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NH Bill Would Legalize Psychedelics, Federal Bill Would Ensure Gun Rights for MedMJ Patients, More... (1/17/23)

A New York bill would end civil asset forfeiture, a Utah bill would decriminalize fentanyl test strips, and more.

Evo Morales may no longer be president of Bolivia, but he still has his eye on the region. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

GOP Congressman Files Bill to Protect Gun Rights of Medical Marijuana Patients. The first piece of marijuana reform legislation in the new Congress is a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to purchase and possess firearms. Sponsored by Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), along with Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), the Second Amendment Protection Act seeks to amend federal law around the "sale, purchase, shipment, receipt, or possession of a firearm or ammunition by a user of medical marijuana." Under current law, people who use marijuana can't buy or possess guns because they're considered to be "an unlawful user of or addicted to"a federally controlled substance. Mooney filed a similar bill in 2019, but it did not advance.

Psychedelics

New Hampshire Bill to Legalize Possession of Psychedelics Filed. Rep. Kevin Verville (R) has filed House Bill 328, which states that the "possession or use of a hallucinogenic drug by a person 21 years of age or older shall not be an offense."It would also reduce penalties for LSD manufacturing and possession by people under 21. The bill does not name specific drugs, but state statute lists mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, and LSD as examples of hallucinogenic substances. The bill has been referred to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

New York Bill Would End Civil Asset Forfeiture and Opt State Out of Federal Forfeiture Program. Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D) and eight Democratic cosponsors have filed Assembly Bill 641, which would end civil asset forfeiture in the state and replace it with a criminal process. Passage of the bill would also effectively opt the state out of a program that allows police to circumvent more strict state forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds. Under the bill seizures could occur only if the "prosecuting authority secures a conviction of a crime that authorizes the forfeiture of property and the prosecuting authority establishes by clear and convincing evidence the property is an instrumentality of or proceeds derived directly from the crime for which the state secured a conviction." The bill would also require that seized funds be deposited in the state's general fund. Under current law, police can keep up to 60 percent of asset forfeiture proceeds, creating an incentive for "policing for profit." The bill is now before the Assembly Codes Committee.

Harm Reduction

Utah Bill to Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips Filed. State Sen. Jenifer Plumb (D) has filed Senate Bill 86, which would legalize the use and possession of fentanyl test strips. Under current state law, the test strips are criminalized as drug paraphernalia, but the bill would create an exemption from liability under the state Controlled Substances Act. Test strips are an increasingly popular harm reduction measure in the fight to reduce fentanyl-related drug overdoses. The bill is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

International

Former Bolivian President and Coca Grower Setting Up Regional Organization. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, forced out of office in the wake of disputed elections in 2019, will set up the headquarters of his plurinationalist, indigenist movement in the region in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The movement will convene next week with coca growers from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, as well as Bolivia as Morales commences what he described as a struggle for the "plurinational peoples of Latin America." Continuing strife in Peru after the arrest and jailing of leftist President Castillo in December, as well as continuing strife in Bolivia's Santa Cruz province after the arrest of rightist Gov. Luis Fernando Camacho have placed Bolivian coca growers under unprecedented hardships. Morales rose to power as a Bolivian coca grower leader and still controls six coca grower unions in the Chapare.

Bolivia Celebrates Coca Leaf Chewing Day, WA Psilocybin Legalization Bill Filed, More... (1/13/23)

An Ohio bill would revamp the state's medical marijuana program, New York's governor signs a bill mandating that the state immediately re- or deschedule Schedule I drugs if federal law changes, and more.

chewing coca leaf in Bolivia (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Ohio Bill Would Revamp State's Medical Marijuana Program. State Sens. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) and Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) this week filed Senate Bill 9, which would let doctors recommend medical marijuana for any debilitating condition, let growers expand their operations, and expand the number of dispensaries in the state. Similar legislation stalled in the Assembly last year. The bill would also rationalize oversight under the sole purview of the Department of Commerce. Currently, three separate state agencies regulate medical marijuana, which some in the industry say is burdensome.

Psychedelics

New York Governor Signs Bill Descheduling Schedule I Drug if Federal Law Changes. Late last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law a bill mandating that the state immediately deschedule or reschedule Schedule I drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin if they are reclassified under federal law, AO 9722. The bills passed both houses with unanimous support and are designed to "provide for parity between the New York State schedule and the federal schedule when certain drugs are approved for medical treatment."

Washington Bill Would Allow Psilocybin Services for Adults. State Sen. Jesse Salomon (D) and 20 bipartisan cosponsors have filed Senate Bill 5263, which would legalize and regulate the psychedelic for people 21 and over. The bill aims to "facilitate the establishment of safe, legal, and affordable psilocybin service centers to provide citizens of Washington who are at least 21 years of age with opportunities for supported psilocybin experiences for wellness and personal growth" and to "improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of all people in this state, and to reduce the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among adults in this state by providing for supported adult use of psilocybin under the supervision of a trained and licensed psilocybin service facilitator." The bill would create a Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board and put the state Department of Health in charge of licensing and developing regulations for the new industry.

International

Bolivia Celebrates Coca Leaf Chewing Day. Bolivians celebrated their heritage Wednesday by honoring the centuries-old tradition of chewing coca leaves during Akuliku commemorations to mark the country's relationship with the traditional crop. Bolivians chew the leaf as a mild stimulant, to help with altitude sickness, and as a form of medicine for certain illnesses. At the Akuliku Festival, the coca leaf was also available reformulated into drinks and soaps."Since my grandparents' time we chewed the coca leaf. We have always used coca because it is a sacred leaf. This coca leaf is good for us, it is highly valued," explained one attendee.

GOP Rep Wants to Use Military Force Against Mexican Cartels, MN Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (1/12/23)

A North Dakota bill would increase monthly THC limits for medical marijuana patients, a South Dakota bill would bar pregnant or breast-feeding women from getting medical marijuana cards, and more.

The Mexican military can't handle the cartels and the US military should help, a GOP congressman says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins First Committee Vote. A Democratic marijuana legalization bill, House File 100, was approved on a voice vote in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday and has now been referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, the second of what could be as many as a dozen committee hurdles. The bill would allow people 21 and over to possess up to two ounces in public and up to five pounds at a residence, as well as allowing the gifting of amounts up to those limits. It also allows for the home cultivation of four mature and four immature plants, and it would set up a system of taxed and licensed marijuana commerce.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Senate Approves Bill to Raise Patients' 30-Day THC Limit. The Senate has approved Senate Bill 2068, which increases the amount of THC in products such as tinctures and lotions that patients may purchase in a 30-day period. The limit is currently 4,000 milligrams, and the bill originally would have doubled that to 8,000 milligrams, but bill sponsor Sen. Kristin Roers (R-Fargo) amended it down to 6,000 milligrams after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 for a "do not pass" recommendation. The measure now heads to the House.

South Dakota Bill Would Bar Pregnant or Breast-Feeding Women from Access to Medical Marijuana. Anti-marijuana and anti-abortion zealot Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) has filed a bill that would block the Health Department from issuing medical marijuana cards to pregnant or breast-feeding women, House Bill 1053. The bill has been referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee. Deutsch served as treasurer for Protecting South Dakota Kids, a ballot measure committee that successfully opposed the 2022 marijuana legalization initiative and he also is a past president of South Dakota Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.

Foreign Policy

GOP Congressman Will File Bill to Authorize Use of Military Force Against Mexican Cartels. US Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) said over the weekend that he plans to introduce a bill that would authorize the use of certain US military capabilities against drug trafficking organization in Mexico. "They are defeating the Mexican army. These are paramilitary entities with billions and billions at their disposal," he said during an appearance on Fox's Sunday Morning Futures. But he specified that his proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Forces would not include placing the US military in combat in Mexico: "I'm not talking about US troops. But I am talking about cyber, drones, intelligence assets, naval assets." Former president Donald Trump also recently called for using US special forces, cyber warfare and other capabilities to "inflict maximum damage on cartel leadership, infrastructure, and operations." The Trump administration also considered designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, and a bill to the effect has been filed in the Senate.

Eleven States Where Psychedelic Reform Bills Are on the Agenda This Year [FEATURE]

This year's state legislative season is just beginning, and there is already evidence that the psychedelic renaissance now underway is reaching into statehouses across the land. In at least eleven states, reform bills ranging from therapeutic psilocybin to the decriminalization of natural psychedelics have already been filed, and more states are likely to join the list as the year goes on.

What started with a successful local psilocybin decriminalization initiative in Denver in 2019 has now spread to a number of cities, including Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Cambridge, Somerville, and Northampton, Massachusetts; Seattle; and Washington, DC. At the state level, Oregon led the way with the 2020 passage of Measure 109, which both decriminalized psilocybin and created a framework for its therapeutic administration, and Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of all drugs, including psychedelics. And in November, Colorado voters passed Measure 122, which decriminalizes natural psychedelics and creates a framework for psilocybin "healing centers."

Here (with a tip of the hat to Marijuana Moment) is what could be coming this year:

California

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has filed Senate Bill 58, which would legalize the possession of small amounts of DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn, but not synthetic psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA. A previous version of the bill included those synthetic psychedelics. That bill passed the Senate only to die at the last minute in the Assembly.

Colorado

After voters approved the legalization of natural psychedelics and the creation of psilocybin "healing centers," Gov. Jared Polis (D) is calling for the legislature to pass enabling legislation "to set it up in a way that prevents any negative consequences and honors the will of the voters." It is unclear what Polis is seeking, but he has previously said he was "excited" about the reforms and called psychedelics a "promising" treatment possibility for some mental health conditions.

Connecticut

Rep. David Michel (D) has filed House Bill 5012, "[t]o allow the use of psilocybin for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, including, but not limited to, the provision of physical, mental or behavioral health care." That bill has been referred to the joint Public Health Committee. Michel told Marijuana Moment this week that he will also cosponsor a psychedelic decrim bill with Rep. Josh Elliott (D).

Illinois

Rep. La Shawn Ford (D) has filed House Bill 1, the Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens (CURE) Act, which would remove psilocybin from the state's list of controlled substances, effectively legalizing it. The measure would also allow expungement of certain psilocybin-related convictions and create an advisory board for psilocybin therapeutic services.

Missouri

Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) plans to file a revised psychedelics bill after a broader psychedelic reform bill he filed last year died in the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee. The new version will be a narrowly tailored bill to allow people with serious mental health conditions therapeutic access to psilocybin.

Minnesota

Rep. Andy Smith (D) has announced that he is "currently working on a bill forming a psychedelic medicine task force so Minnesotans can have access to these life affirming treatments. For decades scientific research into the positive effects of psychedelic medicine has been muzzled by the 'war on drugs,' but that is [starting] to change," he said. The bill has not yet been filed and the text is not yet available.

Montana.

Two bills are currently being drafted by legislative staff at the request of members. LC 1208, requested by Sen. Jill Cohenour (D)would "[l]egalize psilocybin use for PTSD/mental health treatment," while LC 2311, requested by Rep. George Nikolakakos (R) would more incrementally mandate an interim study on the use of psilocybin for the treatment of mental illness.

New Jersey

Last year, Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) filed Senate Bill 2934, which would legalize the possession, home cultivation, and gifting of psilocybin mushrooms by people 21 and over, as well as setting a system of licensed psilocybin services in supervised settings. That bill has been carried over into the current session and now has a companion version, Assembly Bill 4911, in the Assembly filed by three key lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D) and Health Committee Chairman Herb Conaway (D).

New York

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D) has pre-filed Assembly Bill 00114, which would legalize the "possession, use, cultivation, production, creation, analysis, gifting, exchange, or sharing by or between natural persons of twenty-one years of age or older of a natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogen." That would include DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocyn. The bill would also allow people to use such substances in religious ceremonies or engage in psychedelic services "with or without remuneration."

Oregon

State voters already approved both therapeutic psilocybin and broader drug decriminalization, but legislators have filed a pair of bills aimed at adjusting the psilocybin services program. Senate Bill 303, filed by Sen. Elizabeth Steiner (D), would mandate that psilocybin businesses and therapists collect and report data such as average psilocybin doses and demographics of their client base. Senate Bill 302, filed by Sen. Kim Thatcher (R), would mandate that psilocybin business applicants provide certain information about ownership and location of their operations.

Virginia

Last year, Del. Dawn Adams (D) filed House Bill 898, which would decriminalize a broad array of psychedelics, but the House bumped it to 2023. It's now 2023, and that bill is still alive. Adams has this year also filed House Bill 1315, which would legalize psilocybin possession for people who have an "order" from a health care professional to treat "refractory depression or post-traumatic stress disorder or to ameliorate end-of-life anxiety." The bill would also reduce the penalty for non-medical possession of psilocybin to a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by no more than 30 days in jail. Meanwhile Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D) has pre-filed Senate Bill 932, which would down-schedule psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule III and create a Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board to "develop a long-term strategic plan for establishing therapeutic access to psilocybin services and monitor and study federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding psilocybin."

And this is only January.

FL Doc Gets Twenty Years in Unnecessary Drug Test Scheme, IN Marijuana Bills Filed, More... (1/11/23)

Legal adult marijuana sales have begun in Connecticut, a marijuana legalization bill is filed in Tennessee, and more.

Insurance companies were fraudulently billed more than $125 million. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

It's Official: Connecticut Legal Adult Use Marijuana Sales are On. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced the start of adult-use marijuana sales in a Tuesday news release: "The opening of the adult-use cannabis market in Connecticut marks the start of an expanded cannabis industry that prioritizes the safe and equitable regulation of adult-use cannabis, as well as the preservation of the medical marijuana market, which continues to serve nearly 50,000 patients in the state," the statement said. "Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, most notably now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated, underground market for cannabis sales," Gov. Lamont said. "Together with our partners in the legislature and our team of professionals at the Department of Consumer Protection, we've carefully crafted a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. I look forward to continuing our efforts to ensure that this industry remains inclusive and safe as it develops."

Indiana Marijuana Bills Filed. The state's legislative season is just getting underway and at least four marijuana reform bills have already been filed. Senate Bill 70, introduced by Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-District 8), would decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Bohacek also introduced Senate Bill 82, which "establishes a defense to operating a vehicle or motorboat with a controlled substance in the person's blood if: (1) the controlled substance is marijuana or a metabolite of marijuana; and (2) the person was not intoxicated." Meanwhile, State Rep. Jake Teshka (R-South Bend) filed House Bill 1039, which would allow for medical marijuana after the drug is removed as a federal Schedule I controlled substance. And House Bill 1065, authored by Rep. Sue Errington (D-District 34), would establish the cannabis compliance advisory committee to review and evaluate certain rules, laws and programs. Last year, 13 marijuana-related bills were filed. None of them went anywhere.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) has filed House Bill 0085, also known as the "Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act." The bill would legalize the possession and transfer without remuneration of up to 60 grams (slightly more than two ounces) of marijuana by adults and allow the home cultivation of up to 12 plants, as well as creating a system of licensed and regulated commercial marijuana production and sales.

Drug Testing

Florida Doctor Sentenced to 20 Years for Urine Testing Fraud Scheme. Delray Beach osteopathic physician Michael Ligotti has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for approving medically unnecessary urine tests and treatment for alcohol and drug-addicted patients that cost private insurance companies more than $125 million over a decade. Ligotti, who owned a medical clinic in Delray Beach that profited from the scheme, had pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to commit healthcare and wire fraud and was ordered to surrender his Florida medical license.

The 48-year old physician admitted authorizing "fraudulent" urine drug tests for patients at about 50 drug treatment centers, sober homes, and labs in South Florida. In exchange, many of those same patients were recycled through his Delray Beach medical facility, allowing his practice to bill for and profit from redundant drug treatment and testing services. Ligotti also admitted to signing "standing orders" for expensive and unnecessary urine drug tests for patients at the various treatment facilities, including his own clinic.

In turn, the patients' urine specimens were sent to testing laboratories, which then billed private healthcare insurers for the unnecessary urine drug tests. A single test cost thousands of dollars. As a result, between 2011 and 2020, the healthcare insurers were billed more than $746 million for unneeded addiction treatment and urine testing, according to Justice Department prosecutors. In total, the insurers paid about $127 million for fraudulent drug tests and addiction treatment.

Psychedelic Reform Bills Popping Up, No Federal Pot Possession Prisoners, More... (1/10/23)

The Wisconsin GOP may finally be ready to embrace medical marijuana, the US Sentencing Commission says there are no more federal pot possession prisoners, and more.

President Biden met with Mexico's president Monday. Fentanyl was one of the issues on his mind. (whitehouse.gov)
Medical Marijuana

Wisconsin GOP Lawmakers Move Closer to Legalizing Medical Marijuana. For years, the Republican-controlled legislature has fended off any and all efforts to advance marijuana reforms, but it could be different this year. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu has said that he thinks a bill to create a medical marijuana program in the state could be passed this legislative session as long as regulations are put forward to ensure it's for those in serious pain. "Our caucus is getting pretty close on medical marijuana," LeMahieu said, marking the first time the Republican Senate leader has expressed support for the notion. Republican Assembly Leader Robin Vos has in recent years expressed support for medical marijuana, while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has long called for the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana. Two-thirds of Wisconsinites support legalizing marijuana and a super-majority of 80 percent support medical marijuana.

Psychedelics

Lawmakers in Nearly a Dozen States Have Already Filed Psychedelic Bills. With the legislative season just getting underway this year, lawmakers in nearly a dozen states have already filed psychedelic reform bills, with measures ranging from legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic purposes to broadly decriminalizing natural plants and fungi. The states with psychedelic reform efforts already underway are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Virginia. Click on the link above for details on efforts in each state.

Foreign Policy

White House Readout on Biden's Meeting with Mexican President Vows Cooperation on Fentanyl. As well as general language about strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two countries, the White House readout of Monday's meeting between President Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also containing language directly pertaining to the smuggling of fentanyl across the US-Mexico border: "The two leaders also reviewed security cooperation under the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities and discussed increased cooperation to prosecute drug traffickers and dismantle criminal networks, disrupt the supply of illicit precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, shut down drug laboratories, and prevent trafficking of drugs, arms, and people across our shared border."

The relationship between US and Mexican drug law enforcers remains fraught in the wake of the October 2020 arrest of former Mexican defense minister Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos by DEA agents in Los Angeles and his elease two months later in the face of intense pressure from Mexico, with Lopez Obrador accusing the DEA of "fabricating" charges against him.

[Ed: Whether it's possible to interdict cross-border fentanyl shipments in sufficient quantities to affect the prevalence of the substance is not clear, and the history of interdiction is not encouraging. Whether doing so would ultimately reduce prevalence in the US is also not clear, as much of the fentanyl comes from China, and it can be manufactured anywhere including the US.]

Sentencing

Sentencing Commission Reports No One in Federal Prison for Simple Marijuana Possession. In a report released Tuesday, the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) notes that: "As of January 2022, no offenders sentenced solely for simple possession of marijuana remained in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons." The USSC also found that the number of people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law has declined from 2,172 in fiscal year 2014 to only 145 in fiscal year 2021. It also found that one state -- Arizona -- largely drove the federal pot possession arrest numbers, accounting for 1,916 convictions in 2014 but dropping to just two in 2021. Those Arizona arrests appear to be linked to anti-immigration campaigns in the state: Federal marijuana possession offenders in the past five years were 71 percent Hispanic and 60 percent non-citizens.

SC MedMJ Bills, Violence Rocks Mexican City as El Chapo's Son Arrested, More... (1/6/23)

The Mexican cartel leader who escaped during Sunday's Tijuana prison attack has been shot dead, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rejects hair testing for drugs, and more.

No hair testing for truck drivers, the federal regulator says. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Sees Two Medical Marijuana Bills Pre-Filed. With the legislative session set to begin next week, lawmakers in Columbia have already pre-filed two separate medical marijuana bills. The Put Patients First Act (House Bill 3226) is cosponsored by Democratic Minority Leader Todd Rutherford and freshman Republican Rep. Jay Kilmartin. It would make marijuana available to registered patients with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would allow caregivers and dispensaries to "cultivate, grow, and dispense marijuana for medical use." The other bill, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (House Bill 3486) also has bipartisan sponsors and would "authorize the use of cannabis products by patients with debilitating medical conditions who are under the care of a physician, with exceptions."

Drug Testing

Federal Regulator Rejects Hair Testing for Truck Drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has denied a petition calling on the agency to recognize hair samples as an alternative drug-testing method for truckers. The FMCSA was responding to request from an industry association, the Trucking Alliance, to recognize hair testing as a valid form of drug testing. But federal regulations require that truck drivers be tested by urinalysis, and the FMCSA pointed to that language to restate its longstanding position that it has no statutory authority to accept hair testing. Hair testing detects the presence of drugs for months, as opposed to days for urinalysis.

International

Mexico's Sinaloa Sees Deadly Clashes as Troops Arrest El Chapo's Son. Mexican Army and National Guard troops successfully arrested Ovidio Guzman, the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in the Sinaloa state capital, Culiacan, on Thursday (as opposed to 2019, when they arrested and then released the younger Guzman in the face of cartel threats). But the arrest came at a high cost, as subsequent clashes between Sinaloa cartel forces and the military left 10 soldiers and 19 cartel gunmen dead. The reaction to the bust also included attacks on the Culiacan airport and military helicopters by cartel gunmen, as well as burning buses and private vehicles used to blockade city roadways. The bust comes just days before President Biden is set to visit Mexico and the US-Mexico border.

Mexico Cartel Leader Who Escaped Tijuana Prison During Attack Sunday Killed in Shootout with Cops. Ernesto Alfredo "El Neto" Pinon, the long-imprisoned leader of the Sinaloa cartel affiliate the Mexicles, who escaped prison in Juarez during a deadly attack and breakout on Sunday, was tracked down by intelligence agents and shot and killed in Tijuana on Thursday. At least 19 guards and prisoners were killed in the assault, with another seven people, including police killed in another confrontation Monday. El Neto's killing brings the overall death toll now to 27.

Detroit Legal Adult Marijuana Sales Begin, MN DFL Files Marijuana Legalization Bill, More... (1/5/23)

The legislative season is getting underway, here come the marijuana legalization bills, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Kentucky Lawmaker Files Marijuana Legalization Constitutional Amendment. After years of the Republican-dominated state legislature blocking all efforts at marijuana reform, state Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) has filed a constitutional amendment (House Bill 48) that would let the state's voters decide directly whether to legalize marijuana. The amendment would ask voters whether they want to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce and allow for the home cultivation of up to five plants. It does not include provisions for a regulated marijuana market. She has also filed a measure, House Bill 47, that would simply decriminalize possession.

Minnesota DFL Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. Nineteen Democratic-Farm-Labor (DFL) members of the House filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Fill 100, on Thursday. The measure is largely similar to the legalization bill passed by the House last year, which never got a vote in the Senate. The bill include social equity provisions, expungement provisions, provisions allowing local governments the power to restrict marijuana sales, and an 8 percent sales tax. The bill now heads to the House Commerce Finance and Policy committee, and will likely be put to discussion in various committees.

Virginia GOP Lawmaker Files Bill to Create Regulated Marijuana Market. Del. Keith Hodges (R) has filed a bill to create a regulated marijuana market, House Bill 1464. But some advocates say the measure would gut social equity provisions in favor of providing incentives to corporations to invest in low-income communities. The state currently allows adult-use marijuana possession and home cultivation, but a legal market will not come into being for several years, and the law does not allow the state's existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to adults.

Detroit Adult-Use Marijuana Sales Have Begun. Recreational marijuana sales in Michigan's largest city began on Wednesday, when the House of Dank medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors to recreational buyers. Just hours later, another dispensary, DaCut, similarly opened its doors to recreational buyers. "Going recreational in Detroit is a huge milestone for us," Crystal Jamo, general manager of House of Dank, said. "Just because we've been waiting for it for so long that, like, 'Pinch me, is it real?'"

MS Makes Naloxone Available for Free, PA Fentanyl Test Strips Now Decriminalized, More... (1/4/23)

Violence continues in Ciudad Juarez in the wake of a deadly Sunday prison break, Mississippi has created a web site where residents can order free naloxone, and more.

fentanyl test strips (Creative Commons)
Harm Reduction

Mississippi Makes Naloxone Available for Free. After nearly 600 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, the last year for which full numbers are available, the state is moving to ease access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan). The Department of Health has begun a program under which people need only log onto a state website, answer a few questions, and watch a training video, and the department will then send them a free naloxone kit. Or they can download a voucher and have it filled at a local pharmacy. To apply for the free Narcan, visit odfree.org/get-naloxone.

Pennsylvania Law Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips Now in Effect. A new law, Act 111, that decriminalizes fentanyl test strips went into effect Monday. The law achieves this by amending the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act of 1972 to no longer define the test strips as drug paraphernalia. Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables).

International

Sinaloa Cartel Gang Leader Among Those Who Escaped in Ciudad Juarez Prison Attack. Among the 27 prisoners who successfully fled a Ciudad Juarez prison as it was attacked Sunday was Ernesto "El Neto" Pinon, the long-imprisoned leader of the Mexicles, a Juarez gang affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel. The attack and jailbreak left 10 guards and seven prisoners dead, with two escaped prisoner later killed by authorities. Pinon had been jailed at the prison since 2010 on a 224-year sentence for murder. Authorities blamed the prison assault on the Mexicles, saying it was attacked by at least 25 of them. Also among the escapees was the Mexicles' number-two man, Cesar Vega.

Death Toll Rises as Mexican Authorities Hunt Down Juarez Prison Attackers, Escapees. At least seven people were killed in a gunfight as Chihuahua state investigators worked to hunt down the perpetrators of Sunday's attack on a Ciudad Juarez prison, as well as 25 prisoners who escaped. The attack was orchestrated by the Mexicles, a Juarez gang long affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel, who long-imprisoned leader and his number two were among the escapees. In the Tuesday shootout, two state investigators and five Mexicles members died.

MD Pot Decrim Now in Effect, CO Natural Psychedelic Decrim Now in Effect, More... (1/3/23)

The Justice Department is suing a major pharmaceutical distributor over its role in the opioid crisis, a Virgin Islands marijuana legalization bill goes to the governor, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are now decriminalized in Colorado. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Marijuana Possession No Longer a Crime. With the advent of the new year, possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana is no longer a crime in the state. People who possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, however, face a maximum $100 fine, while those caught with up to 2.5 ounces face a $250 fine. The reduced penalties are the results of voters approving a referendum in November that directs the legislature to create rules for legal adult sales. That referendum also triggered the implementation of a bill decriminalizing pot possession, which is what went into effect on January 1.

US Virgin Islands Marijuana Legalization Bill Goes to Governor. The US territory's Senate last Friday approved a marijuana legalization bill on a an 11-1 vote, as well as passing separate expungement legislation. The bill has already passed the House. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D), who has repeatedly called on lawmakers to pass such a bill, is expected to sign both bills into law.

Opiates and Opioids

Justice Department Sues Pharmaceutical Distributor for More Than $1 Billion for Role in Opioid Epidemic. The Justice Department last Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen, which Justice alleges "fueled" the country's opioid epidemic. The complaint claims the company, one of the country's largest drug distributors, failed to fulfill its legal obligation to report suspicious orders or to report suspicious customer behavior to the DEA. The complaint also alleges that AmerisourceBergen constantly violated the Controlled Substances Act by failing to follow the proper steps for distributing opioids under the Act. The DOJ filed the complaint in civil court and seeks over $1 billion in damages.

Psychedelics

Colorado Psychedelics Decriminalization Takes Effect. Natural psychedelics including psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are now decriminalized after Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a proclamation that the voter-approved initiative that decriminalized them had received a majority of votes in the November election. "Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy," Polis said in a statement from the governor's office. "Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures." The measure creates a state-regulated system for therapeutic access to natural psychedelics and it decriminalizes the possession, cultivation, and sharing of the naturally occurring psychedelic drugs.

New York Lawmakers File Bill to Legalize Natural Psychedelics. Assembly members Linda Rosenthal (D), Jo Anne Simon (D) and Karines Reyes(D) have filed a bill, A00114, that would legalize the use and possession of a number of natural plant- or fungi-based psychedelics, including DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin and psilocyn, recategorize them and eliminate their status as prohibited substances. The bill would: "Legalize adult possession and use of certain natural plant or fungus-based hallucinogens; Grant certain protections for individuals lawfully using such hallucinogens; Remove such hallucinogens from the list of Schedule I controlled substances; Make related provisions."

International

Mexico Prison Assault Leaves 14 Dead, 24 Escaped Prisoners. Presumed cartel gunmen in armored vehicles attacked a prison in Ciudad Juarez Sunday morning, opening fire on guards and other security personnel and leaving 10 guards and four prisoners dead. Another 24 prisoners managed to escape during the mayhem. This same prison also saw violence erupt last August where Mexican army troops had to intervene in a clash between prisoners from the rival Juarez and Sinaloa cartels that led to a riot and shootout with a death toll of 11 people.

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