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AZ Churches Sue Feds Over Ayahuasca Seizures, Schumer's Legalization Bill Coming Within Days, More... (7/20/22)

Indonesia's Constitutional Court rejects medical marijuana but calls for "immediate" study, DC Mayor signs bill providing workplace protections for marijuana users, more.

Weed will be on the Senate's mind next week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Hearing on Marijuana as Filing of Legalization Bill Looms. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday on "Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms." The hearing, led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a strong proponent of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's pending legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, comes amid word that the bill will drop any day now. Schumer has blocked incremental marijuana reforms, such as the SAFE Banking Act, saying he wants a full-blown legalization bill.

Kentucky Democrats Announce Plan for Legalization Bill. Frustrated by the failure of the Republican-controlled state legislature to act even on medical marijuana, state Democrats announced Thursday they will be filing legislation to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. They said they would fill "LETT's Grow" bills in both house. LETT is short for Legalizing sales, Expunging crimes, Treating medical needs, and Taxing sales. "Our legislation is the comprehensive plan that Kentuckians deserve, and it builds on what's worked in other states while avoiding their mistakes," said Rep. Roberts of Newport. "This would be a boon for our economy and farmers alike, plus give state and local governments a major new source of revenue."

DC Mayor Signs Bill Providing Workplace Protections for Marijuana Users, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law a bill that most employers from firing or refusing to hire workers because they use marijuana. The bill would "prohibit employers from firing, failing to hire, or taking other personnel actions against an individual for use of cannabis, participating in the medical cannabis program, or failure to pass an employer-required or requested cannabis drug test, unless the position is designated safety sensitive or for other enumerated reasons." There are exceptions for police, safety-sensitive construction workers, people whose jobs require a commercial drivers' license, and people who work with children or medical patients. The new law must still be approved by Congress before it can go into effect.

Psychedelics

Arizona Churches Sue Over Seizure of Sacramental Ayahuasca. Two Arizona churches, the Arizona Yagé Assembly and the Church of the Eagle and the Condor, have filed suit in federal court over the seizure of ayahuasca, a key element in their religious practice, by federal agencies. In separate lawsuits, the two churches charge that the federal government has violated the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law bars the government from burdening the exercise of religion unless there is a compelling government interest and only if that action if the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.

The Church of the Eagle and the Condor says that US Customs and Border Protection has been seizing and destroying its ayahuasca since 2020. The churches say drinking ayahuasca is "an essential mode of worship" for members, but federal agencies say any possession of ayahuasca, a Schedule I substance, violates the Controlled Substances Act. "The church and its members are aware that their sacrament is proscribed by law, but they have partaken in their sacrament both before and after the United States made a credible threat of enforcement of the CSA against them," the suit says. "Plaintiffs are violating and intend to continue to violate applicable law, rather than compromise or terminate their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices."

International

Indonesia High Court Rejects Medical Marijuana But Calls for Immediate Study. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday nixed a judicial review of the country's drug law that could have opened the door for medical marijuana. Three mothers of children with cerebral palsy backed by civil society groups had sought the review, arguing that marijuana could be used medicinally to treat medical conditions. The court held there was insufficient research to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, but called on the government to "immediately" conduct research on the medicinal use of the herb… The results of which can be used to determine policies, including in this case the possibility of changing the law," said judge Suhartoyo.

Supreme Court Sides with Inmate in Crack Cocaine Resentencing Case [FEATURE]

In a Monday decision little-noticed amidst the rising clamor over recent Supreme Court decisions on guns, abortion, and religion, the highest court in the land ruled in favor of a federal crack cocaine prisoner seeking a sentence reduction under the terms of the 2018 First Step Act. The ruling could affect thousands of other mostly Black inmates sentenced under the nation's harsh crack cocaine laws.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor writes for the majority. (Creative Commons)
During the crack panic of the 1980s, Congress passed legislation creating a 100:1 disparity in the weight of the drug required to trigger a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence. Confronted with the increasingly unassailable evidence that the sentencing disparity was neither scientifically justified nor racially neutral -- nearly 80 percent of federal crack prosecutions targeted Black people by 2009 -- Congress in 2010 passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced but did not eliminate the weight disparity, setting it at 18:1.

The Fair Sentencing Act provided relief to people sentenced after its passage, but it was not retroactive, meaning people sentenced under the old standard still had to do those harsh sentences. In order to address that oversight and reduce racial inequities, Congress in 2018 passed the First Step Act, making those sentencing changes retroactive and opening the door for people sentenced under the old law to seek resentencing.

The case in question, Concepcion v. United States, began when Carlos Concepcion pleaded guilty to selling crack in 2009 and was sentenced to 19 years in prison based on the 100:1 sentencing disparity in effect at the time. After passage of the First Step Act and having already served a decade of his sentence, Concepcion filed for a reduced sentence. Part of his argument was that he was no longer considered a "career offender" subject to harsher sentencing because of changes in the federal sentencing guidelines unrelated to the First Step Act.

Without that "career offender" designation, Concepcion would have been a free man after serving just less than six years [Ed: six years is itself a very long time], but a Massachusetts federal district court judge declined to consider factors unrelated to the First Step Act and denied his resentencing request. That denial was upheld by the 1st US Circuit Court in Boston, and Concepcion and his attorneys then appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor in a 5-4 decision.

The majority on the court was an odd one, consisting of the three liberal justices -- Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor -- joined by hard conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. Sotomayor wrote the opinion.

In it, she argued that judges enjoy broad discretion at sentencing and that discretion continues in any later proceedings that may change the sentence.

"Federal courts historically have exercised broad discretion to consider all relevant information at an initial sentencing hearing, consistent with their responsibility to sentence the whole person before them," she wrote. "That discretion also carries forward to later proceedings that may modify an original sentence. District courts' discretion is bounded only when Congress or the Constitution expressly limits the type of information a district court may consider in modifying a sentence."

There is nothing in the First Step Act that limits that discretion, she added.

"Nothing in the text and structure of the First Step Act expressly, or even implicitly, overcomes the established tradition of district courts' sentencing discretion," she wrote. "The text of the First Step Act does not so much as hint that district courts are prohibited from considering evidence of rehabilitation, disciplinary infractions, or unrelated Guidelines changes. The only two limitations on district courts' discretion appear in §404(c): A district court may not consider a First Step Act motion if the movant's sentence was already reduced under the Fair Sentencing Act or if the court considered and rejected a motion under the First Step Act. Neither limitation applies here."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that the First Step Act only authorized judges to cut sentences related to changes in the crack sentencing ranges, but not unrelated factors.

"Congress enacted the First Step Act to provide a targeted retroactive reduction in crack-cocaine sentencing ranges, not to unleash a sentencing free-for-all in the lower courts," Kavanaugh wrote.

But that was the minority opinion. And if reducing unduly harsh crack cocaine sentences that were based on panic and prejudice is "a sentencing free-for-all," that would be a small price to pay for some restorative justice.

Supreme Court Rules for Crack Prisoners, CO Psychedelic Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures, More... (6/28/22)

A major Swiss bank gets convicted of cocaine money laundering, a House committee wants a GAO report on federal psilocybin policy, and more.

Something good came out of the US Supreme Court on Monday. (Pixabay)
Psychedelics

House Appropriations Committee Calls for Review of Federal Psilocybin Policy. In reports accompanying new spending bills, the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee are calling for a federal review of psilocybin policy, as well as letting researchers study marijuana from dispensaries and using hemp as an alternative to Chinese plastics. The report for the spending bill for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies calls for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze barriers to state, local, and tribal programs using psilocybin. The committee said the GAO should study the impact of federal drug prohibition in jurisdictions that allow psilocybin. The call comes as a psilocybin reform movement is gaining momentum across the country.

Colorado Activists Turn in Signatures for Psychedelic Initiative. The Natural Medicine Colorado campaign, the group behind an initiative to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin "healing centers," announced Monday that it had turned in 222,648 raw signatures. The campaign only needs 124,632 valid voter signatures, and this cushion of nearly 80,000 excess raw signatures suggests that the initiative will qualify for the November ballot. The measure would legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and sharing of psilocybin, ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), DMT, and psilocyn for people 21 and over. It does not set specific possession limits, nor does it envision recreational sales. The measure would also place responsibility for developing rules for a therapeutic psilocybin with the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Drug Policy

At Oversight Hearing, Director of National Drug Control Policy Highlighted Biden-Harris Administration's Commitment to Tackling Overdose and Addiction Crisis. On Monday, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing with Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), to examine the federal government's response to the overdose and addiction crisis, including the Biden-Harris Administration's 2022 National Drug Control Strategy.

During the hearing, Director Gupta highlighted illicit drug seizures at the southern border and disruption of drug trafficking across the US; the need to expand treatment services; steps such as telehealth services to expand access to care for people in underserved communities; and overdose prevention efforts funded by the bipartisan Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. Gupta and committee members also highlighted Chairwoman Maloney's Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.

Supreme Court Rules Judges Can Weigh New Factors in Crack Cocaine Cases. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the First Step Act allows district court judges to consider post-sentencing changes in law or fact in deciding whether to re-sentence people convicted under the harsh crack cocaine laws of the past.

While the penalties are still harsh, they are not quite as much as they were prior to passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the ratio of quantity triggers for the worst sentences for powder vs. crack cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. The First Step Act made those sentencing changes retroactive, giving prisoners the chance to seek reduced sentences. The decision was 5-4, with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joining the court's liberal minority in the opinion.

The case is Concepcion v. United States, in which Carlos Concepcion was sentenced to 19 years for a crack offense in 2009, a year before passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. He sought resentencing "as if" the Fair Sentencing Act provisions "were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed." That is proper, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority opinion: "It is only when Congress or the Constitution limits the scope of information that a district court may consider in deciding whether, and to what extent, to modify a sentence, that a district court's discretion to consider information is restrained. Nothing in the First Step Act contains such a limitation."

International

Swiss Court Convicts Credit Suisse of Cocaine Money-Laundering. The Swiss Federal Criminal Court has found the bank Credit Suisse guilty of failing to prevent money-laundering by a Bulgarian cocaine trafficking organization. One former bank employee was convicted of money-laundering in the case against the country's second-largest bank. The trial included testimony about murders and cash-filled suitcases. The court held that Credit Suisse demonstrated deficiencies in both the management of client relations with criminal groups and the implementation of money-laundering rules. "These deficiencies enabled the withdrawal of the criminal organization's assets, which was the basis for the conviction of the bank's former employee for qualified money laundering," the court said. Credit Suisse said it would appeal.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of "Pill Mill" Docs, UN Human Rights Experts Call for End to Drug War, More... (6/27/22)

Drug charges account for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, Pakistan moves toward licensing medical and industrial cannabis production, Spain moves toward medical marijuana sales, and more.

The Supreme Court holds prosecutors to a high standard on charging doctors over prescribing. (Pixabay)
Opiates and Opioids

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Doctors Accused of Overprescribing Opioids. The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the convictions of two doctors accusing of running opioid "pill mills," making it more difficult for the government to prosecute doctors who overprescribe drugs. In seeking to distinguish between legitimate medical conduct and illegally overprescribing, the court held that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the doctor knew or intended to prescribe drugs in an unauthorized manner. "We normally would not view such dispensations as inherently illegitimate; we expect, and indeed usually want, doctors to prescribe the medications that their patients need," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court. The cases involved a doctor in Alabama whose clinic dispensed nearly 300,000 opioid prescriptions over a four-year period and a doctor who practiced in Arizona and Wyoming who operated mostly on a cash-only basis, but who also accepted property as payment, including firearms.

Sentencing Policy

US Sentencing Commission Quarterly Report Shows Drugs Remain Most Common Federal Offense. Enforcing federal drug prohibition accounts for nearly one-third of all federal criminal prosecutions, according the US Sentencing Commission's latest quarterly report. Drug offenses accounted for 32.3 percent of all prosecutions in the last two quarters, with methamphetamine accounting for nearly half (48.6 percent) of all drug offenses and fentanyl continuing to increase, now accounting for 11.8 percent of all drug offenses. Immigration was the second largest category of federal prosecutions, accounting for 26.5 percent of all federal prosecutions, followed by firearms offenses at 14.9 percent. No other federal crime category accounted for more than 10 percent of federal prosecutions. A decline in prosecutions that took place during the coronavirus pandemic has now ended, with about 5,000 federal drug prosecutions every six months.

International

UN Human Rights Experts Use International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking to Call for End of War on Drugs. UN human rights experts have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called "war on drugs"and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June 2022, the experts issued the following statement:

"Data and experience accumulated by UN experts have shown that the 'war on drugs' undermines health and social wellbeing and wastes public resources while failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug market. Worse, this 'war' has engendered narco-economies at the local, national and regional levels in several instances to the detriment of national development. Such policies have far-reaching negative implications for the widest range of human rights, including the right to personal liberty, freedom from forced labor, from ill-treatment and torture, fair trial rights, the rights to health, including palliative treatment and care, right to adequate housing, freedom from discrimination, right to clean and healthy environment, right to culture and freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to equal treatment before the law."

Click on the link above for the rest of the statement.

New Zealand Poll Shows Most Support Replacing Punitive Drug Laws with Health-Based Approach. A new poll produced by The Navigators on behalf of the NZ Drug Foundation finds that a solid majority of New Zealanders support replacing the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act with a health-based approach. Some 68 percent of respondents favored the change. A strong majority -- 61 percent -- also favored drug decriminalization and introducing more support for education and treatment. The poll also showed that there is strong support for more funding to be provided for treatment and education (82 percent) and harm reduction initiatives like drug checking (74 percent).

Pakistan Moves to Allow Cannabis Farming for Medical and Industrial Use. The Ministry of Science and Technology will form an authority to regulate and facilitate the farming and use of cannabis, or "Bhang," as it referred to in the country. The authority will issue 15-year licenses for industrial, medical, processing, research, and development purposes. The Department of Commerce will issue licenses for cannabis exports.

Spain Moving Toward Allowing Medical Marijuana Sales in Pharmacies. A subcommittee in the Congress of Deputies has accepted a draft bill to regulate medical marijuana sales and referred the bill to the Commission on Health for a vote this week. While the proposed bill has very tight distribution rules, it is being lauded as the first step toward providing greater access. Once the bill is approved by the Health Commission, the Spanish Medicines Agency will have six months to draft appropriate regulations. The draft bill will make THC-containing flowers available by prescription for the treatment of specified illnesses and conditions.

Medical Marijuana Update

Medical marijuana legislation gets thwarted in North Carolina, a governor's medical marijuana committee gets going in Kentucky, and more.

Kentucky

Kentucky Governor's Medical Marijuana Committee Meets for First Time. Faced with intransigent Republican opposition in the legislature, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) created the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee to try to chart a path forward. That committee met for the first time on Monday and heard testimony from Kentuckians both for and against medical marijuana as it seeks to provide guidance to the administration about how to move forward. More hearings are coming.

Louisiana

Louisiana Governor Signs Package of Mainly Medical Marijuana Bills. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law a package of marijuana-related bills, the majority of them dealing with medical marijuana. One bill allows nurse practitioners and psychologists to recommend medical marijuana, another clarifies that devices used to inhale medical marijuana are not drug paraphernalia, another repeals the 10-license limit on dispensary licenses and leaves room for expanding the number of dispensaries, another bill makes the state Health Department the lead regulatory agency, and another bill allows non-state residents to obtain medical marijuana in the state. Edwards also signed bills that specify that the odor of marijuana alone is not probable cause for a search and that smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle operating on the roadway is illegal.

Minnesota

US Supreme Court Declines Review of Minnesota Ruling That Employers Do Not Have to Reimburse Workers for Medical Marijuana. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that employers can't be required to cover the costs of medical marijuana to treat on-the-job injuries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Now, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision, leaving the ruling intact and Minnesota workers out of luck. The US Solicitor General's Office argued that federal law preempts any state regulation requiring reimbursement for an illegal drug and was joined by the insurance company that was fending off the worker's claim. "If states could enforce laws compelling third parties to subsidize federal crimes, they could directly undermine congressional determinations," the Solicitor General's brief says. "For example, no legal principle would preclude a state from requiring private employers to reimburse the use of other federally prohibited products or substances, such as LSD and other psychedelic drugs, based on perceived benefits."

North Carolina

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Stalled in House. The state Senate has passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 711), but is now stalled in the House, and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) says it is unlikely to be taken up before the legislative session ends on June 30. The bill passed the Senate easily on a 36-7 vote and recent in-state polling shows wide support for its passage. The bill envisions a network of 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each operating up to 10 dispensaries to provide medicine for people who have registered with the state for the treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions."

LA Governor Signs MedMJ Bills, KY Governor's MedMJ Committee Meets, More... (6/22/22)

The US Supreme Court declines to overturn a Minnesota ruling that employers don't have to compensate workers for medical marijuana use related to on-the-job injuries, a Kentucky committee to plot a path foward on medical marijuana meets, and more.

shopping at a dispensary (sondrayruel/DPA)
Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor's Medical Marijuana Committee Meets for First Time. Faced with intransigent Republican opposition in the legislature, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) created the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee to try to chart a path forward. That committee met for the first time on Monday and heard testimony from Kentuckians both for and against medical marijuana as it seeks to provide guidance to the administration about how to move forward. More hearings are coming.

Louisiana Governor Signs Package of Mainly Medical Marijuana Bills. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law a package of marijuana-related bills, the majority of them dealing with medical marijuana. One bill allows nurse practitioners and psychologists to recommend medical marijuana, another clarifies that devices used to inhale medical marijuana are not drug paraphernalia, another repeals the 10-license limit on dispensary licenses and leaves room for expanding the number of dispensaries, another bill makes the state Health Department the lead regulatory agency, and another bill allows non-state residents to obtain medical marijuana in the state. Edwards also signed bills that specify that the odor of marijuana alone is not probable cause for a search and that smoking marijuana in a motor vehicle operating on the roadway is illegal.

US Supreme Court Declines Review of Minnesota Ruling That Employers Do Not Have to Reimburse Workers for Medical Marijuana. The Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that employers can't be required to cover the costs of medical marijuana to treat on-the-job injuries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Now, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision, leaving the ruling intact and Minnesota workers out of luck.

The US Solicitor General's Office argued that federal law preempts any state regulation requiring reimbursement for an illegal drug and was joined by the insurance company that was fending off the worker's claim. "If states could enforce laws compelling third parties to subsidize federal crimes, they could directly undermine congressional determinations," the Solicitor General's brief says. "For example, no legal principle would preclude a state from requiring private employers to reimburse the use of other federally prohibited products or substances, such as LSD and other psychedelic drugs, based on perceived benefits."

OR Bans Sale of Artificial Cannabinoids, NE MedMJ Initiative Wins Key Federal Court Ruling, More... (6/14/22)

Polling suggests that if a Nebraska medical marijuana can make the ballot, it can win easily; the Arkansas Supreme Court reams that state's medical marijuaan regulators, and more.

The push is on once again for medical marijuana in the Cornhusker State. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Becomes First State to Ban the Sale of Artificial Cannabinoids. Beginning next month, grocery stores and other unregulated markets will be banned from selling "artificially derived cannabinoids" under rules adopted by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC). To be able to place such products for sale, manufacturers of cannabinoid products synthetically created or extracted will have to seek approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). If approved by the FDA, such products will be able to be sold at dispensaries licensed by the OLCC, but only in the form of edibles, tinctures, pills, or topicals.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court Blasts Failings of State Medical Marijuana Regulators. In a ruling in a lawsuit filed over a medical marijuana business license, the state Supreme Court lashed out at the state's medical marijuana regulatory agency, the Medical Marijuana Commission. Even though the court upheld the commission's decision not to award a license to Eureka Green, the company that brought the suit, it blasted the commission for a number of "shortcomings," including numerous appeals of its rulings, allegations of bribery, failing to abide by earlier rulings by updating its rules and procedures, and doing a poor job on licensing and industry rulemaking.

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Petitioners Win Federal Court Victory. A federal judge has granted a request by the ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana for a temporary injunction blocking the secretary of state from enforcing a requirement that the petitions contain signatures from five percent of registered voters in each of the state's 38 counties. The ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana sued over the requirement, successfully arguing that it violates the "one person, one vote" rule by valorizing the votes of people in sparsely settled rural counties over those of people in more populated counties. "The State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically differing population, resulting in discrimination among voters,"wrote District Judge John Gerrard. Gerrard also criticized the state's argument that if the county provision of the petitioning requirement was found unconstitutional, the whole ballot initiative process would collapse. "For the state to argue that the baby must go with the bathwater is eyebrow-raising," Gerrard wrote.

Nebraska Voters Overwhelmingly Want Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds. Even as petitioners continue to gather signatures to try to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, newly released polling from the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey finds that some 83% of Nebraskans supported the idea in 2020 and 2021. The poll also found support for recreational marijuana legalization rising from 40 percent in 2020 to 46 percent in 2021. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana needs to come up with 122,274 valid voter signatures by July 7 to qualify its pair of initiatives for the ballot. A similar effort was thwarted in 2020 when the state Supreme Court invalidated the initiative saying it violated the "one-subject rule," thus two initiatives this time around.

RI Legislators Take Up Legal Pot Bills This Week, Montreal to See Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Clinic, More... (5/17/22)

Nebraska medical marijuana advocates and the ACLU sue over the state's initiative signature-gathering requirements, a Montreal clinic is about to become the first in Quebec to offer psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and more.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has formed a commission to study the benefits of marijuana legalization. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Legislature Takes Up Marijuana Legalization Bills This Week. One of the state's best positioned to legalize marijuana this year is finally taking up the issue this week. Committees in both chambers will be voting on legalization bills this week: The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Senate Bill 2430, and the House Finance Committee will vote on House Bill 7593. Both bills would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over and would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce under a Cannabis Control Commission. They also have social equity provisions and would impose a 10 percent sales tax.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska ACLU, Medical Marijuana Campaigners Sue State Over Signature-Gathering Requirements. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU of Nebraska said Monday they are filing a lawsuit challenging the state's initiative signature-gathering requirements as unconstitutional. State law requires that initiatives have signatures from at least five percent of registered voters in 38 out of 93 counties, which the ACLU called a roadblock in the petitioning process. The group said the requirements skew the system in favor of rural counties, violating both the First and the 14th Amendments. The lawsuit comes as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana struggles to come up with enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The group came up with enough signatures to make the ballot in 2020, only to have the measure thrown out by the state Supreme Court but lost significant funders this year.

International

Canada's Quebec to See First Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Facility Open Soon. The Mindspace by Numinus Clinic in Montreal has received permission from Health Canada to become the first health care facility in the province to legally use psilocybin to treat depression. The first clinic in the country to offer such services opened last month in British Columbia. The advances are coming after Health Canada restored its Special Access Program, which allows health care practitioners to request access to restricted drugs that have not yet been authorized for sale in the country. That program was abolished under the Conservatives in 2013 but restored by the Liberal government in January. Health Canada said it is weighing 13 more requests to operate similar service around the country.

London Mayor Sets Up Commission to Study Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana. London, England, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced the formation of a commission of independent experts to study the potential benefits of marijuana legalization. Under British law, marijuana remains an illicit Class B drug with severe criminal penalties still in place, especially for dealing. Khan's London Drug Commission will be headed by Lord Charlie Falconer, with research for the commission being led by University College London. Khan announced the formation of the commission during a visit to a marijuana retail shop in Los Angeles over the weekend. "The illegal drugs trade causes huge damage to our society and we need to do more to tackle this epidemic and further the debate around our drugs laws. That’s why I am here today in LA to see first-hand the approach they have taken to cannabis." Establishing a commission to examine the benefits of legalization was a key campaign pledge for Khan during last year's reelection campaign. 

MA Drug Courts Agree to Allow Medication-Assisted Treatment, CT Psychedelic Treatment Bill Advances, More... (3/28/22)

Illinois Senate Democrats roll out a pair of bills to fight the opioid overdose crisis, South Dakota's governor vetoes a bill removing old pot charges from public background checks, and more.

Buprenorphine. This and other Medications for Opioid Use Disorder will now be allowed in Bay State drug courts. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Governor Vetoes Bill to Automatically Remove Old Marijuana Charges from Background Checks. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has vetoed Senate Bill 151, which would have automatically removed marijuana charges and convictions more than five years old from public background checks. The bill also required that past offenders have fulfilled their sentences and have no later arrests. In her veto statement, Noem said, "It also essentially codifies a convicted person's ability to be dishonest about their previous arrest and conviction by not requiring disclosure of the prior drug conviction." The bill did not pass with veto-proof majorities.

Psychedelics

Connecticut Lawmakers Advance Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment for Veterans. A bill that would allocate $3 million to help veterans and other disadvantaged people gain access to psychedelic-assisted therapies is advancing. House Bill 5396 passed the Public Health Committee on a unanimous vote last Friday and has now been referred to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysisprior to a House floor vote.

Drug Courts

Feds Reach Settlement with Massachusetts Drug Court Over Discriminating Against People with Opioid Use Disorder. The US Attorneys Office in Boston announced last Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Trial Court to resolve charges its drug court discriminated against people with Opioid Use Disorder, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Federal prosecutors argued that the drug court discriminated against people taking Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone, by barring or pressuring them to stop using those medications in order to participate in the drug court program. Under the new agreement, all 25 state drug courts will allow the use of MOUDs, with decisions about their use taken only by licensed practitioners or licensed opioid treatment programs. "The opioid crisis has impacted nearly every household and family unit in the Commonwealth. My family is no exception. Sadly, in Massachusetts per capita rates of opioid-related deaths are above the national average. To combat this public health crisis we need to be doing everything possible to save lives. That includes ensuring access to all forms of medical treatment for OUD," said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. "We commend the Massachusetts Trial Court for working with us to implement a policy that sets a standard for other state courts across our country to follow. This policy helps ensure that the court system leaves MOUD treatment decisions to trained and licensed medical professionals."

Harm Reduction

Illinois Democrats Roll Out Pair of Bills to Address Overdose Crisis. Senate Democrats last Thursday unveiled a pair of bills that take aim at the state's opioid overdose crisis, where deaths related to synthetic opioids have increased nearly 25-fold since 2013. Sen. Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 17, a Good Samaritan law that would grant immunity from prosecution for possession of small amounts of fentanyl that for people suffering from an overdose or for people seeking to aid them. And Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 4556, which would allow pharmacists and medical professionals to dispense fentanyl test strips and other drug-testing supplies to anyone who wants them. adulterant testing supplies to any person without persecution for possessing drug testing supplies.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Supreme Court asks for Justice Department input on a pair of medical marijuana workers compensation cases, a South Dakota tribe defends non-tribal medical marijuana card holders who face arrest by state and local authorities, and more.

National

Supreme Court Asks Feds to Weigh in on Medical Marijuana Workers Compensation Cases. The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to submit a brief in a pair of workmen's compensation cases revolving around medical marijuana. The question is whether federal law protects employers who do not cover medical marijuana costs for workers injured on the job even in states that require it. The answer will depend on an interpretation of the constitution's supremacy clause. The cases involve Minnesota workers who sought workers compensation for medical marijuana expenses after being hurt on the job. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the claims were invalid because marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Hawaii

Hawaii Senate Committee Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana for People 65 and Over. In a bid to ease access to medical marijuana for senior citizens, the Senate Health Committee approved a bill that would allow people 65 and over to automatically qualify for medical marijuana regardless of whether they have a qualifying condition, in effect legalizing possession for seniors. The bill passed the committee on a 3-0 vote. It would alter the state's medical marijuana law by adding to the language requiring that patients be diagnosed "as having a debilitating medical condition" that medical marijuana will be available to anyone "who has reached the age of sixty-five."

South Dakota

South Dakota Tribe Aids Legal Defense of Customers Arrested by State, Local Police. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe reported this week that more than a hundred people who have tribal medical marijuana cards have been arrested since it opened the state's first dispensary last year. State officials do not recognize cards issued by the tribe, and local police departments have arrested non-tribe members carrying cards and medical marijuana. "They're taking the cards and handing out fines," Tribal chairman Tony Reider said. "But most we don't know about, because most people are just paying the fines."

Last year, the tribe promised to aid customers facing legal problems, and this week, it said it is currently engaged in defending at least 10 active marijuana cases involving non-members. "I don't think the state has the authority to revoke a license issued by another jurisdiction," said tribal Attorney General Seth Pearman.

Washington, DC

DC Mayor Signs Bill to Let People Over 65 Get Medical Marijuana Without a Doctor's Recommendation. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law the Medical Marijuana Patient Access Extension Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which will allow people 65 and over to self-certify their eligibility for medical marijuana without getting a doctor's recommendation. The bill also creates a medical marijuana tax holiday coinciding with 4/20 and extends the registration renewal deadline for patients.

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