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Medical Marijuana Update

Things are heating up in Mississippi as Election Day nears, the New Jersey legislature approves a medical marijuana telemedicine bill, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Hearings Coming. The state secretary of state's office will host the first of five public hearings about the medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, Initiative Measure 65, and its legislatively sponsored alternative, Alternative Measure 65A, on Wednesday in Oxford. The hearings will feature presentations from speakers both for and against Initiative Measure No. 65 and Alternative Measure No. 65A. All public hearings will be conducted in accordance with all state guidelines regarding COVID-19.

Medical Groups Urge Mississippi Voters to Reject Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Mississippi State Medical Association and the American Medical Association released a memo this week calling on voters to reject the medical marijuana initiative, saying the ballot is inherently confusing. They also accused petitioners of being driven by a desire for profit.

Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Advocates Submit Language for 2022 Ballot. After the state Supreme Court deprived voters of a chance to choose to legalize medical marijuana this year, the group behind the effort, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, on Monday submitted petition language aimed at getting the issue on the 2022 ballot. Five Supreme Court judges ruled that the 2020 initiative, which had already qualified for the ballot, unconstitutionally dealt with more than one subject. The new language keeps it simple: "Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes," is all it says.

New Jersey

New Jersey Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Telemedicine Bill. The Assembly last Thursday approved A-1635/S-619, which would allow health care practitioners to remotely authorize the use of medical marijuana via telemedicine. The bill had already passed the Senate and now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

AZ Poll Has Legalization Init in Dead Heat, Psychedelic Group Releases Handbook for Organizers, More... (9/29/20)

The battle over medical marijuana in Mississippi is heating up, a proposed 2022 Oklahoma marijuana legalization initiative has to go back to the drawing board, and more.

There's now a field manual for people who want to challenge psychedelic criminalization at the local level. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiative in Dead Heat. A new poll from OH Predictive Insights has the state's voters evenly split on support for the Prop 207 marijuana legalization initiative, with 46% in favor and 45% opposed and 9% undecided. That's down from a 62%-32% lead in the same poll in July. The shift is being driven by older voters, rural residents, Republicans and independents, the pollster said.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Proposed 2022 Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Supreme Court on Monday struck a petition that would have put marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot. The court held that the wording on the petition was misleading and lacked sufficient detail. There is plenty of time to try again, though.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Hearings Coming. The state secretary of state's office will host the first of five public hearings about the medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, Initiative Measure 65, and its legislatively sponsored alternative, Alternative Measure 65A, on Wednesday in Oxford. The hearings will feature presentations from speakers both for and against Initiative Measure No. 65 and Alternative Measure No. 65A. All public hearings will be conducted in accordance with all state guidelines regarding COVID-19.

Medical Groups Urge Mississippi Voters to Reject Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Mississippi State Medical Association and the American Medical Association released a memo this week calling on voters to reject the medical marijuana initiative, saying the ballot is inherently confusing. They also accused petitioners of being driven by a desire for profit.

Psychedelics

National Psychedelics Reform Group Releases Handbook on Enacting Decriminalization Locally. Decriminalize Nature, a national psychedelic reform group, has released guidelines for advocates who want to pursue local policy changes that challenge the criminalization of psychedelics. The group has led successful campaigns to deprioritize natural psychedelics in cities such as Denver, Oakland, and Washington, DC, among others.The organizer's handbook includes fact sheets, press release templates and sample educational emails to send to local lawmakers.

SD Marijuana Poll Has Good News, UC Berkeley to Open Psychedelic Research Center, More... (9/22/20)

A Texas judge has temporarily lifted a ban on smokable hemp, the Ann Arbor city council approves a resolution effectively decriminalizing plant-based psychedelics, and more.

Marijuana legalization and medical marijuana initiatives are polling well. If they can win in South Dakota... (CC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Opposition Group's Polling Shows Voter Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiatives. A poll commissioned by a group opposing the state's marijuana legalization initiative, Constitutional Amendment A, and medical marijuana initiative, Initiated Measure 26, finds both leading by a sizeable margin. The survey found that 70% supported the medical marijuana initiative and 60% supported the legalization initiative.

Hemp

Texas Judge Lifts Ban on Smokable Hemp Until 2021. A Texas judge has granted a temporary injunction barring the state from enforcing a ban on smokable hemp products until a challenge from the industry can be heard on court. The ban was written into legislation legalizing hemp in the state, but four hemp producers challenged it in court. Last week, Travis County Judge Lora Livingston found that the plaintiffs "have demonstrated a probable right to relief," Livingston granted the injunction, which will be in effect until the issue is litigated in February.

Psychedelics

New Psychedelics Research and Education Center Launched at UC Berkeley As Reform Movement Grows. The University of California at Berkeley will launch a new center dedicated to psychedelics research and education, the school announced Monday. Researchers will study psychedelics to "investigate cognition, perception and emotion and their biological bases in the human brain," according to a press release. At the same time, the new entity will be putting resources toward informing the public about "this rapidly advancing field of research." Johns Hopkins University opened a similar center last year.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, City Council Approves Psychedelic Decriminalization Resolution. The city council voted Monday night to approve a resolution effectively decriminalizing plant-based psychedelics (or entheogens). The resolution passed unanimously.

New Coalition Unveils Plan to Legalize Interstate Marijuana Commerce, Colombia Cocaine Regulation Bill, More... (9/21/20)

People with small-time marijuana possession convictions in New York state can now move to get them expunged, Secretary of State Pompeo promises more anti-drug aid for Colombia, and more.

Cocaine is driving US policy toward Colombia, and the illicit trade is sparking violence and calls for reform. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

New Marijuana Coalition Unveils Plan to Legalize Interstate Marijuana Commerce. A group of advocacy groups and marijuana businesses calling itself the Alliance for Sensible Markets has rolled out a plan to allow marijuana commerce between states that have legalized it even while federal prohibition remains. The alliance will urge governors of legal and hopefully soon-to-be legal states to create an interstate compact to establish a framework for cannabis to be transported and marketed across state lines. If at least two governors agree, the compact would then go to Congress for approval.

New York Courts Ready to Begin Expunging Marijuana Convictions. In line with a law passed last year, the state's court system is now ready to begin expunging low-level marijuana convictions for people previously charged and convicted of specific possession offenses. Under the process, individuals must fill out an application with the court where they were convicted. From there, the applications are then sent to the Division of Criminal Justice Services and applicable law enforcement agencies, who will destroy the already expunged records. For an application with instructions click here.

Foreign Policy

Secretary of State Pompeo Promises More Anti-Drug Aid for Colombia. During his tour of Latin America, US Secretary of Sate Mike Pompeo on Saturday pledged to Colombian President Ivan Duque continued assistance to help fight drug trafficking. The country is under strong pressure from the Trump administration to reduce the size of its coca crop. Pompeo also praised Duque for his stance against Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, who the US does not recognize.

International

Colombia Legislature to take Up Coca, Cocaine Regulation Bill Next Month. A bill from a coalition of leftist legislators that would have the national government take control of the drug market by purchasing coca leaf from farmers and regulating cocaine sales will be debated next month. It faces long odds, but the bill's backers say it could reduce the waste of public funds, help protect the environment and led to a better public health approach to drug consumption. They also argue that it would lead to a reduction in violence, which persists despite the 2016 peace treaty with the FARC as other guerrilla groups, FARC dissidents, paramilitaries, drug traffickers, police and the military fight either to control or repress the trade.

Seven Killed in Latest Colombia Massacre. At least seven people died after they were gunned down at a cock fight in the municipality of Buenos Aires in Cauca province, where various armed groups are fighting over control of territory abandoned by the FARC after the 2016 peace deal. This is the ninth mass killing in Cauca this year and the 60th in the country. Cauca has been the scene of some of the worst violence in the fight over control of the coca and cocaine trade.

NE Supreme Court Throws Out MedMJ Init, Bipartisan Federal Bail Reform for Drugs Bill, More... (9/11/20)

The Nebraska Supreme Court blocks the state from voting on a medical marijuana initiative, both houses of the Virginia legislature pass marijuana expungement bills, and more.

A new federal bill would ease bail requirements for drug offenses. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legislature Passes Marijuana Expungement Bills. Both the state Senate and the House approved bills this week that would allow people with prior marijuana convictions to clear their records. The House passed its bill, HB 5146, Wednesday; the Senate followed suit with SB 5043 Thursday. The House bill has now been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now, the two chambers have to negotiate their differences to get an expungement bill to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Supreme Court Invalidates Proposed 2020 Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state's highest court ruled Friday that the medical marijuana initiative set to go before voters in November will not appear on the ballot because its language violates the state's single subject rule. The 5-2 ruling came in a case from a county sheriff and reversed a ruling from the secretary of state that rejected that argument. The court held that: "As proposed, the NMCCA contains more than one subject -- by our count, it contains at least eight subjects. In addition to enshrining in our constitution a right of certain persons to produce and medicinally use cannabis under subsections (1) and (2), in subsections (3) and (4), the NMCCA would enshrine a right and immunity for entities to grow and sell cannabis; and in subsections (6), (7), and (8), it would regulate the role of cannabis in at least six areas of public life. These secondary purposes are not naturally and necessarily connected to the NMCCA's primary purpose. As such, they constitute logrolling… The decision of the Secretary of State is reversed. We issue a writ of mandamus directing him to withhold the NMCCA from the November 2020 general election ballot."

Criminal Justice

Bipartisan Trio of Senators File Bill to Stop Feds from Throwing Drug Defendants in Jail Before They're Convicted. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced a bill that could potentially keep people charged with federal drug crimes out of unnecessary pretrial detention. The Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act of 2020 would change federal bail policies that currently presume people facing drug sentences of 10 years or more will be detained before trial. Under this bill, people facing such charges would no longer be treated with the presumption that they would be denied bail. Bail could still be denied, though, in the case of flight risk or danger to the community. The bill has the support of criminal justice reform groups across the political spectrum. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Innocence Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance all support it, as do Americans for Prosperity, Justice Action Network, Americans for Tax Reform (federal pretrial detention costs taxpayers $18,615 per defendant), and FreedomWorks.

Federal MJ Research Bill Wins Committee Vote, MA Report on Racial Sentencing Disparities, More... (9/10/20)

The federal Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019 is heading for the House floor, New Jersey Republican party leaders come out hard against marijuana legalization, and more.

A marijuana research bill heads for a House floor vote after winning a committee vote Wednesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Key House Committee Advances Marijuana Research Bill. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday voted unanimously by voice vote to advance HR 3797, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019. The bill would "amend the Controlled Substances Act to make marijuana accessible for use by qualified marijuana researchers for medical purposes, and for other purposes." The bill would remove all limits on the number of research entities that could be federally approved to grow or distribute marijuana and require the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress within five years on a review of marijuana research and whether it should be rescheduled. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

New Jersey Republicans Formally Oppose Marijuana Legalization Initiative. GOP leaders from all 21 counties in the state unanimously backed a resolution Thursday opposing the legislatively sponsored marijuana legalization referendum that will appear on the November ballot. The Republican County Chairmen's Association called on its on their supporters to vote it down. "Pro-pot legislators may not care about the damage that legal pot will do to our children, families, schools and neighborhoods, but as an organization deeply dedicated to promoting a healthy and safe New Jersey, my chairmen colleagues and I felt obligated to speak out against the ballot question," Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango said.

Drug Policy

New Report Highlights Racial Disparity in Massachusetts Drug and Weapons Charges. Researchers at Harvard Law School released a report Wednesday that finds Black and Latino defendants are more likely than White ones to be imprisoned for drugs and weapons crimes and more likely to get longer sentences than White ones. The study was sought by the chief justice of the state's highest court, and found that racial disparities in sentencing length are largely because Black and Latino tend to be initially charged more harshly for crimes that "carry longstanding racialized stigmas." The disparities remain even "after controlling for charge severity and additional factors," according to the report from the law school's Criminal Justice Policy Program.

Drug Testing

Supreme Court of Ohio Gives Employers the Green Light to Drug Test At-Will Employees Under Direct Observation When the Employees Give Broad Consent. The state's highest court has ruled that if an employer has a substance abuse policy that requires workers to undergo random suspicionless drug testing and workers sign a consent form allowing "any testing necessary," they implicitly agreed to allow "direct observation" testing and have no privacy claim. "Direct observation" testing mean having someone watch workers as they provide a urine sample to be tested.

MN Forfeiture Report Released, PA GOP Continues to Block Marijuana Legalization, More... (9/4/20)

The Nebraska Supreme Court hears a challenge to the state's medical marijuana initiative, Minnesota releases an audit of asset forfeiture practices in the state, and more.

An audit of asset forfeiture practices in Minnesota finds it hurts poor people more than it helps law enforcement. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Republicans Block Governor's Call for Marijuana Legalization. A day after Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called on the legislature to pass marijuana legalization to help the state budget, legislative Republicans are still blocking any progress. "There is just not the support in the caucus for legalizing marijuana right now," Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) said Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Supreme Court Hears Lawsuit Seeking to Block Medical Marijuana Initiative. The state Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday from both sides on the constitutionality of a medical marijuana initiative that has already qualified for the ballot. The initiative is being challenged by Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, even though it has already passed constitutional muster by state officials. The court has until September 11th to rule on this ballot measure and decide whether Nebraska voters will get to decide on medical marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

Minnesota Audit Criticizes Asset Forfeiture Practices. State Auditor Julie Blaha released an annual report on asset forfeiture practices on Wednesday, and highlighted the fact that most seizures are from low income people and hurts them more than they help law enforcement. "The data shows that when it comes to the impact of forfeitures, the big story is in the small numbers," Blaha said in a statement. "Those kinds of amounts have a small impact on government systems, but they have a big impact at the individual level. If you are managing a public safety budget, small forfeitures are a minor and unpredictable part of your revenue stream," Blaha continued. "But if you are a low-income person experiencing a forfeiture, those amounts can have a big effect on your life. Having a few hundred dollars seized can mean the difference between making rent or homelessness. Losing that old car can lead to missing work and losing your job."

MA MJ Industry Unionization Battles, Bolivian Coca Growers Mobilize, More... (8/12/20)

A former crime-fighting prosecutor and attorney general who now wants to legalize marijuana is Joe Biden's vice-presidential pick, a Wyoming judge frees some hemp farmers from a spurious prosecution, and more.

Joe Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the sponsor of a marijuana legalization bill, as his vice-presidential pick.
Marijuana Policy

Joe Biden Selects MORE Act Sponsor Kamala Harris for VP. Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his vice-presidential pick. For drug reformers, Harris's record as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general is a mixed one, but she is currently sponsoring a federal marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (S.2227). The Senate version of the bill hasn't moved, but the House version, HR 3384) made history last year by passing out of the House Judiciary Committee, the first time a legalization bill won a vote in Congress.

Massachusetts Marijuana Cultivation Workers Unionize. Workers at Cultivate Holdings in Leicester voted by an "overwhelming majority" to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1445, the latest victory for organized labor in the industry. In July, workers at Mayflower Medicinals in Holliston voted to join the UFCW. But the union isn't winning every vote; recently, workers at New England Treatment Access voted down unionization. The UFCW accused management of "anti-union tactics" in that case.

Hemp

Wyoming Judge Throws Out Drug Trafficking Charges Against Hemp Farmers. Late last week, a Laramie County judge threw out drug trafficking charges brought against a pair of hemp advocates and farmers and two of their workers after the Division of Criminal Investigation raided their farm last November. Prosecutors sought to bring marijuana manufacture, delivery, possession, and cultivation charges against all four, but the judge ruled that the farmers had intended to produce hemp, not marijuana. Under Wyoming law, hemp has to have less than 0.3% THC. This crop contained less.

International

Bolivian Coca Growers Mobilize, Blockade Roads in Rising Protests Against Delayed Elections

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

DC Natural Psychedelic Initiative Qualifies, DPA Federal Drug Decrim Push, More... (8/10/20)

Residents in the nation's capital will vote on whether to effectively decriminalize natural psychedelics, the Arizona pot legalization initiative survives a legal challenge, the Drug Policy Alliance pushes for federal drug decriminalization, and more.

Decriminalize Nature DC street signs
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fends Off Legal Challenge. The Smart and Safe Arizona marijuana legalization initiative has survived a legal challenge from foes. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled late Friday that the measure's summary did not mislead voters and the measure can be on the ballot. "At 100 words, the summary also cannot include everything," he wrote. "That is why the full initiative must accompany the petition. This initiative is plain: It wants to legalize recreational marijuana," the judge wrote. "That is the principal provision. It is unlikely electors signing these petitions would be surprised by cascading effects of legalizing a formerly illegal substance."

Drug Policy

Drug Policy Alliance Proposes Federal All-Drug Decriminalization, Releases New Legislative Framework. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a new federal legislative proposal Dismantling the Federal Drug War: A Comprehensive Drug Decriminalization Framework, which provides a roadmap to effectively end the criminalization of people who use drugs and begin repairing the harm drug law enforcement has caused to communities of color. The DPA model decriminalization legislation -- the Drug Policy Reform Act -- takes the first steps in dismantling the punitive apparatus built up over the past 50 years. To begin refocusing federal drug policies, the legislation shifts the authority for classifying and regulating controlled substances from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The legislation eliminates criminal penalties for all possession of personal-use quantities of controlled substances, and shifts federal resources away from futile enforcement strategies to supportive initiatives to protect the public health and safety.

Methamphetamine

Senators Feinstein and Grassley File Methamphetamine Response Act. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) last Thursday introduced the Methamphetamine Response Act, a bill declaring methamphetamine an emerging drug threat which would require the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop, implement and make public a national plan to prevent methamphetamine addiction and overdoses from becoming a crisis.

Psychedelics

Washington, DC, Natural Psychedelics Initiative Qualifies for the Ballot. The DC Board of Elections announced last Wednesday that Initiative 81, the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, has qualified for the November ballot. The act would effectively decriminalize the use and possession of natural psychedelics by making the enforcement of laws against them the lowest priority.

International

World Anti-Doping Association to Shorten Punishments for Recreational Drug Offenses. Beginning next January, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will no longer issue long suspensions for athletes testing positive for recreational drugs out of competition. Instead of being banned for two years, the athletes will now be banned for one to three months. "If the athlete can establish that any ingestion or use occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, then the period of ineligibility shall be three months," WADA's new code says. "In addition, the period of ineligibility calculated... may be reduced to one month if the athlete or other person satisfactorily completes a substance of abuse treatment program approved by the Anti-Doping Organization."

British Tory Drug Reform Group Calls for Rescheduling Psilocybin. The Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) has published a new report with the Adam Smith Institute outlining the potential medical benefits of psilocybin and urging the UK Home Office to reschedule the compound for research purposes. The not-for-profit group also urges the Home Office to reduce regulatory restrictions on the compound to allow for research into its medical efficacy. The report is Medicinal use of psilocybin: Reducing restrictions on research and treatment.

Colombia's Former President Uribe Placed on House Arrest During Investigation of Ties to Drug Cartels, Paramilitary Groups. Last Thursday, President Ivan Duque announced that former President Alvaro Uribe will be held in custody as the Supreme Court investigates allegations of witness tampering. Uribe, president of Colombia from 2002 to 2010, has long been accused of criminal activities, including having ties to drug cartels and paramilitary groups. He is currently accused of being a founding member of a rightist paramilitary group involved in the decades-long conflict between the government and leftist rebels.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

House to Vote on Protecting All State-Legal Marijuana Programs, Bolivia Coca Cultivation Up, More... (7/29/20)

An amendment to block the Justice Department from using its funds to go after state-legal marijuana programs is headed for a House vote, Maryland's Supreme Court rules that the smell of weed isn't enough for a police search and arrest, and more.

Maryland Supreme Court rules smell of weed not sufficient for arrest or search. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Will Vote on Protecting All State Marijuana Programs This Week. The House is prepared to vote this week on an amendment from Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would protect both medical and recreational marijuana programs in the states, territories, and tribal lands. The amendment would bar the Justice Department from using its funds to impede the implementation of state-legal marijuana programs.

Maryland Supreme Court Rules Smell of Marijuana Alone Not Sufficient for Police Search and Arrest. The state's high court has ruled that police may not search or arrest people based on the smell of marijuana alone. "The odor of marijuana, without more, does not provide law enforcement officers with the requisite probable cause to arrest and perform a warrantless search of that person incident to the arrest," the court held in a unanimous ruling. The decision builds on an earlier ruling by the same court that police can't arrest and search someone based on observing amounts of marijuana smaller than 10 grams.

International

Bolivia Coca Cultivation Up Last Year, UNODC Says. Coca cultivation was up 10% over 2018 last year, according to the latest Coca Cultivation Monitoring Report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Yungas region of La Paz accounted for nearly two-thirds of cultivation, while the Tropics of Cochabamba accounted for nearly all the rest. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government reported a roughly 20% decrease in eradication.

British Columbia Bill to Require Youth Overdose Victims to Be Detained Put on Hold. Canada's British Columbia has paused movement on a bill that would allow for people under age 19 to be detained after they suffer a drug overdose. The proposed changes in the provincial Mental Health Act would allow teens to be detained in a hospital for up to a week after an overdose, but the bill has been paused in the face of opposition from children and youth advocates and drug reform activists. They say it should be withdrawn completely.

Drug War Issues

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