Lowest Priority Policies

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Good Pot Polls in NH & UT, ME Drug Decrim Advances, More... (9/27/21)

Little Rock makes small-time pot possession the lowest law enforcement priority, a Texas medical marijuana expansion bill is now one House vote away from passing, and more.

Marijuana legalization has overwhelming support in new polls from New Hampshire and Utah. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the University of New Hampshire has 75% support for marijuana legalization, with even a slightly higher number (78%) saying they supported letting people by it from licensed retailers if it is legalized. Support for Governor Chris Sununu (R), who opposes legalization, by contrast, is at 51%.

Utah Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research and released by the US Cannabis Council had support for regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at 73% and support for federal marijuana legalization at 66%.

Little Rock Makes Marijuana Possession Lowest Law Enforcement Priority. City directors approved a municipal ordinance to make misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority on a 7-3 vote Tuesday. Although the police chief said the department hasn't sent anyone to jail for small-time pot possession for several years, directors said without a formal policy there was a risk of selective enforcement.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate late Tuesday approved House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Maine Joint Committee Advances Drug Decriminalization Bill. The Joint Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved a drug decriminalization bill, LD 967, but was split on how to handle decriminalization as the bill goes forward. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine, which could be waived if they submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder."

International

Morocco House Votes to Legalize Hemp, Medical Marijuana. The House on Wednesday approved a bill legalizing hemp and medical marijuana. The bill would allow for "the legal uses of cannabis, medical, cosmetic and industrial," with the aim of "converting illicit crops that destroy the environment into sustainable legal activities that generate value, money and employment." The bill must still be approved by the legislature's upper house.

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.

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."

Philippine Drug War Rages Despite Pandemic, NORML Issues Marijuana Policy Crisis Guidance, More... (4/2/20)

President Trump showily announces a ramping up of the drug war in the Caribbean, NORML issues marijuana policy guidance for lawmakers during the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine drug war continues despite the pandemic, and more.

Whether its drug users or quarantine violators, Philippine President Duterte has a plan: Just kill them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

NORML Issues Cannabis Policy Guidance for Lawmakers and Prosecutors for Protecting Public Health During COVID-19 Crisis. NORML and its national network of advocacy chapters have released a memo to state lawmakers, regulators, prosecutors, and other interested parties providing guidance for how they can take emergency actions to better promote the health and welfare of cannabis consumers and the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic. In states where marijuana is still illegal, the memo calls for immediately deprioritizing marijuana law enforcement, the dropping of charges for pending nonviolent marijuana offenses, and the release of people in jail or prison solely for nonviolent marijuana offenses. In states where it is legal, NORML is calling for pot shops and their suppliers to be designated "essential services," allowing for the home delivery and curbside pickup of marijuana products, and expanding the ability of doctors to advise patients via telemedicine.

Washington Governor Signs Bill to Diversify State's Marijuana Industry. Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law HB 2870, "allowing additional marijuana retail licenses for social equity purposes." The measure will allow regulators to direct unused marijuana business licenses to people from communities most negatively impacted by the drug war. It creates a state Marijuana Equity Task Force and allows the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to grant forfeited, canceled, revoked or otherwise unissued marijuana business licenses to qualified equity applicants.

Drug Policy

Trump Doubles Military Assets in Caribbean in Bid to Bolster Drug Fight after Maduro Indictment. The Trump administration hijacked the daily White House coronavirus pandemic briefing Wednesday to announce that it was deploying more US Navy warships and aircraft to the Caribbean in a bid to prevent drug cartels and "corrupt actors" like Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro from using the pandemic to increase drug smuggling. The move follows the indictment of Maduro and a dozen current or former Venezuelan officials on charges of narco-terrorism conspiracy, drug trafficking and corruption. "We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives," Trump said. The Venezuelan government rejected the move, saying it was merely an effort to district from the Trump administration's incompetent handling of pandemic.

International

Mexico Senate Asks Supreme Court for More Time on Cannabis Legalization. Looking at a Supreme Court-imposed deadline to end marijuana prohibition, but faced with the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexican Senate has asked the high court to "extend deadlines" until "the Senate is in a position to fulfill the responsibilities towards judiciary power bodies." The original court-imposed deadline was October 2019, but the court granted an extension after the Senate failed to agree on the bill. The court has said it would file no more extensions, but senators think the current crisis may be an exception. They'll have to wait to find out, though; the Supreme Court itself is shut down through at least through mid-month.

Philippine Drug War Rages on in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a national partial lockdown on March 15 to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but nothing is stopping his bloody war on drugs. Even amidst the lockdown, drug war killings are continuing. At least nine people have been killed by unknown gunmen in Cebu Province alone. "Reports of drug-related killings continuing amid the lockdown order are deeply concerning, but not surprising," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International. "The climate of impunity in the Philippines is so entrenched that police and others remain free to kill without consequence." Duterte has also threatened to have the police and military shoot people who violate quarantine.

Chronicle AM: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

Marijuana is on the move at statehouses around the country. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Dismissal for Off-Duty Marijuana Use. Lawmakers in Denver are considering a measure that would protect workers who use marijuana on their own time from being fired for it. House Bill 20-1089 would bar employers from firing workers "for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law."

Indiana GOP Lawmakers Target Indianapolis Prosecutor's Decision to Not Prosecute Small-Time Marijuana Cases. A GOP-backed bill that seeks to effectively overturn Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears' recently announced policy of not pressing charges for small-time pot possession is moving in the Senate. The bill would let the attorney general's office step in if a county prosecutor announced a policy of not enforcing a law or was found to have "categorically elected" to not do so. The measure, SB 436, was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve SB 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, HB 160 is headed for the Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to recommend that a bill legalizing the possession and home cultivation of small quantities of marijuana "ought to pass." The measure is HB 1648. It comes after a full marijuana legalization bill failed last year.

Kratom

Missouri Kratom Regulation Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House General Laws Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved HB 2061, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The bill would deal with the substance by regulating it, not prohibiting it. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Plan to Legalize Sale of Psychedelics This Year. Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the national movement to decriminalize natural psychedelics, has announced a push to legalize the cultivation and sale of those hallucinogens in the city. The city already approved the decriminalization of such substances last year.

Santa Cruz City Council Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize "entheogenic plants and fungi" such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ibogaine, and ayahuasca. The resolution says the city shouldn't spend money to investigate psychedelic use by adults 21 and over and that such possession and use "should be considered among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Santa Cruz."

Criminal Justice

Philadelphia DA Will No Longer Prosecute Buprenorphine Possession. District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute people for possessing buprenorphine, an opioid-based addiction treatment drug. Krasner said the new policy is aimed at reducing overdoses. Krasner's office has already been dropping possession charges for people who can show they're in a treatment program.

International

Bloody Weekend in Central Mexico Cartel Wars. At least 48 people were killed between Friday and Sunday in prohibition-related violence in the central state of Guanajuato, including a six-year-old. In one incident, five people were killed at a house in Leon; in another, eight people were shot and killed at a taco stand in Celaya; in yet another, nine people were executed at a highway service plaza in Villagran. Among the dead were one soldier and one police officer.

New Zealand Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in September. The country has set September 19 as the date for its next general election. On the ballot will be a simple question: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill?" A final draft of the bill is expected to be released soon, but the government has already published a draft bill. If more than 50% of ballots are in favor of the draft legalization bill, the incoming government would be responsible for formally introducing a bill to Parliament. The first draft of the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is available here.

Chronicle AM: Decriminalize Nature Hits DC, Colombia Coca Eradication Fight, More... (1/10/20)

Vermont lawmakers begin a push to tax and regulate marijuana sales, the Decriminalize Nature movement arrives in the nation's capital, Colombia's president and governors disagree about aerial eradication of coca crops, and more.

Will Washington, DC, deprioritize magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Lawmakers Push for Legal Marijuana Sales. Lawmakers who want to pass a law to tax and regulate marijuana sales in the state held a news conference Thursday to urge the legislature to move forward on a bill that passed the Senate last year. It has not been acted on in the House, and proponents are hoping it will move in the next few months. Proponents are hopeful a bill can be acted upon with the next few months.

Law Enforcement

West Virginia Governor Creates Narcotics Intelligence Unit. Gov. Jim Justice (D) issued an executive order Thursday creating the West Virginia Narcotics Intelligence Unit to crack down on drug trafficking. The unit will be under the state Department of Military Affairs (!) and Public Safety's Intelligence Fusion Center. "Tonight I am ordering Secretary Jeff Sandy to form a new unit called a Narcotics Intelligence Unit -- a new unit at the Fusion Center -- it will be a strike force," Justice said. "I'm going to ask you for $1.9 million and I'm going to ask you to give us that to stop this terrible effort. That's all there is to it."

Psychedelics

DC Group Wants to Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms, Natural Psychedelics. A group calling itself Decriminalize Nature DC is beginning an effort to reduce penalties for the use, possession, and cultivation of magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics. Members are working on a ballot initiative that would ask Metro police to make enforcement of drug laws against psychedelics the lowest law enforcement priority. The DC Board of Elections will weigh in next month on whether the language violates a congressional ban on easing any laws regarding Schedule I substances.

International

Colombia Says It Eradicated a Quarter Million Acres of Coca Crops. President Ivan Duque announced Tuesday that Colombia had eradicated 247,000 of coca fields in 2019. That's up from about 200,000 acres eradicated in 2018. "From now on we will without a doubt face the challenge of re-planting, but Colombia has clear its goal to reduce by 50% the area that is planted with illegal crops by the end of 2022 or 2023," Duque said in a televised statement. The government used manual eradication teams to destroy the crops but wants to return to the aerial spraying of herbicides, a practice ended in 2015.

Colombia Governors Reject Plans to Resume Aerial Spraying of Coca Crops. The governors of Colombia's coca growing provinces have come out against the government's plans to resume aerial spraying of coca crops. The governors of Antioquia, Narino, Cauca, Putumayo, and Norte de Santander said they supported alternative development and voluntary crop substitution and want President Duque to implement the 2016 peace deal with demobilized FARC guerrillas.

Chronicle AM: Afghan Opium Down, Colombian Coca Leveling Off, More... (6/29/19)

The UN says Afghan opium production is down, the US says Colombian coca production has leveled off but is still at high levels, Louisville passes a lowest law enforcement priority ordinance for marijuana, and more.

Colombian coca production is leveling off, the US says, but there's still plenty of cocaine to go around. (CBP)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Governor Won't Veto Decriminalization Bill. Gov. David Ige (D) said this week that he will not veto HB 1383, which decriminalizes the possession of up to three grams of marijuana. Under current law, possession is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Once the bill is signed, it will become a non-criminal violation punishable by a $130 fine.

Louisville Passes Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Ordinance. The Louisville Metro Council has passed an ordinance making "investigation, citations, and arrests" relating to adult possession of a "small amount of marijuana" the lowest law enforcement priority. The ordinance defines adults as 21 or older and says "personal use" could be a half ounce or less of marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Senate Approves Bill Mandating Law Enforcement Reporting on Seizures. The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill making it mandatory for law enforcement to report on how often it resorted to civil asset forfeiture to seize property from people not convicted of a crime. The bill now goes to the House.

Harm Reduction

Florida Authorizes Expansion of Syringe Access Statewide. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow legally authorized needle exchange programs across the state. The Infectious Disease Elimination Act (SB 366) was approved by the legislature in May after the Drug Policy Alliance worked with local stakeholders to get it through. Florida now becomes just the 22nd jurisdiction in the country to legally authorize syringe exchange programs. Many still operate underground and face daily risk of closure, further fueling the spread of blood-borne diseases and overdose rates.

International

UN Says Afghan Opium Harvest Declines, Thanks to Drought. Opium production fell last year in Afghanistan, by far the world's leading opium producer, because of severe drought, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday. UNODC said the drop was about 25%, leaving output at just under 8,000 tons of raw opium.

US Says Colombian Cocaine Production Leveling Off. According to a 2018 estimate released Wednesday by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia remains high but is leveling off. The estimate states cultivation in Colombia saw a minor decrease in 2018 to 208,000 hectares from 209,000 hectares in 2017. Similarly, potential pure cocaine production also saw a minor decrease in 2018 to 887 pure metric tons from 900 pure metric tons in 2017. Although coca cultivation in Colombia remained at historically high levels in 2018, it was the first year the crop did not increase since 2012.

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

Chronicle AM: Oakland Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms, San Francisco Forced Drug Treatment Plan, More... (6/5/19)

Two big stories from the San Francisco Bay area, governors call for federal marijuana reform, and more.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Governors Team Up to Demand Federal Marijuana Reform. Twelve state governors from both parties have signed onto a letter to congressional leaders urging them to pass bipartisan legislation to let states set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal interference. They called for passage of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, H.R. 2093. "The STATES Act is a logical step for Congress because it honors state action by codifying protection at the federal level for those businesses and consumers operating in accordance with state law," they wrote. "The STATES Act is not about whether marijuana should be legal or illegal; it is about respecting the authority of states to act, lead and respond to the evolving needs and attitudes of their citizens."

Oregon Legislature Approves Expungement Bill. The House has approved a bill, SB 420, easing bureaucratic hurdles for people wanting to expunge old marijuana convictions. The Senate had already approved the measure, so it now heads to the governor's desk. Once the bill is signed, those seeking expungement will no longer have to pay a fee nor will they have to provide fingerprints or undergo a background check.

Delaware Legalization Bill Gets Initial Committee Hearing. The House Revenue and Finance Committee is taking up a marijuana legalization bill, HB 110, today. The bill would establish a state-licensed industry but would bar home cultivation. The bill calls for the state to collect a 15% tax on retail sales price of marijuana, as well as licensing fees.

Hemp

Ohio Hemp, CBD Bill Heading for House Floor Vote. A bill that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp and stores to sell CBD products passed the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Tuesday. SB 57 has already passed the Senate and now heads for a final House floor vote. The bill distinguishes hemp from marijuana and specified that CBD from hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

Psychedelics

Oakland Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms, Other Natural Psychedelics. The city council voted Tuesday to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelics. The ordinance approved makes arresting people for possessing or using such substances the lowest law enforcement priority. Oakland now joins Denver in having made such a move.

Drug Treatment

San Francisco to Try Forced Drug Treatment for Problematic Mentally Ill Drug Users. The city Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 Tuesday to force some people with serious mental illness and addiction issues into drug treatment. Mayor London Breed (D) and other supporters said the move was necessary to help such people, who are a danger to themselves, they said. "Allowing people to continue to suffer on our streets is not acceptable or humane, and I am glad the Board of Supervisors supported our approach to finally make a change," Breed said in a statement after the vote. The measure would apply to a handful of people, the city's department of public health estimated, although the number would grow under legislation pending at the state level.

Will Denver Be the First Place in America to Legalize Magic Mushrooms?

Denver could essentially legalize psychedelic mushrooms by next spring if a group of local activists has its way. But they have a few hurdles to overcome first.

This week, members of Denver for Psilocybin handed in to city officials a pair of municipal initiatives aimed at removing penalties for possessing and consuming the fungi, which contain the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin. That's the first step in a process that could see the issue put before voters in the May 2019 local election.

One measure, the Denver Psychoactive Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative, reflects the activists' maximum program; the other, the Denver Psychoactive Mushroom Enforcement Deprioritization Initiative, is a less ambitious backstop.

Both initiatives would make enforcement of laws against magic mushrooms a low law enforcement priority by adopting language that would "prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psychoactive mushrooms." Under both initiatives, the sale of magic mushrooms would remain illegal.

The initiatives differ in two important respects. The broader one allows for the "personal possessions, use, and propagation" of magic mushrooms; the backstop version only allows for possession and use, not propagation. And the broader version contains no limits on possession, while the backstop would limit possession to two ounces.

Kevin Matthews, campaign manager for Denver for Psilocybin, told Westword he hoped the broader measure would pass muster with both city officials and voters, but that allowing propagation may be a bridge too far.

"It’s a natural right. It’s a human right. This one is our Hail Mary victory shot," Matthews said. "It’s more a matter of public opinion," he said of the two-pronged approach. "Are people ready to accept that people are already propagating?"

The Denver City Council now has a week to schedule a comment and review hearing led by Council Executive Director Leon Mason and Assistant City Attorney Troy Bratton. While the hearing is open to the public, there is no opportunity for public comment.

If the council approves, the initiatives then go to the Denver Election Division, which will have three days to decide whether to accept or reject them. Denver for Psilocybin had earlier versions of the initiatives rejected by the Elections Division but hopes it has addressed those issues with the new versions. If approved by the Elections Division, the group will then have to come up with some 5,000 valid voter signatures by January to qualify for the May ballot. They are confident that if they can get the measures on the ballot, they can win.

"I am extremely optimistic. I think we’re gonna win. I think we’re going to pass this thing," he says. Even if voters don't side with the group, "simply getting on the ballot will be a victory."

Denver isn't the only place where moves to legalize or decriminalize magic mushrooms are afoot, but it may be the first place voters get a chance to weigh in. In Oregon, activists aiming at 2020 are working on an initiative that would legalize and regulate the therapeutic use of psilocybin, while just to the south, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative campaign tried to get their measure on the 2018 ballot, but came up short on signatures. They will be back.

Magic mushrooms remain illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. But so was marijuana when Coloradans voted to legalize it in 2012. And here we are. 

Chronicle AM: Good IL, MI Pot Polls, Denver Psilocybin Initiative, ACLU Targets DAs, More... (3/6/18)

Pot polls in a pair of key Midwest states are looking good, the ACLU seeks to influence district attorney races around the nation,  a Denver magic mushroom initiative is getting underway, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Illinois Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll has support for marijuana legalization at 66%, with only 32% opposed. The poll comes as a measure to hold a non-binding public referendum on legalization moves through the legislature.

Michigan Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new EPIC-MRA poll has support for a pending marijuana legalization initiative at 61%. The initiative campaign has already handed in some 365,000 signatures; it only needs 252,253 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. State officials have been counting signatures since November, but it remains unclear when they will decide the measure has qualified for the ballot or not.

Nevada Gambling Regulators Reject Ties to Marijuana Businesses. The state's Gaming Policy Committee has recommended that the gambling industry not have any business relationship wit marijuana distributors. That recommendation reflects existing policy, but the issue came up again after the state legalized weed in 2016.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Hearing Reveals Deep Splits. The Assembly Oversight, Refom and Federal Relations Committee heard from dozens of witnesses for and against marijuana legalization during a day-long hearing Monday. The hearing was the legislature's first step toward addressing legalization this session. Even though Gov. Phil Murphy (D) supports legalization, there was no consensus emerging from the hearing and no vote taken.

Rhode Island Report on Marijuana Legalization Released. Advocacy groups the Marijuana Policy Project and Regulate Rhode Island have released a report on legalization in the state: "How should Rhode Island legalize marijuana: Asking the right questions." The 42-page document features detailed discussion of different models for regulating marijuana for adults based on other states’ experiences and urges policymakers to consider the benefits and costs of various approaches.

Albuquerque City Council Files Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Albuquerque City Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton have filed a new bill to remove criminal sanctions pertaining to possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia from the city’s municipal codes. The proposed ordinance makes one ounce or less of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia a civil infraction with a fine of $25. A civil infraction is not considered a criminal conviction. The ordinance also takes away the potential for jail time. Currently, a person can spend more than two weeks in jail for a first offense and 90 days for a subsequent offense.

Medical Marijuana

<Idaho Senate Panel Kills Bill Allowing Use of CBD. A last-ditch effort to pass a CBD medical marijuana bill, House Bill 577, was derailed Monday amidst legislative turmoil. Sen. Tony Potts (R) accused the Republican legislative leadership of blocking action on the bill and asked Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Lee Heider (R) to allow a vote. That didn't happen; instead the committee approved a motion to keep the bill in committee, killing it for the year.Pennsylvania Dispensaries Facing Product Shortages. Medical marijuana dispensaries are already running out of supply less than two weeks after sales began in the state. The main reason is that only one of the state's 12 licensed growers is actually shipping product. The other reason is unexpected demand.

Psychedelics

Denver Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Getting Underway. A group calling itself Coloradans for Psilocybin has met with Denver officials about putting an initiative on the municipal ballot that would decriminalize psilocybin possession and make it law enforcement's lowest priority. Anyone caught with less than two pounds of magic mushrooms would face only a $99 ticket. The group says it will have an initiative cleared for signature gathering soon.

Drug Testing

Faced With Legal Weed, Full Employment, Employee Drug Testing is Declining Pre-employment drug testing is in decline in the face of spreading marijuana legalization and a tightening job market. The change is most evident in pot-legal states, such as Colorado, where the number of companies doing the tests declined from 77% last year to 66% now. "The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high," said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. "A blanket prohibition can't possibly be the most economically efficient policy" he told McClatchy.

Law Enforcement

ACLU Using Soros Money to Target District Attorney Races. Backed by millions of dollars from financier George Soros's Open Society Foundations, the ACLU is making a major play to influence local prosecutor races around the country. The group is planning voter education and outreach campaigns in district attorney races in California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and possibly North Carolina and Missouri. The ACLU says it will focus on big cities with large jail populations in what it's calling its Campaign for Smart Justice. The ACLU doesn't endorse candidates, but says its goal is to raise awareness of criminal justice issues.

Drug War Issues

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