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Three Senate Dems Seek Pardons for Nonviolent Marijuana Prisoners, MS MedMJ Will Have to Wait, More... (11/11/21)

Massachusetts legislation would legalize health insurance coverage for medical marijuana, federal lawmakers seek language in Justice spending bill to protect legal marijuana states, and more.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will not call a special session to pass medical marijuana. (nga.org)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Request Broad Marijuana Protections for States and Territories in Justice Department Spending Legislation. A bipartisan group of legislators has sent a letter to House leaders asking them include broad protections for states and territories that have legalized marijuana. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) signed the letter. They ask the leadership to ensure that language is included that bars the use of Justice Department funds "to prosecute those who are in compliance with their state-legal or tribal-legal adult-use marijuana laws." They are asking that the following specific language be included in the Justice funding bill: "None of the funds made available by this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana."

Three Senate Democrats Call on Biden to Pardon all Nonviolent Federal Marijuana Offenders. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to exercise his authority to issue a blanket pardon to all nonviolent marijuana offenders. "Our country's cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now," the trio wrote. Biden has yet to embrace marijuana legalization, but he has come out for decriminalization and during a November 2019 debate said "anyone who has a record should be let out jail, their records expunged."

Medical Marijuana

Massachusetts Bills Would Legalize Insurance Coverage for Medical Marijuana. Lawmakers in both houses have filed companion bills to legalize health insurance coverage for medical marijuana products and clinical visits. State Sens. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) filed S. 649 in the Senate, while state Rep. David LeBoeuf (D-Worcester) filed the companion legislation in the House. They said that the uninsured cost of medical marijuana makes it too expensive for some patients. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I drug federally, the state does not currently allow insurers to pay for medical marijuana. The bills got a hearing Tuesday in the Joint Finance Committee with several patients testifying that if medical marijuana were more affordable, they could switch from pharmaceuticals drugs to it.

Mississippi Governor Will Not Call Special Session on Medical Marijuana. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will not call a special session of the legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill after all. Reeves had earlier signaled he was open to a special session to deal with the issue, but more recently indicated he wanted tighter limits on the quantities of marijuana patients could access and limits on the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products. On November 1, he said getting the medical marijuana program "done right is more important than getting it done quick." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana in the 2020 elections, but the state Supreme Court overturned the initiative results, ruling that the initiative process was outdated and unworkable. Lawmakers then filed medical marijuana legislation and urged Reeves to call a special session to handle it. Now, though, the issue will be postponed until the legislature meets again in January.

HUD to Continue Evicting Residents for Marijuana Use, Singapore Drug Execution Delayed, More... (11/9/21)

Another poll has a solid national majority for marijuana legalization, an Ohio judge gets punished for jailing a court spectator for refusing a drug test, and more.

You still can't do this in public housing--even in states where marijuana is legal. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rasmussen Poll Has Solid Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Rasmussen poll has support for marijuana legalization at 62 percent, with only 23 percent opposed. The poll comes just days after a Gallup poll reported support for marijuana legalization holding steady at 68 percent. Even 54 percent of Republicans support legalization, along with 68 percent of Democrats and 62 percent among independents. When respondents were asked if legalization should be done at the local, state, or federal level, 47 percent said the federal government should be in charge, 32 favored the states, and 11 percent wanted local action.

Infrastructure Bill Includes Provision Allowing Research with Marijuana from Pot Shops. The massive infrastructure spending bill approved by the House last Friday includes a provision that will eventually allow researchers access to the marijuana actually being consumed by users instead of relying only on government-grown marijuana from its farm in Mississippi. That provision will require the transportation secretary to work with the attorney general and the secretary of Health and Human Services to create a report within two years with recommendations on allowing scientists access to storefront marijuana to study impaired driving.

Federal Housing Authority to Continue Taking Punitive Actions Against Marijuana Consumers. In response to a request for clarification from to Rep. Elizabeth Holmes-Norton (D-DC), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has reaffirmed its longstanding policy of banning marijuana users from federally-subsidized housing, even in states where it is legal. In a letter to Holmes-Norton, the agency says that it will continue to enforce policies that involve the "termination of the tenancy of any household" in instances where a tenant is found to have engaged in the use of a controlled substance while on the premises — "including [the use of] state legalized medical marijuana." Because marijuana remains classified under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance, "HUD prohibits the admission of users of marijuana to HUD assisted housing, including those who use medical marijuana," the letter reads.

South Dakota Activists Miss Initiative Signature Deadline but Look to Federal Court Decision for More Time. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced Sunday that they would not turn in signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative by a Monday deadline, but are hoping that a federal court ruling will give them until next May to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. In August, the federal district court in the state ruled that the state's election law requiring signatures be handed in a year before the election was unconstitutional, pushing the deadline to the May before the election and enjoined officials from enforcing that provision. The administration of Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is appealing the decision, but the activists argue that "the May 3 deadline is the law in South Dakota and we feel confident that we can rely on that extension." Voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020, but it has been blocked by lower courts and a final decision is still pending at the state Supreme Court.

Drug Testing

Ohio Judge Suspended for Jailing Spectator over Drug Test Refusal. The state Supreme Court has suspended a Seneca County judge for a year without pay for ordering a courtroom spectator to undergo a drug test and then holding that person in contempt and jailing her for refusing to do so. In the unanimous opinion, the court held that Judge Mark Repp violated rules of professional conduct for judges in the state, including a failure to perform all his judicial duties fairly and impartially. The woman, who was the girlfriend of the defendant before the court "suffered great personal indignities and emotional distress as the result of the security and medical screenings she had to endure during her incarceration, on top of the anxiety regarding the care and well-being of her two young children." The boyfriend was a drug court participant, and the Supreme Court held tat Repp's behavior toward him and his girlfriend was "undignified, improper, and discourteous."

International

Malaysia Okays Use of Medical Marijuana. Heath Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has formally acknowledged that marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes. The acknowledgement came in response to a question from parliament. Jamaluddin said the medicinal use of marijuana complies with Malaysian drug laws, but that imports and the wholesale trade must be licensed. Medical marijuana should be sold by a registered medical practitioner or pharmacist. "Therefore, if there are parties who have sufficient scientific evidence to use cannabis (hemp) for any medicinal purpose by taking into account the aspects of quality, safety and effectiveness, then the application to register cannabis products for medicinal purposes can be submitted to DCA [Drug Control Authority]] to be evaluated and registered under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulation 1984 in order to be marketed in Malaysia," Khairy said in a written reply to the enquiry.

Singapore Delays Appeal Hearing on Man Set to Be Executed for 1.5 Ounces of Heroin. The nation's top court has postponed an appeal hearing for Malaysian national Nagenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was sentenced to death for trying to smuggle 1.5 grams of heroin into the country. Dharmalingam, who his attorneys say is intellectually disabled, was set to be executed Monday, but was delayed amidst an international campaign by human rights groups when the high court accepted an appeal. The hearing was originally set for Tuesday, with Dharmalingam set to be executed Wednesday if he lost on appeal. The appeals court noted that Dharmalingam had tested positive for COVID-19 and sent him away from the courtroom Tuesday, saying, "We have to issue a stay of the execution until all proceedings are concluded. That is the proper order of things."

Another AR Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed, Furor Over Looming Singapore Drug Execution, More... (11/5/21)

Critics chide the new drug czar over his perfomance in West Virginia, a third marijuana legalization initiative has been filed in Arkansas, and more. 

Peru's coca crop is increasing, and much of it has to do with the pandemic. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Third Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. And then there were three. Veteran activist Melissa Fults on Friday filed the Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment, the third marijuana legalization initiative filed in the state so far this year. The initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which means it faces higher signature-gathering requirements than the other two initiatives, which are statutory initiatives. Constitutional amendments require 89,151 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but statutory initiatives require only 71,321. In either case, signatures must be handed in by early July 2022. The Fults initiative would increase the number of dispensaries to one for every 15,000 residents up to a maximum of 200 and would also allow the home cultivation of up to six plants. The amendment also envisions a tax on recreational marijuana sales, with proceeds going to support education and the state's general fund. Other initiatives already filed are the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Amendment and an initiative sponsored by Arkansas True Grass.

Drug Policy

Critics Question New Drug Czar's Commitment to Harm Reduction. The Biden administration is now on record as supporting harm reduction policies, but some critics of his pick to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office), Dr. Rahul Gupta, are expressing concern over his commitment to harm reduction, especially around his role in shutting down West Virginia's largest needle exchange program. As then-director of the state's Bureau of Public Health and faced with harsh local political opposition to needle exchanges, Gupta ordered an audit of the Charleston needle exchange program and called for it to be suspended because it didn’t require participants to first seek treatment for drug use before accessing clean syringes. That stance flouted Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that support lowering barriers to access and guidelines set up by his own office. Since then, the state has moved toward eliminating all harm reduction services. Dr Robin Pollini, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, and six other harm reduction experts nationwide wrote letters speaking out against Gupta’s findings saying his central criticism – that treatment options weren’t being prioritized above syringe access – showed he missed the point of harm reduction entirely. "The report was arbitrary in faulting the program for not adhering to practices that were not even required by the state certification guidelines” – guidelines written by Gupta’s own office." Pollini said in a recent interview. Gupta's audit legacy includes a new state law that makes it illegal for harm reduction programs in the state to follow CDC guidelines. Since that law passed, three more counties have shut down their needle exchange programs.

International

Peru Coca Cultivation is Rising; Three Reasons Why. While the White House and Peruvian authorities disagree over how much coca is being produced in the country, there is little disagreement that coca cultivation is increasing and Insight Crime has produced an analysis citing three reasons why: The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns led the government to suspend eradication efforts and reduced the ability of the National Police to enforce coca cultivation laws, the balloon effect (when crops are suppressed in one area, they pop up in another), and people who lost jobs because of the pandemic headed back to the countryside, where sowing coca or working as laborers on coca farms are some of the only economically viable activities.

Singapore Set to Execute Malaysian Man Over 1 ½ Ounces of Heroin. Singapore is set to hang Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran K.Dharmalingam for smuggling 43 grams of heroin into the country, but human rights and legal groups are calling for the execution to be halted because the man has an IQ of only 69, indicating severe disability. A hearing is set for Monday where supporters will argue that executing a mentally disabled person violated the country's constitution. Nagaenthran's lawyer aid he "could possibly have a mental age below 18," and that that disability doesn't allow him to understand deterrence. "Therefore, we contend that the execution is irrational and a capricious act of the state." The Malaysian Bar and other legal groups submitted appeals to commute his sentence this week, and demonstrations have broken out in front of the Malaysian Parliament demanding the government intervene. The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch echoed calls to save Nagaenthran, saying the execution of a disabled person violates international laws and won’t deter crime. "Singapore should commute Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s sentence and amend its laws to ensure that no one is subjected to the death penalty, certainly not people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities,” Human Rights Watch said.

New Gallup Poll Shows Continuing Strong Support for Pot Legalization, Mexico Michoacan Massacre, More... (11/4/21)

A Congressional Research Service report shows easy off-ramp for federal pot prohibition, a new Gallup poll shows marijuana legalization retains strong majority support, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Sees Continuing Strong Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Gallup poll released Thursday has marijuana legalization maintaining record-high levels of support with 68 percent of respondents in favor—the same percentage as when Gallup last polled in November 2020. Only 32 percent favored continuing marijuana prohibition, giving legalization two-to-one support. "As was the case in 2020, solid majorities of U.S. adults in all major subgroups by gender, age, income and education support legalizing marijuana," Gallup said. "Substantive differences are seen, however, by political party and religion." Support for legalization was highest among Democrats (83 percent), followed by independents (71 percent) and Republicans (50 percent).

Congressional Research Service Report Provides Pathway for Presidential Administration to Deschedule Marijuana. A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) outlines pathways for the Biden (or any other) administration to unilaterally end marijuana prohibition and issue a general amnesty for federal marijuana crimes by acting administratively to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). "The President could pursue the appointment of agency officials who favor descheduling, or use executive orders to direct DEA, HHS, and FDA toconsider administrative descheduling of marijuana," the CRS report advised. "The notice-and-comment rulemaking process would take time, and would be subject to judicial review if challenged, but could be done consistently with the CSA’s procedural requirements.The Biden administration has officials in place who are sympathetic to legalization, but the president himself has no sign of going further than decriminalization, not legalization.

Ohio Towns Split on Marijuana Reform Ballot Measures. More than a dozen Ohio cities had marijuana reform measures on the ballot Tuesday and seven of them voted to approve local measures to decriminalize marijuana. Before Tuesday, 22 cities and counties across the state had adopted similar marijuana reform measures. The most common initiative language was "shall [jurisdiction] adopt the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by State Law?" Voters in Martins FerryMurray CityNew LexingtonNewStraitsville, RaylandTiltonsville and Yorkville approved the decriminalization proposals, while voters in BrooksideDillonvaleLaurelvilleMcArthurMorristownMount Pleasant and Powhatan Point rejected the reform measures.

International

Mexico's Michoacan Sees New Massacre, 11 Killed Near Tarecuato. Michoacan state prosecutors announced late Monday that police had found the bullet-riddled bodies of five men and six boys near the town of Tarecuato in the north of the state near the border with the state of Jalisco. The area has been a hotbed of bloody conflict between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and local criminal gangs. Tarecuato is not from the municipality of La Barca, where clandestine mass graves have been unearthed, and also near to the avocado-producing regions of the state, which are the target of organized crime extortion efforts.

Detroit Voters Approve Psychedelic Reform, Philadelphia Voters Approve Pot Legalization Measure, More... (11/3/21)

Election Day brought a pair of big city victories for drug reform, Mississippi's governor wants a more restrictive medical marijuana proposal before he will call a special session, and more.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is trying to tighten the screws on medical marijuana legislation. (nga.org)
Marijuana Policy

Philadelphia Voters Approve Referendum Calling for Statewide Marijuana Legalization. Voters on Tuesday approved a referendum calling for statewide marijuana legalization by a margin of 73 percent to 27 percent. The referendum adds a section to the city charter, saying "the citizens of Philadelphia call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to pass legislation that will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use, and sale to adults aged 21 years or older, of cannabis for non-medical purposes." The referendum is non-binding but adds pressure on the legislature to act. Republicans control both houses of the legislature and have so far blocked action on marijuana legalization, but last month, a bipartisan legalization bill was formally introduced.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Wants Tighter Limits on Medical Marijuana Before He Will Call a Special Session to Pass It. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Monday he wants to reduce the amount of medical marijuana that people can buy and reduce the allowable level of THC in it before he will move forward to call a legislative special session to create a medical marijuana program. "If we’re going to have a medical marijuana program, we need to get it done right," said Reeves. "I think getting it done right is more important than getting it done quick." Voters approved medical marijuana via an initiative a year ago, but the state Supreme Court threw out that victory, invalidating the state's initiative process as it did so. The legislature then failed to pass a make-up bill during the regular session. Reeves has said he will call a special session, but now is demanding these new restrictions.

DC Council Approves Bill to Aid Struggling Dispensaries. The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill aimed at helping the city's dispensaries, which have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic. The new bill allows patients whose cards have expired since March 2020 to continue using them through January 2022 and creates a two-year medical marijuana card, as opposed to the current one-year card. The bill also doubles the amount of marijuana a patient can purchase at one time from four ounces to eight.

Psychedelics

Detroit Voters Approve Psychedelic Decriminalization Measure. Voters in Michigan's largest city approved a ballot measure to essentially decriminalize psychedelics by an unofficial tally of 61 percent to 39 percent. The initiativesays the city will "decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults." The new policy will also "make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority." Detroit now joins the Michigan communities of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Grand Rapids in having approved psychedelic reform. Meanwhile, a bill to legalize the cultivation, possession, and delivery of plant- and fungi-based psychedelics is before the state Senate.

HHS Secretary Vows More Federal Support for Harm Reduction, Poll Shows Support for DC Drug Decrim, More... (10/27/21)

Arkansas could soon see two seperate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns, a new poll shows DC voters are ready for drug decriminalization, and more.

HHS says there were 840,000 drug overdose deaths between 1999 and 2019. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launched. And then there were two. Activists with Arkansas True Grass already have a marijuana legalization initiative in the signature gathering phase, and now, a former state House minority leader has announced the formation of a new advocacy group, Responsible Growth Arkansas, to push a second legalization effort. That former lawmaker, Democrat Eddie Armstrong, says his proposed initiative would "allow the regulated sale of adult-use cannabis in the state." Armstrong has yet to file an initiative text with state officials but promised more information in coming weeks. Statutory initiatives require 71,321 valid voter signatures. If Armstrong's initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment, it would need 89,151 valid voter signatures. In either case, signature gathering must be complete by next July.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Bills to Restrict Cultivation by Caregivers Advance. A package of bills that would limit the amount of medical marijuana that caregivers can grow is headed for the House floor. Under the package, caregivers would have to obtain a new specialty medical marijuana grower license and comply with a variety of new regulations. Under current rules, caregivers can grow up to 72 plants and must register with the state, but do not need a license. Under the bill package, caregivers could grow only 24 plants without a license. Because the package of bills alters the voter-approved 2008 medical marijuana initiative, it must garner 75 percent of the vote in both houses to pass.

Drug Policy

DC Voters Support Drug Decriminalization, Poll Finds. Just a week after activists announced a push for drug decriminalization in the nation's capital, a new poll finds very strong support for the notion. The poll had 83 percent saying the DC Council should pass an ordinance to "remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of commonly-used controlled substances consistent with personal use." That includes 65 percent who strongly support the far-reaching reform. The reform is being pushed by a coalition called DecrimPovertyDC, which includes groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Harm Reduction

HHS Secretary Vows More Federal Support for Harm Reduction Measures. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday outline the Biden administration's approach to reducing drug overdoses and committed to more federal support for measures such as needle exchanges, increased access to naloxone, and test strips to check drugs for the presence of fentanyl. The strategy also includes expanding medication-based treatment, reducing "inappropriate" opioid prescribing (which could drive users into the more dangerous black market), and more support for drug treatment. Becerra even expressed some openness to safe injection sites: "When it comes to harm reduction, we are looking for every way to do that. … We probably will support the efforts of states that are using evidence-based practices and therapies." According to an HHS report released Wednesday, 840,000 people died of drug overdoses from 1999 to 2019. Becerra's comments reflect a statement of priorities for the administration’s first year released in March by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

MD Pot Poll, Detroit Will Vote on Psychedelic Reform Next Week, More... (10/26/21)

The DEA selects some old blood to review its overseas operations, a new Maryland poll shows a slight decline in support for marijuana legalization--but still a majority--and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Show Slight Dip in Support for Marijuana Legalization. Support for marijuana legalization in the state has dropped from 67 percent in March to 60 percent now, according to a new Goucher Poll. The poll has nearly two-thirds of Democrats supporting legalization, while just under half of Republicans do. The poll comes as the state legislature ponders whether to send a marijuana legalization question to the ballot next year.

Psychedelics

Detroit Will Vote on Natural Psychedelics Lowest Priority Initiative Next Week. Voters in Detroit will have a chance next Tuesday to approve municipal Proposal E, which would "make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority." The proposal includes natural plant- and fungi-based psychedelics, such as peyote and magic mushrooms, but not synthesized psychedelics, such as LSD. If the measure passes, Detroit would join Ann Arbor among Michigan cities that have embraced psychedelic reforms. Ann Arbor decriminalized psychedelic plants in September 2020. A similar measure has been introduced in the state Senate by Sens. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) and Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

Law Enforcement

DEA Announces Foreign Operations Review Team. In August, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a comprehensive review of DEA’s foreign operations strategy to assess effectiveness, strengths, and areas for improvement. The agency announced Tuesday that the team will be led by two unreconstructed drug warriors, former DEA Administrator Jack Lawn and former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Boyd Johnson, who conducted and supervised investigations in all eight of DEA's global regions. Johnson is currently a senior partner with the WilmerHale law firm, where he specialized in cross-border reviews around corruption, money laundering, and fraud. 

Luxembourg Set to Legalize Marijuana, OH GOP Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming, More... (10/25/21)

New Hampshire continues as the lone northern New England holdout on marijuana legalization, Luxembourg is now set to become the first European country to free the weed, and more.

Colombian drug trafficker Dairo Antonio Usuga, "Otoniel," under arrest this past weekend. (ENC)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Lawmaker to File Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Lake County) is set to announce Tuesday that he will file a bill to legalize marijuana, including the growth, processing, and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products. The move comes as activists work to put a marijuana legalization ballot measure before voters in November 2022.

New Hampshire House Committee Kills Marijuana Legalization Bills. The House Criminal Justice Committee last Wednesday killed bills that would legalize and tax marijuana and allow people to grow up to six plants at home. The vote fell mainly along party lines with Republicans opposed and Democrats in favor. New Hampshire is the only northern New England state to yet approve marijuana legalization.

Psychedelics

Massachusetts Town Becomes Fourth in State to Pass Psychedelic Reform Measure. The Easthampton City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for the decriminalization of certain psychedelics and other drugs. The resolution is non-binding but sends a message to local law enforcement that the status quo of criminalization is eroding. The cities of Cambridge, Northampton, and Somerville have also passed psychedelic reform measures in recent months, and there are both decriminalization and psychedelic study bills awaiting action in the state legislature.

International

Colombians Capture Most Wanted Drug Trafficker. Colombian police and military forces with assistance from the US captured, better known as Otoniel, at his jungle hideout near the Panamanian border Saturday. Otoniel is the leader of the country's most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Gulf Clan, taking control of the organization after Colombian police killed his brother nearly a decade ago. President Ivan Duque cheered the bust, saying it was the most significant blow to drug trafficking since the killing of Pablo Escobar in 1993. But analysts such as Sergio Guzman of Colombia Risk Analysis warned that Otoniel's arrest "is not going to move the needle in terms of the war on drugs. Soon we'll have another kingpin and another drug lord who may be much worse."

Luxembourg Set to Become First European Country to Legalize Marijuana. The national government announced last Friday that the country will legalize the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana. Under the proposed legislation, people will be able to grow up to four plants at home. In the meantime, fines for the possession of up to three grams will drop from $291 to $29. While the new legislation has the backing of the government coalition, a vote in parliament is still required to approve it. No word yet on when that will happen.

DEA Unveils Massive Increase in Research Quotas for Marijuana, Psychedelics, More... (10/18/21)

A leading Florida Democratic gubernatorial contender calls for marijuana legalization, a Maine law easing up on needle possession goes into effect, and more.       

Decriminalize Nature logo. The group's Oakland chapter is proposing community-based legal psychedelic sales.
 Marijuana Policy

Florida Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Christ Calls for Marijuana Legalization. US Rep. Charlie Christ, a leading contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year, called last Thursday for full marijuana legalization and the expungement of charges and existing sentences for misdemeanor and third-degree felony pot possession. The proposal is part of his Justice for All platform, which he said is designed to reform and rebuild the state's criminal justice system. "Our ‘Justice for All’ plan is my promise and commitment to the people of Florida that I won’t be a governor who turns a blind eye to injustices in our communities," Crist said. "That’s why this plan overhauls a system that has hurt and failed our people, predominantly Black and Brown Floridians, at almost every step of the way. We need to finally catch up to the will of the American people with marijuana legalization." Christ proposes using marijuana taxes for drug treatment and diversion programs, as well as support for public school teachers and police officers. A majority of Floridians favor marijuana legalization, but the Republican-nominated state political establishment has blocked any motion in that direction, including the state Supreme Court, which rejected two separate proposals to put adult-use legalization of marijuana on the 2022 ballot earlier this year. Christ earlier served as a Republican governor, and current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, criticized him for failing to act on legalization when he had a chance.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Initiative to Allow Community-Based Psychedelic Sales. Oakland Decriminalize Nature activists have announced a "Go Local" legislative initiative under which people could legally purchase entheogenic substances from community-based local producers. The move aims to build on the city's current psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, passed in 2019. With the backing of a key city council member, the group is undertaking a one-year project to get feedback on how best to provide legal access to entheogenic plants and fungi—without replicating the crass commercialization of the state's legal marijuana markets. In doing so, "you actually do bring other values into the equation beyond profiteering, because it becomes part of the story that people want to support in the community," said Decriminalize Nature chair Carlos Plazola. The process will begin with a series of public workshops, with an eye toward presenting a measure to the city council next summer.

Drug Policy

DEA Proposes Massive Increase in Marijuana and Psychedelic Production for Research Purposes. In a notice published Monday in the Federal Register, the DEA noted "a significant increase in the use of Schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical purposes" and proposed dramatic increases in the quotas for production of marijuana and psychedelics for research purposes. The agency is proposing doubling quotas for marijuana extracts, psilocybin and psilocin, quadrupling the quota for mescaline, and quintupling the quota for DMT. But especially striking is the proposed increase in MDMA production from 50 grams this year to 3,200 grams next year and the quota for LSD to increase by 1,150 percent to 500 grams. The quota for research marijuana is also jumping, up from 2,000 kilograms this year from 3,200 kilograms this year. The DEA is responding to massive increases in interest in research on psychedelics and marijuana.

Harm Reduction

Maine Law Decriminalizing Syringe Possession Now in Effect. A new state law that allows people to possess syringes with residual amounts of drugs to avoid being charged with drug possession and that also allows people possessing a dozen or more syringe to avoid prosecution went into effect Monday. Previously, possessing 11 or more needles, even unused, was a misdemeanor punishable by up to 354 days in jail. "Most Mainers agree that punitive drug laws don’t work and people who use drugs need access to safety, not criminal punishment, stigma, and heightened risk of illness and death due to preventable illnesses," said Whitney Parrish, policy and advocacy director with Health Equity Alliance. "We need a public health response to a public health crisis, and this law is a transformative step toward rejecting our failed responses to drug use, rooting policies in pragmatism and what works, and decriminalizing safety—and people who use drugs." Maine saw a record number of drug overdose deaths last year and is currently on track to surpass that this year.

(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.)

SD Activists Begin 2022 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Drive, Report on Racial Disparities in State Prisons, More... (10/13/21)

A pair of GOP Ohio lawmakers prepares a marijuana legalization bill, the Sentencing Project releases a new report on differential racial incarceration rates in the states, and more.

A new Sentencing Project report finds Blacks are imprisoned in state prisons at a rate five times that of Whites. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Lawmakers Announce Marijuana Legalization Bill. In a sign of changing times, a pair of Ohio Republican lawmakers announced Tuesday they were preparing a marijuana legalization bill. For years, Democrats have led the fight for marijuana legalization, but in recent days, first Pennsylvania and now Ohio are seeing signs of Republican interest in moving forward on legalization. Reps. Jamie Callender (R) and Ron Ferguson (R) rolled out a bill that would allow people 21 and over to buy and possess marijuana, with limited home cultivation allowed. The bill also envisages a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, with half going to the state's general fund and half going to law enforcement and mental health and addiction treatment and recovery services. Callender and Ferguson are circulating a cosponsorship memo to build support for the forthcoming legislation and are aiming to formally file the bill within the next six weeks or so.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. Although state voters already approved a marijuana legalization initiative last year, it was challenged in court by Gov. Kristi Noem (R) and two law enforcement officials, and the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on its constitutionality. The people behind the successful initiative, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, is not waiting on—or counting on—a favorable Supreme Court ruling and is moving ahead with plans for a 2022 initiative designed to get around the issue that has the 2020 initiative stuck in the courts: the claim that it unconstitutionally encompasses more than one subject. This new initiative simply legalizes marijuana possession and cultivation for people 21 and over. The secretary of state on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for signature gathering to begin. Campaigners have until May 8, 2022 to come up with 16,691 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Sentencing Policy

New Sentencing Project Report Finds Blacks Imprisoned in State Prisons at Rate Five Times of Whites. Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at nearly five times the rate of Whites, and Latino Americans are 1.3 times as likely to be incarcerated than non-Latino whites, according to a new report by The Sentencing Project, The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.The report, authored by Senior Research Analyst Ashley Nellis, documents the rates of incarceration for white, Black, and Latinx Americans for each state. Although Black Americans are not a majority of the general population in any of the 50 states, they make up more than half of the prison population in a dozen states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. New Jersey tops the nation in terms of disparity in its incarceration rates, with a Black/white ratio of more than 12 to 1. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Connecticut follow closely behind, incarcerating Black Americans at about 10 times the rate of white people. Latino individuals are incarcerated nationally in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the rate for non-Latino whites, but at a much higher rate in Massachusetts (4.1), Connecticut (3.7), New York (3.0), and North Dakota (2.4). In raw numbers, Latino incarceration is highest in border and southwestern states. The report makes several policy recommendations: eliminate all mandatory minimums, enact racial impact statements that require crime bills to be accompanied by an estimate of the policy’s impact on demographic groups, and discontinue arrest and prosecution for low-level drug offenses that often lead to accumulation of prior convictions

Drug War Issues

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