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Schumer Vows Legal Pot Bill Coming This Summer, CO House Passes Fentanyl Felony Bill, More... (4/25/22)

A South Carolina Republican congresswoman who filed a marijuana legalization bill faces an attack by a primary challenger, Alabama Democrats come up with a "Free Weed" website, and more.

Is marijuana legalization coming to the Senate this summer? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Promises Marijuana Activists Legalization Bill Will Come Before August Recess. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last Friday promised activists he would file his marijuana legalization bill before the August recess. He and colleagues such as a Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-NJ) have been working for more than a year on the bill and have blocked incremental reform legislation, such as the SAFE Banking Act, from being considered in the Senate before the legalization bill is taken up. Schumer had earlier vowed to have his bill out by this month, but last week said that was not going to happen. The draft version of his Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) has been floating around since last summer.

Alabama Democrats Launch "Free Weed" Website to Push Legalization. The state Democratic Party has launched a Free Weed website in a bid to garner support for its effort to legalize marijuana in the state. The website mixes policy advocacy and promotion of the state Democratic Party. It argues that legalizing marijuana would be an economic boon for the state and that arresting and prosecuting people for possession of small amounts of weed is a waste of criminal justice resources. The party rolled the website out on 4/20.

South Carolina Republican Representative Who Sponsored Legalization Bill Faces Call for Drug Test from Primary Opponent. US Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who filed a marijuana legalization bill this year, is now facing a primary opponent, Katie Arrington, who thinks Mace may have been "high" while representing the state and has demanded she submit to a drug test. "While residents of the Lowcountry continue to be crushed by skyrocketing inflation and record high gas prices, Nancy Mace opted to spend 4/20 at a pot conference in Miami rather than with her constituents. Nancy should disclose who paid for this trip (to Miami), and should also take a drug test and make the results public. Maybe then the Lowcountry will understand why she has done nothing to combat the disastrous policies of the Biden administration,” " said Arrington. She also pointed to a recent Huffington Post article where Mace declined to say whether she still used marijuana. The Mace campaign within hours accused Arrington of engaging in "a desperate PR stunt by a desperate campaign."

Opiates and Opioids

Colorado House Passes Bill Making Fentanyl Possession a Felony but With No Prison Time. In an effort to address the opioid overdose crisis, the House last Friday approved House Bill 22-1326, which would make possession of between one and four grams of fentanyl a felony, but with no possibility of a prison sentence. The House approved the bill after fending off an amendment that would possession of any amount of fentanyl a felony. The bill would be a step backward from a 2019 law that made possession of up to four grams of most controlled substances a misdemeanor. The bill now heads to the Senate. 

(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.

ND Legal Pot Initiative Can Start Signature-Gathering, Honduras Ex-Prez Extradited on Drug Charges, More... (4/22/22)

Kentucky's governor announces plans for executive actions to make medical marijuana available in the state,  a pair of US senators go after a methamphetamine precursor chemical, and more.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is now in custody in the US on drug trafficking conspiracy charges. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Can Begin Signature-Gathering. Secretary of State Al Jager (R) announced Thursday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach North Dakota has been approved for signature-gathering. The measure would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and direct the legislature to establish rules and create a legal marijuana program by October 2023. The campaign now needs to gather 15,582 valid voter signatures by July 11 to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short. Kind Idaho, the group behind an effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, says it is not going to make it. "We aren't going to meet numbers," the campaign's treasurer said. The campaign needs 70,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot but has only come up with a tenth of them, and the deadline is one week from today. "We ran into some issues along the way with basically starting up a grassroots organization without any sort of financial backing or assistance," he said.

Kentucky Governor Announces Plan to Allow Medical Marijuana. In the wake of the legislature's failure to pass a marijuana bill (again), Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced Thursday a process that could lead to executive actions to allow medical marijuana in the state. "Most of these steps are about hearing from you, the public, so that your voice is heard by the executive branch — even if it's ignored by the legislative branch," Beshear said. Without naming names, Beshear went after Republican senators who blocked the bill, saying that "it's time that a couple of individuals that are out of touch with the vast majority of Kentuckians on this issue stop obstructing it and we're able to move forward."

Methamphetamine

Senate Drug Caucus Chairs Call on International Panel to Push for Scheduling of Methamphetamine Precursor Chemical. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, in a letter Thursday urged the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to recommend the scheduling of methylamine—a precursor to methamphetamine. On the INCB’s recommendation, the most recent session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted unanimously to control three fentanyl precursor chemicals, but did not act on methylamine. Whitehouse and Grassley encourage the INCB to back the scheduling of methylamine, which would help to save lives across the globe, they said. "In 2020, 24,576 Americans died from an overdose involving psychostimulants, a class of drugs that includes methamphetamine," Whitehouse and Grassley wrote. "As the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control has expressed to INCB in the past, international action is necessary to stop methylamine sales that enable criminal groups to produce methamphetamine. Recommending that CND schedule methylamine under the 1988 UN Convention will help save lives across the globe, including in the United States."

International

Mexican President Confirms Closure of Elite Anti-Drug Unit That Worked with DEA. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that an elite anti-drug unit that worked on drug investigations with the DEA was shut down last year, confirming a Reuters report from Tuesday. Lopez Obrador said the unit was shut down "over a year ago" and charged the unit had been infiltrated by criminals. "That group, which was supposedly a high-level strategic group, was infiltrated (by criminals),"he said. The Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU) police were considered among the country's law enforcement elite and had worked on major investigations, such as the capture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, but one of its former leaders, Ivan Reyes Arzate, has pleaded guilty in US federal court to taking bribes from a drug gang. The unit was seen as vital by US drug agents, who needed Mexican police to help with investigations there.

Honduras Ex-President Extradited to US to Face Drug Charges. Former President Juan Orlando Hernandez was extradited from Honduras Thursday to face drug charges in the US. He is accused of taking massive bribes from Mexican drug traffickers to abet a cocaine-importing conspiracy and related gun trafficking offenses. Hernandez was president from 2014 to January 2022 and was a Washington ally despite rumors of corruption surrounding him for years. "Hernandez abused his position as president of Honduras from 2014 through 2022 to operate the country as a narco-state,"said US Attorney General Merrick Garland. "Hernandez worked closely with other public officials to protect cocaine shipments bound for the United States." Hernandez's brother Tony, a former Honduran congressman, has already been sentenced to life in prison in the US after being convicted earlier on drug trafficking charges. 

Senate Legal Pot Bill Filing Bumped Back; Cops Begin to Move Away from Prextextual Traffic Stops, More... (4/15/22)

Bad behavior by the dope squad in Springfield, MA, leads to a consent decree with the Justice Department, the Senate pot legalization bill won't be filed this month after all, and more.

No-knock raids come under scrutiny in a new Washington Post report. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Marijuana Legalization Bill Filing Delayed. The Senate marijuana legalization bill championed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, will not be filed later this month as the trio originally planned, Schumer said Thursday. Instead, he said, the senators are now on track to file the bill before the August recess. The House has already passed its version of a legalization bill, the MORE Act (HR 3617). The House has also repeatedly passed an interim measure aimed at providing access to financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses, the SAFE Act (HR 1996), but Schumer and his allies in the Senate have blocked action on that, saying they want the legalization bill passed first.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Bills to Rein in Medical Marijuana Industry Advance. The Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced a number of bills to regulate the state's booming medical marijuana industry Thursday. House Bill 3813 would give Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority investigators the power to seize illegal medical marijuana products and to make arrests, as well as referring evidence, reports, and charges to law enforcement and prosecutors. It passed 11-0. The panel also passed House Bill 3208, which would enact a two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana business licenses, on a vote of 9-2. House Bill 4055 would require public utilities to provide the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with reports concerning how much water and electricity a grow facility uses. It passed on a vote of 8-3. House Bill 4411 would remove a limit of two facility inspections a year on medical marijuana operations and require at least one inspection annually. It passed on a vote of 11-0. And House Bill 3971 would let the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority employ "secret shoppers" to verify that retail outlets are complying with laws. It passed 10-1.

Law Enforcement

Some Cops Are Moving Away from Pretextual Traffic Stops. For decades, police have relied on pretextual traffic stops—stopping a driver, frequently a Black driver, for a trivial infraction, such as no license plate light or an expired inspection sticker—as a tool for looking for drug and gun law violations, but the New York Times reports that some departments are now moving from the practice as evidence mounts that they "not only disproportionately snare Black drivers but also do little to combat serious crime or improve public safety, and some escalate into avoidable violence, even killing officers or drivers." The newspaper cited the death in Grand Rapids, Michigan, of Patrick Lyoya, an unarmed 26-year-old Black man who was pulled over for a mismatched license plate and, after a brief struggle, was apparently shot in the head from behind, but he was only the latest of at least 400 unarmed people killed by police in traffic stops in the last five years. Big cities such as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Seattle have or are enacting policies restricting stops for minor violations, so has the state of Virginia, and smaller cities such as Berkeley, California, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and Lansing, Michigan.

No-Knock Raids Increasingly Common, Judges Act as Rubber Stamps. As part of a series of reports on how no-knock search warrants are obtained and executed, the Washington Post finds that "the dangerous police tactic has grown in use as judges routinely authorize requests for the surprise raids with little apparent scrutiny of claims by officers." It cited recent cases of raids turned deadly, including the killing of an unarmed Black man in a West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, motel room in a raid that turned up 22 grams of drugs, the killing of a 63-year-old Black man in his home in a raid that netted nine grams of drugs, and the notorious Houston raid that led to a gun-battle in which two innocent White homeowners were killed. The no-knock warrants are supposed to be carefully evaluated by judges, but “judges generally rely on the word of police officers and rarely question the merits of the requests, offering little resistance when they seek authorization for no-knocks,” a Washington Post investigation has found. The searches, which were meant to be used sparingly, have become commonplace for drug squads and SWAT teams." The Post found that at least 22 people have been killed in no-knock raids since 2015, 13 of whom were Black or Hispanic. In at least five raids, police killed someone who was not their target. There were also at least 24 other searches that ended in killings, but the newspaper was unable to determine what sort of warrant was involved.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Agree to Consent Decree Over Out of Control Narcotics Unit. The Justice Department in July2020 issued a report accusing the Springfield police narcotics unit of using excessive violence with impunity, and now, the police and the Justice Department have announced they have agreed on terms for a consent decree enacting a series of policing reforms. "Officers will report all uses of force, including punches and kicks, something which was not previously required in the Springfield Police Department," said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. "In addition, officers have a duty to intervene to prevent excessive force." The decree also calls for the city's new civilian police commission to have a budget and subpoena power. The police department's dope squad was disbanded in 2021 after the criticism, but the consent decree will apply to the entire police force. Police union leaders had no comment.

Lawmakers Press Drug Companies on Over-the-Counter Naloxone, Dem Voters Say Legal Pot a Priority, More... (4/13/22)

New polls of American and European voters show support for marijuana legalization, Massachusetts prisoners are suing over unreliable drug tests, and more. 

The opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Lawmakers want drug companies to seek over-the-counter status for it.
Marijuana Policy

Majority of Democrats Say Marijuana Legalization Should Be a Top Priority for Congress. A new poll from Morning Consult and Politico finds that more than half (52 percent) of Democratic voters say marijuana legalization should be a top or important priority for Congress. Only 29 percent of Republican voters felt the same. Overall, 41 percent of voters now see marijuana legalization as a top or important congressional priority. The poll comes with the House having already passed a marijuana legalization bill and with the Senate waiting on Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Meanwhile, desperately needed interim measures, such as providing industry access to financial services, languish.

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Prisoners Sue Over Prison System's "Unreliable" Drug Tests Despite Court Order. Attorneys representing state prisoners have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Correction charging that it continues to use an unreliable drug test to screen prisoners' mail, violating an earlier court order. The lawsuit alleges that prisoners have been punished for sneaking drugs through the mail based on dubious drug tests and that some of the mail improperly seized as containing drugs were sent by the prisoner's own attorneys, the courts, and the attorney general's office. A judge last December ordered the department to quit using the NARK II drug test device. The attorneys are asking a judge to hold the department in contempt of court. A hearing is set for next Tuesday. "The DOC's actions were not only interfering with the attorney-client relationships of the people whose mail was seized and photocopied, but were chilling the ability of all incarcerated people to communicate with counsel for fear of being subjected to this arbitrary and severe punishment," the complaint said.

Harm Reduction

Bipartisan Lawmakers Call on Drug Makers to Apply to FDA to Make Overdose Reversal Drugs Available Over-the-Counter. Some 30 members of the House and Senate have sent a letter to drug companies who manufacture the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone calling on them to apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over-the-counter status for their products. The move comes amidst a raging opioid overdose epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. "It has never been more important to adopt opioid overdose prevention and reversal strategies on a wide scale," the letter said. This includes "steps to increase access to affordable naloxone, which is a proven, effective tool to reduce medical emergencies, drug overdoses, and deaths." Signatories included Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

International

Poll Found Majority of Europeans Support Marijuana Legalization. A poll from  London-based Hanway Associates that surveyed eight different European countries found majority support for marijuana legalization, with 55 percent favoring it and only 25 percent opposing it. Italy led the way with support at 60 percent. Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom all polled between 55 and 59 percent, while Germany came in at 50 percent. Surprisingly, the Netherlands, which has allowed legal retail sales for more than 30 years, had the lowest level of support, at 47 percent. 

ND Pot Legalization Initiative Campaign Begins, MD Veterans' Therapeutic Psychedelic Bill Advances, More... (4/11/22)

Kentucky's governor is considering exectuive action on medical marijuana as the Senate leadership says it is not interested in passing a bill this year, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus has a new Republican member, and more.

The newest member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Brian Mast. (R-FL) (House.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Cannabis Caucus Names New GOP Co-Chair. The Congressional Cannabis Caucus leadership announced last Friday that they have named Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) as the caucus's fourth co-chair. He replaces Rep. Don Young (R-AK), who died in office last month. Mast is one of only three House Republicans who voted in favor of the MORE Act, which passed last week. In a statement, Mast said that the "Constitution never says ‘cannabis,’ but it does say that unenumerated powers lie with the states. "Federal cannabis policy should be based on that Constitutional principle," he said.

North Dakota Activists Begin Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign. New Approach North Dakota filed a marijuana legalization initiative with Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) on Monday. The proposal would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to three plants by people 21 and over. It would also set up a taxed and regulated marijuana industry in the state. If and when Jaeger approves the measure for signature gathering, petitioners will need 15,582 valid voter signatures by July 11 to qualify for the November ballot. (They actually have a one-year signature gathering window, but if they don't get the requisite signatures by July 11, the measure would go on the 2024 ballot.) Voters turned down a 2018 marijuana legalization initiative and a 2020 effort to get on the ballot was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical Marijuana.

Kentucky Senate President Says Medical Marijuana Not Likely to Pass This Year. Senate President Robert Stivers (R) said last week that medical marijuana is not on his radar when the legislature convenes for its final two days next week.The medical marijuana bill, House Bill 136, which passed the House last month,  is premature, he said, arguing instead for a medical marijuana study bill. "Every study I‘ve read said the sample sizes have been too small, the duration is too long, and therefore more study is needed, because the studies have shown it is adverse to the development of the brain for those under 25, higher likelihood of psychotic incidence if you have prolonged use, and if you smoke it, it has 50% more carcinogens than a cigarette."

Kentucky Governor Says He Will Consider Executive Action if Medical Marijuana Bill Does Not Pass. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said late last week that if the legislature fails to pass a medical marijuana bill this year, he is ready to explore possible executive actions he could take to get medical marijuana to ailing Kentuckians. "We’re going to explore that," he said in response to a question. "It’s something that we will look at. Its time has certainly come."

Psychedelics

Maryland House Gives Initial Approval to Bill to Create Fund for Psychedelic Access for Veterans. The House of Delegates last Friday gave initial approval to Senate Bill 709, which has already passed the Senate. The bill would create a state fund to provide "cost-free" access to psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine for veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday, and if delegates do not amend it, it faces only one more vote before heading to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). 

MA Senate Passes Marijuana Equity Bill, Taliban Poppy Ban Sends Opium Prices Soaring, More... (4/8/22)

A South Carolina medical marijuana bill advances, the Senate is poised to vote soon on a bill to finally eliminate the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, and more.

Singapore is the object of international condemnation over its resumption of the death penalty for drug offenses. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Senate Passes Marijuana Equity Bill. The Senate on Thursday approved a bill aimed at helping minority entrepreneurs and people adversely impacted by previous drug law enforcement gain a foothold in the legal marijuana industry. Senate Bill 2801 has numerous provisions, including creating a new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, redirecting tax revenue equivalent to 1 percent of a social equity business’s sales from the state to the city or town where the business is located; directing the Cannabis Control Commission to make rules for localities to "to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry" by individuals from communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition. The bill now heads to the House.

Medical Marijuana

California Bill to Require Communities Allow Medical Marijuana Sales Wins Committee Vote. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 1186, which restores voter-created access to medical cannabis across the state by requiring cities to provide consumers access to purchase medicinal cannabis, passed the Senate Business and Professions Committee by a vote of 8-3 on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. Under current California law — which arguably allows cities to ban any and all cannabis sales — 62% of cities have banned all cannabis sales, including medical cannabis sales. As a result, residents of those cities, including people living with HIV, cancer, arthritis, insomnia, and other conditions, frequently have no option other than to buy on the illicit market. California’s thriving and growing illicit cannabis market both undermines the legal, regulated market and risks people obtaining contaminated cannabis. SB 1186 requires cities to allow some form of medical cannabis access. Cities can choose how to provide that access, either by authorizing medical cannabis delivery, storefront, or both. However, under SB 1186, cities will no longer be able to ban all medical cannabis access.

South Carolina House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill, Sending It to House Floor. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee passed the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (Senate Bill 150) Thursday after making minor changes. The bill now heads for a House floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of 12 qualifying conditions to access a two-week supply of medical cannabis in the form of oils, vaporizers, salves, topicals and patches with a doctor's recommendation from their doctor. The committee amended the bill to add criminal background checks for medical marijuana distributors and security plans for their businesses.

Sentencing Policy

Congress on Verge on Passing Bill to End Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. This week, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) became the 11th Republican to sign onto the EQUAL Act (S. 59), which would eliminate the sentencing disparity in crack and powder cocaine offenses. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also met Tuesday with advocates and formerly incarcerated leaders, where he described the legislation as "a priority." He also said he plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor, though he did not say when. The bill would apply retroactively and would allow thousands of crack offenders—mainly Black men—to have their sentences reduced and get out of prison. The 100:1 disparity was created by the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, but reduced to an 18:1 disparity by the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, and that reform was made retroactive by the 2018 First Step Act.

International

Taliban Poppy Ban Sends Opium Prices Soaring. As this year's opium harvest gets underway, the price of opium has hit an all-time high after the Taliban banned poppy cultivation across the country. Farmers in Kandahar reported harvesting their crops without interference and were happy with high prices, but said they might stop growing opium because of the decree. The price of a kilogram of raw opium jumped to a record high of around $330, but has now declined slightly to about $300.

Singapore Drug Executions Spark International Condemnation, Rare Public Protest. Singapore resumed executions of drug offenders on March 30, with others in line to be hung shortly, and that is sparking both condemnation abroad and rare public protests at home. The UN Human Rights office expressed concern about what it feared would be "a surge in execution notices," Amnesty International charged that "the use of the death penalty in Singapore violates international human rights law and standards,"  and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, now the chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, wrote that Singapore’s 1973 Misuse of Drugs Act, which imposes a mandatory death sentence for 20 different drug offenses, "has not fulfilled its intention of preventing and combatting illicit drug trafficking and drug use." She added that the country’s "use of the death penalty for drug-related offences does not meet the [international law] threshold of ‘most serious crimes’ … and thus clearly violates international human rights law." And on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered to demonstrate against the resumption of the death penalty in a rare public protest.

Medical Marijuana Update

The House passes a bill easing research barriers for medical marijuana, a horrible bill aimed at women emerges in Alabama, and more.

National

House Approves Bill to Ease Barriers to Medical Marijuana Research. The House passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act (HR 5657) on a vote of 343-75 Monday. All the no votes came from Republicans. The bill would streamline the process for scientists seeking to conduct medical marijuana research and mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services ensure there is an adequate supply of marijuana available for research use. Given that 37 states already allow medical marijuana use, it is in consumers' interest to further study the drug. "These actions highlight the need for increased research about safety and efficacy of the marijuana products being consumed by millions of Americans," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Alabama

Alabama Bill Would Require Negative Pregnancy Test to Buy Medical Marijuana. A bill that would require women between the ages of 25 and 50 to produce a negative result from a pregnancy test from a doctor or medical lab before being allowed to purchase medical marijuana is moving in the state Senate. The bill would also ban mothers who are breastfeeding from purchasing medical marijuana, although it is difficult to see how that could be enforced. Senate Bill 324 passed out of the Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee on a 7-2 vote last week and awaits a Senate floor vote. But National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) called the bill "blatantly unconstitutional and unprecedented," laying the groundwork for a legal challenge if the bill were to become law. "We are very concerned that this is an invasion of the privacy of Alabama women and their right to equal protection under the law," said NAPW attorney Emma Roth.

Georgia

Georgia Bill to Allow Patients Access to Medical Marijuana Falls One Vote Short. State legislators approved a medical marijuana bill in 2015, but that bill left patients in the lurch because it did not provide any means of providing cannabis oil. A bill that would have finally allowed businesses to grow and sell cannabis oil, House Bill 738, passed the House earlier this year, but the Senate tabled the bill on a 28-27 vote in March, and now, the legislative session has ended without the Senate taking any further action.

Kentucky

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Appears Dead. The House approved a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 136, in March, but it now appears the bill will go nowhere in the Senate even though polling shows it has the support of nine out of 10 Kentuckians. Senate President Robert Stivers (R) said he wants to see more testing before moving the bill forward. And Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R) said that while most of his constituents support medical marijuana, he does not, and if voters don't like it, they can "take it out" on him in the next election. He added that he does not think the bill has enough support to pass in the Senate, but advocates are demanding it get a vote anyway.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Determined Opposition in House. A medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 150) easily passed the Senate earlier this year, but has been stalled in the House and faces a significant challenge if it moves there. Although the bill went over to the House Medical, Military, and Public and Municipal Affairs Committee on February 15, it will only get a committee hearing tomorrow, six weeks later. While the bill likely has sufficient support to pass in the House, opponents plan on stalling it by loading it down with superfluous amendments. One representative, John McCrory (R), is reportedly poised to offer up to 150 amendments if the bill makes it to the House floor, delaying its passage or frustrating supporters to the point they decline to take it up.  

DC Council Rejects Bill to Effectively Allow Legal Pot Sales, Cops Being Killed in Mexico's Zacatecas, More... (4/6/22)

A Georgia bill that would actually get cannabis oil into the hands of patients goes down, the DC city council narrowly rejects a bill that would effectively legalize adult pot sales, and more.

The Sentencing Project is warning of new mandatory minimums in a bill now before the Senate. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

DC City Council Rejects Bill to Effectively Legalize Pot Sales for Adults, Crack Down on "Gifting." The District of Columbia city council narrowly voted down a bill that would have allowed people 21 and over to "self-certify" themselves as medical marijuana patients but would have also cracked down on unlicensed operators who have been "gifting" marijuana to people who buy token products and services. The District legalized marijuana possession in a 2014 initiative, but has been blocked from implementing legal sales by Congress. The bill that went down in defeat Monday actually had majority support but needed nine of the council's 13 votes to pass. It got eight.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Bill to Allow Patients Access to Medical Marijuana Falls One Vote Short. State legislators approved a medical marijuana bill in 2015, but that bill left patients in the lurch because it did not provide any means of providing cannabis oil. A bill that would have finally allowed businesses to grow and sell cannabis oil, House Bill 738, passed the House earlier this year, but the Senate tabled the bill on a 28-27 vote in March, and now, the legislative session has ended without the Senate taking any further action.

Sentencing

Sentencing Project Urges Senate to Oppose Hawley Bill to Impose New Mandatory Minimums. In a letter submitted to the Senate, The Sentencing Project’s Amy Fettig urged the U.S. Senate to oppose the request for unanimous consent on S. 3951 – the PROTECT Act of 2022 – and vote no on the bill. The bill, from Trumpist rightist Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), seeks to build on recent GOP talking points around child pornography by creating new mandatory minimum sentences for such offenses, but as the Sentencing Project noted, "The US Supreme Court, Congress and the US Sentencing Commission have acted in a bipartisan way for almost 20 years to address federal mandatory minimum sentencing policies in order to create more fairness, proportionality and equity in sentencing. Unfortunately, this bill would create new mandatory minimum sentencing policies, including an attempt to establish mandatory sentencing guidelines – previously ruled unconstitutional – for certain offenses. This legislation would have far-reaching implications for eroding fairness and justice, including the potential to usher in a new era of mandatory minimums." The Senate was set to vote on a unanimous consent request for the bill on Wednesday.

International

Mexico's Zacatecas State Sees 16 Cops Killed So Far This Year. An ongoing turf war between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in the west-central state of Zacatecas has seen at least 16 police officers killed in the first quarter of 2022, according to a register of killings of police. The most recent killing was March 26 in Fresnillo, when an off-duty officer was killed when armed civilians at a roadblock opened fire on his vehicle, then lit it on fire. For the last week, police across the state have gone on strike, demanding better pay and healthcare, the reinstatement of fired officers, and deploring the security situation in the state. The state is currently short about 3,000 police officers. Zacatecas is now the state with the highest number of police killingsso far in 2022 and also currently has the highest homicide rate of any state in the country. 

AL Bill Would Require Negative Pregnancy Test for MedMJ Purchases, DE Legal Pot Effort Revives, More... (4/5/22)

The House approves a bill easing barriers to medical marijuana research, meet the three Democrats who voted against marijuana legalization in the House last week, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Meet the Members Who Broke with Their Parties on the MORE Act Vote. Last Friday's vote on the marijuana legalizing MORE Act (HR 3617), which passed by a margin of 220 to 204, was largely along party lines, with almost all Democrats supporting it and almost all Republicans opposing it. Only two Democrats voted against legalizing marijuana: Reps. Henry Cueller of Texas and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire. Likewise, only three Republicans voted for it: Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Rep. Tom McClintock of California.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Effort Revives. After seeing a comprehensive marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation bill defeated earlier this year, bill sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) is back with a two-bill plan to free the weed. House Bill 371 would simply legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and needs only a majority vote to pass. It already has 21 cosponsors, a majority in the House. House Bill 372 would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and needs three-fifths to pass. "I hope to hold on to the 21 co-sponsors of the legislation and pass that, and then it will put that extra pressure on some colleagues to say, ‘ok it’s legalized, to do this right we should create an industry that will provide this now,’" said Osienski. He added that even if HB 372 fails, passing HB 371 would still protect state residents from arrest.

Oklahoma Supreme Court OKs Wording of Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Supreme Court has found that that language in marijuana legalizing State Question 820 is "constitutionally sufficient," clearing the way for backers to proceed with their campaign. State Question 820 was challenged in court by proponents of competing initiatives State Question 818 and State Question 819, who argued that State Question 820 violated the state's one-subject rule and was imprecise in its language. But the court disagreed. The latter two initiatives would replace the existing medical marijuana regulator with a new regulatory agency and legalize and regulate marijuana, respectively.

Medical Marijuana

House Approves Bill to Ease Barriers to Medical Marijuana Research. The House passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act (HR 5657) on a vote of 343-75 Monday. All the no votes came from Republicans. The bill would streamline the process for scientists seeking to conduct medical marijuana research and mandate that the Department of Health and Human Services ensure there is an adequate supply of marijuana available for research use. Given that 37 states already allow medical marijuana use, it is in consumers' interest to further study the drug. "These actions highlight the need for increased research about safety and efficacy of the marijuana products being consumed by millions of Americans," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Alabama Bill Would Require Negative Pregnancy Test to Buy Medical Marijuana. A bill that would require women between the ages of 25 and 50 to produce a negative result from a pregnancy test from a doctor or medical lab before being allowed to purchase medical marijuana is moving in the state Senate. The bill would also ban mothers who are breastfeeding from purchasing medical marijuana, although it is difficult to see how that could be enforced. Senate Bill 324 passed out of the Senate Children, Youth and Human Services Committee on a 7-2 vote last week and awaits a Senate floor vote. But National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) called the bill "blatantly unconstitutional and unprecedented," laying the groundwork for a legal challenge if the bill were to become law. "We are very concerned that this is an invasion of the privacy of Alabama women and their right to equal protection under the law," said NAPW attorney Emma Roth.

House Votes to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition by Passing MORE Act [FEATURE]

The House on Friday voted to legalize marijuana, the second time it has done so in two years. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617) passed 220-204, with only a handful of Republican votes.

The MORE Act passed on a vote of 220-204, with only a handful of GOP votes. (House.gov)
The prospects for passage of the bill into law remain clouded, however; it would need 60 votes to pass in the Senate, and there is little sign the votes are there. Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is expected to file his own version of marijuana legalization bill this month.

Meanwhile, a measure that would bring much needed relief to the legal marijuana industry by providing it access to banking and other financial services, the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), remains stalled. Even though the bill has passed the House six different times, Leader Schumer refuses to allow it to be attached to must-pass appropriations bills, arguing that Congress should first pass a comprehensive legalization bill.

Still, winning a marijuana legalization vote in one chamber of Congress is a historic step and sign that at least one of our representative bodies is in tune with public opinion, which consistently shows two-thirds support for it in polling data.

"The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or the 'MORE Act,' is long overdue legislation that would reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana. It would also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color," Nadler told the House during the debate.

"For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one's views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven both unwise and unjust," he continued.

"That is why the MORE Act would set a new path forward and would begin to correct some of the injustices of the last fifty years. The bill decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. This change applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions. It does not, however, undermine the ability of states to apply their criminal laws to marijuana or to legalize and regulate it, as they see fit," Nadler added.

The Act also provides for the expungement or resentencing of those with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions, promotes diverse participation in the state-regulated cannabis industry, and helps repair the racially and economically disparate harms caused by America's past prohibition policies. According to a just-released Congressional Budget Office analysis, passage of the Act would increase revenues by over $8 billion in ten years and would also significantly reduce federal prison costs.

Marijuana activist groups hailed the vote.

"This vote is a clear indicator that Congress is finally listening to the vast majority of voters who are sick and tired of our failed marijuana criminalization policies and the damage they continue to inflict in communities across the nation every day," said NORML's Political Director Morgan Fox in a statement. "It is long overdue that we stop punishing adults for using a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol, and that we work to address the disparate negative impacts that prohibition has inflicted on our most vulnerable individuals and marginalized communities for nearly a century."

"The time has come for federal lawmakers to put aside partisan differences and recognize that state-level legalization policies are publicly popular, successful, and are in the best interests of our country. Now that the House has once again supported sensible and comprehensive cannabis policy reform, we strongly urge the Senate to move forward on this issue without delay," Fox added.

"The fact that the House has repeatedly passed the MORE Act is indicative of the cannabis policy movement's evolution and the growing momentum toward comprehensive reform at the federal level," said Marijuana Policy Project president and CEO Toi Hutchinson in a statement. "While this is historic in nature and warrants praise, it is necessary to also recognize that the fight is still far from over. To this day, people across the country are still experiencing the damaging effects of the war on cannabis, while others are profiting in the industry. Following today's action in the House, it is now time for the US Senate to follow suit and take up the MORE Act. We at the Marijuana Policy Project remain committed to ending cannabis prohibition for all and will continue to fight until that becomes our reality."

Once the Senate does take up the MORE Act or another marijuana legalization bill and in all likelihood fails to pass it, perhaps then Schumer will allow the SAFE Banking Act to move, which would actually get something significant accomplished on marijuana policy this year.

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