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First Actual Fentanyl-Laced Marijuana Case -- Or Not? -- ICC Temporarily Suspends Philippines Probe, More... (11/22/21)

An Illinois judge rules the odor of raw marijuana is no longer a basis for a vehicle search, an Ohio move to legalize marijuana is nearing its signature-gathering goal, and more.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, orchestrator of tens of thousands of drug war murders
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Health Officials Confirm First Actual Case of Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl. While scattered police departments have previously reported cases of marijuana laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl, those claims have never panned out. But now, top Connecticut health officials say it has turned up there. After nearly 40 cases of reviving apparent overdose victims with the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone who reported using only marijuana since July, the state Department of Public Health announced last Thursday that it had found fentanyl in a marijuana sample it tested. "This is the lab-confirmed case of marijuana with fentanyl in Connecticut and possibly the first confirmed case in the United States," said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD.

Is it what it seems? Harm reductionionists have posited on email lists that it is likely to be a case of surface contamination, and noted that fentanyl requires a vaporize at different temperatures.

Illinois Judge Rules Smell of Marijuana No Longer Provides Basis for Vehicle Search. A district court judge in Whiteside County has ruled that the odor of raw marijuana alone does not provide probable cause for a warrantless search of a vehicle. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana has not been a criminal offense since June 2019, but police officers continued to use the smell of weed as a reason to search vehicle during traffic stops. But Judge Daniel P. Dalton ruled that "there are a number of wholly innocent reasons a person or the vehicle in which they are in may smell of raw cannabis." Judge Dalton ruled that "the court finds the odor of raw cannabis alone is insufficient to establish probable cause." This is only a district court opinion, and the state can appeal if it chooses.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Petition Nearing Enough Signatures to Force Legislature to Act. The state Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is pushing a signature-gathering campaign for an initiated statute that would force lawmakers to act on legalization or send the issue to a popular vote, says it is nearing the required 133,000 valid voter signatures to force the issue. If they reach that signature goal, the General Assembly would have four months to act on the proposal. If lawmakers fail to act or reject legalization, petitioners would then have to gather more signatures to send the issue to the voters in the next general election. The proposal would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, set up a system of retail sales, and allow people to grow up to two plants of their own.

International

International Criminal Court Temporarily Suspends Probe into Human Rights Violations in Philippines Drug War. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has temporarily suspended a formal investigation into human rights abuses during outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs and drug users. The move comes after the Philippines government filed a request for deferral, saying its own investigations into drug war killings were underway.

"The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request," ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan wrote. Khan wrote that he would seek more information from the Philippines. Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2018 and had vowed that it would not cooperate with the ICC, but has allowed severely limited investigations into several dozen killings out of the thousands admitted by the government and the more than 30,000 claimed by human rights groups.

Those groups called on the ICC to get back to investigating Duterte: "We ask the ICC not to allow itself to be swayed by the claims now being made by the Duterte administration," said the National Union of People's Lawyers, which represents some victims' families. The national justice system is "extremely slow and unavailing to the majority of poor and unrepresented victims", the statement said. The Duterte government's claim that existing legal mechanisms could bring justice to Duterte's victims was "absurd," said Human Rights Watch. "Let's hope the ICC sees through the ruse that it is," said Brad Adam, HRW Asia director.

CO Announces Stricter MedMJ Rules, German Coalition Nearing Marijuana Legalization Deal, More... (11/12/21)

A New Jersey judge's ruling keeps an Atlantic City needle exchange program alive (for now), the Scottish government is trying to find a way to open a safe injection site in Glasgow, and more.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado tightens its medical marijuana rules, mainly around concerns about youth, dabs, and wax. (Creative Commons)
Colorado Announces New, Stricter Medical Marijuana Rules. As of January 1, the rules for purchasing medical marijuana will be tightened. Among the changes: daily purchases of marijuana flower will be limited to two ounces and eight grams of concentrates, such as wax or shatter. For patient between ages 18 and 20, the limit will drop to two grams per day. The current purchase limit for concentrates is 40 grams per day. To enforce the daily limits, dispensaries will be required to input patient ID numbers on patients' medical marijuana cards. The rule changes come after the legislature passed a bill largely driven about concerns about young people using high-potency marijuana concentrates.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Judge Rules to Keep Atlantic City Needle Exchange Open -- At Least for Now. Judge Michael Blee of the Atlantic County Superior Court on Friday continued the restraints against Atlantic City enforcement of Ordinance 32 (which would terminate the city's syringe access services operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance) until further order of the court. Judge Blee also ordered Atlantic City to provide the New Jersey Commissioner of Health with formal written notice of the adoption of Ordinance 32, together with pertinent documents from the litigation. He intends to issue a written opinion on the duration of the restraints no later than December 3.

"Syringe access is health care, period. Every day that the clients of South Jersey AIDS Alliance have access to lifesaving health care service is a day worth celebrating, and we're thrilled that our syringe services will continue operation for the time-being," said Carol Harney, Chief Executive Officer of South Jersey AIDS Alliance. "Our job is to show up for people living with HIV and living with a substance use disorder with the best public health tools we have, and there is no denying that syringe access is an essential service for Atlantic City residents."

International

Germany's Next Coalition Nears Deal on Legalizing Marijuana. The parties likely to form the next governing coalition -- the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats -- are close to a deal on legalizing marijuana. The parties are hammering out details, including rules for the use and sale of marijuana. But it's not a done deal yet, and the outcome could still change. Spokespeople for the three parties declined to comment on the negotiations. The effort comes as public support for marijuana legalization has hit 49 percent with 46 percent opposed -- the first time those in favor polled higher than those opposed.

Scottish Government Working on New Plan for Safe Injection Site in Glasgow. The Scottish government is "actively exploring" ways to open a safe injection site in Glasgow, Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said Thursday. There are legal and political barriers to overcome. The comment comes after the current Lord Advocate said last week that even though a previous Lord Advocate had ruled in 2017 that such facilities violated the Misuse of Drugs Act, the issue "could be looked at again." But the notion still faces opposition from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and it is the British government that determines drug policy for the union. Some 1,339 people died of drug overdoses last year in Scotland, the seventh year in a row of rising overdose deaths.

OK Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million J&J Opioid Settlement, Detroit Dope Squad Probe Ends More... (11/10/21)

Civil rights groups ask for expanded clemency options for federal prisones sent home during the pandemic emergency, an Ohio bill would greatly expand the state's medical marijuana program, and more.

Medical Marijuana

OH Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana for Any Patient Who Can "Reasonably Be Expected to Benefit" from It. State Sen. Stephen Huffman (R) has filed a bill that would expand qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use to include arthritis, migraines, autism spectrum disorder, spasticity or chronic muscle spasms, hospice care, opioid use disorder, and the open-ended any condition from which a patient could benefit or obtain relief. The measure is Senate Bill 261, and it would also allow curbside pickup and drive-through dispensing, as has been allowed during the coronavirus epidemic. But wait, there's more: The bill would also expand the number of dispensaries to one for every thousand registered patients, up to the first 300,000 patients. After that, additional dispensaries would be added on an as-needed basis. The bill would also triple the maximum size of medical marijuana cultivation sites from 25,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet for large growers and allow small-scale growers to grow up to 20,000 square feet, up from the current 3,000. Huffman said he expects his bill to be sent to the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, with a hearing next week.

Opioids

Oklahoma Supreme Court Throws Out $465 Million Opioid Ruling Against Johnson & Johnson. In a setback for those seeking to hold pharmaceutical manufactures accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a 2019 lower court ruling that found Johnson & Johnson liable and ordered it to pay $465 million. That is the second time this month that a court has reversed decisions requiring drug companies to pay for their role in the opioid crisis. A California judge ruled similarly on November 1. In Tuesday's case, the high court rejected the state's contention that the company violated "public nuisance laws," and the two decisions together invalidate a key legal strategy used by plaintiffs in thousands of cases attempting to hold the drug companies responsible. But "public nuisance" laws vary from state to state, so it is not clear how much impact these decisions will have in other states. The state had argued that J & J created a "public nuisance" by aggressively overstating the benefits and downplaying the dangers of their prescription opioids.

Law Enforcement

Detroit Police Conclude Two-Year Probe into Crooked Dope Squad. Detroit Police Chief James White said Tuesday that a two-year internal affairs probe into corruption in the departments drug unit known as the Operation Clean Sweep Taskforce has ended and "we're confident we rooted out the problem." The probe found numerous examples of misconduct, including overtime fraud, forgery, false affidavits, and perjury, leading 12 members of the Narcotics Squad to leave the department under investigation. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is still evaluating whether to bring criminal charges against any squad members.

Sentencing

Civil Rights Groups Ask White House to Expand Pandemic Clemency. Some 29 civil rights and civil liberties groups have coalesced to ask the White House to broaden a plan to grant clemency to inmates released to home confinement during the coronavirus pandemic. They say the current policy wrongfully excludes people convicted of non-drug-related crimes and people serving long sentences. Some 4,800 federal prisoners were released early because of the pandemic but face a return to prison once the emergency ends if no clemency is granted. The attorney general is on board: "It would be a terrible policy to return these people to prison," Merrick Garland told lawmakers last month, but his Justice Department says it lacks the legal authority to let the prisoners stay at home. The Biden administration is only allowing released inmates to seek clemency if they are low-level non-violent drug offenders with less than four years to serve.

Opioid Makers Win One in California Court, NH Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed, More... (11/2/21)

The DC council retreats from language that would have threatened a crackdown on the city's marijuana "gift economy," a California court rules in favor of opioid manufacturers in a rare victory for the industry, and more.

Marijuana Policy

JAMA Study Finds Legalizing or Decriminalizing Marijuana Reduces Race-Based Arrests. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that states that legalize or decriminalize marijuana see "large reductions in race-based arrests among adults" while those states that do not continue to see "increases in arrest rate disparities." Legalization was associated with 561 fewer arrests per 100,000 Black people and 185 fewer arrests per 100,000 White people, while decriminalization was associated with 449 fewer arrests per 100,000 Black people and 117 for White people. On the other hand, "cannabis arrests for adults and youth increased over time in states that did not implement a cannabis policy change," the study concluded. "Overall, results revealed that states that implemented a cannabis policy change saw large decreases in arrests compared with states that had no policy reform," the researchers concluded.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Rep. Tim Egan (D-Grafton) has filed a bill that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot and allow for home grows of up to three mature plants. The bill also envisions a system of taxed and licensed marijuana production and sales. While the House passed a similar bill last year, legalization efforts in the state face an obstacle in Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who has historically opposed legalization.

DC Council Removes Marijuana Bill Language That Threatened Crackdown on Unregulated Market. A provision of a DC marijuana bill that could have led to a crackdown on the city's unregulated marijuana "gift economy," which skirts the ban on legal retail sales, was removed Monday as the council prepares to vote on the measure on Tuesday. The move came after strong criticism from activists, who argued that targeting those currently providing marijuana would perpetuate systemic racial inequalities that marijuana legalization is supposed to reduce. There are currently estimated to be dozens of grey market pot shops and more than a hundred delivery services operating in the city.

Opioids

California Judge Rules for Drug Makers in Lawsuit Over Opioid Crisis. A California state judge has handed a rare victory to opioid manufacturers by rejecting the legal argument successfully employed against the industry in thousands of cases charging that it substantially contributed to an opioid epidemic that has taken more than half a million lives since the late 1990s, when the appearance of OxyContin marked the beginning of the current wave. "There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the result of the medically appropriate provision of pain medications to patients in need," wrote Judge Peter Wilson of Orange County State Superior Court. The counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and Orange and the city of Oakland had sued four opioid manufacturers—Johnson & Johnson, Teva, Allergan, and Endo Pharmaceuticals—charging that their manufacturing and distribution of opioids constituted a "public nuisance, but Judge Wilson held that even if the companies were found to have created false or misleading marketing, "any adverse downstream consequences flowing from medically appropriate prescriptions cannot constitute an actionable public nuisance."

CA Psilocybin Legalization Init Cleared for Signature Gathering, DE Supreme Court on Pot Odor, More... (9/17/21)

Supporters of a proposed Philadelphia safe injection site have asked the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision blocking it, the Delaware Supreme Cout rules the mere odor of marijuana is not sufficient cause for a warrantless arrest, and more.

A psilocybin legalization initiative could be on the ballot in California next year .(Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Odor Not Sufficient Grounds for Warrantless Arrest. The state Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that the mere odor of marijuana does not give police "reasonable grounds to believe" that either a felony has been committed or that a person has committed a misdemeanor in the presence of an officer -- the only two grounds for which warrantless arrest is allowed. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized, and the court held that the mere odor of marijuana cannot lead police to presume that a felony amount of marijuana would be present.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Initiative Cleared for Signature Gathering. A proposed initiative that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and sale of psilocybin mushrooms has been cleared for signature gathering by the state attorney general's office. The office has issued an official title and summary for the California Psilocybin Initiative, which is being sponsored by Decriminalize California. It would allow the "personal, medical, therapeutic, religious, spiritual, and dietary use of Psilocybin Mushrooms" for people 21 and over, as well as allowing legal psilocybin sales and cultivation. The campaign will now have 180 days to come up with 623,212 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Supporters Ask Supreme Court to Review Appeals Court Ban.Supporters of a proposed safe injection site in Philadelphia that was blocked by a Trump-era appeals court ruling asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn that ruling. The appeals court held that allowing a safe injection site would violate a 1980s "crack house" law by allowing the use of drugs on site. The case will be closely watched because public officials and harm reductionists in a number of cities and states want to move forward with the harm reduction measure. The move is risky, though, given the current makeup of the court.

ICC Will Investigate Philippine Drug War Killings, KY Supreme Court Narrows Good Samaritan Law, More... (9/15/21)

Detroiters will vote on psychedelic decriminalization in November, the International Criminal Court takes a key step in the investigation of Philippine drug war killings, and more.

Filipino President Duterte is now in the International Criminal Court's hotseat. (Creative Commons)
Harm Reduction

Kentucky Supreme Court Narrows Good Samaritan Protections. In a decision late last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that a 2015 Good Samaritan law designed to protect overdose victims and the bystanders who seek assistance for them does not apply when the bystanders who call do not know for certain that a drug overdose has occurred. In the decision in Kentucky v. Milner, the court took up the separate cases of two people for whom assistance was called after they were found passed out in a car.

Both had indeed suffered drug overdoses and were revived, but they were then charged with various crimes, including possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors argued that the Good Samaritan law did not apply because the bystanders did not see the people use drugs, did not know overdoses were occurring, and had no reason to believe the victims were at risk of arrest if authorities arrived.

The defendants' attorney said it would be unrealistic to expect bystanders to search an unconscious body for evidence of drug use before calling for help. "Requiring a Good Samaritan to be certain that an overdose was occurring before the exemption would apply would potentially expose both the person overdosing and the Good Samaritan to danger," attorney Steven Nathan Goens wrote in one of his briefs to the Supreme Court. But the court sided with prosecutors, effectively narrowing the scope of the law.

Psychedelics

Detroit Will Vote on Psychedelic Decriminalization in November. A proposed municipal initiative to decriminalize psychedelics has qualified for the November ballot in Detroit. The question voters will have to answer is: "Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority?" Detroit is Michigan's largest city, but psychedelic reform has already taken place in the university town of Ann Arbor, which approved a lowest priority ordinance last year.

International

International Criminal Court Opens Official Investigation into Philippine Drug War Killings. The International Criminal Court (ICC), which finished a preliminary investigation into human rights abuses in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs earlier this year, announced Wednesday that it has decided to open an official investigation not only into Duterte's drug war abuses but also into killings by death squads in Davao City when he was mayor and vice mayor. "For these reasons, the chamber hereby authorizes the commencement of the investigation into the Situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign," said the pre-trial chamber 1 of the ICC.

By deciding to move forward with an official investigation, the ICC is setting the stage for summons and arrests warrants if requested by Prosecutor Karim Khan. Recently retired Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who led the preliminary investigation, had asked for authorization to open an official investigation, saying there was copious evidence of human rights abuses, and the chamber agreed. "On the basis of the above, the Chamber concludes that there is a reasonable basis for the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation, in the sense that the crime against humanity of murder appears to have been committed, and that potential case(s) arising from such investigation appear to fall within the Court's jurisdiction," said the judges.

Human Rights Watch welcomed Wednesday's announcement: "The International Criminal Court's decision to open an investigation into brutal crimes in the Philippines offers a much-needed check on President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly 'war on drugs,'" said Carlos Conde, the rights group's senior Philippines researcher. "Victims' families and survivors have reason to hope that those responsible for crimes against humanity could finally face justice." The Philippines government has acknowledged some 6,000 police or military drug war killings, but human rights groups say the true number could be north of 30,000.

Read more civil society reactions and other information on the web site of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).

Medical Marijuana Update

It's the dog days of summer, but there is still a little bit of medical marijuana news to report.

Mississippi

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Board Rejects Adding New Qualifying Medical Conditions. The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board on Tuesday voted to reject adding five medical conditions to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. Those conditions were traumatic brain injury, hepatitis, Hepatitis C, chronic insomnia that isn’t responding to other treatments and major depressive disorder that isn’t responding to other treatments. The board has already approved 23 serious medical conditions for medical marijuana use, but board members were concerned the applications for traumatic brain, hepatitis, and Hepatitis C were "overly broad" and cited worries that juveniles with traumatic brain injuries could qualify for medical marijuana. With chronic insomnia and major depressive, the board concluded there was no evidence that medical marijuana would benefit patients with those conditions.

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

Magic Mushroom Shops Sprout in Vancouver, OH Activists Resubmit Marijuana Legalization Petition, More... (8/16/21)

California's Supreme Court says no pot for prisoners, the Philippine Justice Department makes an announcement but sheds no light, and more.

Shops in Vancouver are selling magic mushrooms and other psychedelic delectables despite their being illegal to sell. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

California Supreme Court Rules No Pot for Prisoners. Inmates in the state prison system do not have the right to possess marijuana under Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in the state, the state Supreme Court ruled in a case last week. That decision reverses a 2019 lower court decision that held prisoners could possess marijuana behind bars but could not smoke or otherwise ingest it. "We agree with the Attorney General that if the drafters had intended to so dramatically change the laws regarding cannabis in prison, we would expect them to have been more explicit about their goals," wrote Associate Justice Joshua Groban in the 5-2 opinion. "While perhaps not illogical to distinguish between the possession and use of cannabis, it is nonetheless difficult to understand why the electorate would want to preclude laws criminalizing cannabis possession in prison, but permit laws criminalizing cannabis consumption in prison," he continued.

Ohio Activists Resubmit Marijuana Legalization Petition. An activist group, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has resubmitted a marijuana legalization petition and required signatures after its first effort was rejected las week by Attorney General David Yost (R). "We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing and have fully addressed the issues flagged in this updated filing" coalition spokesman Tom Haren said. If and when the initiative is approved for signature gathering, the group will have to collect 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the proposed law before the legislature. If the legislature rejects it or fails to act on it, it could go before the voters after a second round of signature gathering.

International

Magic Mushroom Shops Sprout in Vancouver. A handful of shops selling magic mushrooms and other psychedelic substances are operating in Vancouver, British Columbia, even though selling magic mushrooms remains illegal in Canada. One such shop, the Coca Leaf Café & Mushroom Dispensary on East Hastings Street, is owned by long-time drug activist Dana Larsen. "We're sitting in a place that is unique in the world. There's nowhere else where you can get the same range of substances and things that we do right here," Larsen said. "Within a few years there’s going to be hundreds of mushroom and psychedelic dispensaries across Canada," Larsen predicted. It's not his first rodeo when it comes to promoting illicit drugs: He ran an illegal pot shop, gave out 5 million pot seeds during the 2016 "Overgrow Canada" campaign, and mailed grams of weed to Liberal politicians. Although he's operating without a license, he's not too worried, he said:  "I'm pretty good at finding that grey area where you can expand things but take a little risk, but maybe not get arrested," he said. "And even if that happened, a judge being like, ‘Yeah, Dana deserves to go to jail for a long time because he's selling people coca tea and a gram or two of psychedelic mushrooms,’ it’s just not going to happen." 

Philippine Justice Department Says It Has Finished Review of 52 Drug War Killing Cases. The Department of Justice panel that examined 52 cases of drug war killings forwarded by the Philippine National Police (PNP) says it has finished report. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was going over the report, but there was no indication if or when the report is going to be made public. The review is part of a Filipino government effort to blunt a potential formal investigation by the International Criminal Court, which has completed a preliminary investigation and awaits a decision by prosecutors on whether to move ahead. But the 52 cases forwarded to the Justice Department represent only a tiny fraction of the more than 6,000 drug war killings for which the PNP took responsibility and an even tinier fraction of the total number of drug war killings, many conducted by shadowy vigilantes, a number human rights groups put at somewhere north of 30,000. For the latest on the horrendous human rights situation in the Philippines, see this recently released report from the Philippine Human Rights Information Center, The Killing State: Duterte's Legacy of Violence.

Medical Marijuana Update

Federal GOP lawmakers find more marijuana windmills to tilt at, North Carolina Cherokees become the first in the state to approve medical marijuana, and more.

National

GOP Lawmakers File Bill to Block Even Medical Marijuana Marijuana Purchases by People Getting Federal Assistance. In the latest iteration of a continuing Republican push in recent legislative sessions to block people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF -- the food stamp program) funds from using them to buy marijuana, Reps. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) filed a bill July 20 that would bar TANF recipients from using their benefit cards for medical marijuana purchases. Similar measures already bar the use of such cards casinos, strip clubs, and liquor stores. But activists say the bill unfairly targets the most vulnerable people and perpetuates marijuana stigmas. "Millions of Americans living with chronic, debilitating conditions rely on cannabis to manage their symptoms and significantly increase their quality of life. For millions of patients, cannabis IS a need,"said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs. "Instead of introducing a bill to ensure that under-resourced individuals, including veterans, have access to cannabis' medical benefits, Representative Tom Rice chooses to exemplify how far reaching the drug war apparatus goes in surveilling and policing under-resourced people." It is woth noting that other Republican congressmembers have supported marijuana reform bills.

Senate Committee Approves Expanded Medical Marijuana Access for Veterans. The Senate Appropriations Committee in late July approved an amendment designed to ease veterans' access to medical marijuana by allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The measure sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) passed on a voice vote. "We have now 36 states that have medical cannabis, and our veterans want to know from their VA doctor what their thoughts are on the pros and cons or appropriate role or challenges of this particular strategy for treating a variety of issues, including PTSD," Merkley said. "I think it’s really important that we not force our veterans to be unable to discuss this issue with their doctors." The measure must still pass the Senate, and the amendment will have to survive a conference committee if it does pass the Senate.

Mississippi

Mississippi Legislature Could Hold Special Session on Medical Marijuana in August. Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White (R-District 48) said July 15 that the legislature could be ready as early as next month to go into a special session to pass a medical marijuana bill. The legislature is acting after the state Supreme Court threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative because of a technical issue the legislature has failed to address for 20 years, essentially invalidating the state's initiative process. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has said he would call a special session only after lawmakers have reached an agreement on a bill in advance. White said both the House and the Senate have been working on the issue, and he believes they would have an agreement by mid-August.

Mississippi Lawmakers "Very, Very Close" to Deal on Medical Marijuana. Senate and House negotiators working on a medical marijuana program to replace the one approved by voters but killed by the state Supreme Court, say they are "very, very close" to having a draft bill that could prompt a special legislative session as early as this month. "I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), who’s leading the Senate’s medical marijuana work. "… We’re very, very close." Gov. Tate Reeves (R), who has the sole authority to call a special session, has said he is willing to do, but not until the House and Senate have reached broad agreement on a proposal.

Nebraska

Nebraska Advocates Planning Multiple Medical Marijuana Initiatives. Medical marijuana advocates organized as Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana are planning several medical marijuana initiatives aimed at the 2020 ballot in a bid to avoid the fate of their 2020 initiative, which was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court because it encompassed more than one subject. The group has already drafted a constitutional amendment that says simply: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes." State Sen. Anna Wishart (D), a member of the group, said the group is considering two more initiatives that would "work in unison" to get medical marijuana legalized. One would require legislators to pass bills protecting physicians who recommend medical marijuana and their patients from criminal liability. The other would require lawmakers to pass bills protecting private companies that produce and supply medical marijuana. Once the proposed initiatives are okayed for signature gathering, activists would need 122,274 valid voter signatures for the constitutional amendment and 85,592 for the statutory initiatives. There is no deadline specified, but signatures have to be handed in at least four months before election day to qualify for the ballot that year.

North Carolina

North Carolina Compassionate Care Act Wins Another Committee Vote. The Senate Finance Committee on July 20 approved Senate Bill 711, the Compassionate Care Act, on a voice vote. Under the bill, patients with specified medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, would be allowed to use medical marijuana. The bill also sets up a system of taxed and regulated medical marijuana production and distribution. The bill now heads to the Senate Health Care Committee before moving toward a floor vote if successful there.

North Carolina Cherokees Become First in State to Approve Medical Marijuana. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who maintain a sovereign nation in western North Carolina known as the Qualla Boundary, have approved the cultivation, distribution, and use of medical marijuana on their reservation lands, becoming the first entity in the state to do so. It is not clear when the tribal medical marijuana program will actually get going, but the tribe envisions a Cannabis Control Board to handle licensing and the issuance of medical marijuana cards. People would be limited to buying one ounce per day, with no more than six ounces in one month.

 

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rules Workers Can Sue Employers for Discrimination Over Medical Marijuana. A three-judge Superior Court panel ruled last Thursday that the state's medical marijuana law allows workers and job applicants to sue employers for discrimination for firing or refusing to hire them because of their medical marijuana use. Although the 2016 Medical Marijuana Act does not explicitly create a private right to sue, the court held that because that law did not grant any state agency the power to enforce anti-discrimination provisions, it implicitly created such a right. The ruling came in the case of Pamela Palmiter, who sought to sue Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton for refusing to hire her after she failed a drug test for marijuana. The Pennsylvania decision is in line with a federal court decision in the state last December, and state and federal courts in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island have also ruled that those state laws allow workers to sue for discrimination.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Governor Signs into Law Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Employment Discrimination. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi has signed into law a bill that protects medical marijuana patients from discrimination in the workplace. The bill amends the territory's existing medical marijuana law to make registered patients members of a protected class under its employment protection laws. Under the expanded law, employers may not discriminate against authorized patients of medical cannabis in the recruitment, hiring, designation, or termination process or when imposing disciplinary actions. There are exceptions, such as when "the use of medical cannabis represents a real threat of harm or danger to others or property" or when "the use of medical cannabis interferes with the employee’s performance and functions."

New Orleans Decriminalizes Weed, PA Appeals Court Rules Workers Can Sue Over MedMJ Discrimination, More... (8/6/21)

Life in the Big Easy just got a little easier, Ohio marijuana legalization activists will have to try again with that ballot summary language, and more.

The Mississippi River at New Orleans, where marijuana has just been decriminalized. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Attorney General Rejects Ballot Language for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A campaign to legalize marijuana in the state will have to begin again after Attorney General Dave Yost (R) rejected the first batch of signatures handed in, saying the initiative petition improperly summarized how the state's law would change. In a letter to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Yost said the summary failed to make the standard of a "fair and truthful statement" of what the initiative would do. Among other things, he said the text failed to explain in detail that employers did not have to employ marijuana users and that the six-plant limit does not clearly explain that it applies to both cultivating and possessing the plant. Now, the Coalition will have to redraft and resubmit summary language and then gather initial signatures again. The campaign aims to prod the legislature to pass or reject marijuana legalization, and if the legislature rejects it, the issue could then go before voters after a second round of signature gathering.

New Orleans Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession, Pardons Old Convictions. The New Orleans City Council on Thursday voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and to pardon some 10,000 past convictions and pending cases. Councilmembers said the move would help the community gain trust with the police and it would allow police to focus on violent crime. Pot smoking in public is still prohibited, but will be ticketed as a smoke-free air act violation instead of a drug charge.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rules Workers Can Sue Employers for Discrimination Over Medical Marijuana. A three-judge Superior Court panel ruled Thursday that the state's medical marijuana law allows workers and job applicants to sue employers for discrimination for firing or refusing to hire them because of their medical marijuana use. Although the 2016 Medical Marijuana Act does not explicitly create a private right to sue, the court held that because that law did not grant any state agency the power to enforce anti-discrimination provisions, it implicitly created such a right. The ruling came in the case of Pamela Palmiter, who sought to sue Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton for refusing to hire her after she failed a drug test for marijuana. The Pennsylvania decision is in line with a federal court decision in the state last December, and state and federal courts in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island have also ruled that those state laws allow workers to sue for discrimination.

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