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NV Mass Marijuana Pardons, Colombia Cocaine Surge, NJ Pot Decrim Bill Advances, More... (6/18/20)

Fifteen thousand Nevada pot offenders just got automatic pardons, the UN says Colombian potential cocaine production was up last year, Kansas City moves toward pot decriminalization, and more.

Potential Colombian cocaine production was up slightly last year, the UNODC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Pardons 15,000 People with Marijuana Convictions. Under a resolution from Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), the Board of Pardons Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved automatic pardons for 15,000 people who had been arrested on marijuana possession charges between January 1986 and January 2017. "Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law," the governor said in a press release. "Since the passage of [adult-use legalization] in 2016 and the decriminalization of possession for small amounts of marijuana, many Nevadans  have had these minor offenses remain on their records, in some cases as a felony. This resolution aims to correct that and fully restore any rights lost as a result of these convictions."

New Jersey Assembly Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation. The Assembly on Thursday easily approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, A1897, by a 63-10 vote. The measure decriminalizes the possession and distribution of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults — making these activities punishable by a $50 fine. Those found to be in violation of the law will no longer be arrested or saddled with a criminal record. A broader decriminalization bill that includes more social justice provisions, S2535, is pending in the Senate. Full marijuana legalization is already on the ballot for November.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Rolls Out Decriminalization Ordinance. Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and at least four city council members introduced a marijuana decriminalization ordinance Thursday. The proposed ordinance would remove the offense of marijuana possession from the city code. "One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions, and disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black men and Black women," said Lucas. "Reducing petty offenses – such as municipal marijuana offenses – reduce these negative interactions each day."

International

UNODC Says Colombia's Potential Cocaine Output Increased Slightly Last Year. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that potential production of pure cocaine increased 1.5% last year to 1,137 metric tons. The increase in production potential came even as the area under coca cultivation decreased slightly. The increase in productivity is because coca growing is now concentrated in specific areas. The report comes as the Colombian government faces mounting pressure from the US to reduce cocaine exports.

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.

COVID Impacts Cocaine Trade, Bolsters Dark Web Drug Market, More... (5/28/20)

Coronavirus is having differential impacts on the illicit drug trade, Michigan groups push to end the state's drug felon foodstamp ban, Colombian rebels call for a coronavirus ceasefire, and more.

Coca prices are down because of the pandemic, but the cocaine trade keeps on keeping on. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Boost from Federal Judge's Signature-Gathering Ruling. A federal judge ruled Monday that a marijuana legalization initiative campaign, Arkansans for Cannabis Reform, can do electronic signature-gathering because of excessive burdens on in-person signature-gathering due to coronavirus pandemic social distancing. The judge ruled that the secretary of state must accept signatures not gathered in person or notarized. The campaign says it was on a path to gather sufficient signatures before in-person signature-gathering was suspended. It has until July 3 to hand in signatures.

Drug Policy

Michigan Bill Would Hike Heroin, Fentanyl Sales Penalties. State Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) has filed a bill, HB 5627, that would increase penalties for the manufacture and delivery of heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioid drugs. The bill is now before the House Judiciary Committee.

Michigan Groups Call on Governor to End Food Stamp Ban for Drug Felons. A coalition of 25 organizations led by the Center for Employment Opportunities is calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and legislative leaders to end a longtime state policy that permanently bans residents with two or more drug felony convictions from receiving food stamps. The ban is federal, but most states have already moved to receive waivers to avoid enforcing it. The groups say the ban makes it more difficult for people to make the transition from prison to civilian life.

International

Coronavirus Drives Dealers Online as Drugs Supply Soars. The cyber intelligence company Sixgill is reporting that dark web drug sales offers soared nearly 500% over the first few months of this year as drug dealers took to the web to continue doing business in a time of social distancing. The number of drug items for sale on dark websites monitored by Sixgill jumped from 4,154 in December 2019 to more than 24,000 by April 2020. MDMA postings more than doubled, marijuana postings increased more than five-fold, and cocaine postings jumped 10-fold. "Feedback, while an imperfect metric for purchase volume, is a reliable indicator of the rate of transactions," Sixgill explained. "Feedback volume for cannabis, cocaine, and MDMA all nearly doubled over the past half year."

Coronavirus Hits the Cocaine Supply Chain. The coronavirus pandemic is destabilizing the delicate balance in the Andes that the cocaine trade relies on. Lockdowns enforced by soldiers and police have caused trafficking routes to constrict, driving down the price of coca for the more than 237,000 families in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia who depend on it. In the latter two countries, the price of coca has dropped to from one-third to one-sixth of previous levels. "We're concerned about feeding our families because the price of coca continues to drop," said Bolivian coca union leader Albino Pinto. "We face restrictions in moving coca and other goods to the central market. This is blocking both local consumption and export, but our production continues at the same level." But the cocaine trade continues: "Drug traffickers have become more agile in shifting routes and modifying strategies," according to Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network. "Given the harsh reality for those who survive at the lowest rungs of the cocaine trade, pandemic control, just like drug control doesn't stop this business."

Colombia ELN Rebels Would Back Temporary Ceasefire to Help Contain Spread of Coronavirus. The National Liberation Army (ELN), which remains in rebellion against the government in Bogota and is involved in coca and cocaine production, has said it would be willing to take part in a three-month ceasefire to help quash the coronavirus. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire back in March. The ELN said it was waiting for a response from the government of President Ivan Duque.

US Army Unit Heads to Colombia to Fight Drugs, LA Senate Approves MedMJ Expansion Bill, More... (5/28/20)

One Arkansas marijuana legalization campaign calls it quits for this year, the Louisiana Senate has passed a medical marijuana expansion bill, Tyson Timbs finally gets his Land Rover back, and more.

Montana medical marijuana patients will soon be able to shop at any dispensary they wish. (Sandra Yreul/DPA)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Stops Signature-Gathering. Arkansas True Grass, which sought to place a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the November ballot, has given up on this year, citing difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The group needed 90,000 valid voter signatures by July 3 to qualify, but now says it will turn its sights to 2022. Another initiative campaign, Arkansans for Cannabis Reform, continues to gather signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate voted 28-6 Wednesday to approve House Bill 819, which would end a rule requiring doctors to register with the state to recommend it and give them broad authority to recommend for any debilitating health condition. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back to the lower chamber to approve amendments made in the Senate.

Montana to "Untether" Medical Marijuana Users, Allowing Multiple Providers. As of next Tuesday, medical marijuana patients will no longer be stuck using a sole provider. Under a bill approved last year, patients will now be able to seek their medicine from any dispensary or provider. That bill allows patients to purchase up to one ounce per day, with a maximum of five ounces per month. But the daily purchase limit is temporarily suspended in a bid to reduce the number of in-store visits because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma Activists Call for Legislature to Reconvene to Override Governor's Veto of Medical Marijuana Delivery Bill. After Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last week vetoed a bill that would have allowed for medical marijuana deliveries, activists are calling on lawmakers to reconvene to override that veto. While other vetoes by Stitt were successfully overridden, the Senate refused to vote on this one, with the Senate leader's office saying "there was not enough support to override the veto in the Senate and it was not close."

Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Man in US Supreme Court Asset Forfeiture Case Finally Gets His Vehicle Back. Tyson Timbs, the Indiana man whose seized Land Rover resulted in a Supreme Court decision scaling back civil asset forfeiture, has finally gotten his vehicle back -- six years after it was seized over a drug bust. After the Supreme Court decision, a state court judge ordered the state to return Timbs' vehicle "immediately." That was April 27. Now, it's actually happened.

Foreign Policy

US Army Unit to Arrive in Colombia on Drug Fighting Mission. The US Embassy in Bogota announced Wednesday that a US Security Force Assistance Brigade will arrive in Colombia early next month. "SFAB's mission in Colombia is an opportunity to demonstrate our mutual commitment against drug trafficking and support for regional peace, respect for sovereignty and the lasting promise to defend shared ideals and values," said US Southern Commander Admiral Craig Faller in a statement. The move comes as Colombia's coca cultivation and cocaine production are a record high levels.

"Deaths of Despair" Plateaued in 2018, No COVID Shutdown for Colombia's Coca Eradicators, More... (5/21/20)

Virginia has now decriminalized small-time marijuana possession, a marijuana legalization bill is moving again in the US Virgin Islands, "deaths of despair" have leveled off, a study finds, and more.

Virginia has just decriminalized marijuana possession. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

US Virgin Island Governor Unveils Revised Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) has released a revised marijuana legalization bill and sent it to the territorial Senate for consideration. Bryan is emphasizing the potential for marijuana taxes to help fund the territory's retirement system for government workers. The revised bill would address social equity issues by creating a micro-cultivator permit and would allow patients but not recreational consumers to grow their own. The bill would also limit non-residents to buying seven grams a day, while residents could buy an ounce each day.

Virginia Governor Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bills. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday signed a pair of identical bills that decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, making it the 27th state to do so. The bills are SB 2 and HB 972. The legislature passed the measures in March, but Northam recommended a series of amendments and sent it back to the House and Senate for consideration. The legislators accepted 15 of 17 recommendations and sent the measures back to Northam, who was satisfied enough to sign them into law.

Drug Policy

"Deaths of Despair" Plateaued in 2018, Study Finds. Deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide -- so-called "deaths of despair" -- hit a peak in 2017 and leveled off in 2018, according to a study from the Trust for America's Health. The leveling off was largely attributable to a decline in drug overdose deaths that year, the first such decrease in a decade. But deaths due to alcohol, synthetic opioids, cocaine and suicide increased, particularly among people of color, according to the report.

International

Colombia Coca Eradicators Spared from Coronavirus Lockdown. Colombian President Ivan Duque has ordered a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus but has created an exception that allows coca eradication campaigns to move forward largely unabated. The move comes amidst intense US pressure to reduce the country's cocaine production. The campaign has also led to at least two deaths in clashes between security forces and local residents.

Push to Help Marijuana Businesses in Next COVID Bill, Coca and Conflict in Bolivia and Colombia, More... (5/11/20)

Advocacy groups are pushing for marijuana businesses to be included in the next coronavirus relief bill, a pair of Oregon drug reform initiatives are teaming up for signature-gathering, and more.

Colombian coca grower at work (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Groups Ask Congress to Include Banking Access in Next Coronavirus Bill. A coalition of marijuana advocacy groups sent a letter last Friday to the House leadership asking them to include language allowing the marijuana industry to gain access to banking services as part of pending coronavirus relief legislation. The groups argue that while lack of banking access has been a serious problem for the industry, it is now made worse because such businesses can only accept cash, which hampers recommended social distancing practices. "As recent reports show that viruses can live on cash for up to 17 days, the public safety concerns of this cash-only system compound,"the letter says. "The lack of access to financial institutions places industry workers, government employees, and the public at-large at risk as banknotes circulate from consumers and patients to businesses to government."

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization and Therapeutic Psilocybin Initiative Campaigns Team Up for Signature-Gathering. Activists behind the IP 34 therapeutic psilocybin initiative and the IP 44 drug decriminalization initiative campaigns are joining forces to collect enough signatures for each to qualify for the November ballot. Both campaigns sent out email blasts over the weekend encouraging their supporters to sign petitions for the other measure.

International

Albania Close to Legalizing Medical Marijuana. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced Monday that the government is preparing a draft law that would legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He said the government had been working for the past year with foreign and local advisors and that the draft bill would soon be made public.

Bolivia Escalates Anti-Drug Campaign in the Chapare, Escalating Tensions. The rightist interim government has stepped up operations against drug trafficking in the Chapare, but its focus on coca-producing communities around Cochabamba is creating intensifying tensions with law enforcement. Rural mobile police officers have been ambushed by traffickers attempting to protect their cocaine labs, and residents in nearby towns broke quarantine rules to find police officers and evict them from the area. Meanwhile, authorities have halted coca eradication efforts, although probably less because of the coronavirus than because Cochabamba coca growers are well organized and close to the deposed former president, Evo Morales, and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party, which is expected to win forthcoming presidential elections. Sending armed state agents into the countryside to destroy farmers' crops poses political risks for the interim government.

Colombia Steps Up Coca Eradication During Lockdown. Despite ordering a full lockdown of the country, the Colombian government is doubling down on the manual eradication of coca plants in remote parts of the country. Coca growers' representatives and human rights groups are demanding the government cease eradication during the lockdown for health reasons.

Coronavirus Doesn't Halt Colombia Coca Offensive, MT Court Hears Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering, More... (4/29/20)

Whether Montana marijuana legalization campaigns can use electronic signature-gathering is now in the hands of a state judge, an Indiana judge orders the return of a Land Rover whose case changed federal asset forfeiture law, Colombia's campaign against coca continues despite the pandemic, and more.

The Colombian government isn't letting a nationwide coronavirus curfew interfere with its war on coca producers. (Pixabay)
Montana Court Hears Arguments Over Electronic Signature-Gathering for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. New Approach Montana, the group behind a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, was in Lewis and Clark County District Court Tuesday in an effort to win permission to do electronic signature-gathering amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The group says the state's stay-at-home order and continued social distancing directives make it nearly impossible to gather enough in-person signatures to qualify their petitions for the November ballot. The hearing itself was held by telephone, a point New Approach's lawyer emphasized when arguing its case. Attorneys for the state argued against allowing electronic signature gathering, saying there is not enough evidence it can be done securely and that the group's injury was self-inflicted because it had not yet started signature gathering. Initiative-190 would legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state. It requires over 25,000 valid voter signatures to appear on November's ballot. Constitutional Initiative-118 aims to amend the state constitution to set the age of marijuana consumption and possession at 21. It needs almost 51,000 valid voter signatures.

Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Judge Orders Return of Seized Land Rover That Led to US Supreme Court Asset Forfeiture Case. An Indiana Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the state to "immediately release" a seized Land Rover in a case that made history in the US Supreme Court when the court used it to overturn Indiana's civil asset forfeiture law, saying the seizure was disproportionate to the offense. The ruling comes seven years after police seized Tyson Timbs' $41,000 Land Rover when he was charged with a drug felony. But the state is continuing to appeal the case, so that "immediate release" is not going to happen just yet.

International

Colombia Carries on Major Offensive Against Coca Producers Amidst Pandemic Curfew. Although President Ivan Duque declared a nationwide curfew on March 24 to fight the coronavirus pandemic, massive military operations aimed at eradicating small producer coca plantations are continuing unimpeded. In the departments of Antioquia and Chocó, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Putumayo, and Caquetá, military and civilian eradication personnel are engaged in eradication efforts.

Swiss Parliament Passes Motion to Authorize Cannabis Production and Export. The Swiss Parliament has passed a measure that will allow producers in the country to export low-THC hemp, and doctors to prescribe medical marijuana directly. Currently, would-be patients must obtain prescriptions for the Federal Office of Public Health, an expensive and time-consuming process. The new law is expected to come into force sometime in the middle of next year. It will also include a pilot program for recreational use. The measure still has to be approved by the Council of States before it can proceed.

Peru Coca Prices Plunge Amid Pandemic, Louisiana Pot Poll Shows State Not There Yet, More... (4/27/20)

A Navy destroyer on an anti-drug mission is forced to return to port, Peruvian coca growers are taking a financial hit during the pandemic, Montana GOP elected officials are opposing an effort to get electronic signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization campaign, and more.

It's hard times in the coca fields, as pandemic lockdowns bring price plunges. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Finds State Not There Yet on Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Louisiana Public Opinion LLC shows that a majority of registered voters still oppose legalization -- but that number has decreased slightly. When respondents were asked if they favored legalization, only 37% said yes, compared to 54% opposed. That's up three points from the same survey conducted three years ago, but still well short of a majority.

Montana Republican State Officials Oppose Electronic Signature Gathering for Initiatives. Replying to a lawsuit from New Approach Montana, the sponsor of a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14) that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, the Republican secretary of state and attorney general officially responded that they oppose the electronic gathering of signatures for initiative campaigns impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, the state's top election official, and the state of Montana, represented by Attorney General Tim Fox, have asked the court to throw out the lawsuits, arguing that the circumstances arise out of a "health emergency," not unfair election laws.

Interdiction

US Naval Destroyer on Counternarcotics Mission Forced to Return to Port After Being Hit by Coronavirus Outbreak. The USS Kidd, a guided missile destroyer doing counternarcotic missions in the eastern Pacific Ocean, has been forced to return to port after at least 18 sailors aboard the ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Navy said the number of those infected with the virus on the vessel was expected to rise. The Kidd is part of the Trump administration's deployment of more warships and aircraft to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to fight drug cartels.

International

Peru Sees Big Drop in Black Market Coca Prices as Pandemic Bites into Drug Trade. Prices for coca leaf sold to illicit economy drug gangs have plunged 70% since the country went on lockdown last month, according to a local growers' organization. While the country has a legal coca market, an estimated 90% of the crop is destined for the black market. Now, the growers are calling on the government to buy up excess coca inventory for use in licit coca industries.

Call to Ease Access for Opioid Disorder Treatment During Crisis, DC Patients Get MedMJ Delivery, More... (4/15/20)

DC medical marijuana patients can now get home delivery and curbside pickup, Montana activists are suing the state to be able to do electronic signature gathering during the pandemic, calls mount to free a jailed Bolivian coca grower union leader, and more.

Montana activists are suing to be able to do electronic signature gathering for a pair of legalization initiatives. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Legalization Campaign Sues for Electronic Signature Gathering During Pandemic. The campaign manager for New Approach Montana and two in-state political figures have filed a lawsuit against the state charging that prohibiting electronic signature gathering during the coronavirus pandemic is unconstitutional. New Approach Montana is behind a pair of legalization initiatives: a constitutional initiative (Ballot Issue 11) that would set 21 as the legal age when people can use marijuana and a statutory initiative (Ballot Issue 14)  that would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Not allowing for electronic signature gathering would violate the "constitutional rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana to amend the constitution and enact laws by initiative, as well as the rights of Plaintiffs and the people of Montana under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution," the lawsuit argues.

Medical Marijuana

Washington, DC, Okays Home Delivery, Curbside Pickup. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and the city Department of Health announced an emergency rule Monday that allows medical marijuana patients to have their medicine delivered. The new rule also allows for curbside pickup as a social distancing measure.

Harm Reduction

Activists Call for Big Changes to Ease Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment. The Urban Survivors Union, a national drug user group, is calling on regulators to relax rules around the prescription and dispensing of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. While government agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Medicare and Medicaid recently announcing policy shifts that permit more flexible prescribing and dispensing of MAT, as the union notes, "clinics have been either reluctant or resistant to fully implement them to the extent allowable under the law." The group, along with a lengthy list of signatories, is advocating for no discharging of people from treatment except for violent behavior, allowing people to request larger doses of MAT, coronavirus testing for people in treatment, among other recommendations.

International

Bolivia Faces Mounting Calls for Release of Afro-Bolivian Coca Union Leader. Activists are calling for the release of Elena Flores, the first woman and first Afro-Bolivian leader of the local coca growers' union. She has been behind bars for a month as part of a crackdown on social movements and indigenous groups by the government the rightist interim government that took power late last year after then-President Evo Morales, also a coca grower union leader, was forced from office by street protests and the loss of support of the military and police. Flores is one of three imprisoned Bolivian women, along with the former head of the Supreme Electoral Board and former President Morales' lawyer, whose release is being demanded by more than 160 organization, academics, trade unions, and activists worldwide.

Colombian Cocaine Production Jumps, VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads to Governor, More... (3/9/20)

Colombian cocaine production is way up, the US says as it pushes for forced and aerial eradication, NJ pot legalization supporters organize for victory, WVA is moving to increase meth sentences, and more.

Cocaine production in Colombia is at record levels, the US says. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legalization Supporters form Coalition to Push for November Victory. Advocates and stakeholders in the state's marijuana industry have formed a campaign coalition, NJ CAN 2020, to fight for marijuana legalization that includes a racial and social justice approach. The group includes members of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, including the ACLU of New Jersey, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, the Latino Action Network, the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference and the NJ CannaBusiness Association.

Oklahoma Sees Another Legalization Initiative Filed. Stakeholders in the state's medical marijuana industry have filed a legalization initiative, SQ 811, in response to an earlier filed legalization initiative that they say would not fully protect the state's existing medical marijuana industry. The initiative would tax marijuana at 25% but says medical marijuana would be "exempt from all taxes." The same group also filed a decriminalization initiative, SQ 812, the same day.

Virginia Legislature Approves Decriminalization Bill. The state Senate on Sunday approved a decriminalization bill, SB 2. The bill has already passed the House, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Under the bill, possession of up to an ounce will now merit a fine of no more than $50.  

Sentencing

West Virginia Legislature Approves Bill Raising Meth Sentences. The state Senate on Sunday approved HB 4852, which would double mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for possession with intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine. What is currently a one-to-five-year sentence would become a two-to-10-year sentence. The bill has already passed the House but has to go back for a concurrence vote to approve changes made in the Senate.

Foreign Policy

United States and Colombian Officials Set Bilateral Agenda to Reduce Cocaine Supply. Last Friday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) led a counternarcotics dialogue with the Government of Colombia to set forth a bilateral, whole-of-government joint action plan to reduce the high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50 percent by the end of 2023.The dialogue focused on increasing coca eradication and cocaine interdiction, improving security and economic opportunities in the rural areas most afflicted by narcotics trafficking, and targeting narcotics-related money laundering and illicit finances. A focus of the discussion was expanding the results of Colombia’s integrated coca eradication program by ensuring full use of all available tools, including manual eradication, alternative development, and a Colombian-led aerial eradication component, supported by rural development and rural security programs.

International

Canadian Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed. Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has recently tabled a drug decriminalization bill, C-235, which would remove simple drug possession from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. "The international evidence is pretty clear that the way we have dealt with drug use, the war on drugs and throwing police resources to reduce drug use, has failed and has undermined public-health efforts," Erskine-Smith said. "And the overwhelming evidence today is that we should treat drug use as a health issue and we should be removing barriers to seeking treatment, and decriminalization of simple possession would do just that." Private bills rarely pass, but this is a start.

Colombia Cocaine Production Hit Record High Last Year Despite Forced Eradication, US Says. Cocaine production increased 8% last year, reaching an all-time high, according to figures released by the US government. The increase came even as the US and Colombian governments have been promoting forced eradication of coca crops and refusing to support crop substitution and rural development programs that are broadly considered more effective.

Drug War Issues

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