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Mexico MJ Legalization Nears Final Vote, NIJ on MJ Impairment Tests, More... (4/6/21)

A Louisiana Republican state representative has filed a marijuana legalization bill, an effort to advance even minor asset forfeiture reforms hits law enforcement opposition, and more.

Tests that seek to determine impairment based on THC levels are not reliable, the NIJ reports. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

National Institute of Justice Finds Field Sobriety Tests and THC Levels Are "Unreliable" Indicators of Impairment. In a report issued Monday, the National Institute of Justice found despite a growing resort toward "per se" laws that use the level of THC in bodily fluids to determine impairment, "there is little evidence correlating a specific THC level with impaired driving, making marijuana per se laws controversial and difficult to prosecute." Researchers concluded that "although THC has been proven to affect areas of the brain that control movement, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment -- skills required for safe driving -- THC levels in biofluids were not reliable indicators of marijuana intoxication for their study participants."

Louisiana Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Richard Nelson (R-89) has filed House Bill 564, "for the decriminalization of marijuana and the regulation of marijuana for recreational use." The bill is a constitutional amendment, which means that if it passes out of the legislature, it would then have to be approved by voters. It is currently before the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

Nevada Asset Forfeiture Reform Measure Facing Law Enforcement Opposition. An effort to reform the state's asset forfeiture laws has already been scaled back, but law enforcement Monday strongly opposed even the limited reforms proposed in Assembly Bill 425. The bill would make forfeiture occur at the end of a criminal case rather than forcing defendants to start a separate civil proceeding to keep their property. But law enforcement and local government interests, which derive proceeds from seized goods, are still opposed.

International

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Key Senate Committee Vote, Floor Vote Expected This Month. The bill that would legalize marijuana was approved Monday by the Senate Justice Committee, bringing it one step closer to a final Senate floor vote. The bill had already passed the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies but has gone back to the upper chamber to ratify amendments made in the lower chamber. It still faces two more committee votes before that final floor vote.

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.

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.

Medical Marijuana Update

All the medical marijuana news is from the Keystone State this week. 

Pennsylvania

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.

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Police to Prove Actual Impairment Before Charging Medical Marijuana Patients With DUI. A Republican state senator, Camera Bartolotta, has filed a bill aimed at protecting medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted for driving under the influence. The bill does so by exempting patients from the state's DUI law, which requires only the presence of marijuana metabolites to garner a DUI ticket. Instead, police would have to prove that the patient driver is actually impaired.

US Deploys Air Force Planes to Curacao in Anti-Drug Effort, Israel Moves Closer to Pot Legalization, More... (6/22/20)

Georgia Senate Democrats have filed a police reform bill that includes marijuana decriminalization, the US is ramping up anti-drug operations near Venezuela, Israel takes a step toward marijuana legalization, and more.

With a Knesset committee vote, Israel takes another step toward marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Georgia Police Reform Bill Includes Marijuana Decriminalization. Georgia Senate Democrats have filed the Georgia Justice Act, which covers a wide range of issues such as police body cameras, no-knock warrants, racial profiling, demilitarizing law enforcement and cannabis policy reform. It also includes a plank calling for marijuana decriminalization, under which possession of up to a half ounce would be a misdemeanor punishable by only a $300 fine. Under current state law, possession is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill Would Require Police to Prove Actual Impairment Before Charging Medical Marijuana Patients With DUI. A Republican state senator, Camera Bartolotta, has filed a bill aimed at protecting medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted for driving under the influence. The bill does so by exempting patients from the state's DUI law, which requires only the presence of marijuana metabolites to garner a DUI ticket. Instead, police would have to prove that the patient driver is actually impaired.

Foreign Policy

US Air Force Deploying Planes to Curacao in Ramped Up Anti-Drug Operation. The US Southern Command announced last Friday that four US Air Force planes will be deployed to Curacao, a Caribbean island nation just 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, for counter-narcotics operations. An E-3 Sentry surveillance plane and an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System plane, supported by two KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, will fly detection and monitoring missions in international airspace, Pentagon officials said. The move is meant to "help U.S. and international law enforcement authorities disrupt and defeat transnational criminal organizations trafficking illegal narcotics in the region," the Southern Command said. The deployment will involve about 200 US personnel at the Cooperative Security Location, a complex used for regional training in counterterrorism and drug interdiction, in Williamstad, Curacao. The move comes several weeks after the Trump administration accused the Venezuelan government of being involved in drug trafficking.

International

Israel Knesset Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday approved a pair of marijuana legalization bills that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption by adults 21 and over. This is only the first step on a process in which the bills must be discussed in committee and then approved at least three times by the full Knesset.

Mexican President Says He Ordered Freeing of El Chapo's Son to Prevent Bloodshed. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged last Friday that he personally ordered the release of one of imprisoned Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's sons after he was captured by the military last fall in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. "I ordered that this operation be stopped and that this presumed criminal be freed," he said, adding that he acted to prevent a slaughter. The capture of Ovidio Guzman Lopez resulted in hours-long gun battles and cartel roadblocks in Culiacan, leaving at least 14 people dead. The violence didn't end until the son was released. “If we hadn’t suspended [the operation] more than 200 innocent people … would have lost their lives,” the president said.

US Rep Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Prohibition-Related Violence in Colombia and Mexico, More... (6/11/20)

South Dakota marijuana activists launch their election campaign this week, Nevada's governor proposes mass pardons for small time pot possession charges, Michigan's governor signs a roadside drug testing bill into law, and more.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is calling for drug decriminalization as part of a police accountability plan. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Governor Proposes Pardons for Minor Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced Thursday that he will propose a plan to pardon tens of thousands of people convicted on minor marijuana possession charges before the state legalized the drug in 2017. "The people of Nevada have decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a crime," the governor said. "If approved, this resolution will clear the slate for thousands of people who bear the stigma of a conviction for actions that have now been decriminalized."

South Dakota Marijuana Advocates Kick Off Campaign for Both Legalization and Medical Marijuana Initiatives. With both a marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and a medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, already qualified for the ballot, marijuana activists kicked off their election season campaign to get them both approved in November. If both were approved by voters, the state would become the first to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana on the same day.

Drug Policy

Oregon US Congressman Calls for Drug Decriminalization as Part of Policing Reform Plan. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) released a police accountability plan on Tuesday that includes proposals to legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs to reduce over-policing of communities of color. "Reducing police interactions by using non-law enforcement to deal with minor crimes and activities, and repealing punitive drug laws could reduce the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color," the plan states. "We need to rethink the way police are used and encourage alternative policing models that address institutional racism as they are being created." Such a plan would include repealing "policies that incentivize over-policing of communities of color, including the prohibition of cannabis and the decriminalization of other drugs."

Drug Testing

Michigan Governor Signs Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Program Bill. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 718, which establishes a statewide pilot program for roadside drug testing for drivers. The test will use saliva to detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

International

Colombia's Coca-Growing Cauca Department Wracked with Violence. Armed groups fighting over control over the coca and cocaine trade have been engaging in targeted assassinations and gun battles in southwestern Cauca department. Dissident members of the FARC, which laid down its arms as part of a 2016 peace accord, have been going after their former comrades, while different factions of the National Liberation Army (ELN) clashed with each other. Meanwhile, the targeted killings of social leaders and activists have also continued, with more than 40 killed in the department so far this year.

Mexico's Guanajuato State Hammered by Weekend of Cartel Violence. Nearly three dozen people were killed in a spate of drug gang killings in the central industrial state of Guanajuato over the weekend. In the deadliest single incident, a group of gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation center in Irapauto and killed 10 people. The violence is linked to a bloody turf war between the Jalisco Cartel and the local Santa Rosa de Lima gang.

Traffic Searches Decline with Marijuana Legalization, But Racial Disparities Persist, More... (5/8/20)

A new study reports that driving while black is still a thing even in legal marijuana states, Joe Biden touts some coercive, but non-carceral approaches to drug offenders, and more.

Driving while black is still a thing even in legal marijuana states. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Study: Police Make Fewer Traffic Stops Following Marijuana Legalization, But People of Color Still Disproportionately Targeted. A study reported in the journal Nature: Human Behavior finds police are less likely to search vehicles for contraband where marijuana has been legalized. Focusing on Colorado and Washington, the study found that "after the legalization of marijuana, the number of searches fell substantially" in those two states compared to 12 states that had not enacted legalization. But the study also found that racial disparities persisted even in the legal states: "We found that white drivers faced consistently higher search thresholds than minority drivers, both before and after marijuana legalization," the study reported. "The data thus suggest that, although overall search rates dropped in Washington and Colorado, black and Hispanic drivers still faced discrimination in search decisions."

Maryland Governor Vetoes Bill Shielding Marijuana-Related Convictions from Public View. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has vetoed House Bill 83, which would block old marijuana possession cases from showing up in state case search records, shielding an estimated 200,000 marijuana possession convictions from public view. In his veto statement, Hogan admitted vetoing the measure (and several other criminal justice reform bills) out of political spite, because the House had failed to pass a bill he wanted, the Violent Firearms Offender Act. "While the Senate approved the package by a wide margin, the House failed to act upon it [the Violent Firearms Offenders Act of 2020]," Gov. Hogan wrote. "Therefore... I have vetoed... House Bill 83."

Drug Policy

Joe Biden's Drug Policy Will Emphasize Drug Courts, Drug Treatment Over Incarceration. In his "Plan for Black America" released this week, presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden identified the criminal justice system and drug law enforcement as disproportionately targeting black Americans. When it comes to enforcing drug laws for drugs other than marijuana -- which he says he wants to decriminalize -- he is calling for people not to be imprisoned for drug possession but instead diverting "individuals to drug courts and treatment." Both drug courts and court-ordered drug treatment have been criticized as overly punitive and coercive.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: TX MJ Prosecutions Halved, Random Drug Tests for Truck Drivers to Double, More... (1/3/20)

New York's governor vetoes a bill easing access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction for Medicaid patients, but not for patients with private insurance; Illinois sold $3.2 million worth of marijuana on day one of legalization, and more.

Truck drivers will face a doubled chance of undergoing a random drug test this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Sold $3.2 Million Worth of Weed on Day One of Legalization. On the first day of legal marijuana sales, retailers racked up 77,000 transactions totaling $3.2 million. Among those first day customers was Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, who was spotted buying gummies at a dispensary, which generated applause from other customers.

Texas Marijuana Prosecutions Drop by Half Since Hemp Legalization. Since lawmakers legalized hemp last year, the inability of police officers, drug dogs, and field drug tests to differentiate between non-psychoactive hemp and marijuana has resulted in a 50% decline in marijuana possession prosecutions. Some agencies that still pursue charges are having to spend significantly more money on private labs that can tell the difference.

Drug Testing

Truck Driver Random Drug Testing Rate Set to Double This Year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on December 26 that trucking companies will have to double the random drug testing of their drivers, from 25% of drivers each year to 50%. That will cost the industry an estimated $50 million to $70 million each year. The increase in testing rates was triggered by the amount of positive drug tests passing the 1% mark, which in turn was likely triggered by the Department of Transportation adding four semisynthetic opioids -- oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone -- to its federal drug-testing program in 2018, as well as the spread of marijuana legalization.

Drug Treatment

New York Governor Vetoes Bill to Ease Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioids for Medicaid Patients. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has outraged activists by vetoing a bill intended to make it easier for poor residents on Medicaid to access medication-based treatment for opioid addiction -- while at the same time signing a similar bill that does expand access to these medications for people on private insurance. Both bills ban the use of prior authorizations by insurance companies, which takes time and resources and prevents some people from getting the treatment at all. Both bills passed in July, but Cuomo didn't act on them until now. "After six months of pleading for a signature, Governor Cuomo callously vetoed the bill to expand lifesaving treatment to thousands of low-income New Yorkers grappling with substance use disorders," said Jasmine Budnella, drug policy coordinator for the New York chapter of the group Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY).

Chronicle AM: UN Criticizes US Afghan Drug Lab Airstrikes, SD Moving on Hemp, More... (10/9/19)

Two UN agencies report that US airstrikes on Afghan drug labs were illegal and killed civilians, a Michigan roadside drug testing pilot program has now gone statewide, and more.

A Michigan pilot roadside drug testing program has now gone statewide. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Roadside Drug Testing Program Now Statewide. A pilot program to test drivers for a range of illicit drugs has now gone statewide, the Michigan State Police have announced. The program had been underway in five counties for the past year. It uses check swab tests to detect the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis (delta 9 THC), cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates. During that first year, police arrested 89 people for impaired driving based on the test, most of them for marijuana.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers Move to Legalize Hemp Over Governor's Objection. A legislative Hemp Study Committee met Monday to begin writing a bill to legalize hemp next year over the objections of Gov. Kristi Noem (R). The legislature passed a hemp bill last year, only to have Noem veto it, citing difficulties for law enforcement and fears it was a stalking horse for marijuana legalization. One issue for legislators now is whether to include CBD in hemp legalization.

Foreign Policy

UN Says US Airstrikes on Afghan Drug Labs Unlawful, Killed Civilians. A United Nations report Wednesday found that US airstrikes on Afghan drug labs killed or wounded at least 39 civilians, violating international humanitarian law since the victims were non-combatants. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Human Rights Office jointly issued the report. "UNAMA has assessed that the personnel working inside the drug production facilities were not performing combat functions," the report said. "They were therefore entitled to protection from attack, and could only have lost this protection if, and for such time, as they had been directly participating in hostilities."

Chronicle AM: Mexico MJ Legalization Vote This Month, MA Governor Pushes High Driving Bill, More... (10/8/19)

Mexico is moving rapidly toward marijuana legalization, Scotland's largest political party is set to embrace drug decriminalization, and more.

Mexico's congress is set to vote on a marijuana legalization bill this month. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Governor, Cops Push High Driving Bill. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Monday pushed for passage of his administration's impaired driving bill. Introduced earlier this year, the bill aims to make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on people driving under the influence of marijuana. The bill would allow police to seek electronic search warrants and punish drivers who refuse drug tests. It would also bar open or loose pot packages in vehicles. Law enforcement officials who appeared with Baker also supported the bill.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania ACLU Sues County for Prohibiting Probationers from Using Medical Marijuana. The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against Lebanon County's policy prohibiting people who are on probation and who are registered medical marijuana patients from using their medication. The action will take the form of a class action lawsuit involving more than 60 people in the county who are on some form of community supervision and are medical marijuana patients. Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2016, a Lebanon County judge ruled that medical marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and county officials used that rationale to institute the policy. "The plain language in the medical marijuana law shows that the legislature intended to protect all patients, including those on probation," said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Judges may not agree with the Medical Marijuana Act or may not support people using marijuana for any reason, but they must follow the law."

International

Mexico Senate Leader Says Lawmakers Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization by Month's End. Sen. Ricardo Monreal, Senate leader of the ruling MORENA Party, said Monday that the Senate is just about done crafting a marijuana legalization bill after weeks of public forums and open-session debates and that a vote would come soon. "We're thinking that we'll bring the law out, approve it, at the end of October," Monreal said. "That's the schedule we have."

Scottish National Party Set to Back Drug Decriminalization. Scotland's largest political party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is set to adopt a platform plank calling for drug decriminalization. The move to support relaxing laws against possession and consumption of drugs is expected to be passed at the party's annual conference in Aberdeen this weekend. The move comes as the country grapples with an overdose death crisis.

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