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Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Letter to House Leaders Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Colombia Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (11/23/22)

A New Hampshire coalition begins laying the groundwork for another try at marijuana legalization, Rhode island adult use marijuana sales at existig dispensaries are set to begin next week, and more.

Adult use marijuana sales will begin December 1 in Rhode Island. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Coalition Prepares to Try Again with Legalization Bill. A bipartisan coalition is preparing to once more try to push a marijuana legalization bill through the legislature, ending the state's status as an island of pot prohibition in a New England sea of states that have already legalized it Among the groups joining efforts are the conservative Americans for Prosperity, as well as the New Hampshire Cannabis Association, the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Marijuana Policy Project,  and the House Democratic Cannabis Caucus. The coalition is conferring with lawmakers from both parties and says its bill will have bipartisan sponsorship. In past sessions, including this year, bills have passed the House only to be die in the Senate.

Rhode Island Set to Commence Adult Use Marijuana Sales on December 1. Governor Dan McKee (D) and the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation’s Office of Cannabis Regulation announced Tuesday that five licensed medical marijuana compassion centers have received state approval to begin selling adult use marijuana on or after December 1. Pursuant to the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McKee in May, a call for applications for “hybrid retail licenses,” which allow licensed compassion centers to sell both medical marijuana as well as safe, well-regulated and competitively priced marijuana products to Rhode Island adults over the age of 21, was issued in early October. The five compassion centers that have received state approval to commence adult use sales are Aura of Rhode Island (Central Falls), Thomas C. Slater Center (Providence), Mother Earth Wellness (Pawtucket), Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center (Portsmouth), and RISE Warwick (Warwick).

Drug Policy

Human Rights Watch Organizes Joint Letter to House Leadership Urging Passage of Federal Drug Decriminalization Bill. Dozens of racial justice, social justice, drug policy, criminal justice, public health, harm reduction and other advocacy groups have cosigned a letter to the House leadership calling for "ending criminal penalties for the possession of personal-use amounts of drugs." The letter noted that of more than 1.15 million drug arrests in 2020, 86 percent were for simple drug possession, even though "we have an abundance of evidence that demonstrates that drug arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration have had no substantial effect on ending problematic drug use or curbing the illegal drug supply in the United States." The letter called for passage of the Drug Reform Act of 2021(HR 4020), stating "to begin meaningfully addressing our country's mass incarceration and overdose epidemics, we urge Members of Congress to commit to support comprehensive legislation that decriminalizes drug possession and centers health, equity, autonomy, and justice."

International

Colombia Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. A marijuana legalization bill supported by the government of President Gustavo Petro that has already advanced in the Chamber of Representative has now won a Senate committee vote and heads for a Senate plenary vote. The bill would legalize the possession and use of the plant by people 18 and over and support "the right of the free development of the personality, allowing citizens to decide on the consumption of cannabis in a regulated legal framework." Justice Minister Nestor Osuna told the Senate Monday, "The national government supports this draft legislative act for the adult use of cannabis. We believe that it is very important that this step be taken towards a responsible market—a responsible regulation that allows us to overcome this prohibitionist atmosphere."

OR Pot Pardons, Deadly Colombia Cocaine Clashes, More... (11/22/22)

A new Pew poll has a supermajority for medical marijuana, New York rolls out its first three dozen pot shop licenses, and more.

The black market cocaine trade continues to drive violence in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll Finds Supermajority for Medical Marijuana, Strong Majority for Legalization. A new Pew poll finds continuing strong support for both medical marijuana and broader marijuana legalization. Support for legalization for adults was at 59 percent, while an additional 30 percent also supported legalization for both medical and recreational use, bringing its level of support for medical marijuana to 89 percent. Only 10 percent said marijuana should remain illegal. The findings are largely unchanged from a Pew poll in April 2021. People in every age group indicated majority support for recreational marijuana except for those 75 and over. Only 30 percent of that group supported recreational legalization. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats supported recreational legalization, while only 45 percent of Republicans did. Among racial groups, Blacks were most supportive at 68 percent, followed by Whites at 60 percent, but neither Hispanics (49 percent) or Asians (48 percent) reported majority support for recreational legalization.

New York Award First Three Dozen Legal Pot Licenses; They Go to Social Equity, Non-Profit Applicants. State regulators awarded 37 licenses to legally sell marijuana on Monday. The licenses went to people with prior marijuana convictions and non-profits, including the anti-poverty Doe Fund and Housing Works. The move comes a year and a half since the state approved marijuana legalization. In the meantime, unlicensed sales have proliferated, especially in New York City. The state's Office of Cannabis Management also approved eight new licenses for marijuana processors, bringing the total to 32, and three new licenses for testing lab, bringing that total to seven. The retail pot shop licensees will be able to open up to three shops with each license.

Oregon Governor Issues More Than 47,000 Pardons for Marijuana Possession Convictions. Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday that she has issued pardons for 47,144 marijuana possession convictions affecting some 45,000 people. The pardons are for people caught with less than an ounce of pot who were at least 21 at the time of their arrest and go up to July 2016, when marijuana became legal in the state. The pardon action also forgives more than $14 million in fines and fees associated with the busts. "No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon." Issuing the pardons represents an effort "to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession," she added.

South Carolina Poll Has Supermajority Support for Medical Marijuana, Majority Support for Legalization. A new Winthrop poll has support for medical marijuana at a whopping 78 percent and support for marijuana legalization at 54 percent. The poll comes months after a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate only to die in the House. One GOP congresswoman described legislators who blocked reform as being "on the wrong side of history." On medical marijuana, 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans were in favor, but when it comes to full legalization, two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats were in favor, but only 39 percent of Republicans were.

International

Clashes Between Colombian Cocaine Traffickers Leave 18 Dead Near Ecuador Border. Rival drug trafficking groups engaged in a shoot-out last Saturday in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador, leaving a toll of at least 18 dead. On one side were holdouts from the former rebel army FARC who have rejected a 2016 FARC truce with the government. On the other side was a drug trafficking group known as Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commando), who also include former FARC fighters as well as remnants of a rightist paramilitary group that traffics cocaine to Ecuador and Brazil. The two groups have been fighting over control of the trade in the area for at least three years. The rebel FARC faction, also known as the Carolina Ramirez Front, has held exploratory talks with the government of President Gustavo Petro aimed at a truce, but nothing has come of that yet. 

KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on the Hill Tuesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing Tuesday on marijuana legalization. Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the committee examined "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level," using a joint memo published last Friday to lay out the main points of discussion.

Witnesses included Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts), Amber Littlejohn (Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce), and Jillian Snider (Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties). Among topics covered were the failed war on drugs, the need for state-level action to accompany President Biden's marijuana pardon announcement, veterans' access to medical marijuana, and hemp's potential as a building material. No votes were taken.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Some Residents to Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing patients who meet certain requirements to use and possess medical marijuana. Those eligible must suffer from one of 21 specified medical conditions. The medicine must be purchased in a state where it is legal (and keep your receipt!) and will be limited to eight ounces. Patients must get a letter from a physician certifying that they suffer from one of the specified conditions. The plan goes into effect on January 1.

Harm Reduction

AMA Reiterates Call for Harm Reduction Measures to Attack Overdose Problem. At its annual interim meeting this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution encouraging the use of harm reduction practices to reduce overdose deaths in the county. The resolution called on city and state medical societies to advocate for harm reduction policies that create immunity for "drug paraphernalia" used in harm reduction, such as fentanyl test strips. "Fentanyl test strips are a point-of-care test that identifies fentanyl contamination in a drug supply with a specificity of 87.5% and a sensitivity of 95.2%," the resolution notes, but also notes that "possession of fentanyl test strips is explicitly legal in only 22 states."

But it is not just fentanyl test strips that the AMA wants to see: "The AMA has strongly supported increased use of a broad array of harm-reduction efforts to reduce death and other harms from nonmedical use of drugs, including for people who inject drugs," the group said. "These efforts include greater access to naloxone, syringe services programs and pilot programs for overdose prevention sites/supervised injection-use facilities. Fentanyl strips are part of this effort, and we urge states to take steps to help a vulnerable population."

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Legislation in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) held a ceremonial signing Wedmesday for a new law (Act 111) that legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips and other forms of drug checking to prevent overdose deaths. The legislation passed the state House and Senate unanimously before going to the Governor's desk. The most recent data show Pennsylvania had the third highest number of overdose deaths of any state in the country for the 12-month period ending May 2022. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to easily test the drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

MO Pot Sales Coming Fast, Kansas City Entertainment Complex Will Have Marijuana Lounges, More... (11/14/22)

A broad coalition is asking Attorney General Garland to allow legal marijuana sales in the District of Columbia, an Evanston, Illinois, councilman sponsors a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, and more.

Main Justice (DOJ headquarters). A coalition wants the attorney general to allow legal pot sales in DC. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Broad Coalition Calls on Attorney General Garland to Adopt Non-Enforcement Policy Around DC Marijuana Sales. Although District of Columbia voters legalized marijuana in 2014, congressional riders have blocked the District from allowing taxed and regulated marijuana sales ever since. Now, a coalition of state, local, and national advocacy groups has sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland (D) asking him to break the logjam by adopting a formal policy of non-enforcement. The letter asks the attorney general to treat the situation in DC as "functionally equivalent to the non-enforcement approach it has traditionally taken with respect to the states that have reformed their laws allowing for the taxation and regulation of the adult use of cannabis." As things now stand, DC "is only jurisdiction in the country that cannot regulate marijuana sales or fruitfully tap into the public health and safety benefits of proper regulation."

Missouri Could See Legal Marijuana Sales as Early as January. Elections have consequences, and sometimes they have them in a hurry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Friday that existing medical marijuana companies will be able to apply for adult use ("comprehensive") sales licenses as early as December 8 and that sales could begin ahead of a 60-day post-election deadline on February 6. Some of those licenses could be completed "before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed," the agency said. "We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion."

Plans for Kansas City-Area Entertainment Complex with Marijuana Lounges Announced. That didn't take long. One day after voters approved marijuana legalization in the Show Me State, a Kansas City-area hospitality group has announced plans for a new metro area entertainment district project that will include marijuana consumption lounges. The Besa Hospitality Group announced a new entertainment district along the Missouri River about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City in the village of River Bend. It will be known as the Smokey River Entertainment District.

The Besa Hospitality Group is partnering with BesaMe Wellness, a medical marijuana company, which give it an early shot at procuring an adult sales retail license, and has a target opening date of 4/20/23. "We have an opportunity to showcase cannabis and the acceptance of cannabis in our everyday lives. We're normalizing cannabis through hospitality," says Joey Pintozzi, Vice President of Operations and Marketing. "This is an entertainment venue first and foremost. Cannabis just happens to be part of that experience. People will be free to legally consume in some of the venues and enjoy being themselves."

Psychedelics

Evanston, Illinois, Lawmaker Sponsors Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill. Councilmember Devon Reid of the Chicago suburb of Evanston is sponsoring an ordinance that would make possessing, cultivating and delivering entheogenic substances like psilocybin punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. That fine could be waived for people who complete a drug treatment program or "reasonable public service work."

The ordinance also includes lowest priority language regarding the "investigation or arrest of anyone for planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, or engaging in practices with or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds." The legislation lists four examples of psychedelics that would be covered -- psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote and ayahuasca -- but it also says decriminalization would not be "limited to" those psychedelics.

Global Commission on Drug Policy Calls for Colombia Legalization, More... (11/11/22)

A federal judge throws a wrench in the works as New York tries to get legal pot shops open, Houston cops and prosecutors have dozens of tainted drug cases but still want to keep seized money from them, and more.

Asset forfeiture remains tempting for cops. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Blocks Marijuana Licenses for Several New York Regions. Marijuana retail licenses are on hold in several regions of the state after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from issuing them in response to a lawsuit from a Michigan company that had been denied approval to operate in the state. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe issued the injection after the company, Variscite, challenged the social equity provision in the state law that requires that licenses be awarded to people who have been affected by drug laws in the state. The primary owner of Variscite was convicted of a marijuana-related offense, but in Michigan, not New York. The injunction impacts five regions where Variscite had sought a license to operate: Finger Lakes, Central New York, western New York, the Mid-Hudson and Brooklyn. The injunction comes as the state Office of Cannabis Management was preparing to issue an initial round of licenses by the end of the year.

Asset Forfeiture

New York's Albany County Comptroller Finds Sheriff's Use of Seized Funds Violated State Law. County Comptroller Susan Rizzo has released an audit that finds that Sheriff Craig Apple's use of asset forfeiture funds violates the state comptroller's opinion guiding how the money should be spent. This is the second audit in a year to find problems with how forfeited funds are being used in the county. The new audit finds that "state and federal forfeiture funds were donated to community based organizations, sports programs and town events which do not meet the criteria for law enforcement or criminal prosecution purposes." The sheriff defended his spending decisions saying, "I see the need to fund youth sports, programs and organizations that promote positive youth engagements."

Houston PD Drops Cases Tainted by Corrupt Narcotics Officers but Decides It Can Still Keep Seized Cash. In the wake of a notorious 2019 drug raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and resulted in the indictment of 11 narcotics officers, Houston prosecutors dropped dozens of cases and prosecutions, but they are refusing to return seized cash from the questionable raids and arrests. "Prosecutors are currently reviewing several cases related to Squad 15 to determine if they involve assets that should be returned to members of the community," said Dane Schiller, spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. These include cases where the charges have been dropped but police have refused to return money to the victims of police misconduct. The city has retained at least $75,000 seized in operations that are now viewed as too problematic to allow criminal prosecutions to go forward, but that figure represents only a fraction of the monies seized by tainted dope squad members.

International

Global Commission on Drugs Report Calls for Decriminalization and Regulation of All Drugs in Colombia. At a forum in Bogota Thursday, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released its new report, "Drug Policy in Colombia: The Path to Fair Regulations," which calls for drug legalization in the country and lays out five recommendations for getting there: move to legal regulation of currently illicit drugs, prioritize human rights, decriminalize drug possession and consumption, decrease funding for military budgets and increase funding for civil authorities, and strengthen institutions to create a strong human rights approach.

CO Magic Mushroom Initiative, Call for Biden Pot Pardons to Include Immigrants, More... (11/8/22)

The use of asset forfeiture funds to buy armored vehicles for the cops creates controversy in Norman, Oklahoma, a plan to create a "narco museum" in El Chapo's Mexican home town creates controversy too, and more.

Magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics are on the ballot in Colorado today. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Immigration, Civil Rights Groups Call on Biden to Include Immigrants in Marijuana Pardons. More than 130 immigration and civil rights groups have sent a letter to President Joe Biden (D) asking him to include immigrants in his marijuana possession pardon proclamation. People who are not citizens or legal permanent residents were not included in the pardon proclamation announced last month.

The groups said they welcomed the pardon move as a "much-needed first step toward mitigating the harm" of the war on drugs. "However, as organizations working on racial justice, human rights, and immigrant rights issues, we are grimly disappointed at the explicit exclusion of many immigrants and at the absence of affirmative measures to ensure that all immigrants get meaningful relief from the immigration consequences that can follow marijuana convictions," the groups wrote. "Cutting people out of criminal policy reforms simply because of their place of birth casts a shadow over the White House's efforts to address the over-policing and mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities."

"Moving forward, we urge you to ensure that every step taken to remedy racial injustice includes relief to impacted immigrant communities," they continued, adding that the first thing Biden should do is "extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and to take necessary steps to ensure that immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions."

Psychedelics

Colorado Voters to Consider Legalization of Psychedelic Mushrooms. It is not just marijuana on the ballot this Election Day. Voters in five states will decide on whether to free the weed, but Colorado voters will be voting on an initiative, Proposition 122, the "Natural Medicine Health Act of 2022," that would decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring hallucinogen and would require the state to create a regulated system for accessing natural psychedelics for people 21 and over.

A poll last week had the measure under 50 percent but in a statistical dead heat, with 43 percent of respondents supporting it and 44 percent opposed. That means the measure must pick up the support of slightly more than half of the 13 percent undecided to get over the top.

Asset Forfeiture

Norman, Oklahoma, Controversy Over Use of Asset Forfeiture Funds to Purchase Armored Police Vehicle. A plan to use moneys from the "State Seizures and Restitution Fund" to purchase new equipment for the police department, including $353,000 for a large BearCat SWAT vehicle designed for military and law enforcement use was on hold after city council members expressed concern over the use of asset forfeiture funds for the purchase and a lack of public discussion. Another $700,000+ was to be used to buy tactical vests, helmets, gas masks, ballistic shields and other protective equipment for bomb threats.

Councilors for Ward 1 and 2, Brandi Studley and Helen Grant, respectively, took issue with the absence of committee and public discussion. "I am concerned with the lack of transparency and discussion with council and the public regarding any of the equipment," Studley said. Grant said more information about the department's needs and the city council's priorities was needed. "The public made it pretty clear in feedback about our failed water rate increase that they wanted us to focus on affordable housing and homelessness first, as 24% of respondents ranked it as a priority," Grant said. "Police and Fire along with a nebulous category called "other" came in second at 15% respectively."

Other council members accused the pair of having "a complete disregard for the safety" of community members, but then agreed to pull the proposal for further study.

International

Mexican Town's Plan for Narco Museum Stirs Controversy. Badiraguato, Sinaloa, in the hills outside of the state capitol, Culiacan, is the birthplace of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and now, the current mayor has stirred up controversy by proposing that the town build a "narco museum" dedicated to the history of drug trafficking in the state.

Mayor Jose Paz Lopez said that Badiraguato needs to preserve its history, and that the museum be an economic boon for the town, attracting tourism and sharing an anti-drug message. He said it would include weapons, vehicles and other belongings from drug lords, and perhaps life-size wax figures of them. But Gov. Ruben Rocha Moya was not down with the idea, saying he emphatically opposes it.

In addition to El Chapo, Badiriguato is also the birthplace of famed cartel leaders Rafael Caro Quintero and current Sinaloa Cartel leader Israel "El Mayo" Zambada.

NY Legal Pot Shops Set to Open by Year's End, Irish Decrim Recommendation, More... (11/7/22)

A federal judge throws out a lawsuit seeking gun ownership rights for medical marijuana patients, competing Bolivian coca grower factions prepare to clash again this week, and more.

marijuana seized in New York City (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

New York Recreational Marijuana Sales Licenses Coming Soon. The chief of staff of the state's Cannabis Control Board said last Thursday that the first set of Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses will likely be issued at the board's next meeting on November 21. Axel Bernabe said the state was "in position" to issue the licenses then. He said the board had scored applications and will recommend that applicants representing the "top of the class" will be recommended for approval. Bernabe's comments were echoed by board chair Tremaine Wright, who said "we are on target" to open the first shops before year's end.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Lawsuit on Medical Marijuana Patients' Gun Rights. A federal judge last Friday rejected a lawsuit from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) that challenged the federal ban on medical marijuana patients' ability to buy and possess firearms. The Biden Justice Department had moved to dismiss the case last month, arguing that people who use medical marijuana are violating federal law and thus can be denied the right to have guns.

Judge Allen Winsor agreed, telling plaintiffs they "have standing but their claims fail on the merits." The judge acknowledged a congressional rider blocking federal prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana patients, but said that does not alter his decision. "Regardless of whether Plaintiffs are prosecuted (or whether Congress allocates funds for their prosecution), possession of marijuana remains a federal crime," Winsor held. "The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment at best precludes prosecution now; it does not forever bless Plaintiffs' actions."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. A coca grower union faction that is demanding the closure of an unofficial coca market linked to a different, government-backed grower faction has announced plans to stage street demonstration and roadblocks in various areas of La Paz beginning today. The faction said the protests would continue indefinitely and that it would not announce roadblock locations in advance. The conflict has festered for months and has resulted in various bouts of street fighting between the factions and between the factions and security forces. In one incident, the "parallel" market linked to the pro-government faction was burned to the ground by the anti-government faction.

Irish Task Force Recommends De Facto Decriminalization for Addicts, Mentally Ill. A high-level task force examining mental health and drug addiction has recommended that police be given the discretion to ticket some drug users instead of arresting and jailing them. People who are addicted to drugs or who suffer from mental illness would be eligible for the diversion from the criminal justice system provided their drugs are for personal use.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the government is willing to work through the plan, but warned it could be tricky to implement. "We have, as a government and not just this governmengovernments, agreed to look at this from a public health perspective in trying to work with and support people who have addiction problems," said McEntee. "Really this is just another iteration of that. It is not straightforward. "How do you differentiate and how do you look at people who have addiction problems and then other issues as well? But it is something we will work through as part of the recommendations."

PA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Ecuador Drug Gang Violence Spikes, More... (11/4/22)

A late poll has good news for the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative, drug gangs rampage in Ecuador, and more.

Sen. Tom Hickenlooper (D-CO) files a bill to set up a framework for federal marijunana legalization. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Sen. Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Develop Federal Marijuana Legalization Framework. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday announced a plan to roll out legislation to create a framework for federal marijuana legalization. His proposed bill, the PREPARE Act, would create a "Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis," which would make recommendations related to marijuana policy, but would not be empowered to set policies itself. "This bill will provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis," Hickenlooper's office wrote in a summary of the bill.

New Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Winning. Polling on the fate of the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative has been all over the place, with two recent polls showing it losing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote. But a third recent poll had it winning with 62 percent of the vote. That poll was from SurveyUSA, and now that polling organization is out with a new poll, again having the initiative winning, this time with 61 percent of the vote. Twenty-eight percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided, with those undecideds evenly split between potential supporters and opponents.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1393, which decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. It does so by no longer defining the test strips as drug paraphernalia under the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act of 1972. Pennsylvania thus becomes the latest of a number of states that have passed similar legislation this year in a bid to reduce the rising incidence of fentanyl-involved fatal drug overdoses. "Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste, and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is nearly impossible for an individual to know if it has been laced with fentanyl," said Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. "We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, individuals have an additional tool to fight the overdose crisis. This legalization is a big win in the harm reduction space."

International

Ecuador State of Emergency Declared as Drug Gang Violence Spikes. President Guillermo Lasso declared a new state of emergency Tuesday and a 9:00pm curfew in the Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country after an outbreak of gang violence that included two headless bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards taken hostage by inmates, a series of nine car bomb explosions in two coastal cities, and the shooting deaths of five police officers. President Lasso said the violence was "a declaration of open war" and that he was "prepared to act harshly" to suppress it.

Lasso added that soldiers and police had raided jails and seized weapons, included thousands of explosive and dynamite sticks, and arrested 28 people. Still, fresh clashes were reported in prisons in Guayaquil. Analysts say the local gangs are emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate authorities.

"In certain areas, the state has been displaced," said Col Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador's military intelligence, referring to parts of Guayaquil and Ecuador's Pacific coast. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence."

MD Legalization Question Polls Well, Afghan Shisha Ban, Australia ACT Decriminalizes Drugs, More... (10/31/22)

A Nevada judge orders marijuana removed from the state's Controlled Substances Act, the Germans roll out a marijuana legalization plan, British cops plan a crackdown on recreational drug users, and more.

Famartin via Wikimedia
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Referendum. A new poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization referendum at 63 percent, with only 25 opposed and 12 percent undecided. The poll results are in line with a pair of September polls, one of which had support at 59 percent and the other of which had support at 72 percent. Voters will be asked "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?" and if the measure passes, it would automatically implement an already approved bill that would create basic rules and regulations for an adult-use marijuana program.

Nevada Judge Orders Marijuana Removed from State List of Controlled Substances. A judge in Clark County (Las Vegas) ruled last Wednesday that the state pharmacy board lacks the authority to regulate marijuana and marijuana derivatives under state law since voters legalized the substance and ordered the board to remove marijuana from the state's controlled substances list. If the board "designates a substance as a 'controlled substance' but the designation falls outside the authority delegated by the ​​Legislature, the designation is invalid," wrote District Court Judge Joe Hardy. That same judge ruled in September that classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance was unconstitutional because voters had legalized medical marijuana in 1998. "The Board exceeded its authority when it placed, or failed to remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives on its list as Schedule I substances," Hardy wrote in that case.

International

Afghanistan Bans Hookahs, Fruit-Flavored Tobacco. The Taliban has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning the smoking of fruit-flavored tobacco (shisha) and the hookahs (water pipes) used to smoke it. The Taliban considers shisha as an intoxicant. The ban was announced in western Herat province earlier this month, and it is not clear whether it extends to the whole country. The Herat Café Owners Association said the ban had cost some 2,500 jobs in the province, which already faces a dire economic situation. But Azizul Rahman Mohajer, the provincial head of the Taliban's Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said hookahs are "against Sharia" and smoking shisha "harms our bodies and causes tobacco addiction, which can spread widely in society."

Australian Capital Territory Decriminalizes Drug Possession. A drug decriminalization measure introduced as a private member's bill by Labor MLA Michael Pettersson won in the territorial legislature last week. The new law will not be implemented for a year to "allow for appropriate police training." Under the new law, people caught with personal use amounts of drugs will face a referral to drug treatment or a maximum $100 fine instead of time in prison.

British Cops to Target Recreational Drug Users in Holiday Enforcement Blitz. Police in Dorset have announced Operation Scorpion, a winter drug enforcement operation that will see a shift in focus from dealers to recreational users of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA. Police in Avon & Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucester will be joined by British Transport Police for a series of crackdowns on the night-time economy. Police will focus on city and town centers across the region. "Illegal drug use is just that -- illegal -- and the partners of Op. Scorpion will continue to work together - targeting criminality, taking drugs off our streets, sharing intelligence, protecting the vulnerable and putting a ring of steel around the South West," police said. They are also taking a hard line on marijuana, arguing that "cannabis is not the benign drug those seeking to make a profit would have you believe."

Germany Unveils Marijuana Legalization Plan. The health ministry last Wednesday rolled out a marijuana legalization plan that includes the decriminalization of the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana as well as allowing for the sale of marijuana to adults in a regulated marketplace. The German government will also consult with the European Union's executive commission to ensure that the legalization plan. Berlin will check with the European Union's executive commission to ensure it complies with EU laws and will move forward "on this basis" only if whether the plan approved by the German government is in line with EU laws and would proceed with legislation "on this basis" only if the EU approves.

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