented several arguments designed to highlight its dangers. They wrote that marijuana is not "benign," warned of stoned drivers, claimed the black market is "stronger than ever" in legal states, and cited "unintended consequences" of legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Allowing FDA-Approved Cannabis Medications as Legalization Vote Looms. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) last week signed into law a bill that allows residents to use marijuana-derived medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The move comes as the state prepares to vote on a medical marijuana initiative and a watered-down version of it forwarded by the legislature. Reeves said he is "against efforts to make marijuana mainstream."

International

European Drug Report Shows Advances in Trans-Atlantic Drug Trafficking. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has released the European Drug Report 2020, which examines drug trafficking dynamics from 2018 to 2020. The big takeaways: Cocaine trafficking to Europe has boomed during the pandemic, greater quantities of higher quality cocaine are arriving, the cocaine market is expanding in Europe going back at least a decade, and European MDMA production keeps rising.

VA Bill to Limit Traffic Stops Goes to Governor, NJ Pot Poll Looking Good, More... (10/12/20)

The Arizona marijuana legalization initiative picks up a big endorsement, Michigan's governor signs a package of "clean slate" bills that includes expunging past pot offenses, and more.

A Virginia bill would bar police from making stops for small-time equipment infractions and searching based on the odor of weed.
Marijuana Policy

Arizona's Largest Newspaper Endorses Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The Arizona Republic, the state's largest circulation newspaper, has endorsed the Prop 207 marijuana legalization initiative. "The Arizona Republic recommends passage of Prop. 207 because we need to right an historic wrong -- to decriminalize marijuana use and put the responsibility back on individuals to choose wisely when it comes to low-grade substances such as marijuana and alcohol," the newspaper's editorial board wrote Sunday. It will be legal because the United States made a mistake when it chose to employ criminal law to control marijuana use -- an improper use of the government's most muscular authority," they wrote. "Now we're in the process of a state-by-state correction."

Michigan Governor Signs Bill to Expunge Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed six "clean slate" bills, including one that will allow past marijuana offenders to have their offenses expunged from their records. The bill doesn't apply to felony convictions that earned a sentence of 10 years or more. "This is a historic day in Michigan. These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders," said Governor Whitmer.

New Jersey Poll Shows Marijuana Legalization Initiative Doing Well. A new Farleigh Dickinson University poll has the state's marijuana legalization initiative winning the support of 61% of likely voters and those who have already voted. Only 29% were opposed. That leaves 10% undecided, but if the poll is accurate, even if every undecided voter voted "no," the measure would still pass.

Law Enforcement

Virginia Bill to Limit Police Traffic Stops Goes to Governor. The General Assembly has approved HB 5058, which would bar police from stopping drivers for a wide range of small-time vehicle equipment infractions and block them from searching vehicles on the basis that police smell marijuana coming from the vehicle. "This might be the most significant reform of the state's criminal justice system in decades," said Arlington Public Defender Brad Haywood, executive director of Justice Forward Virginia, a reform coalition that helped to spearhead the legislation. "his is a big step forward for racial justice in Virginia." It is now up to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to sign the bill.

CDC Reports on Rising Cocaine Overdoses, Mexico Poppy Farmers Vow to Fight Eradication, More... (10/9/20)

South Dakota's marijuana legalization initiative picks up support from a leading state political figure, the CDC says cocaine overdose deaths nearly tripled between 2013 and 2018, and more.

Cocaine overdose deaths rose dramatically between 2013 and 2018, the CDC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Eradicated More Than A Million Illegal Pot Plants This Year. The state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting has eradicated 1.1 million plants at 455 different grow sites this year. The campaign also racked up 140 arrests and the seizure of 174 weapons. Southern California's Riverside County yielded some 293,000 plants -- the biggest haul -- while Northern California's Tulare, Trinity, Lake and Siskiyou counties rounded out the top five.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Supports South Dakota Marijuana Legalization. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D), who represented the state in the Congress for nearly three decades, has come out in support of the Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative. "I did not advocate for legal marijuana while I served in the Senate but, like many other Americans, my viewpoint has vastly evolved in recent years, and my passion for improving how our society delivers health care as well as pioneering social and political change has never been stronger," Daschle said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Cocaine

Cocaine Overdose Deaths Rising Dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that cocaine overdose deaths have nearly tripled over five years, rising at an average rate of 27% per year from 2013 to 2018. "While much attention has been given to the increase in drug overdose deaths involving opioids, it's also important to recognize that deaths involving other drugs, such as cocaine, have also increased in recent years," said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, lead researcher and injury epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

International

Mexico Opium Farmers Vow to Stop Military from Burning Poppies. Saying authorities have failed to deliver educational, health, and road improvements, residents of 33 communities in the state of Guerrero have pledged they will not allow the military to destroy their poppy fields. They say that opium cultivation is their only source of income. Farmers have proposed blocking the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway and the one linking Chilpancingo and Iguala and warned that if anything happens to military aerial eradication helicopters or military personnel engaged in eradication it would be the fault of the federal government. "We are determined to prevent our poppy plantations from being destroyed whether it is by air or land," said a document agreed to by the villagers.

Oregonian Endorses Drug Decrim Measure, Mexico Cartel Post-COVID Threat, More... (10/7/20)

Arizona may relax its past marijuana use rules for police applicants, the International Crisis Group calls out the Colombian government over the assassination of hundreds of activists and human rights workers, and more.

Violence and targeted killings continue to plague the Colombian countryside. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Police Board Proposes Relaxing Rules on Past Marijuana Use for Would-Be Cops. The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, the organization that certifies all police officers in the state, has recommended relaxing the rules for past marijuana use for people applying to become a police officer. Under the current rules, applicants cannot have used marijuana within the past three years, cannot have used it more than 20 times, and cannot have used it more than five times after turning 21. Under the new proposal, applicants cannot have used marijuana within the past two years. The other requirements related to marijuana use have vanished.

Drug Policy

Oregon's Biggest Newspaper Endorses Measure 110 Decriminalization and Drug Treatment Initiative. The editorial board of the Oregonian, the state's oldest and largest newspaper, endorsed the Measure 110 drug decriminalization and drug treatment initiative on Wednesday. The Oregonian emphasized the drug treatment aspects of the measure and excoriated the legislature for failing to address the state's lack of drug treatment services. "Lawmakers' failure to appropriately fund addiction and recovery services -- investments that would pay dividends in addressing a common factor in child abuse, homelessness and other issues -- merits supporting the measure," the Oregonian wrote. "While some opponents credit the criminal justice system for helping force those with addictions into treatment, it's not showing the widespread success that this state needs. Broadening access to services so that adults -- and juveniles -- can easily get assistance is a public health solution more closely tied with what is ultimately a public health problem. Oregonians should make clear this is a priority for the state and vote 'yes' on Measure 110."

International

Colombian Government Must Protect Communities to Stop Killings of Activists, International Crisis Group Says in New Report. At least 415 human rights and community activists have been killed since January 2016, and the government is not doing enough about it, the International Crisis Group said in a report released Tuesday. The group said the government must prioritize communities' safety over military operations against armed groups and coca eradication efforts. The government must also implement rural reforms to offer alternatives to coca growing and should widen demobilization efforts, the group added. "Without abandoning the goal of dismantling armed groups, Colombia should offer their members realistic pathways back into civilian life through negotiated collective demobilization," the report said."

Mexican Cartels Pose New National Security Threat Post-COVID, Researchers Say. Organized crime has expanded its influence in Mexico during the coronavirus crisis by offering food and other services the government has failed to provide, according to three researchers who have studied the impact of the pandemic on crime rates in the nation's capital. They also point to rising youth unemployment as providing a "fertile field" for the expansion of cartels in the pandemic's aftermath. With increasing poverty levels and a shrinking GDP because of the pandemic, the cartels are well-placed to threaten national security, they said. "Under this adverse economic scenario, once a vaccine becomes available, we expect conventional crime to resume and organized crime to increase even more," said the study. "If this comes true, it could jeopardize the Mexican government's main functions and turn this social situation into a national security issue."

OR Drug Decrim Init Gets Chan/Zuckerberg Donation, DC Dems Endorse Psychedelic Initiative, More... (10/6/20)

Facebook's founder kicks in half a million dollars for Oregon drug decriminalization, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition launches a national dialog on the overdose crisis and COVID, a group of French MPs show their reactionary side, and more.

Peyote buttons and other natural psychedelics would be effectively decriminalized by a DC initiative. (Creative Commons)
Drug Policy

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Backs Drug Decriminalization in Oregon With $500K, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated $500,000 in support of Oregon's Measure 110, the drug treatment and decriminalization initiative. That makes them the second largest donors to the effort, behind Drug Policy Action, the political and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has kicked in $850,000.

Psychedelics

DC Democrats Endorse Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative. The Democratic Party of the District of Columbia has formally endorsed Initiative 81, which would effectively decriminalize a range of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, and peyote. After a presentation from Decriminalize Nature DC last week, party delegates approved the endorsement by a vote of 23-10.

International

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition Launches National Dialogue Series on the Overdose Crisis and COVID-19. In response to the country's ongoing overdose crisis amid the pandemic, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition at Simon Fraser University, in partnership with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, is launching Getting to Tomorrow: Ending the Overdose Crisis -- 18 public health dialogues across Canada over the next two years aimed at identifying and moving towards solutions to the overdose crisis, in the context of COVID-19, by building consensus and shared meaning. "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the illegal drug toxicity death crisis as a catastrophic failure of Canada's current approach to drugs. Governments have moved mountains in response to the COVID-19 pandemic while a coherent pan-Canadian approach to over 15,000 overdose deaths in the past four and a half years has failed to materialize," said Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. "We hope the Getting to Tomorrow dialogue series will inform, engage, and inspire Canadians to become more involved in building a new approach to drugs based on principles of public health and human rights, and lead to improved health and safety for all in our communities."

French MPs Hit Out Against Proposed Marijuana Legalization. Some 80 members of parliament have written an open letter against marijuana legalization after renewed debate on the topic started last week. "There is no 'soft drug'. Drugs are a poison, a plague that we must fight," they wrote. Some MPs had called for legalization as a means of undercutting drug dealers, but this group was having none of it: "Legalizing the sale of cannabis will make current dealers turn towards other, even more dangerous substances. Just because law enforcement struggles to keep up with dealers, doesn't mean that we should legalize the practice," they wrote. They see marijuana and other drugs as the cause of "psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, school failure, dropping out of school, dropping out of society." It concluded by quoting Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who said "drugs are shit."

Mexico Cartel Hitmen Gun Down Six Police Officers in Durango. Gunmen believed to be with the Sinaloa Cartel ambushed a policy convoy in Durango state last Thursday near the town of El Mezquital, killing six officers and leaving seven wounded. Vehicles abandoned by the attackers contained bloodstains, suggesting that some of them had been injured as well.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

VT Battle Over Marijuana Bill, Key Mexico Leader Vows Marijuana Legalization Bill Passage by December, More... (10/5/20)

Another Arizona poll muddies the waters on support for marijuana legalization, pressure is mounting on Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) to sign or veto the state's marijuana sales bill, and more.

Will Mexico actually legalize marijuana by December? Stay tuned.
Marijuana Policy

New Arizona Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Still Ahead, But Under 50%. The polling is getting wacky in Arizona. Last week, one pollster had Prop 207 winning with 57% of the vote while another had the measure at 50%, with 34% opposed. Now, a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll has the measure with 45.6% support, with 34.2% opposed and 19% undecided. If this latest poll is accurate, Prop 207 needs at least a quarter of those undecideds to break in its favor.

Vermont Racial Justice Group Condemns Marijuana Legalization Bill. The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance led several dozen protestors at a Sunday rally at the statehouse to call on Gov. Phil Scott (R) to veto the marijuana legalization bill, SB 54. The group argues that the bill fails to address the impact of systemic racism on the state's marijuana industry as well as the historical disproportionate impact marijuana prohibition has had on communities of color. The Vermont Growers Association also opposes the bill, saying it would be detrimental to the state's current illicit growers because it offers no way for them to transition to the legal marijuana market.

Vermont Coalition of Justice Organizations Urge Governor to Sign Cannabis Bills. Five justice organizations -- ACLU of Vermont, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Middlebury Showing Up for Racial Justice, Women's Justice and Freedom Initiative, and the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana -- issued a statement Monday urging Gov. Phil Scott (R) to sign SB 54 and accompanying expungement legislation into law. It notes, "Taken together, these bills will make huge strides towards addressing the racist legacy of cannabis prohibition and disparate enforcement of our current cannabis laws." They urge Gov. Scott to sign this bill into law, and, as the bill is implemented, ensure that the promises of racial justice are given full effect.

Psychedelics

Michigan Prosecutor Not Pursuing Psychedelics Possession Cases After Decriminalization Vote. Incoming Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit, who is running unopposed for election, has told the Ann Arbor branch of Decriminalize Nature that in the wake of the Ann Arbor city council voting to essentially decriminalize the possession of psychedelics he would not pursue any cases of simple psychedelic possession. He also called the war on drugs "a terrible failure."

International

Mexico Senate Leader Expects Marijuana Legalization to Pass in December. Ricardo Monreal, leader of the ruling MORENA Party in the Senate has said he expects marijuana legalization to be approved by December. The Supreme Court has given lawmakers a deadline of December 15 to get it done. This after two previous Supreme Court deadlines have come and gone. He said Amsterdam-style on-site consumption would not be allowed, but marijuana would be sold at private, strictly regulated "sale and distribution centers."

Mexican Marijuana Legalization Campaigners Take Fight to Senate's Doorstep. Activists have planted and nurtured a thriving marijuana garden right next to one of the Senate entrances as part of a campaign to pressure the legislature body to get legalization done. The plants are now about eight feet tall. The plants will not be harvested, but the two dozen young people who tend them bring their own marijuana with them and toke up in the evenings. "The aim is to claim our rights as responsible consumers," said Enrique Espinoza, a 30-year-old member of the Mexican Cannabis Movement.

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