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Colorado Voters Can Embrace Psychedelic Reform in November [FEATURE]

Beginning with the successful 2019 Denver municipal initiative that made possession of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority, Colorado has been on the cutting edge of the psychedelic reform movement. This November, the state is poised to maintain that vanguard status by decriminalizing some psychedelics—the natural ones.

That is because Natural Health Colorado has managed to get the Natural Medicine Health Act (Initiative 58) on the ballot. The measure has three main planks:

  1. It would decriminalize the personal use, possession, and cultivation by people 21 and over of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline (not derived from peyote), psilocybin, and psilocyn, as well as providing for the sealing of conviction records of people who have completed sentences for the use or possession of those substances. The measure sets no personal possession limits.
  2. It would create a "natural medicine services" program for the therapeutic administration of the specified psychedelics and create a rubric for regulated growth, distribution, and sales of those substances to entities within the program. Only psilocybin and psilocyin would be okayed for therapeutic use until 2026. Then regulators could decide on whether to allow the therapeutic use of DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline.
  3.  It would create the Natural Medicine Advisory Board to create rules and regulations for implementing the therapeutic access program. The board could also make recommendations to the Department of Regulatory Agencies on adding additional substances.

Psilocybin and other natural psychedelics could be decriminalized and a therapeutic regime created. (Pixabay)
With the help of more than $2.7 million in funding from the New Approach PAC, which has bankrolled numerous drug reform initiatives across the country, Natural Health Colorado zipped through signature-gathering in a quick three months and qualified for the ballot back in June.

A competing initiative campaign from Decriminalize Nature Colorado, which would have only decriminalized entheogens and not created a therapeutic program, failed to qualify for the ballot. Members of that group have since become some of the most outspoken critics of Initiative 58.

"I do not personally align with I-58 and the heavy out-of-state influence calling the shots in Colorado," said Melanie Rose Rodgers, co-proponent of the Decriminalize Nature initiative. "What happened with cannabis is happening with mushrooms. Folks from marginalized communities, People of Color are being left out– once again. With all the inequality and rolling back of freedoms that exist today, let us not create new industries that will cater and serve the rich and wealthy while opening the floodgates for anyone able to buy Colorado 'healing center' licenses. I am opposed to the corporate takeover of sacred earth medicines and psychedelics written in I-58. "

But Natural Health Colorado and its backers beg to differ, and they are emphasizing the therapeutic aspects of the measure.

"This initiative would give Coloradans access to a new, promising, and research-based treatment option for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, in a safe, careful, and beneficial way," said Kevin Matthews, an initiative spokesman who led the Denver psilocybin campaign. "These medicines can be transformative for people who have suffered for years and struggled to find help," he said.

"The Natural Medicine Health Act puts the well-being of patients and communities first," said Josh Kappel, chair of the Natural Medicine Colorado campaign. "It was purposefully designed, with a multi-phase implementation process that sets clear safety rules, while allowing the details of the regulatory structure to be developed by the community and regulators working together."

"Our goal is to make the healing benefits of these natural medicines available to people they can help, including veterans with PTSD, survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, people with treatment-resistant depression, and others for whom our typical mental-health treatments just aren’t working," said Ben Unger, psychedelic program director for New Approach PAC.

The initiative is also being endorsed by David Bronner, CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) of Dr. Bronner's soaps. "I see what [Initiative 61] does as one seamless policy: making natural medicines—psychedelic plant and fungal medicines containing psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine or mescaline (excepting peyote)—available to all adult Coloradans in two powerful healing modalities: via a regulated access model in a therapeutic context; and the self-regulating community healing model in a decriminalized context," Bronner said.

Whether Initiative 61 can pass in November remains to be seen. Natural Health Colorado has said he has no internal polling for this year, but a poll last year had support for legalizing psilocybin at 50 percent. While the poll question was not an exact match with what the initiative offers, it is close, and the level of support suggests that the contest itself could be close. A rule of thumb among initiative campaigns is that they like to be at 60 percent when the final stretch commences, as it now has.  

Medical Marijuana Update

California medical marijuana patients get more protections, so do District of Columbia city employees, and more.

California

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Healthcare Discrimination. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 1954, barring doctors from discriminating against patients based on a positive test for THC if the patient is a registered medical marijuana user. The bill adds that healthcare professionals cannot be punished for treating a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law. He also signed into law Senate Bill 988, which amends an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that "health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements."

Nebraska

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt by Medical Marijuana Campaign to Block Nebraska Ballot Process. As medical marijuana campaigners ran into problems with signature gathering earlier this summer, they sued, arguing that the state's requirement that initiative campaigns not only reach a certain statew0ide signature threshold but also get signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties violated free speech and equal protection rights. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU prevailed in district court in June, winning a temporary injunction suspending the 5 percent requirement. But state officials appealed, and the US 8th Circuit quickly put a hold on the judge's order pending an appeals court ruling. That ruling came Wednesday, when a split panel of the court ruled for the state. "The district court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” Judges Raymond Gruender and David Stras ruled. Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that "if the right to vote is fundamental, I see no reason why it should not apply equally to the initiative process at the heart of Nebraska’s electoral and legislative system." The campaign and the ACLU said the effort would continue and that they may seek a ruling from the full 8th Circuit.

Washington, DC

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Poll Finds SAFE Banking Act Has Broad Support, DEA Fentanyl Scaremongering, More... (9/7/22)

Missouri's Republican governor rejects a call to include marijuana legalization in an upcoming special session, a DC court reverses the firing of a medical marijuana-using employee accused of being high on the job, and more.

"Rainbow" fentanyl--not aimed at kids, experts say. (Multnomah County Sheriff)
Marijuana Policy

Survey: Most Voters Support Federal Banking Reforms for Licensed Marijuana Retailers. The overwhelming majority of voters believe that federal law should be amended so that state-licensed marijuana businesses can readily utilize banks and other financial services, according to national survey data compiled by Morning Consult and commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Consistent with prior survey data, 65 percent of respondents “support allowing cannabis-related businesses to have access to banking services in states where cannabis is legal.” Moreover, 63 percent of voters agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system will help improve public safety, and 58 percent say that it is “important” that members of the U.S. Senate vote to establish a safe harbor for licensed cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act (HR 1996), which would do just that, has repeatedly passed in the House only to be blocked in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and his allies, who are holding out for passage of a full-fledged marijuana legalization bill.

Missouri Governor Will Not Include Marijuana Legalization in Special Session. Efforts to do a legislative end run around a pending marijuana legalization constitutional amendment (Amendment 3) have come to naught after Gov. Mike Parson's office said Tuesday that he will not expand the scope of his upcoming legislative special session to consider legalizing marijuana. "The call will not be amended to include marijuana legalization," Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said. Lawmakers hoping to blunt momentum for the measure had called on the governor to include marijuana legalization, but even though Parsons has called Amendment 3 "a disaster," he demurred.

Medical Marijuana

DC Court Reverses Firing of Government Worker Who Tested Positive for Marijuana. An administrative court in the DC Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) has reversed the firing of medical marijuana patient and city government employee who was accused of being high on the job and later tested positive for marijuana. The employee argued that the city's communications office falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly. She pointed out that her eyes were red because she had spent the previous night at a hospital sitting beside a relative who had overdosed. She also presented a valid medical marijuana patient card. The court held that the communications office was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs. The judge noted that supervisors allowed her to continue working after they accused her of being impaired: "Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted," the judge wrote in the ruling. 

Opioids and Opiates

DEA Warning that Colored Fentanyl Pills Are Aimed at Kids is Nonsense, Experts Say. On August 30, the DEA warned the public about fentanyl in colorful pills being sold by "drug cartels" to "made to look like candy to children and young  people," calling it "Rainbow fentanyl" and charging that it is "a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults." But drug policy experts said such statements were misleading—and used harsh terms in doing so.

The charge is "typical drug war bullshit," said Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. DEA's framing "was so divorced from any reality of what drug markets are actually like, it was almost laughable that our country's top drug enforcement folks are so out of touch.We've been talking about colored dope for years. This is like completely nothing new."

Claire Zagorski, a licensed paramedic, program coordinator and harm reduction instructor for the PhARM Program at The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, described the DEA announcement as "old recycled drug propaganda" that echoes the perennial myth of dope-laced Halloween candy. "Why would someone give away their expensive drugs to some random person they don't know, just so they might have a bad experience? It doesn't make sense," Zagorski told Salon. "At the end of the day, drug sellers are business people, and they're not going to invest in some kind of change to their supply if they don't think there's some good return on it … Kids don't have a lot of money that their parents don't supervise or give to them. So it just doesn't make sense from a business standpoint."

Iran Drug Executions Surge, Trump Baselessly Accuses Fetterman of Abusing Hard Drugs, More... (9/6/22)

Marijuana legalization initiatives in Arkansas and Missouri face challenges, California's governor signs a pair of medical marijuana bills, and more.

The ex-president baselessly accused Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of abusing hard drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Tells State Supreme Court It Should Be on Ballot and Votes Counted. Responding to the State Board of Election Commissioners' decision to keep a marijuana legalization initiative off the November ballot because the measure's ballot title does not set a limit on THC in marijuana products, the initiative's backers, Responsible Growth Arkansas, told the state Supreme Court last Friday that it not only met but exceeded state requirements about informing voters about the subject of the initiative. After the commissioners initially blocked the measure, Responsible Growth Arkansas won a preliminary injunction keeping it on the ballot until the high court makes a final ruling, but the court also ruled that votes for and against the initiative would not be counted if it rules against the measure.

Missouri Lawmakers, Activists Urge Governor to Add Marijuana Legalization to Special Session, Urge Defeat of Initiative. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists called on Gov. Mike Parsons (R) to add marijuana legalization to the agenda of a legislative special session. They also announced the launch of a campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment (Amendment 3) already approved for the November ballot. "Rather than settle for an ill-suited and monopolistic program shoehorned into our (state) constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free market fashion," said state Rep. Tony Lovasco (R-O'Fallon). Some activists are unhappy with how the initiative would allow the state to continue to cap licenses to grow or sell marijuana and would give current medical marijuana businesses the first shot on the more lucrative recreational licenses. The special session begins next week.

Medical Marijuana

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Marijuana Patients from Healthcare Discrimination. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 1954, barring doctors from discriminating against patients based on a positive test for THC if the patient is a registered medical marijuana user. The bill adds that healthcare professionals cannot be punished for treating a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law. He also signed into law Senate Bill 988, which amends an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that "health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements."

Drug Policy

Donald Trump Baselessly Accuses Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Candidate of Abusing Hard Drugs. In a "Save America Rally" in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Saturday night, former President Donald Trump accused Democratic senatorial nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of abusing hard drugs without presenting any evidence that backed his claim. "Fetterman supports taxpayer-funded drug dens and the complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and ultra-lethal fentanyl," Trump said. "By the way, he takes them himself." Fetterman's campaign responded with a statement that said in part, "more and more lies from Trump and Dr. Oz, another day, but it's the same crap from these two desperate and sad dudes." Fetterman supports marijuana legalization and has spoken in favor of drug decriminalization, as well as safe injection sites, which is what Trump was referring to when he mentioned "taxpayer-funded drug dens," but there is no evidence he is a hard drug user. He is running against Dr. Mehmet Oz, whom Trump was stumping for. 

International

Iran Drug Executions Are on the Rise Again. Human rights groups say that drug executions are on the rise in Iran. Prior to 2017, Iran executed hundreds of drug offenders each year, but that toll dropped dramatically after the Islamic Republic amended its anti-drug law that year. Thirty persons or fewer were executed for drug offenses in 2018, 2019, and 2020, but that number jumped to 126 last year and had already hit 91 so far this year. Iranian human rights groups say the rise in drug executions is part of a broader spike in executions that "represents a rapid escalation in state-sponsored violence, occurring within a context of raising political unrest in the nation."

(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 Foundationtakes 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.)

PA Pot Pardon Program Unveiled, New York City Rally for Safe Injection Sites Statewide, More... (9/2/22)

New York City's child welfare agency is still holding marijuana use against parents--especially black ones--San Francisco's new DA is approaching misdemeanor drug prosecutions much like the old one she accused of being "soft on crime," and more. 

San Francisco's Tenderloin is a drug hot spot. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Child Welfare Agency Still Citing Marijuana in Family Separations Despite Legalization and Policy Changes. Marijuana legalization went into effect in New York in March 2021, but court records and interviews with people involved show that the city's child welfare agency continues to use marijuana use by parents to take their children from them. Many interviewees were parents who said "it has felt impossible to extricate themselves from deeply rooted biases in the child welfare system surrounding marijuana use, specifically toward people of color." City child welfare authorities cite parental marijuana use to justify initial separations and prolong family separations by demanding drug testing or participation in drug treatment programs. All of the parents interviewed were black and all of them said marijuana was used against them because of their race. Child welfare said official policy is not to remove children solely on the basis of parental marijuana use, but families and attorneys say the agency does not follow the policy, pointing to petitions in which the only evidence of neglect cited was parental marijuana use.

Pennsylvania Announces Month-Long Pardon Project for People with Small-Time Marijuana Convictions. Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for US Senate in the state, who is running on a platform of marijuana legalization, announced a one-time, large-scale project to pardon people with past minor and non-violent marijuana convictions. The state Board of Pardons will accept applications for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project from Thursday, Sept. 1, through Friday, Sept. 30.  People who were convicted of simple marijuana possession or possession of marijuana for personal use are eligible for the pardons if they have no other criminal convictions. Those who do have additional convictions are invited to apply for clemency. The state estimates that "thousands" of people will qualify for the program.

Harm Reduction

New York City Harm Reductionists Take to Streets on International Overdose Awareness Day to Demand Safe Injection Sites Statewide. At least nine people were arrested outside Gov. Kathy Hochul's Manhattan office Wednesday as hundreds of people rallied to advocate for an expansion of safe injection sites statewide as they marked International Overdose Awareness Day. Two safe injection sites operate in New York City, but none in the rest of the state. Protestors changed "no more drug war" and blocked traffic, leading to the nine arrests. "It’s exhausting to keep experiencing loss after loss after loss, and to keep fighting without a proper response to this epidemic from politicians, said Alicia Singham Goodwin, drug policy campaign coordinator at VOCAL-NY, which helped organize the action. There were also actions to mark the day in Boston, New Hampshire, and California, where a coalition of more than 50 harm reduction groups rallied across the state and criticized Gov. Gain Newsom (D), who just a week ago vetoed a safe injection site pilot project bill. "Governor Newsom not only used his pen to cosign our participants to death, he did so while blaming his choice on our harm reduction infrastructure," said Soma Snakeoil, executive director of Sidewalk Project.

Law Enforcement

San Francisco's New DA Prosecuting Few Misdemeanor Drug Cases. After city voters ousted former DA Chesa Boudin for being "soft on crime," they expected a crackdown from his successor, Brooke Jenkins. But while police have brought three times as many drug cases to her office than in Boudin's time, about two-thirds of them are not being prosecuted. When it comes to misdemeanor offenses such as simple drug or paraphernalia possession, 99 percent of those cases are being dismissed, sent to another law enforcement agency, or recommended for probation or parole revocation. Jenkins spearheaded the recall effort against Boudin, but she looks to be just as "soft on crime" as Boudin was.

(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 Foundationtakes 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.)

MI Police Admit Pot Driving Drug Tests Are No Good, CA Pot Bills Go to Governor, More... (9/1/22)

Indonesia has more than 200 people on death row for drug offenses, an effort by a Nebraskas medical marijuana campaign to block part of the state's signature-gathering requirements is rejected by an appeals court, and more

Michigan State Police alerted prosecutors that their drug tests for THC instead alerted for CBD. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Has a Pile of Marijuana Bills on His Desk. Lawmakers were busy as the legislative session came to an end Wednesday, sending another batch of marijuana-related bills to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Now, there are more than a dozen bills awaiting his signature. One would bar localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries, another provides employment protection for off duty marijuana-using workers, another streamlines record-sealing procedures for past marijuana offenses, another would allow the state to set up interstate cannabis commerce, another would authorize medical marijuana for pets, another would protect the rights of marijuana-using parents, another would allow for insurance coverage for marijuana businesses, another changes the state's cannabis tax policy, another would bar doctors from discriminating against registered patients for a positive THC test, another amends the state law requiring medical facilities to accommodate medical marijuana use, another would allow cannabis beverages to be packaged in clear containers, another would add advertising and labeling requirements for vape products, another would bar marijuana regulators from denying temporary event license applications solely because the licensee also has a liquor license, and, last but not least, one would require reporting on marijuana tax revenues distributed to a youth education and prevention program.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt by Medical Marijuana Campaign to Block Nebraska Ballot Process. As medical marijuana campaigners ran into problems with signature gathering earlier this summer, they sued, arguing that the state's requirement that initiative campaigns not only reach a certain statew0ide signature threshold but also get signatures from at least 5 percent of voters in at least 38 of the state's 93 counties violated free speech and equal protection rights. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana and the ACLU prevailed in district court in June, winning a temporary injunction suspending the 5 percent requirement. But state officials appealed, and the US 8th Circuit quickly put a hold on the judge's order pending an appeals court ruling. That ruling came Wednesday, when a split panel of the court ruled for the state. "The district court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” Judges Raymond Gruender and David Stras ruled. Judge Jane Kelly disagreed, writing that "if the right to vote is fundamental, I see no reason why it should not apply equally to the initiative process at the heart of Nebraska’s electoral and legislative system." The campaign and the ACLU said the effort would continue and that they may seek a ruling from the full 8th Circuit.

Drug Testing

Michigan State Police Say Tests for THC in Drivers Actually Showed CBD; Thousands of Cases Could Be Impacted. State police notified prosecutors late last month that drug tests designed to detect THC in the blood of drivers instead alerted to the presence of non-psychoactive CBD and that they have now halted the blood toxicology testing program. "After further review, we now believe this discrepancy may impact cases that occurred on or after March 28, 2019, where the alleged violation is based on the finding of THC alone and there is insufficient evidence of impairment, intoxication, or recent use of marijuana to otherwise support the charged offense," state police said Wednesday. "Laboratory data indicates there are approximately 3,250 laboratory reports that may be impacted," state police said. "These are reports in which there was a THC-confirmed result without other drugs present or alcohol detected above the 0.08% blood-alcohol content legal threshold." March 28, 2019, is when CBD became legal in the state.

International

Indonesia Has More Than 200 People on Death Row for Drug Offenses. There are 404 death row inmates in the island archipelago, and more than half of them are there for drug offenses. It has already executed another 80 drug offenders since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic out of 94 executions overall. Those executed include seven foreign nationals. The resort to the death penalty comes even as the country has since 2009 softened its drug laws, allowing judges to impose rehabilitation instead of prison for drug users and health authorities established guidelines for rehabilitation and treating drug use. 

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United States

These Six States Could Legalize Marijuana on Election Day [FEATURE]

It is just a little over two months until Election Day, and the picture around marijuana legalization in the states is becoming clear. Six states—Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota—have seen initiative campaigns came up with sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, and if all of them succeed, that would bring the number of states where marijuana is legal to 25—half the states in the country.

But a couple of those states should come with asterisks: The Arkansas initiative will be voted on, but the votes may not count as the state Supreme Court weighs whether to uphold the state election commission's decision not to certify the ballot title and popular names on the grounds that they are "misleading." And the Oklahoma initiative may be pushed back to a later special election or the next general election after delays in signature counting by a state contractor left it unable to be certified by the official deadline for the November ballot. The state Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow the initiative onto the ballot.

The Missouri initiative is also facing a legal challenge from prohibitionists, but that initiative is still on the ballot at this point, so no asterisk here.

Those caveats aside, here is a rundown of the legalization initiatives in the six states that could free the weed in November:

Arkansas

The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment from Responsible Growth Arkansas would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over and create a system of licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail sales. It would also allow existing medical marijuana infrastructure (dispensaries, grow operations, etc.) to be integrated into the new adult use market. The Arkansas Beverage Control Board would be the regulatory agency.

Retail sales would face normal sales taxes plus an additional 10 percent tax. Fifteen percent of tax revenues would go to law enforcement, 10 percent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, five percent to fund drug courts, and the remainder to go into the general fund. There are no provisions for home cultivation or to promote social equity, although there is language deferring a criminal background check for people owning less than five percent of a marijuana business.

The most recent poll, from February, had support for legalization at 53.5%. That is a majority, but not a comfortable one.

Maryland

Question 4 would amend the state constitution by adding an article that allows people 21 and over to use and possess marijuana and providing that the General Assembly "shall provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state."

This is an amendment that came not from the people but from the legislature, which passed it as House Bill 1 in April. The legislature that same month also passed implementing legislation to go into effect if the measure passes. The legislation, House Bill 837, which would set legal possession limits at 1.5 ounces and allow for the home cultivation of two plants. The bill would also automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be legal if the measure passes.

The amendment contains no language about regulation or taxation. That will be left up to the legislature.

A March poll had support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.

Missouri

Sponsored by Legalize Missouri 2022, Amendment 3 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants, as well as six immature plants and six clones. The measure also provides for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

The initiative also "seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses," according to Legalize Missouri 2022.

The initiative would tax retail sales at 6 percent, with localities allowed to add a 3 percent sales tax. It also gives cities and counties the option of disallowing retail sales via a popular vote.

It would also allow existing medical marijuana operations to seek recreational sales licenses beginning December 8, with regulators allowed up to 60 days to approve them, giving them an effective head-start on newcomer competitors.

The measure had drawn organized opposition from within the cannabis community, with critics saying it does not do enough to promote social equity, that it favors existing operators, and that because it is a constitutional amendment, the legislature would have little say. Still, despite the dissension, a July poll has support for legalization at a healthy 62 percent.  

North Dakota

Sponsored by New Approach North Dakota, Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, four grams of concentrates and infused products, and grow up to three plants at home, but not to consume it in public.

The measure includes specific child custody protections for parents who use marijuana in accord with state law, but employers could continue to prohibit marijuana use and there is no provision for expungement. New Approach North Dakota says it intends to address that in the legislature next year. The measure would also allow cities and counties to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses.

The initiative also creates a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of marijuana with the Department of Health and Human Services (or a different agency designated by the legislature) developing rules and regulations and overseeing licensing of marijuana businesses. Regulators would have until October 1, 2023, to come up with rules for advertising, labeling, packaging, security, and testing standards.

There would be no new tax for marijuana, but the state's 5 percent retail sales tax would apply to marijuana sales. Those tax revenues are not designated for any particular fund. Commercial cultivators would have to pay an annual $110,000 registration fee and retailers would have to pay an annual $90,000 fee.

The number of retailers would be limited to 18 and the number of grow facilities limited to seven. In a bid to reduce monopolistic tendencies in the industry, no one person or entity could own more than one grow facility or four retail stores.

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but that was a more wide-open measure. There is no recent polling data for this measure.

Oklahoma

 State Question 820 would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana, eight grams of concentrate, or eight grams of marijuana-infused products for people 21 and over. People would be allowed to grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority would be the regulatory agency for legal marijuana commerce, and retail marijuana sales would be taxed at 15 percent. Tax proceeds would go to the general fund (30 percent), public school programs (30 percent), drug treatment and overdose prevention programs (20 percent), the judicial revolving fund (10 percent), and municipalities or counties where marijuana is sold (10 percent).

The measure also would create a process for people to seek expungement of certain marijuana-related conviction or modification of sentences currently being served.

There is no recent polling on SQ 820.

South Dakota 

Two years ago, voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote, only to see it thrown out in the state Supreme Court for violating the state's one-subject rule for initiatives. (It legalized marijuana and contained tax and regulatory provisions). Initiated Measure 27 seeks to get past that hurdle by not establishing a tax or regulatory structure for commercial sales. Instead, it would those issues for the legislature to decide.

It would legalize the possession, transport, and distribution of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over. It would also legalize the home cultivation of up to three plants—but only in localities where there is no retail marijuana outlet, and there will not be any retail marijuana outlets unless and until the legislature acts to allow them.

An August poll had the initiative failing with only 44 percent of the vote, but that poll may be a fluke. It had support in the state's most liberal and populous region, the Sioux Falls metro area at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent. Maybe there has been a radical shift away from supporting legalization in two years, but most likely not.

As in the other five states, the real test comes on November 8.

Medical Marijuana Update

Nebraska medical marijuana initiative campaigners make a last gasp effort to get on the November ballot, and more.

Florida

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Nebraska

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

NY Now Taking Applications for Pot Shops, Bolivia Coca Clashes Continue, More... (8/26/22)

A strike in British Columbia is impacting retail marijuana shops, there is still a sliver of hope for Nebraska's medical marijuana initiataive, and more. 

Will the Cornhusker State get to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Starts Taking Applications for Legal Pot Shops. The state began accepting applications Thursday from people wanting to open legal recreational marijuana retail outlets, and it is making a strong social equity statement by reserving the first 150 licenses for people with past marijuana convictions or their family members. It is a "unique strategy that we’re implementing to try to make sure that those most impacted have real opportunity to participate here," state Office of Cannabis Management Executive Director Chris Alexander said. "It's really about writing a wrong," he added. There is not yet a firm date for when the first shops will open their doors. After this initial batch of licenses is issued, more licenses will be issued, with a focus on people of color, women, struggling farmers, disabled veterans and people from communities that endured heavy pot policing. The state is seeking to issue half of all licenses to such applicants.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Secretary of State Agrees to Review More Signatures After Medical Marijuana Initiative Comes Up Short. There is still a tiny sliver of hope for backers of a pair of medical marijuana initiatives who came up short on signatures after Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) agreed Thursday to review some signatures that were not reviewed earlier. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana asked for the review after analyzing information about the signature checking process. The campaign was about 10,000 signatures short in the initial count. It also fell short on meeting requirements that it reach a 5 percent threshold of signatures in 38 of the states 93 counties. Signature verification must be completed by September 16 in order for the initiative to make the November ballot.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Conflict Continues to Fester. Clashes among competing groups of coca growers and with police in La Paz continued for a third week Tuesday even as pro-government coca union leader Arnold Alanes, who manages a "parallel market" in coca that is not officially sanctioned, filed a complaint against the leader of the rival coca growers, Freddy Machicado, for "public instigation to commit a crime." Both men claim to be leaders of Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) of La Pa, with Alanes assumed to be the legitimate leader of the union but Machicado leading a bloc that considers itself independent—both of the union leadership and the government.  "We have been victims of harassment, violence and dynamite blows and we are presenting (the complaint) in an emergency, given all the violence we have suffered, Alanes said as he delivered the complaint to the local prosecutor's office. The conflict dates back to last September when Alanes was elected leader of Adepcoca and recognized as such by the government. Some sectors of the union rejected him because of those government ties and took over one of the two legal markets for the sale of coca leaves, so the Alanes faction opened a new market near the traditional one in La Paz. The anti-government faction has been mobilizing this past month to pressure the government to close down Alanes' "parallel market," and that is what has been leading to weekly street clashes.

British Columbia Pot Shops Shutting Down Because of Lack of Supply Due to Unrelated Labor Action. The British Columbia General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has been on strike at government distribution warehouses for the past 10 days, and now the province's 400 retail marijuana outlets are facing shortages, with some of them already shutting their doors. The pot shop chain Burb shuttered stores in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody and lay-offs of pot shop workers have already begun. A provincial initiative to let retailers buy directly from BC producers was supposed to start last week, but did not, and the BC Ministry of Finance have not responded to questions about that initiative. The BCGEU, which represents 33,000 workers, agreed Tuesday to resume bargaining at the request of the province. What it will take to reach a settlement isn’t clear. In the meantime, it's hard times for legal marijuana retailers. 

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics, Odd SD Pot Poll, More... (8/25/22)

Colombia's new president says he will not extradite drug traffickers who quit the trade and comply with surrender conditions, a California bill to protect employees who use marijuana off-the-job is moving, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Employees Awaits Senate Floor Vote. A measure that would ban employers from firing or punishing workers who use marijuana outside of work hours has already passed the Assembly and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Assembly Bill 2188, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would bar the use of hair, urine, and other bodily fluid tests for marijuana for employment purposes, with exemptions for workers subject to federal regulations or in safety-sensitive positions. The bill would, however, allow for saliva testing, which picks up the presence of active THC, not the inactive metabolites detected in hair and urine tests. If the bill passes, it is not clear Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would sign it; he is subject to competing pressures on the topic, with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and retail groups opposing it.

South Dakota Poll Suggests Marijuana Legalization Could Lose in November. A new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy has the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative with the support of only 43.8 percent of respondents, with 54.4 percent opposed to legalization. But the poll of 500 registered voters is raising some eyebrows, given that just two years ago, voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote (only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court).

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, pointed to some anomalous findings, such as support in the Sioux Falls metro area being at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent.

"When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me," said Schweich. "Some of the numbers don't really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we've seen. I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard," Schweich said. "I'm not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it's a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it's gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like."

Psychedelics

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA is moving to place two obscure psychedelics on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, despite little evidence regarding addiction or other harms. The two substances are DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), first synthesized by psychedelic researcher Alexander Shulgin. Little research has been done on the hallucinogens, but they are said to have subjective effects similar to LSD but lasting longer. DEA says the two drugs have "potential" for abuse, but also says "To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature" and "The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature. DEA also notes that in the past 17 years there has been one death of someone using DOC, but that was "in combination with other drugs."

International

Colombia's President Says Will Not Extradite Drug Traffickers Who Fulfill Deals with the Government. President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday said that drug traffickers who abandon the trade and comply with government surrender conditions will not be extradited to the United States. He also said his government, which was sworn in this month on a vow to bring "total peace" to the country, was reaching out to various armed groups who want to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The US views extradition as a vital tool against the drug trade, but Petro has questioned its effectiveness, and it has been a sore point for many Colombians. "Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States," Petro said after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. "Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited," he said.

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