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Another Push for the SAFE Banking Act, NJ Magic Mushroom Legalization Bill Filed, More... (7/1/22)

The Ohio Supreme Court rejects a police backpack search for marijuana, the Massachusetts Senate has approved an asset forfeiture reform bill, and more.

Psilocybin mushrooms. It could be legal to grow, possess, and share them under a New Jersey bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Lawmakers File Marijuana Banking Amendment to Must-Pass Defense Bill in Latest Reform Push. Led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-OR), sponsor of the House-passed version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1996), a bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing an amendment to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to attach that legislation to the must-pass bill. This is the second year Perlmutter has tried to get the SAFE Banking Act language into the defense spending bill. Passage of the bill in the Senate has been stymied by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), who has been blocking the incremental bill as he continues to push for a full-scale marijuana legalization bill. Perlmutter's amendment will be taken up in the House Rules Committee, and if approved as part of the spending bill in the House, would be subject to conference committee approval with Senate leaders.

Ohio Supreme Court Finds Marijuana Backpack Search Unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a woman for marijuana possession, ruling that a warrantless search of her backpack in her home violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against warrantless searches. Police came to the woman's home with an unrelated arrest warrant and searched her backpack while she was already handcuffed and sitting in a patrol car. They found 391 grams of mostly marijuana edibles and charged her with felony marijuana possession. Police and prosecutors argued that they had the right to search the backpack for weapons, but the justices held there was no rationale for a weapons search once the woman was detained. Police and prosecutors also argued that a bit of plastic baggie protruding from the backpack justified the search, but the justices rejected that as well. "When police search a bookbag in a home under circumstances that do not give rise to any exigency, they must follow the command of the Fourth Amendment: get a warrant," wrote Justice Patrick DeWine. The case goes back to lower courts for reconsideration.

Psychedelics

New Jersey Senate President Files Bill to Legalize Magic Mushrooms for Personal Use. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) has filed a bill, Senate Bill 2934, that would allow people 21 and over to "possess, store, use, ingest, inhale, process, transport, deliver without consideration, or distribute without consideration, four grams or less of psilocybin," the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. People could legally grow, cultivate, or process the mushrooms capable of producing psilocybin on private property. The bill would also expunge past criminal offenses for magic mushrooms. "This bill is a recognition of evolving science related to psilocybin and its medical uses related to mental health, and if science can provide relief in any fashion with this natural substance under a controlled environment then we should encourage this science," Scutari said. In 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill downgrading psilocybin possession from a third-degree crime to disorderly persons offense with a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Asset Forfeiture

Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture. The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would raise the evidentiary standard for prosecutors to be able to pursue civil asset forfeiture. The bill, Senate Bill 2671, would raise the standard from the lowest legal standard -- probable cause -- to the "preponderance of evidence." The bill also bars asset forfeiture prosecutions for less than $250 and provides the right to counsel for indigent people in asset forfeiture cases. "We view ourselves as a socially progressive state with strong protection for civil liberties. But our current laws on civil asset forfeiture are anything but, and reforming in this area is long overdue," said Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), lead sponsor of the bill.

Marijuana Banking Protections Again Excluded from Spending Bill, House Approves Easing Bupe Access, More.... (6/24/22)

The Mississippi Supreme Court upholds a black man's life sentence for marijuana possession, a Senate committee clears the way for people who have used marijuana to get jobs in the intelligence community, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Provision Stripped from Omnibus Stimulus Bill, New Banking Measure Introduced. A conference committee of lawmakers has stripped the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) out of the final version of an omnibus economic stimulus bill. The act was included in the House version of the bill, but not the Senate's. The move marks yet another defeat for efforts to provide protections for financial institutions that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) holds out for full-blown marijuana legalization. Meanwhile, a new bill similar to the SAFE Banking Act, the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act, has been introduced with bipartisan support.

Senate Committee Approves Measure to Allow People Who Used Marijuana to Work in Intelligence Agencies. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow intelligence agencies to hire people who have used marijuana in the past. The committee advanced the annual intelligence authorization bill, which included the marijuana provision. The move is "a common-sense change to ensure the IC can recruit the most capable people possible," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). National security officials have complained for years that the lifetime prohibition of marijuana use has limited the pool of qualified applicants to the intelligence agencies.

Mississippi Supreme Court Upholds Man's Life Sentence for Marijuana Possession. The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a life sentence for Allen Russell after he was found guilty of possessing 43 grams of marijuana. Such an offense normally carries a three-year sentence, but Allen was sentenced under the state's habitual offender law. He had previously been convicted twice of burglary and once of being a convict in possession of a firearm. The high court ruled that the sentence did not amount to cruel and unusual punishment and was in line with state law. Do we have to mention that Allen is black?

Drug Treatment

House Passes Bill to Remove Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment. The House on Wednesday approved the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (HR 2482), which seeks to address outdated federal regulations that hamper doctors from being able to prescribe drugs such as buprenorphine that are used to treat opioid use disorder. The bill is part of a larger package that also eliminated barriers to accessing methadone, as well increasing funding and training for people with mental health and substance use disorders to enter the workforce. Current federal requirements that doctors receive a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine have left many rural counties without effective access to the drug.

Medical Marijuana Update

Nebraska initiative campaigners catch a break, the Arkansas Supreme Court has some harsh words for regulators, and more.

Arkansas

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

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.

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.

CA Safe Injection Site Bill Advances, NC MedMJ Bill Advances, More... (6/2/22)

There will be no psychedelic legalization initiative in Michigan this year, Massachusetts agrees to pay millions to thousands of people convicted of drug offenses based on chemical analyses by disgraced state crime lab chemists, and more.

The Insite safe injection site in Vancouver. Could something similar be coming to California? (vch.ca)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Advances to Senate Floor Vote. The Compassionate Use Act, Senate Bill 711, was unanimously approved by the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday, clearing the way for a final Senate floor vote, which could happen as soon as today. If and when the bill passes the Senate, it then goes to the House, and if approved by the House, it would go to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who has said he supports medical marijuana. The bill would create a commission to issue 10 medical marijuana supplier licenses, with each supplier able to operate eight retail shops. Patients would be limited to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.

Psychedelics

Michigan Activists Come Up Short on Psychedelic Legalization Initiative, Now Aim at 2024. Activists with Decriminalize Nature and Students for Sensible Drug Policy who have been engaged in signature-gathering to put a psychedelic legalization initiative on the November ballot announced Wednesday that they have come up short for this year and are now aiming at 2024. They had until June 1 to come up with 340,047 valid voter signatures, but only had two months to do so after getting a later start. The normal signature-gathering period is 180 days. Activists declined to say how many signatures they had gathered, but said signatures already gathered would still be valid for the 2024 push as long as they are handed in during this election cycle.

Criminal Justice

Massachusetts Agrees to Repay Thousands of Defendants Convicted on Evidence Analyzed by Disgraced State Crime Lab Chemists. The state has agreed to repay millions of dollars in fees and fines paid by some 30,000 defendants whose drug convictions were overturned because they relied on testing done by disgraced state crime lab chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak. Both women served state prison time for falsifying lab results. The settlement is expected to cost the state about $14 million. Each wrongfully convicted defendant will receive hundreds of dollars -- and potentially more. The state has agreed to refund 10 types of fees and fines, including probation supervision fees, victim witness fees, court costs, DNA test fees, drug analysis fees, and driver's license reinstatement fees, among others. The settlement must still be approved by a judge.

Drug Treatment

California Coerced Treatment Bill Fails. A bill that would have authorized a three-county pilot program that imposed coerced drug treatment for people with drug-motivated felony crimes, Assembly Bill 1928, failed to get a House floor vote by last week's legislative deadline and is now dead for the session. Bill proponents argued that it would allow people to get treatment in a secure facility instead of just being warehoused in prison. The bill passed the Assembly Health Committee in March but then stalled.

Harm Reduction

California Safe Injection Site Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to set up a pilot program to allow certain localities in the state to open safe injection sites, Senate Bill 57, was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee Wednesday and now heads for an Assembly floor vote. The measure has already passed the Senate, but if it passes in the Assembly, it will have to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote because changes have been made in the Assembly.

Pell Grants for Prisoners Are Coming Back Next Year, OK Legal Pot Initiative Signature-Gathering Begins, More... (5/3/22)

Signature-gathering for a marijuana legalization inititiave is underway in Oklahoma, the courts block a San Francisco effort to enact broad bans on alleged drug dealers in the Tenderloin, and more.

San Francisco. The courts are blocking the city's effort to ban alleged drug dealers from the Tenderloin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Files Preemptive Lawsuit Over Whether It Will Appear on November Ballot. Anticipating an effort by Republican lawmakers to keep their marijuana legalization initiative off the November ballot, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed a lawsuit last Friday to block the expected move. Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) submitted petitions to the legislature on January 28, giving it until May 28 to approve the petitions calling for legalization, after which, the coalition could then do another round of signature-gathering to put the question directly before voters in November. But Republican legislative staffers have argued that because the petitions were not submitted to the legislature 10 days before the start of the session, as required by the state constitution. But the preemptive lawsuit argues there is state Supreme Court precedent for allowing a November vote.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Begins Signature-Gathering. Marijuana legalization advocates have begun signature gathering for State Question 820, which would legalize adult use marijuana and levy a 15 percent excise tax on retail purchases to fund the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Campaigners will need 95,911 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot and have until August 1 to do so. Another pair of initiatives could also appear on the ballot. State Question 818 would create a State Cannabis Commission that would replace the OMMA and guarantee patients' medical cannabis access in the Oklahoma Constitution, while State Question 819 would legalize adult-use marijuana and guarantee medical and adult-use marijuana access in the Constitution. Because these two questions would change the state constitution, they face a higher signature-gathering threshold than State Question 820, which would only make statutory changes. The threshold for constitutional questions is 177,958 valid voter signatures.

Drug Policy

California Appeals Court Blocks San Francisco Bid to Ban Drug Dealers from Tenderloin, SOMA. In a case that began when the city sued 28 alleged drug dealers in the Tenderloin and South of Market (SOMA) neighborhoods and banned them from a 50-square-block area in those neighborhoods, which are rife with open drug dealing and drug use, a state appeals court has upheld a lower court decision last year blocking the bans from taking effect. In its ruling last Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeals held that while local governments may be entitled to narrowly target ban orders in some limited circumstances, but not such a broad one. The lower court decision held that the ban was so broad it would violate the constitutional right to travel, and that state law did not appear to authorize it.

The appeals court largely agreed: "We are mindful of, and sympathetic to, the challenges faced by the city in addressing the issues of illegal drug sales, drug use, and the drug-related health crisis and its effects on the people who live and work in the neighborhood," Justice Marla Miller wrote in Friday's 3-0 ruling. But, she continued, "although the city contends these defendants have no reason to ever even be in the 50-square-block Tenderloin neighborhood except to sell drugs there was evidence that many community resources and government agencies are located in the Tenderloin." The lower court judge was entitled to believe statements from the four people "that they were interested in taking advantage of the employment, treatment, housing, and health services available in the 50-square-block neighborhood," the appeals court added. The city said it was "disappointed" with the ruling, but had yet to decide whether to appeal.

Education

Pell Grants Will Be Available for Prisoners Again Beginning Next Year. Once upon a time, incarcerated Americans were able to try to advance themselves by using Pell Grants to pay for college tuition and textbook costs -- just like other students -- but when Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, it barred prisoners from accessing that financial aid. In 2020, though, Congress restored the eligibility for both state and federal prisoners. In the fall of 2021, the Department of Education begin developing rules for the expansion of Pell Grants to prisoners and has now announced that application forms for imprisoned students will be available on October 1 for the 2023 academic year.

International

British Virgin Islands Premier Asserts Immunity in Cocaine Case, Demands Immediate Release. British Virgin Islands (BVI) Premier Andrew Fahie, who was arrested last week in a US government sting in Miami, argued in court Monday that as the elected head of government, he is immune from prosecution and should be released immediately. No word yet on when a federal judge will decide that question, and in the meantime, Fahie remains in custody. Fahie and his ports director, Oleanvine Maynard, were busted at the Miami airport where they met what they thought were Mexican drug traffickers but were actually DEA agents seducing them into a scheme to import cocaine from South America through the BVI. Back home, Fahie already faced allegations of deep corruption, and his arrest may help propel a push to temporarily suspend the constitution and return to rule from London in an effort to clean up the government. Busting a head of state is a big deal and would have required approval at the highest levels of the Justice and State departments.

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

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

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

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

Drug Testing

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

Harm Reduction

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

International

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

Executions of Drug Offenders Surged Last Year, Pot Industry Push for SAFE Banking Act, More... (3/21/22)

A suburban Atlanta prosecutor's big to clamp down on Delta-8 THC products runs into a judicial roadblock, the University of Michigan SSDP chapter is spearheading a municipal drug decriminalizaiton resolution, and more.

Marijuana industry execs are swarming Capitol Hill in a last-ditch bid to win passage of the SAFE Banking Act. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Industry Pushing Hard to Get Banking Measure Passed Before Midterms. More than 20 head executives of major marijuana companies have unleashed a lobbying blitz on Congress in a bid to get the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996) passed before the November midterms. They worry that if Republicans take over after the November elections, passage of the bill would be doomed. Passage of the bill has been blocked by the Democratic Senate leadership, which is holding out for a yet-to-be finalized marijuana legalization bill from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The marijuana companies say that while they also support legalization, they do not see the votes to pass it this year. "We want comprehensive reform, but we also recognize that with the potential for the House and Senate to change hands, we have an opportunity now to pass impactful legislation, and if we fail to do that, it could be years until we get something done," said Jared Maloof, CEO of Ohio-based medical marijuana company Standard Wellness.

Georgia Judge Blocks DA's Efforts to Ban Delta-8, Delta-10 Cannabis Extracts.  Suburban Atlanta Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gaston has been blocked from enforcing a ban on cannabis extracts contained Delta-8 and Delta-10 by an order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall. Last Friday, Schwall issued a 30-day restraining order barring Gwinnet County from prosecuting people for possessing or selling the extracts. The two cannabinoids are similar to THC (Delta-9 THC), but have less powerful psychoactive effects, and they inhabit a hazy legal status. In January, Austin-Gaston said that possessing, selling, or distributing such products are felony offenses and raided two distributors, seizing millions of dollars worth of product, charging at least one person with a felony. Her actions are blocked as part of a lawsuit brought by two owners of a Gwinnet County vape story chain, who are seeking to have the extracts declared legal in the state.

Drug Policy

University of Michigan Students Push Ann Arbor Drug Decriminalization Resolution. The university chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy has launched a campaign to decriminalize the possession of drugs and their small-scale distribution. After consulting with community members, the group has drafted the Ann Arbor Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy, which will be put before the city council. After consultation with stakeholders, the resolution sets a suggested permitted amount of 15 grams of any drug, much higher than other decriminalization measures. While drug laws are generally set by the state and federal governments, the resolution, if adopted, would make drug possession the lowest law enforcement priority and ban the use of city funds to enforce the prohibition on drug possession.

International

Executions for Drug Convictions Surged in 2021; Most Are Kept Secret. According to a new report from Harm Reduction International, The Death Penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2021, at least 131 people were executed for drug offenses last year, but "this number is likely to represent only a fraction of all drug-related executions carried out globally." Even so, it is nearly four times the number of executions reported in 2020. HRI named Iran and China as definitely carrying out drug executions last year, and it suspects that Vietnam and North Korea did as well, but cannot confirm that because of government secrecy. The report identifies "High Application States" where "executions of individuals convicted of drug offenses were carried out, and/or at least 10 drug-related death sentences per year were imposed in the past five years." Along the countries mentioned above, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Singapore all make this rogue's gallery. At least 3,000 people are on death row for drugs worldwide, the report found, with at least 237 drug death sentences issued last year in 16 countries. 

MD MJ Legalization Referendum Bill Advances, SD Senate Approves Legalization, More... (2/24/22)

A California bill would provide protections to workers for off-duty marijuana use, the New Mexico Supreme Court rules medical marijuana purchases are not subject to a state tax, and more.

(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill Would Protect Marijuana Users from Employment Discrimination. Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D) has filed a bill, Assembly Bill 2188, that would bar employers from punishing workers for off-duty marijuana use. The bill would end discrimination against marijuana-using employees based on testing for metabolites, the non-psychoactive substances that can be detected in drug tests for days or weeks after marijuana use. The bill is supported by California NORML, which noted that "testing or threatening to test bodily fluids for cannabis metabolites is the most common way that employers harass and discriminate against employees who lawfully use cannabis in the privacy of their own homes."

Maryland House Gives Initial Approval to Marijuana Legalization Referendum Bill. The House on Wednesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis." The House also gave initial approval to House Bill 837, which includes measures to implement legalization if voters approve it. It sets 1.5 ounces as the legal possession limit for adults and decriminalizes between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces, as well as automatic expungement for past conduct made legal by the law. Final House floor votes on the two bills could happen as soon as Friday.

South Dakota Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The state Senate on Wednesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, which would let people 21 and over possess up to an ounce purchased from licensed retailers. It does not allow for home cultivation. The bill now heads to the House. South Dakota voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020, only to have it thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The organizers of that campaign are currently in a signature gathering campaign for a 2022 initiative, which would include home cultivation.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Medical Marijuana Purchases Cannot Be Taxed. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court ruling that marijuana purchases by medical marijuana patients are not subject to the state's gross receipts tax. Producers had sought tax refunds in 2014 and again in 2018, only to be denied by the state Taxation and Revenue Department. In 2020, the state Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana should be treated like prescription drugs, which are not taxed. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Mississippi Becomes Latest State to Legalize Medical Marijuana [FEATURE]

With the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on a compromise medical marijuana bill on Wednesday, Mississippi becomes the 37th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Mississippians should see dispensaries operating before year's end. (Sondra Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance)
Mississippi voters had overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana at the polls in November 2020, passing a broad medical marijuana measure, Initiative 65, with 74% of the vote (and rejecting a more restrictive legislative alternative, Initiative 65A.) But that victory was nullified by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the state's signature gathering requirements for initiatives could not be complied with, invalidating not only Initiative 65 but also the whole initiative process in the state.

Heedful of the will of the people, both the legislature and the governor vowed to get a medical marijuana bill passed. The Supreme Court ruling was in May 2021; it took until now for the executive branch and the legislative branch to come to agreement on how to replace what the judicial branch threw out. Meanwhile, patients waited increasingly impatiently.

They got medical marijuana, but in a more restrictive form that what the voted for back in 2020. The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 2095) allows patients to purchase smokeable marijuana, but only ¾ of an ounce per week, and there is no provision for home cultivation. Marijuana flower must be no more than 30 percent THC, while concentrates must be no more than 60 percent.

People with a specified list of conditions -- cancer, Parkinson's, Huntington's, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer's, agitation of dementia, PTSD, autism, pain refractory to opioid management, diabetic/peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord disease, or severe injury -- qualify for medical marijuana.

People with chronic medical conditions that produce wasting, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms, and chronic pain also qualify, but chronic pain is narrowly defined as "a pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated, and which in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts by a practitioner."

Doctors, certified nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and optometrists can all sign recommendations for patients if they believe the patient "would likely receive medical or palliative benefit" from medical marijuana. But before they can do that, they have to have completed eight hours of continuing medical education courses on medical marijuana (and five hours each year after that) and have performed an in-person examination of the patient.

People who want to get in the medical marijuana business can obtain licenses if they pay nonrefundable application fees ranging from $1,500 for a 1,000-square foot canopy micro-cultivator license to $100,000 for the largest operators. There is no cap on the number of medical marijuana businesses. There will be a wholesale tax of 5 percent in addition to the state sales tax of 7 percent.

Marijuana reform advocates generally praised the passage of the bill, though with some reservations.

"With this victory, tens of thousands of Mississippians with debilitating health conditions will finally be able to safely and legally access something that can alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life. Mississippi now serves as the latest example that medical cannabis legalization is possible in any state in the country. We are hopeful that this move will add to the growing momentum towards cannabis policy reform in the South," said Toi Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in a press release.

"Marijuana access is long overdue for Mississippi's patients," NORML's State Policies Manager Jax James said in a blog post. "The overwhelming majority of voters decided in favor of this policy change over a year ago, and for the past 14 months the will of the people has been denied."

But James also expressed disappointment in some of both what the bill does contain and what it does not.

"We remain concerned that lawmakers saw fit to add unnecessary taxes on cannabis products, that patients are prohibited from home-cultivating limited amounts of cannabis for their own personal use, and that those with chronic pain are restricted from accessing cannabis products until first using more dangerous and addictive substances like opioids," she said.

For MPP, though, the bottom line was that another state now allows patients access to medical marijuana.

"Despite tremendous support, Mississipians faced an uphill battle for a medical cannabis program. With this new law, justice has finally prevailed. Patients in Mississippi who are seriously ill will no longer be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical cannabis and instead will be met with compassion. We applaud the legislature for working to restore the will of the voters in one of the most conservative states in the nation and Gov. Reeves for signing it into law," said Kevin Caldwell, MPP Southeast legislative manager.

The state Department of Health will begin issuing patient registry cards in 60 days, begin accepting applications from practitioners and begin licensing marijuana businesses other than dispensaries within 120 days, and licensing dispensaries within 150 days. The clock is ticking.

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