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NH Governor Blows Up Legal Pot Plans, IN Committee Calls for Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Pilot Project, More... (11/28/23)

The Ohio GOP is hard at work on coming up with ways to mess with the voter approved marijuana legalizaion initiative before it goes into effect next month, New Hampshire's GOP governor comes up with some last-minute must-haves that derail a move toward marijuana legalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Commission Ends Work Making No Recommendations. A commission charged with coming up with a way to legalize marijuana has ended its work without coming up with a solution. That means New Hampshire is likely to be the only New England state where marijuana is still illegal well into the future.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who had earlier opposed legalization, endorsed a state-control model earlier this year, like how the state sells liquor. "The governor is open to discussing a franchisee-based system, but the success of such a model is in the details," his office said "The governor has been clear that any system meets his outlined framework – or be met with a veto."

While the commission worked to get close to that goal, coming up with a state-selected franchise plan for retail sales, Sununu threw a wrench into the work on Monday. His office told the commission that he would only accept 15 storefronts under a franchise model and demanded a ban on lobbying and political contributions by cannabis licensees. "At the very last meeting, the last half-hour, now, all of the sudden, we're considering things that flew in from the governor's office last-minute?" said state Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton. "This is not how we legislate."

Some commission members were especially taken aback by the governor's proposes lobbying ban. "It's definitely something of concern, something we haven't seen before in other aspects of New Hampshire law," said Frank Knaack, of the ACLU New Hampshire.

Ohio Republican Bill Would Let Cities Ban Marijuana Use, Home Grows. Just weeks after Buckeye State voters approved marijuana legalization, including the right to home cultivation and a ban on municipalities blocking marijuana businesses, Rep. Gary Click (R) has filed a measure, House Bill 341, that removes the home grow and no municipal control provisions, giving cities the power to regulate or even ban marijuana businesses and even marijuana use.

Click's bill also messes with the initiative's plans for distributing marijuana tax and fee revenues, which currently allows for them to be evenly divided between social equity, community funds, administrative costs, and drug treatment. Click's bill would keep the four pots, but add funding for law enforcement, primarily by reducing the share going to administrative costs from 25 percent to 3 percent.

The bill comes as the state's Republican political establishment, led by Gov. Mke DeWine, seeks to impose changes on the new law before it takes effect on December 7.

"This is a discussion starter rather than the binary choice that was on the ballot," Click said. "It starts the conversation. Obviously, people want recreational marijuana. But they didn't get to dialogue in details. This is the opportunity for citizens to express their voices in the committee process. I am open to amendments that reflect the will of the people."


Indiana Legislative Committee Recommends Launch of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Pilot Program. The legislature's interim study committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services is recommending that lawmakers authorize a psilocybin pilot program to research psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health in the 2024 session.

A committee report noted that while psilocybin remains on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the "prevailing view is that psilocybin should not be a Schedule I drug and has proven meical benefits."

The committee recommended that "the Indiana General Assembly take an approach that strikes a balance between access, research, and prudence.” Specifically, the body advised authorizing state research institutions “to conduct a pilot clinical study utilizing established therapeutic protocols as a starting point to explore the efficacy, safety, and feasibility of psilocybin assisted therapy in Indiana."

Mobile, AL, Cops Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed, More... (11/22/23)

Sarasota, Florida, is moving to recriminalize pot possession after it decriminalized it three years ago, a deadly SWAT raid in Alabama is raising alarms, and more.

President Biden met with his national security advisors to address ways to combat fentanyl trafficking. (
Marijuana Policy

Sarasota, Florida, Set to Move Resolutely Backward on Marijuana Policy. The city commission in 2020 voted to decriminalize the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, but now it wants to recriminalize it.

Under decriminalization, people busted with small amounts of weed had to pay a $100 fine or do 10 hours of community service. Police told commissioners that 90 percent of offenders have not paid the fines.

The commission then voted 4-1 Monday to ask the city attorney to draft an ordinance to repeal the decriminalization program.

Drug Policy

White House Statement on National Security Meeting to Address Fentanyl. The White House issued the following readout Tuesday after President Biden met with national security advisors on combatting fentanyl:

"Today, President Biden met with his national and homeland security leadership to ensure that his administration drives progress to address the deadly scourge of illicit fentanyl and to discuss efforts underway to tackle the global crisis posed by synthetic drugs.  The President and his team discussed how to build upon last week’s significant commitments from China and Mexico to crack down on the precursors, production, and trafficking of illicit fentanyl. 

"President Biden was briefed by Secretary Blinken, Secretary Mayorkas, Attorney General Garland, and DEA Administrator Milgram.  The President underscored how critical it is to our understanding of foreign drug trafficking organizations—and ability to fight illicit fentanyl — that Congress reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before it expires at the end of next month, and he reiterated his commitment to do everything he can to counter the illicit fentanyl crisis in the United States, which is the number one cause of death for people aged 18-44.

"President Biden has made beating the overdose epidemic a key priority in his Unity Agenda for the Nation, including a focus on cracking down on global illicit drug trafficking and disrupting the flow of illicit fentanyl and its precursors. To advance President Biden’s Unity Agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to address the overdose epidemic and save lives. President Biden is also calling on Congress for immediate action to help provide $1.55 billion to strengthen addiction treatment, overdose prevention measures, and recovery support services across the country, and more than $1.2 billion to crack down on drug trafficking to keep dangerous drugs like illicit fentanyl out of our communities. "

Law Enforcement

Mobile, Alabama, Police Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed. A Mobile SWAT team with a search warrant for drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession shot and killed 16-year-old Randall Adjessom after they broke into his home in pre-dawn raid and allegedly encountered him with a pistol in a hallway.

Police claimed they knocked on the home's door "multiple times" before breaking the door down, but it is unclear how forcefully they knocked or how long they can residents to respond to their knocks.

Randall Adjessom was not the target of the search warrant; his 18-year-old brother D'Angelo Adjessom was. D'Angelo was not at home at the time of the raid, but was arrested when he returned to the home shortly afterward.

This week, local media revealed the haul from the raid: 8 grams of marijuana and a scale.

"On a marijuana warrant?" Councilmember Carroll Williams asked incredulously. "You know all the states right now that are making marijuana legal? Legal! On a marijuana warrant! It wasn't like somebody killed somebody, but we entered that place like we were going to find a murderer."

After news of the killing broke, Mayor Sandy Simpson announced an immediate ban on most pre-dawn search warrants and called for comprehensive review of the Mobile Police Department's policies, but that was too late for Randall Adjessom. 

Hawaii AG Unveils Pot Legalization Draft, Boston Settles Hair Drug Test Lawsuit with Black Cops, More... (11/21/23)

Ohio's GOP Senate leader is plotting changes to the marijuana legalization law approved by voters just weeks ago, the city of Boston pays out for using discriminatory hair drug tests on police officers, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Attorney General Unveils Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) last Friday unveiled a comprehensive 294-page proposal to legalize adult use marijuana and pledged to work with the legislature to get it enacted. The proposal would create a regulatory framework for people 21 and over to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers.

Although recent years have seen several marijuana legalization bills, none of them have become law, although the Senate passed such a bill in March. Lawmakers have generally welcomed the attorney general's effort, although some advocates and activists have some issues with it.

Lopez did "a really good job pulling together all of the different input and providing a comprehensive bill," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Tarnas (D), while the attorney general's proposal is "the best version to date," said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D).

But while advocates cheered the inclusion of home grows, they want to see some changes, including relief for people who have been arrested under pot prohibition.

"The attorney general’s draft bill falls short when it comes to fostering equity and reparative justice," Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. "It should be revised. We were pleased to see home cultivation included. But the draft ramps up criminalization in other areas and fails to include provisions newer legalization states have adopted to stop ruining cannabis consumers’ lives.

"The draft bill does not include expungement or resentencing, nor does it protect responsible cannabis consumers from losing their children, jobs, benefits, or professional licenses," she said. "It imposes an unscientific per se DUI standard that ensnares sober drivers, and imposes up to a year in jail under a broad open container law. The draft also pours millions of dollars into cannabis law enforcement—an amount equal to the entire allocation for social equity and community reinvestment."

Ohio Senate President Vows Changes to Voter Approved Marijuana Law, Says Voters Did Not Understand Some Provisions. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) says he is working with lawmakers to develop and pass legislation to revise the marijuana legalization law approved by voters last month. He said "that's what the public generally wants" because voters did not focus on details and simply decided "are we going to legalize marijuana or not."

"Now did the voters, for example, know that there was going to be a preference for licenses to people that have formerly been convicted for selling drugs illegally? Probably not very many people thought of that," he said. "It’s important for the folks to go through here and look to see what changes are going to be made, which we think the public generally wants."

While Americans don't want government to infringe on their civil liberties, they "also want the protections of government, and that’s really the fine line that governments have to find. That’s why generally it’s better to have these things sorted out in the legislature… There needs to be some protection for the public, just like we regulate alcohol," Huffman argued.

He also said lawmakers would fast-track the changes by not filing a new bill, but by incorporating marijuana amendments into an unrelated House-passed bill, pass that in the Senate, then send the revised measure back to the House for a concurrence vote.

Lawmakers have announced various proposed changes, including around public consumption and the allocation of tax revenues.

Drug Testing

Boston Settles Police Drug Testing Lawsuit, Will Pay $2.6 Million to Black Cops. The city of Boston has agreed to pay $2.6 to Black police officers to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit over a drug test that used hair samples to identify drug use.

The four plaintiffs will receive $650,000 each.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that has represented the officers, shared his excitement that the lawsuit is finally settled and how the long-lasting litigation impacted his clients.

"This settlement puts an end to a long, ugly chapter in Boston’s history," Orren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, who litigated the case. "As a result of this flawed test, our clients’ lives and careers were completely derailed. The city has finally compensated them for this grave injustice," he said.

"You can imagine what effect that would have to be falsely labeled in this way, and a number of officers were terminated as a result. Many had to leave the field entirely, and their dreams of being a law enforcement officer were shattered," Sellstrom added. "It totally upended our client's lives and in the process also deprived the residents of Boston from having exemplary police officers on the force.

The Black police officers filed suit against the city in 2005, claiming that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives. The city and the company administering the test denied any bias, but the city eliminated the test in 2021.


Japan Amends Marijuana Law, for Better and Worse. Last month, the Japanese government approved a bill amending the country's nearly 75-years-old Cannabis Control Act, renaming it the Law Concerning Regulation of the Cultivation of Cannabis Plants. The act opens the door for the creation of a medical marijuana and industrial hemp industry in the country, but also goes backward on recreational marijuana use.

The new law will allow for pharmaceutical products that are extracted from marijuana plants. Until now, such cannabis-based drugs could only be used in clinical trials.

But the new law also categorizes THC as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Control Act, closing a loophole in the Cannabis Control Act that criminalizes the import, export, cultivation, transferal, or possession of marijuana plants, but does not criminalize use.

"What previously had no penalties will now be harshly punished, with a maximum of seven years in prison. I opposed the bill because there is a serious problem here," said Rep. Taro Yamamoto of the left-leaning Reiwa Shinsengumi Party.

PA Bill Allowing MedMJ Growers to Sell Direct to Patients Advances, Cartel Gun Bill Filed, More... (11/17/23)

The South African National Assembly has approved a marijuana legalization bill, a bipartisan federal bill to disarm cartels by blocking the flow of American guns south is filed, and more.

Peso Pluma. The popular Mexican artist has been threatened by cartels over his narcocorridos. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania House Approves Bill to Let Medical Marijuana Growers Sell Directly to Patients. The House on Wednesday approved a measure, Senate Bill 773, that would allow licensed medical marijuana growers in the state to sell their products directly to patients. The bill has already passed the Senate, but will have to go back for a concurrence vote after changes were made in the House.

Under the measure, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard (R), the state Department of Health would create a process to allow the state's 10 independent marijuana grower-processors to apply to obtain a dispensary permit to engage in direct commerce with patients. The House amended the bill to allow the state's four independent dispensaries to grow their own medical marijuana as well.

Under the state's current medical marijuana law, only 25 businesses can be licensed for growing and processing, and only five of those can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. That has created a near monopoly on medical marijuana in the state, one dominated by out-of-state operators.

If the Senate approves the changes in a final vote, the bill will then go to the desk of Gov. Josh Shapiro (D).

Drug Policy

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Disarm Cartels by Stopping Trafficking of American Guns Across Southern Border. On Tuesday, House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Thompson (R-CA) joined Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) to introduce the "Disarming Cartels Act" to curtail the trafficking of US-made firearms and ammunition southbound over the US-Mexico border. The measure is also cosponsored by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Guns originating in the United States power human- and drug-trafficking efforts and other illicit activities by cartels and other transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and beyond. "Firearms purchased in the United States are being illegally trafficked to Mexico, arming the cartels and fueling the fentanyl epidemic," said Thompson. "Going after the bad actors that facilitate the exchange of guns for fentanyl will help us crack down on illegal drug trade while preventing firearms from getting into the hands of cartels and other criminal organizations. The Disarming Cartels Act will help us secure our border, reduce the flow of fentanyl in our country, and disrupt the illegal flow of firearms into Mexico. As Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I'm proud to support this important bill with Reps. Goldman, Castro, Titus, Danny Davis, and Eleanor Holmes Norton."

"Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the devastating threat posed by the fentanyl trade and human smuggling and trafficking, all of which are predominantly controlled by Mexican drug cartels at our southern border," Goldman said. "But Republicans simply ignore that the source of the cartels' power is the hundreds of thousands of American-manufactured weapons of war that flow out of the United States and into the hands of the cartels. If we want to address crime across our southern border, then we must address the exportation of American guns across the border. The Disarming Cartels Act will do just that."

Mexico has one gun store in the entire country and restrictive firearm regulations. Yet, on an annual basis, there are nearly 30,000 annual firearm deaths in Mexico.

More than 500,000 American-made guns are trafficked to Mexico every year, and seventy percent of firearms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico can be traced to the United States. Criminal organizations operating in Mexico purchase firearms and ammunition from U.S.-based retailers to target law enforcement and military personnel, harm citizens, and enforce cartel control of territory.

To disrupt the trafficking of U.S.-sourced firearms into Mexico, the Disarming Cartels Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Increase interagency collaboration to identify, target, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations responsible for exporting firearms and related munitions from the United States to Mexico.
  • Instruct Homeland Security Investigations within U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to establish a mechanism for sharing aggregated information about interdictions of southbound firearms and U.S.-sourced firearms in Mexico with Federal partners.
  • Expand the collection and analysis of information concerning firearms recovered at crime scenes in Mexico to identify US-based gun traffickers.
  • Enhance coordination with Mexican agencies to increase outbound inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the southwest land border.
  • Establish performance measures for efforts to disrupt the smuggling of U.S.-sourced firearms to Mexico.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide annual reports on the Department's actions to disrupt the smuggling of US-sourced firearms and munition to Mexico.


Mexico's Tijuana Bans Narcocorridos. Last week, the Tijuana city council approved an ordinance banning the performance or even playing in public spaces of narcocorridos, popular ballads that glorify drug kingpins and their exploits. The move comes after threats last month against popular singer Peso Pluma and popular band Fuerza Regida, who have performed narcocorridos. The threats are presumably coming from rivals of the people honored in their songs.

Under the ordinance, any artist who "transmits, exhibits, sings or reproduces music, videos, images or any other similar thing that promotes the culture of violence or makes apologies for crime or for the authors of illegal acts in a live performance" can be subject to fines of up to $72,000. That money would be directed to municipal programs for the prevention, treatment and control of drug abuse.

"What cannot be part of Mexican folklore, nor represent us, is the narcocorrido and the apology of crime," Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said in announcing the law.

But Peso Pluma said that narcocorridos are a reflection of real life. "It's bad to say that it's normal -- we all know that," Peso Pluma said. "But it's the reality. What we say and what we sing and what's lived and what's heard isn't a lie."

Still, they have long been a target for authorities in the Mexican version of culture wars. Tijuana banned narcocorrido hitmakers Los Tucanes de Tijuana from playing in the city in 2010, and the following year, the state of Sinaloa banned the songs from being played in bars and nightclubs. In 2015, the state of Chihuahua threatened 36 hours of jail time and a $20,000 fine for anyone performing narcocorridos, and in 2017, another narcocorrido hitmaking band, Los Tigres del Norte, were fined for playing "Contrabando y Traicion" ("Contraband and Betrayal") in Chihuahua City.

South African Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The National Assembly on Tuesday approved a long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana, It now goes to the other chamber in the parliament, the National Council of Provinces, for a concurrence vote.

The Supreme Court had ruled in 2018 that the prohibition of possession and personal cultivation was unlawful and gave parliament two years to come up with a remedy. It took longer than two years, but now it is finally happening.

The bill to codify legalization was finally introduced in 2020, but action has been delayed, even as South Africa's government has included marijuana in a list of sectors to prioritize in the interest of economic expansion.

The bill does not include specific possession or cultivation limits, which are likely to be addressed in rulemaking from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamo.

"People should bear in mind what this bill is about. It is about cannabis for private use by adults," MP Janho Engelbrecht said. "You are not allowed to buy or sell cannabis, because this still remains a criminal activity with severe consequences. If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it, don't buy it."

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has said that it's the government's hope that the non-commercial legalization bill will serve as a jumping off point for lawmakers to enact more robust regulations to support the establishment of a marijuana market in the country.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation address last year that he wants to his the country enter the global medical hemp and cannabis industry, arguing that it could generate more than 100,000 jobs.

For now, however, the simple legalization bill that's moving through the Parliament is focused on removing criminal penalties in accordance with the Constitutional Court's unanimous 2018 ruling, which followed a lower court decision in the Western Cape province covering Cape Town to end prohibition.

US and China Reach Accord on Fentanyl, MD Now Accepting Cannabusiness Applications, More... (11/16/23)

A Massachusetts bill would prioritize treatment over jail for probationers who fail drug tests, a new study finds no increase in crime near New York City's safe injection sites, and more.

Seized fentanyl. (DHS)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Starts Accepting Adult-Use Marijuana Business Applications. The Maryland Cannabis Administration began accepting applications for business licenses on Monday. A total of 179 of them are up for grabs. Interested parties have until December 12 to apply.

In the first round of licensing, the state will issue 75 standard dispensary licenses, 16 standard grower permits, 32 standard processor licenses, 24 micro-grower permits, 24 micro-processor licenses, and eight micro-dispensary permits.

Successful applicants must have already completed a social equity verification process that's currently closed, though the state has yet to process all the submissions.

Successful applicants will need at least 65 percent ownership held by a verified social equity applicant. Applicants are limited to one application per license type and no more than two applications in this current round.

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Bill Would Prioritize Treatment Over Jail for Probationers Who Fail Drug Tests. A bill that says that a probationer's positive drug test result should not result in imprisonment, Senate Bill 982, got a hearing Wednesday in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Similar legislation has been filed in previous sessions but has never gone anywhere.

This time around, mental health and addiction experts, as well as attorneys, were there to urge lawmakers to get it right.

"I saw hundreds of individuals placed in custody for merely relapsing, a symptom of their substance use disorder," said Deborah Goldfarb, Director of Behavioral Health at Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction. "A correctional environment is not one that fosters recovery. And not only were folks not receiving appropriate treatment in custody, they are ripped away from any treatment connections they have."

The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Ruth Balser (D) and state Sen. Cindy Friedman (D), says that a positive drug or alcohol test or other signs of relapse would not be considered a probation violation if someone is following a treatment plan, trying to get care or has completed a program and is complying with other conditions of probation. The bill would also prohibit the courts from ordering more substance use testing than required by a treatment provider.

"There is growing concern about the increasing problem of drug use and public policymakers are becoming more educated," Balser said. "So I'm hopeful the legislature will be receptive to changing policies to better reflect the science about the best way to respond to those with substance use disorders."

No vote was taken.

Foreign Policy

Biden, Xi Announce Deal Cracking Down on Fentanyl Exports. President Joe Biden (D) and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping announced an agreement for China to crackdown on the manufacture and export of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid linked to about two-thirds of all US drug overdose deaths.

Under the agreement, China will crack down on chemical companies to halt the flow of fentanyl and the source material used to make it. That may be easier said than done, though, given that China has some 400,000 chemical companies.

The US, for its part, will lift longstanding restrictions on China's forensic police institute. China has long complained that the US should not expect cooperation on fentanyl when it has placed restrictions on the institute.

The agreement came as Biden and Xi met on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, their first encounter in more than a year as tensions between the two countries heightened.

Harm Reduction

New Study Finds No Outsized Increase in Crime Near New York City Safe Injection Sites. An important new study published in JAMA Open Network finds that violent and property crime near the city's two safe injection sites did not increase anymore than crime in similar neighborhoods across the city. The finding came even as police conducted 83 percent fewer drug arrests near the sites, presumably to avoid scaring drug users away from the sites).

The study should work to blunt some criticism of safe injection sites, which critics have claimed contribute to criminality in neighborhoods where they are located.

"We did not observe any increase in crime or disorder or any of the things that people worry about when they see an overdose prevention site opening," said a study co-author, Brandon Del Pozo, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and a former New York Police Department precinct commander and police chief of Burlington, Vermont.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the federal agency that funded the study, said the study was consistent with past research into safe injection sites, and that even though the new study is preliminary data, "what it does show is that having these safe injection sites is not associated with an increase in violence."

OH GOP Eyes Changes to New Legal Weed Law, National Drug Survey Data Released, More... (11/15/23)

New York advises drug treatment providers to quit testing for marijuana in most cases, Ohio GOP lawmakers want to modify the just-passed marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has okayed testimony from police drug recognition experts despite questions about their process.
Marijuana Policy

OH GOP Senate President Says Senators Will Push for Changes to New Marijuana Legalization Law Before It Takes Effect Next Month. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said Wednesday that senators will push for changes in the state's new marijuana legalization law before it takes effect next month. But details are still unclear -- and the House may not be in agreement.

"It's kind of all hands on deck here," Huffman said.

Within hours of the vote last week, Huffman, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R), and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signaled they wanted to modify the legalization initiative even though it won with 57 percent of the vote. DeWine has urged lawmakers to move quickly and Huffman joins him in seeking to have rules in place by December 7, when legalization commences.

But Stephens said the real deadline for regulation is sometime before next fall, when the first commercial marijuana licenses are supposed to be issued. "That runway is all the way through September before the first licenses are even issued, so to do that decision-making process in the next couple of weeks, it's going be a real challenge to put forth such a large program that quickly," Stephens said Tuesday.

Among the changes the Republicans are considering: changing the tax rate, using the revenue to fund county jails or police training, and clarifying the language around public smoking. Under the initiative, smoking pot in "public areas" would be a minor misdemeanor, but property owners and "any public place" could decide to accommodate marijuana use. Some businesses are complaining that the language is unclear.

The Senate could also limit the number of marijuana retail outlets and reexamine the language around THC content caps.

New York Officials Advise Drug Treatment Providers to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana in Most Cases. The state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) has issued new guidance to drug treatment providers that advises against routine screening for marijuana use, similar to the approach the office uses with alcohol. Some clinicians are hailing the move as a step away from abstinence-only recovery efforts and toward a more flexible harm reduction approach.

New state guidance for addiction services and treatment programs in New York advises against routine screening for marijuana use, an approach designed to parallel that used for alcohol. Some clinicians see the change, which is being implemented following the state's legalization of cannabis, as a step away from an abstinence-only view of recovery and toward a more flexible approach aimed at minimizing harm.

"With the legalization of adult-use cannabis in NYS, testing for the metabolite of THC routinely is not recommended unless the patient has identified a reduction in, or cessation of cannabis as part of their treatment goals," says the guidance document from OASAS. "Alcohol and THC metabolites should not be included in routine toxicology panels," it adds, "unless a clinician determines that alcohol or cannabis is a concern and toxicology testing would be appropriate clinically."

OASAS regulates about 1,700 prevention, treatment, and recovery programs statewide, as well as a dozen treatment centers it operates directly. The guidance applies to "providers working in OASAS-certified programs who use toxicology testing over the course of a patient's treatment." The office's website describes its approach as "responsive, data-driven, person-centered, and prioritizes equity."

Peter Grinspoon, a marijuana specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School instructor, saw the new guidance as a matter of harm reduction. "This is one of those questions where you can't really disentangle the social history and the politics from the science," he said. Historically "a lot of this is predicated on the idea that cannabis was a gateway to addiction" -- an idea he dismissed as a "foolish notion."

While medical professionals' perspective on the harms or benefits of marijuana "depends on his or her vantage point," Grinspoon added, addiction treatment providers have "been a big part of the problem with cannabis, because they really just get in their own echo chamber about the harms, and they don't have the context of, like, yes, sure, this can happen, and it's tragic when it does happen, but it's not what usually happens."

Drug Use

HHS, SAMHSA Release 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Results. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on Monday released the results of the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The report shows how people living in United States reported about their experience with mental health, substance use, and treatment related behaviors in 2022. The report is accompanied by a high-level brief that includes infographics.

"The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides an annual snapshot of behavioral health nationwide," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "This data informs knowledge, policy and action, and drives our shared commitment across government, healthcare, industry and community to offer resources and services to those in need."

"To tackle the behavioral health crisis in this nation, we need to fully understand the issues surrounding mental health and substance use, and the impact they have on people and communities," said Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to meeting people where they are with information, resources, and support. The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health allows us to follow an evidence-based path forward as we provide support for those struggling with substance use and work to build healthier futures."

"The data released today is crucial for informing our policies, protocols and understanding of our nation's health," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the leader of SAMHSA. "This important work better situates policy makers, researchers, practitioners and the general public to understand the collective behavioral health needs across the country and anticipate the needs of future generations."

The 2022 NSDUH report includes the following key findings:

  • Among people aged 12 or older in 2022, 59.8% (or 168.7 million people) used tobacco products, vaped nicotine, used alcohol, or used an illicit drug in the past month (also defined as "current use"), including 48.7% (or 137.4 million people) who drank alcohol, 18.1% (or 50.9 million people) who used tobacco products, 8.3% (or 23.5 million people) who vaped nicotine, and 16.5% (or 46.6 million people) who used an illicit drug.
  • In 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year. Marijuana was the most used illicit drug, with 22.0% of people aged 12 or older (or 61.9 million people) using it in the past year.
  • In 2022, 48.7 million people aged 12 or older (or 17.3%) had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 29.5 million who had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 27.2 million who had a drug use disorder (DUD), and 8.0 million people who had both an AUD and a DUD.
  • In 2022, almost 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older had any mental illness (AMI) in the past year (59.3 million or 23.1%).
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2022, 19.5% (or 4.8 million people) had a past year major depressive episode (MDE).
  • 1 in 20 adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.2 million or 5.2%), 1.5% (or 3.8 million people) made a suicide plan, and 0.6% (or 1.6 million people) attempted suicide in the past year.
  • Over 1 in 8 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.4% or 3.4 million adolescents), 1 in 15 made any suicide plans (6.5% or 1.7 million adolescents), and nearly 1 in 25 (3.7% or 953,000 adolescents) attempted suicide in the past year.

Law Enforcement

New Jersey Supreme Court Says Drug Recognition Experts Reliable but Limits Their Use. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the testimony of police drug recognition experts is reliable enough to be used as evidence, but limited its use, citing concerns about the experts' processes. Drug recognition experts are trained to determine whether drivers are impaired by drugs that can’t be detected by roadside tests, bloodwork, or breathlyzers.

The ruling came in a case brought by the Office of the Public Defender with support from the ACLU of New Jersey, which made the most of the court's concerns. The case dates back to 2015, when Jerseyite Michael Olenowski was charged with driving while intoxicated on two separate occasions.

"Although we believe evidence regarding the DRE protocol should never be admissible at trial, the Court today took important steps to show its commitment to sound science, to stop the prosecution from proving its case through shortcuts and the overuse of police officers in place of empirical evidence to sustain criminal convictions, and to make clear to all courts, prosecutors, defendants, and the public that it will maintain the integrity of criminal prosecutions." said Assistant Deputy Public Defender Molly Mclane.

The high court split on the decision, with even the majority making it clear the ruling was unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

"We presume that researchers will continue to study the efficacy of the DRE methodology, and we do not foreclose future litigation with appropriate testimony to re-examine it," wrote Superior Court Judge Jack Sabatino, who is temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court.

In a dissent joined by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis wrote that her colleagues on the court approved the admissibility of drug recognition expert testimony despite admitting that they could not determine its reliability.

"The majority opinion discounts legitimate concerns about the reliability and accuracy of the DRE protocol and upholds the admission of DRE evidence despite acknowledging that 'the factors of testability and false positive error rate are largely inconclusive' and that 'DRE testimony does not, in and of itself, establish impairment,'" she wrote.

WI Psilocybin Research Bill Filed, German Pot Legalization Vote Postponed, More... (11/13/23)

A leading critic of former Philippines President Duterte's drug war has been freed from prison after being jailed for nearly seven years on bogus drug charges, Vietnam sentences 18 people to death for drug offenses, and more.

psilocybin mushrooms (Pixabay)

Wisconsin Bipartisan Bil to Create Psilocybin Research Program for Vets with PTSD. Sens. Jesse James (R) and Dianne Hesselbein (D), as well as Reps. Nate Gustafson (R) and Clinton Anderson (D) have joined together to file a bill that would create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.

The bill would create a pilot program to study the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. The program would be run through the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where a multidisciplinary psychedelics research division has been in place since 2021.

"Wisconsinites, especially our veterans struggling with treatment-resistant PTSD, deserve the 'Right to Try' the best possible care and support," Gustafson said. "I am proud to work across the aisle to propose a bipartisan bill to create a medicinal psilocybin treatment pilot to fulfill our moral duty to our veterans, who have selflessly served our country."

"The mental health of our veterans is incredibly important. Increasing treatment opportunities for veterans with PTSD is something we should all agree on," Anderson said. "I'm proud of this bipartisan bill to support those who served our country."

Massachusetts Governor Proposes Bill to Study Psychedelic Treatments for Veterans. Gov. Maura Healey (D) filed a bill on Veterans Day to increase benefits and promote inclusivity for veterans in the state that includes a provision that would create a "public-private working group to study the health benefits of psychedelics as treatment for veterans suffering from physical or mental health disorders related to their service."

Healey's bill comes after various legislators have already been discussing psychedelic legalization, and two versions of a psilocybin initiative petition have been filed in the state by the group Massachusetts for Mental Health Options.


German Lawmakers Postpone Marijuana Legalization Vote Scheduled for Next Week. Lawmakers in the Bundestag have postponed a final vote on marijuana legalization that was scheduled for next week, saying that the issue "will be decided in December," according to lawmaker Carmen Wegge.

"I know this is a huge disappointment for many," said Wegge, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). "That's why this decision wasn't easy for anyone. However, well-designed improvements are in all of our interests."

A member of the allied Green Party, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, explained the delay on social media by saying that "some wording still needs to be worked on." Legalization will come, she emphasized, "just a little later."

"I am confident that the law will become significantly better as a result of the discussions," Green Party lawmker Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said. "This is for a good cause, quality comes before time pressure. Some wording still needs to be worked on," she said, adding that legalization will come, "just a little later."

Philippine Politician Jailed by Duterte for Criticizing His Drug War Freed After Seven Years. Former senator Leila de Lima has been granted release on bail after being held in prison for nearly seven years on bogus drug charges after she criticized then-President Rodrigo Duterte war on drugs, under which tens of thousands of people were killed.

As she left prison, she was greeted by dozens of supporters. De Lima thanked her supporters, the news media, and the administration of Duterte successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. "for respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law."

De Lima is a global cause celebre. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that her imprisonment was arbitrary and without legal basis.

She was jailed in 2017 after starting a Senate probe into Duterte's drug war. Earlier, she had clashed with Duterte when, as human rights commissioner, she investigated death squad killings in Davao City, where Duterte was mayor for two decades.

Five witnesses who testified against her in the drug case have recanted their testimony in the past couple of years, leading to hopes that the charges against her will be dropped or that she will be acquitted. De Lima has already been acquitted in two of the three cases brought against her.

"We have waited a long time for this day, believing that what is right and true will always prevail," said Leni Robredo, the former vice president, opposition leader and presidential candidate, under whose ticket de Lima unsuccessfully ran for reelection from prison in 2022.

Amnesty International called on the Marcos administration to ensure De Lima's safety. "The government must now guarantee her safety, security and protection as she remains the target of vilification and threats," it said in a statement.

Vietnam Sentences 18 to Death in Drug Bust. A Vietnamese court has sentenced 18 people to death, including two South Koreans and a Chinese national, after they were convicted of having "illegally stored, trafficked and traded more than 216kg of drugs" between May and June 2020.

The trial took place in the Family and Juvenile Court of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court. Some drugs were "consumed domestically" while others went to South Korea, the court found.

One man was charged with "illegal transportation of drugs" and "using fake seals or documents of organizations," while the others were convicted of "illegal possession of drug", "illegal trading of drugs", "illegal drug trafficking" and "organization of illegal use of drugs", state media said.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws, including the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 21 ounces of heroin or 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. More than 100 people were executed last year, though it is unclear how many were drug offenders.

Ohio Voters Legalize Marijuana [FEATURE]

Ohio voters decisively embraced the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative Tuesday, approving it with 56.8 percent of the vote as of early Wednesday morning. The Issue 1 abortion rights initiative also passed, with a similar margin, garnering 56.3 percent of the vote.

Ohio now becomes the 24th state to legalize marijuana and the 14th to do so via the initiative process. And with Ohio joining the free-the-weed club, for the first time, a majority of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal.

"Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue," said Tom Haren, spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Ohioans demonstrated this by passing state Issue 2 in a landslide. Ohioans are being extremely clear on the future they want for our state: adult-use marijuana legal and regulated."

"This is a great day for Ohio, which now joins the growing number of conservative-leaning states that have ended the injustice of cannabis prohibition," said Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Our organization is proud to have been a member of a strong coalition of groups that advanced common sense cannabis policy for the people of Ohio by supporting Issue 2. This victory represents the culmination of a years-long effort, as MPP also played a pivotal role in the passage of Ohio's medical cannabis law in 2015."

"Cannabis legalization is an issue that unites Democrats, Republicans, and Independents," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Ohioans have seen similar legalization laws adopted in neighboring states and they know that regulating the cannabis market is preferable to the failed policy of prohibition. It is imperative that elected officials respect the voters' decision and implement this measure in a manner that is consistent with the sentiments of the majority of the electorate."

Under Issue 2, people 21 and over will be able to lawfully possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of extracts. The initiative also includes a home grow provision allowing for up to six plants, with a limit of 12 per household, but landlords will be allowed to bar home grows in their properties.

The initiative will impose a 10 percent retail sales tax on marijuana purchases above and beyond state and local sales taxes. Marijuana tax revenues will go to public safety, road improvement, drug treatment and prevention, with more than 30 percent reserved for social equity investments for people and communities "disproportionately affected by Ohio's marijuana policy." (That is the only social equity provision in the initiative; it does not include any provisions for expungement of marijuana-related criminal records -- a task presumably to be left to the legislature.)

Issue 2 will create a Division of Marijuana Control inside the state Department of Commerce and will place the state's existing medical marijuana regulators in charge of licensing and setting rules for implementing the new law. Existing medical marijuana operations will be able to obtain new adult-use licenses, and regulators will also have 40 new licenses to hand out for smaller commercial cultivators and 50 licenses for new adult-use retail outlets. No one will be able to hold more than eight retail licenses or one cultivator license, but cultivators will be allowed to expand their size by four- or five-fold to serve a growing customer base.

Where retail or cultivation operations can operate will be up to municipal authorities, who can prohibit them from operating, but who cannnot force closure or limitation of existing marijuana facilities.

And Issue 2 will allow employers to fire or refuse to hire employees who fail marijuana drug tests.

Because the measure is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers have the option of amending, or even repealing, its provisions. Prior to today's vote, members of the GOP-led Ohio Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the initiative and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine spoke out against the measure. The state's Senate leader has also expressed his desire to revisit provisions of the new law and propose legislative changes, so the fight is not over.

Provisions in the law legalizing the possession and home cultivation of marijuana by adults take effect upon certification of the election results December 7th. The measure calls upon regulators to begin issuing retail licenses by late 2024.

House Committee Blocks DC Legal Weed Sales, Colombia Hack Exposes DEA Agents, More... (11/7/23)

A New York assemblyman wants to ban marijuana billboards, Utah medical marijuana dispensary workers vote to unionize, and more.

Congress can't keep its hands off DC marijuana laws. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Committee Kills Bid to End Ban on DC Pot Sales. The Republican-led House Rules Committee has blocked an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that would have allowed the District of Columbia to enact legal marijuana sales in the nation's capital. It also killed an amendment to prevent drug testing federal job applicants for marijuana.

Voters in the District approved marijuana legalization a decade ago, but the District's ability to allow legal sales was blocked by a congressional rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that has been maintained ever since. Even the Democrats controlling the Senate Appropriations Committee maintained the rider, as did President Biden's Fiscal Year 2024 budget request.

The amendment to get rid of the rider was filed by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

New York Bill Would Ban Roadside Marijuana Billboards. Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown) has filed a bill that would ban marijuana advertising billboards along highways, Assembly Bill 8200, the Roadside Cannabis Advertising Prohibition Act.

The bill provides an exemption for marijuana retailers to display signs on their premises, but they would not be allowed to install large signs that show specific products to passersby.

Gray said he was inspired after seeing a billboard that advertised marijuana with "Got Weed?" slogan and he feared that it deliberately resembled ads that focus on children and teenagers.

"A number of scientific studies have shown serious effects from marijuana on teenagers' brains, and this legislation will ensure that products are not advertised in a harmful way, while protecting the rights of authorized establishments to have signage acknowledging the location of their venue," Gray said.

The bill was filed late last month and is currently before the Assembly Economic Development Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Dispensary Workers Unionize. The movement to unionize marijuana industry workers continues apace. The latest pot shop to see a vote by employees to join a union is Utah's Dragonfly Wellness Cannabis Dispensary, which was the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the state back in 2020 and voted to become a union shop last month.

Both the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are involved in industry organizing efforts. Dragonfly workers opted to join UFCW Local 99, which also represents marijuana workers in Arizona and New Mexico.

Dragonfly workers said the store fought the unionization bid, hiring the Crossroads Group, a company notorious for union-busting measures. But to no avail -- employees voted 19-4 to join the union.

"For more than a decade, our union has been proud to help lead the development and stabilization of the emerging cannabis industry through our innovative Cannabis Workers Rising campaign." Said UFCW Local 99. "We represent tens of thousands of cannabis workers across the US in dispensaries, labs, delivery, kitchens, manufacturing, processing, grow facilities and more helping workers secure better wages, protection from unfair discipline, and great benefits with a union contract."

"Workers are seeing profits being made, but not feeling it in their paychecks," UCFW spokesperson Drake Ridge said. "Part of this is to ensure the workers that are making the industry thrive, that are building direct relationships with patients and giving them the medicine they need to get through the day, are seeing their fair share of the profits."


Colombia Prosecutors' Office Leak Exposes Dozens of DEA Agents. A cyber breach at a Colombian prosecutor's office has exposed the identities of more than 90 DEA agents and 15 Homeland Security Investigations agents, as well as similar numbers of their Colombian and foreign counterparts.

Journalists have not so far published the names of identifying information about the exposed agents, but the breach reveals a lack of safeguards in Colombia, a key US ally in the fight against hemispheric drug trafficking organizations.

"It's one of their nightmares because (cartels)… can identify agents and informants, especially if you are still in-country," said Mike Vigil, a former DEA international operations chief who helped the agency expand its global intelligence footprint worldwide. "Anytime that unauthorized people have the name of an agent or an informant, it's not difficult to locate them."

A cartel might not want to risk the consequences of killing a DEA agent, Vigil said, but "to them, informants are fair game because they are considered traitors and will kill them to send a message to others thinking of cooperating."

The leak has provided the basis for the NarcoFiles, an investigative reporting operation from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in conjunction with the Miami Herald and more than 40 other news outlets. The reporting on the leak has been ongoing since October 22 and has also included revelations about links between the Venezuelan government and the drug trade.

The leak came from a "hacktivist" organization calling itself Guacamaya, a common South American word for the macaw parrot, which has also claimed hacks of the Mexican Defense Ministry, as well as the defense departments of Chile and Colombia. Guacamaya said the Colombian prosecutor's office was "one of the most corrupt organizations in the country," and accused it of being servile to US interests."

Buckeye Voters Could Make Ohio the 24th Legal Marijuana State on Tuesday [FEATURE]

On Tuesday, Ohioans will head to the polls to address a pair of initiatives, both of which seem set to energize progressive voters in an off-year election and whose synergy should propel both to victory. Issue 1 is an abortion rights initiative, while Issue 2 would legalize marijuana.

Recent polls show both initiatives winning. The abortion rights initiative is polling at 65 percent in an Ohio Northern poll and 58 percent in a Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse poll, while Issue 2 is polling at 65 percent in the Ohio Northern poll and 59 percent in a Public Policy Polling survey.

If approved by voters, the marijuana legalization initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and 15 grams of extracts. The initiative also includes a home grow provision allowing for up to six plants, with a limit of 12 per household, but landlords would be allowed to bar home grows in their properties.

The initiative would impose a 10 percent retail sales tax on marijuana purchases above and beyond state and local sales taxes. Marijuana tax revenues would go to public safety, road improvement, drug treatment and prevention, with more than 30 percent reserved for social equity investments for people and communities "disproportionately affected by Ohio's marijuana policy." (That is the only social equity provision in the initiative; it does not include any provisions for expungement of marijuana-related criminal records -- a task presumably to be left to the legislature.)

Issue 2 would create a Division of Marijuana Control inside the state Department of Commerce and would place the state's existing medical marijuana regulators in charge of licensing and setting rules for implementing the new law. Existing medical marijuana operations would be able to obtain new adult-use licenses, and regulators will also have 40 new licenses to hand out for smaller commercial cultivators and 50 licenses for new adult-use retail outlets. No one would be able to hold more than eight retail licenses or one cultivator license, but cultivators would be allowed to expand their size by four- or five-fold to serve a growing customer base.

Where retail or cultivation operations can operate will be up to municipal authorities, who could prohibit them from operating, but who could not force closure or limitation of existing marijuana facilities.

And Issue 2 would allow employers to fire or refuse to hire employees who fail marijuana drug tests.

It has been a long and winding road to Election Day for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has spent the last several years navigating the state's labyrinthine initiative process. It had to successfully complete two signature-gathering campaigns before taking the issue to the legislature, which could enact the measure but refused to do so, and then undertake another signature-gathering campaign to be able to finally bring the issue directly to the voters.

It's about time, the campaign says in its official argument, which leads with an economic argument: that legal marijuana will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for the state. The coalition put the figure at $400 million a year, while an Ohio State University study estimated recreational marijuana's annual tax revenue potential at between $276 million and $403 million, after the industry has been operating for five years.

But it is not just an economic issue, the coalition argues. Passing the initiative would be a remedy to the state's "failed marijuana policy," the group said. "Our current marijuana laws can ruin lives based on one mistake. This measure will end unfairly harsh punishments for minor marijuana offenses, freeing local law enforcement to focus on serious, violent and unsolved crimes. Passing this measure will create a legal marijuana market in Ohio with clear, regulated and enforced safety standards, thus drying up the black market."

Because Issue 2 takes the form of a statutory initiative and not a constitutional amendment, the legislature will be able to attempt to revise or reverse it. And the current Republican-dominated legislature is indeed hostile to the initiative. It is up to Ohio voters to show lawmakers just what marijuana policy they want, and the more they can run up the margin, the stronger their statement will be.

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