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OR Dems Endorse Drug Reform Inits, CA East Bay County Ends Drug Possession Prosecutions, More... (9/24/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance on the Breonna Taylor non-indictments, Oregon Democrats go all in for drug decriminalization and therapeutic psilocybin initiatives, and more.

If you get arrested for drug possession in Contra Costa County, CA, prosecutors will not file charges against you. (CC)
Drug Policy

Oregon Democratic Party Endorses Legal Psilocybin Therapy and Drug Decriminalization Ballot Measures. The state Democratic Party officially endorsed two statewide drug reform initiatives Wednesday. The party is getting behind both Measure 110, which would decriminalize drug possession, and Measure 109, the therapeutic psilocybin initiative.

Law Enforcement

Drug Policy Alliance Statement on Release of Grand Jury’s Findings in Breonna Taylor Killing by Louisville Police. In response to the release of the grand jury’s findings -- only indicting one of the three officers on a charge of "wanton endangerment" -- in the horrific killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Police in what was a baseless no-knock warrant in a drug investigation, Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement: "Breonna Taylor should be alive today, but instead, the systems we have in place -- as a result of the drug war -- failed her. And they robbed her of the bright future she was just beginning. Had it not been for the drug war -- which provides the military-grade equipment to local police departments through military weapons transfer and earmarked federal funds -- Breonna would be alive today. And had it not been for the drug war that incentivizes drug arrests with said federal resources, the police likely would have never gone to her home to begin with. While this decision is upsetting and certainly doesn’t go far enough, it does not change the fact that as long as the drug war remains, people of color will continue to have a bounty on their heads. They will continue to be gunned down in their beds, or held down until they can’t breathe with an officer’s knee on their necks. And worse, those responsible for their deaths will use drugs -- or alleged drug involvement -- as a cover for their merciless actions. This isn't an isolated incident. These aren't 'a few bad cops.' It is a system that has been created through the parasitic relationship between policing, the drug war and racism. And until we completely terminate those connections, we are simply adding fuel to the fire and no court or jury will be able to stop the police violence that ensues."

California East Bay County to Stop Prosecutions for Drug Possession, Other Nonviolent Misdemeanors. Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton announced Thursday that her office will no longer file charges against most people arrested for small-time drug possession and other nonviolent misdemeanor offenses. The county had not been pursuing such charges under a pilot program in effect since early this year. Now that policy has been made permanent. The county says the move will divert low-level recreational users out of the criminal justice system and into the health care system with the goals of both reducing the strain in the courts and on law enforcement.

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

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

No Indictments for Killing Breonna Taylor, Vermont MJ Commerce Bill Goes to Governor, More... (9/23/20)

A Vermont legal marijuana commerce bill goes to the governor, Michael Bloomberg has paid the fines of 32,000 Floridians with felony records so they can vote this year, and more.

One Louisville officer was indicted for endangering others in the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid.
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Lawmakers Send Marijuana Retail Sales Bill, Automatic Expungement Measure to Governor's Desk. With final votes in the state Senate, the legislature has approved two bills, one, S. 54, that allows for the regulated cultivation and sale of marijuana and the other, S. 234, which allows for the automatic expungement of past low-level marijuana possession convictions. The House approved the measures days earlier. The bills now go to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott (R).

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Poll Shows Strong Support for Medical Marijuana. A new WGHP/Emerson College poll finds that nearly three quarters (72.5%) of respondents support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Fewer than one out of five (18.9%) were opposed. Support for recreational marijuana, on the other hand, remains a minority position, but just barely, with 48.1%.

Felon Voting Rights

Michael Bloomberg Pays Fines For 32,000 Floridians with Felony Records So They Can Vote. Former New York City mayor and billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg has donated more than $16 million in a bid to help Floridians with felony records register to vote. Voting rights activists estimate the funds have already paid off fines for some 32,000 felons. Florida voters in 2018 approved an initiative that allowed felons to vote once they pay off all fines, fees, and restitution. Activists had challenged the provision requiring that all fines be paid before allowing felons to register, but the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law last week.

Law Enforcement

Kentucky Attorney General Announces One Louisville Police Officer Indicted in Breonna Taylor Killing, But Not for Killing Her. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) announced Wednesday that a grand jury his office empaneled had indicted former Officer Brett Hankinson on a charge of endangering neighbors with reckless gunfire, but no officer was charged with causing Taylor's death. Taylor was shot and killed during a no-knock middle-of-the-night drug raid in March after her live-in boyfriend opened fire on police he believed were home invaders. As of Wednesday afternoon, the streets of Louisville were filling with angry demonstrators.

International

US Offers $5 Million Reward for Arrest of Colombia Rebel Leader. The US is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of a leader of the Colombian rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN). The US accuses Wilver Villegas Palomino of participating in an ongoing scheme to distribute Colombian cocaine in the United States to finance the rebel group. The ELN was founded more than 50 years ago to fight for a more just Colombia, but like other armed actors there, has been involved in the cocaine trade. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently described Palomino as an "indicted terrorist."

British Labor MPs Call on Their Leader to Embrace Drug Law Reforms. A group of Labor MPs organized as the Labor Campaign for Drug Policy Reform (LCDPR) are calling on party leader Keir Starmer to get behind the need for urgent drug law reforms. The group, which consists of 20 MPs, launched a manifesto yesterday calling for an explicitly public health-based approach to drug use, the introduction of safe injection sites to prevent overdoses, the expansion of pill-testing services, and the diversion of drug possession offenders out of the criminal justice system.

Settlement in Breonna Taylor Drug Raid Killing, UN Human Rights Chief Criticizes Philippines Drug War, More... (9/15/20)

There is a landmark settlement in the killing of Breonna Taylor, the federal government hints at a move toward the use of hair follicle testing for federal employees, and more. 

Drug war victim Breonna Taylor. Her family has settled with the city of Louisville. (Taylor family)
Medical Marijuana

Utah Lawsuit Over Legislature's Replacement of Voter-Approved Medical Marijuana Initiative Dropped. Proponents of a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative have dropped a lawsuit challenging the state legislature's replacement of it with a more restrictive program have dropped their lawsuit against the state after the legislature backed off of a plan to have the state dispense the medicine to qualifying patients.

Drug Testing

Feds Push for Hair Follicle Drug Testing Despite Known Racial Disparities in Results. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a proposal to set scientific and technical guidelines for the use of hair follicle specimens for drug testing federal workers—even though the hair follicle tests are known for producing racially disparate results. The proposal would allow executive branch agencies "to collect and test a hair specimen as part of their drug testing programs with the limitation that hair specimens be used for pre-employment (i.e., for applicants applying for federal testing designated positions) and random testing."

Law Enforcement

City of Louisville Reaches Settlement with Breonna Taylor Family. The city of Louisville has settled a lawsuit with the family of Breonna Taylor, the black women killed by Louisville police in a badly botched no-knock drug raid in which no drugs were found. In addition to a $12 million cash settlement, the settlement will require police commanders to approve all search warrant application, require police to undergo extensive risk assessments before applying for a warrant, and require that an EMT or paramedic by on site during the execution of search warrants. The settlement does not impact ongoing criminal investigations of the police involved in the raid.

International

UN Human Rights Chief Calls for End to Policies, Rhetoric That Lead to Abuses and Killings in the Philippines. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday that the Philippine government should change policies that lead to killings and other human rights violations. Her remarks came during her opening statement at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. She said that human rights principals "require accountable policing and access to justice help to avert the escalation of tensions and grievances into violence and conflict." Bachelet acknowledged that the Philippine government has committed to investigate more than 5,000 drug war killings, but said that was just a first step. "We are seeking details from the government so we can advise and assess the review panel's scope, process and efficacy," Bachelet said. "However, beyond this initial process, there is clearly an urgent need to revoke the policies that continue to result in killings and other human rights violations, to bring to justice the perpetrators, and to halt the use of rhetoric inciting violence against people who use or sell drugs."

AZ Legalization Initiative a Go, Oakland Cops Raid Mushroom Church, More... (8/21/20)

A British prescription heroin pilot program gets extended after promising first year results, police in Oakland raid a club that was selling magic mushrooms, and more.

Magic Mushrooms. In Oakland, apparently you can have them, but you can't sell them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Legalization Marijuana Legalization Initiative Stays on the Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision that the description on the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative "accurately described the proposition," ending a legal challenge to it and clearing the final hurdle before it can go to voters in November.

Psychedelics

Oakland Police Raid, Close Nation's Only Magic Mushroom Church. Police in Oakland raided the Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants last week, seizing marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and cash after calling firefighters to break open the church's safe. Zide Door was the most prominent "magic mushroom" club in the country and likely the only brick and mortar place where one could purchase the mushrooms. Zide Door was originally a "cannabis church," but added mushrooms to its offerings after the city council approved a resolution making enforcement of laws around certain psychedelic plants law enforcement's "lowest priority." Police say the church went beyond the law by selling marijuana without a license and by selling magic mushrooms. "The council said mushrooms should not be our priority, and they're not," said Oakland Police Captain Randell Wingate, who supervises the unit that conducted the raid. "You can use mushrooms, you can grow your own mushrooms -- but selling mushrooms is still not legal."

International

British Heroin Maintenance Pilot Project Extended for Another Year. The United Kingdom's first heroin prescribing pilot project has been extended for another year after an evaluation found it created reductions in crime and homelessness. The first year's results were "very promising," the evaluation found. The project in Middlesborough led to a a large reduction in reoffending rates and street drug use, and significant improvement in participants' health and quality of life, including seeing initially homeless participants placed in stable housing.

Maine Marijuana Stores to Finally Open, KY "Breonna's Law" Banning No-Knock Raids Filed, More... (8/17/20)

After years of delay, Maine regulators say retail marijuana outlets will be open in October, eight people were killed in a Colombian region where different leftist guerrillas are fighting each other for control of the drug trade, and more.

Breonna Taylor (family photo)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Marijuana Retail Shops to (Finally) Open in October. It's been nearly four years since Mainers voted to legalize marijuana, and finally, the state is ready for the outlets to open. The state Office of Marijuana Policy will issue its first recreational marijuana business licenses on September 8, giving stores a month to harvest, test, and package their products before the October 9 opening date. "Today's announcement is a major milestone in honoring the will of Maine voters and a significant step toward launching a new industry in the state," OMP Director Erik Gundersen said in a statement.

Law Enforcement

Kentucky Bill Named for Breonna Taylor Would Ban No-Knock Raids. State Rep. Attica Scott (D) announced Sunday that she was filing a bill named "Breonna's Law" that would ban no-knock search warrants statewide. Under the bill, police would have to knock and announce their presence, police would be subject to alcohol and drug testing after killing someone, and police body cameras to be turned on for at least five minutes before and after serving a warrant. Breonna Taylor was an Emergency Medical Technician shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officers serving a no-knock warrant for a drug raid. No drugs were found, but her boyfriend opened fire on the late-night home invaders, injuring one officer, and officer fired back wildly, killing Taylor. Her cause has been taken up by the Black Lives Matter movement, and her death has sparked months of protests in Louisville.

International

Eight Gunned Down in Colombia Coca-Growing Region. Unknown gunmen shot and killed eight people in one of Colombia's primary coca-growing regions, officials said Sunday. The killings took place in the town of Samaniego in Narino department, where 20 people have been gunned down in the last two month. Narino borders Ecuador, making it a strategic location on a favored route for smuggling drugs north to Central America and the US. Leftist FARC rebel dissidents are fighting for control of the region with another leftist guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army.

New Federal Legalization Bill, Houston Narcs Indicted, Peru Coca Production Up (Maybe), More... (8/3/20)

Peru and the US are in a dispute over how much coca and cocaine is produced there, Houston narcs involved in a deadly botched drug raid get indicted, and more.

How much coca and cocaine is Peru producing?
Marijuana Policy

New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Like Tobacco. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) has filed the Substance Regulation and Safety Act (S.4386), which would deschedule marijuana and require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations that treat marijuana like tobacco. The bill would also create a national research institute to study the risks and benefits of marijuana, require the Department of Agriculture to set quality control standards and require the Department of Transportation to study methods for detecting THC-impaired driving.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Law Allowing Medical Marijuana for Any Debilitating Condition Now in Effect. A new law that broadly expands access to medical marijuana has now gone into effect. The new law allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients for any debilitating condition. Under the state's old law, only a limited list of specified illnesses and conditions were eligible for medical marijuana.

Law Enforcement

Houston Ex-Cops in Deadly Botched Drug Raid Indicted. A Harris County grand jury has indicted six former Houston narcotics officers after their unit came under scrutiny in the wake of a 2019 raid in which an innocent pair of homeowners were killed. Prosecutors charge that the former officers falsified documentation about drug payments to confidential informants, routinely used false information to get search warrants, and lied in police reports. A total of 17 felony charges were brought against the officers, led by Gerald Goines.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Production in Peru. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the results of the annual United States Government estimates measuring coca cultivation and potential cocaine production for the Republic of Peru: "Coca (the plant used to make cocaine) cultivation in Peru significantly increased to 72,000 hectares in 2019, with potential pure cocaine production of 705 metric tons… "Coca cultivation in Peru and across the Andean Region of South America remains a significant threat to the American people. That's why President Trump ordered a surge in counternarcotics operations to take the fight directly to the drug cartels. This surge has already resulted in preventing 183,521 pounds of cocaine from entering the United States, resulting in $2.1 billion in lost revenue for drug cartels. As part of its partnership with the United States, Peru must expand its efforts to curb coca cultivation and production. The Trump Administration remains committed to bringing those who profit from drug trafficking to justice with the singular goal of saving American lives," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.

Peru Rejects US Estimates on Increased Cocaine and Coca Leaf Production. The Peruvian government on Saturday rejected an ONDCP report that said coca leaf and cocaine production had dramatically increased last year. The anti-drug office, Devida, said the report contained "a series of errors" because it did not consider the amount of coca eradicated nor the traditional consumption of coca and the country's licit coca industry, which does not produce cocaine.

House Passes Bill to Block DOJ Meddling in State Marijuana Programs, Scots Want Safe Injection Sites, More... (7/30/20)

The House has voted to block the Justice Department from interfering with state-legal marijuana programs, a populous Maryland county moves to end no-knock raids for drugs, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House Passes Measure to Protect State Marijuana Laws from Federal Interference. The House on Thursday took up an amendment to protect all state, territorial, and tribal marijuana programs from interference by the Justice Department. The amendment passed on a voice vote.

Law Enforcement

Maryland's Montgomery County Bans No-Knock Raids for Drugs, Restricts Use of Force. The Montgomery County Council approved changes to the county police department's use of force policy on a unanimous vote Wednesday. No-knock raids would be banned except when involving crimes of violence, and chokeholds and other restraints would also be banned. "When there is state-sanctioned violence and discrimination, people feel it and that's why we've awoken right now," Councilman Will Jawando, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, told the council Wednesday. "Drug possession or distribution would not be allowed under this bill," Jawando said. "The vast majority of cases for no-knock warrants in the county are for drug possession." Actually, only about 40% of no-knock raids in 2017 and 2018 were for drug offenses, but this measure would eliminate those. County Executive Marc Elrich, who voiced support for police reforms earlier this summer, is expected to sign the bill.

International

New Zealand Roadside Drug Testing Bill Proposed. Police Minister Stuart Nash is pushing a proposed new law that would give police the power to conduct random, suspicionless roadside drug testing of drivers. Under the new bill, police will be able to saliva-test drivers for commonly used drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, opiates and benzodiazepines. "Under this law, drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs will be fined, immediately suspended from driving for 12 hours, and lose half their demerit points," Nash said. "Drivers would also face harsher criminal penalties where blood tests confirm impairing levels of drugs in their system, or drugs combined with alcohol." Specific criminal limits for different drugs would be set later, giving an expert review panel time to weigh in. The bill is set for a first reading next week.

Scots Back Safe Injection Sites, Poll Finds. A majority of people in Scotland support setting up safe injection sites, according to a poll published in the International Journal of Drug Policy. The study, conducted by academics in Glasgow and Liverpool, questioned more than 1,500 people in Scotland and found 61% agreed with introducing the facilities, while 15% were against and 24% unsure. The poll comes as proposals to set up a safe injection site in Glasgow have been blocked by the British Home Office in London.

Democratic Platform to Call for Rescheduling and Decriminalizing Marijuana But Not Legalizing, Canada Police Chiefs Want Drug Decrim, More... (7/13/20)

Democratic task forces working on the party platform have settled on rescheduling and decriminalizing marijuana but not legalizing it, the Justice Department rips a Massachusetts dope squad for its resort to excessive force, Canadian police chiefs call for drug decriminalization, and more.

The Oregon therapeutic psilocybin initiative has qualified for the ballot. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Proposed Democratic Platform Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization and Descheduling. Task forces charged with drafting the Democratic Party platform are calling not for the total federal legalization of marijuana but for decriminalizing it and for rescheduling it for medical purposes. The recommendations will be provided to the platform committee, which will ratify it before the Democratic national convention next month. According to NJ.com, the proposals include allowing states to decide on whether to legalize marijuana, expunging past convictions, and calling on states that have legalized marijuana to reinvest revenues in communities that have borne the brunt of the drug war.

Kansas City to Remove Marijuana Violations from City Code. The city council voted last Thursday to remove possession or control of marijuana as a violation within the city. The ordinance, introduced on June 18 by Mayor Quinton Lucas and four City Council members, passed by a 9-4 vote. Two years ago, the Jackson County (Kansas City) prosecutor announced her office would no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases, with the exception of illegal sales, distribution and impaired driving.

Hemp

Hawaii Legislature Approves Industrial Hemp Bill. A bill to legalize industrial hemp in the state passed the Senate last Wednesday after having already passed the House. The bill, HB1819 HD2 SD3, now goes to the desk of Gov. David Ige (D). Ige vetoed a similar bill last year, citing concerns it was unenforceable, but this year, legislators worked closely with Ige's office to ensure it would get signed.

Law Enforcement

Democratic Progressives Announce BREATHE Act to Reform Policing. House Democratic members including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) are pushing for a wide-ranging bill called the BREATHE Act, which would transform the country's criminal justice system. Among its provisions are a call to eliminate life sentences, retroactively expunge drug convictions, shut federal prisons and immigration detention centers, and afford voting rights and "lifetime education" for prisoners. The bill would also move to defund the DEA and ICE, end mandatory minimums, and decriminalize drug possession, among other provisions.

Justice Department Accuses Springfield, Massachusetts Narcotics Bureau of Using Excessive Force. In a report released last Wednesday, the Justice Department said an investigation has revealed that there is "reasonable cause" to suspect the Springfield Police Department's Narcotics Bureau regularly resorted to excessive force. "Our investigation of the Springfield Police Department over the last year revealed chronic issues with the use of force, poor record-keeping on that subject, and repeated failures to impose discipline for officer misconduct," said US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling. The Justice Department said the bureau violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects the public from the unreasonable use of force by the police. In the report, Justice said "our investigation identified evidence that Narcotics Bureau officers repeatedly punch individuals in the face unnecessarily, in part because they escalate encounters with civilians too quickly, and resort to unreasonable takedown maneuvers that, like head strikes, could reasonably be expected to cause head injuries."

North Carolina Cops Confronted by Hostile Crowd After Drug Bust. Police in High Point, North Carolina, were swarmed by an angry crowd after police searched a home as part of a drug investigation. People kept arriving at the scene until "a hostile crowd of approximately 50 people had taken over the street in front of the residence," police reported. Police said the crowd blocked the roadway and swarmed a police vehicle, and police resorted to pepper spray to clear the area. Police seized 85 grams of heroin and 15 grams of marijuana and arrested two people.

Psychedelics

Oregon Therapeutic Psilocbyin Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. Initiative Petition 34, which would legalize psilocybin to use for therapeutic purposes in a controlled setting with a licensed facilitator, has qualified for the November ballot, the secretary of state's office announced last Wednesday.

DC Natural Psychedelic Initiative Faces Challenge from GOP Congressman. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a longtime foe of allowing Washington, DC, to move forward with drug reform efforts, says that he plans to force a vote in Congress to block the proposed natural psychedelic initiative. He said he plans to force a House Appropriations Committee vote next week.

International

Canadian Chiefs of Police Call for Drug Decriminalization. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has recommended that simple drug possession should be decriminalized. The report by the association's special committee on decriminalization of illicit drugs calls for the creation of a national task force to research drug policy reform. "Canada continues to grapple with the fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply that has devastated our communities and taken thousands of lives," association president and Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said in a statement. "We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focused approach that requires partnerships between police, health care and all levels of government."

Nashville to End Small-Time Pot Prosecutions, More Cops Charged in Wake of Fatal Houston Drug Raid, More... (7/2/20)

Drug reform initiative campaigns are handing in signatures as deadlines approach, Nashville's DA says no more petty pot prosecutions, Mexican gunmen kill 24 in a raid on a drug rehab center, and more.

South Dakota's Badlands. Organized opposition to a marijuana legalization initiative has appeared. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Turns in Massive Signature Cache. Backers of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative filed more than 420,000 raw signatures with the secretary of state's office Thursday. It only needs 237,465 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, allow for cultivation, distribution, and retail sales, and use tax revenues from those sales to fund public education and public safety programs.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Draws Organized Opposition. The Amendment A marijuana legalization campaign, which has already qualified for the November ballot, is now drawing organized opposition. A ballot committee calling itself NO Way on Amendment A has been organized to defeat the initiative and is being led by David Own, the president of the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The opposition is being joined by the usual suspects, including law enforcement, public officials, and social work leaders.

Nashville to End Small-Time Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk announced Wednesday that his office will no longer prosecute cases involving less than a half-ounce of marijuana. "Effective today, the Nashville District Attorney's office will no longer prosecute individuals for possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana. Marijuana charges do little to promote public health, and even less to promote public safety," Funk said in a statement.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the state's proposed medical marijuana initiative, handed in some 182,000 raw voter signatures Thursday. They need at least 121,669 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign must also meet a requirement that at least 5% of voters in at least 38 counties sign up.

Law Enforcement

Houston DA Files New Charges Resulting from Deadly Drug Raid. The investigation into a 2019 Houston drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead has now resulted charges being filed against six former officers, who are accused of routinely using false information to get search warrants and of lying on police reports, prosecutors announced on Wednesday. Two former members of the unit -- Gerald Goines and Steven Bryant -- had previously been charged in state and federal court in the case, including two counts of felony murder filed in state court against Goines. Those two also got hit with numerous new charges. More than 160 drug convictions tied to Goines have been dismissed by prosecutors. Prosecutors expect more cases will be dismissed.

International

Mexican Cartel Gunmen Attack Drug Rehab Center, Killing 24. In one of the bloodiest attacks yet in the cartel wars, gunmen killed 24 people at a drug treatment center in the central Mexican city of Irapuato on Wednesday. It was the second attack on a rehab center in less than a month; on June 6, 10 were killed in a similar incident. Rival cartels sometimes use the centers as de facto bunk houses for their employees. The region is being flailed by fighting between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

NJ Assembly Passes Criminal Justice Reform Package, MT Pot Legalization Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/19/20)

Montana campaigners handed in what should be enough signatures to get marijuana legalization measures on the ballot, the New Jersey Assembly quickly passed a package of criminal justice reform bills, Houston's police chief is facing mounting pressure to release a report on a deadly drug raid, and more. 

Montana has a good shot at getting a chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. New Approach Montana, the group behind the I-190 marijuana legalization initiative and the CI-118 constitutional amendment to set the legal age for marijuana at 21, announced Friday that it had turned in more than 52,000 raw signatures for the initiative (it needs 25,000 valid voter signatures) and 80,000 signatures for the amendment (it needs 50,000 valid voter signatures). Now it's nail-biting time as organizers wait for the state to see if they came up with enough good signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Counties Can Ban Probationers from Using Medical Marijuana. The State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties may not ban people on probation or parole from using medical marijuana if they are registered in the state medical marijuana program. In a unanimous decision, the court noted that people in the program are immune from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” under state law, even if they are under a court’s supervision. “In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, the political branch has decided to permit patients — including probationers — to use medical marijuana for specified, serious medical conditions, upon a physician’s certification,” the court said in its opinion.

Criminal Justice

New Jersey Assembly Passes Package of Eight Criminal Justice Reform Bills. During a 90-minute teleconference vote Thursday, the Assembly passed eight bills dealing with criminal justice reform, all by unanimous or near unanimous votes. The subject matter of the bills ranges from increased transparency for police personnel files, improved data gathering, making a racially based false police report a crime, minority recruitment, heightened diversity training, ending the use of chokeholds, and easing identification requirements for juror lists. Now, it's up to the Senate to act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Chief Faces Growing Pressure to Release Internal Audit of Deadly Drug Raid. Police Chief Art Acevedo is under pressure from a growing chorus of elected officials to release the findings of an internal audit on his department’s narcotics division, arguing that the chief’s refusal to do so contradicts his vows to be transparent and accountable. Acevedo ordered the probe in the wake of 2019 raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and four officers wounded. The officer in charge of that raid, Gerald Gaines, was accused by investigators of lying to get the warrant use in the raid and now faces murder charges. Now, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, elected officials are demanding to see that audit.

Drug War Issues

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