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Oklahoma Legalization Init May Miss November Ballot, San Francisco Could Open Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/24/22)

A bipartisan coalition of senators is demanding justice for another American medical marijuana user imprisoned in Russia, a Nebraska senator vows to file a medical marijuana bill next year after an initiative campaign came up short, and more.

Even though Gov. Newsom (D) vetoed a safe injection site bill, San Francisco may move forward anyway. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma's Use of Private Vendor to Count Signatures Could Cause Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Miss November Ballot. Yes on 820, the group behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, is warning that the state's use of a private vendor for the first time to count signatures caused delays that may result in the measure being bumped from the November ballot. The initiative has met the signature threshold to qualify, but the count must now be approved by the state Supreme Court, and after that, a 10-day period for anyone to challenge the signatures. That is running up against a Friday election board deadline, and could keep the initiative off the ballot. "The last petition Oklahomans voted on took 17 days to count 313,000 signatures," Yes on 820 said. "In contrast, we submitted half that amount and it has taken three times as long. This delay means the election board may not receive the green light to print the ballot in time for voters to vote on it in November."

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska State Senator Pledges to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill After Initiative Campaign Come up Short. After a campaign to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot came up short on signatures, state Sen. Jen Day (D-Gretna) vowed to file a medical marijuana bill in the 2023 legislative session. She said she was also exploring the possibility of calling a special session this fail to take up the issue. "We will exhaust every measure possible to get Nebraskans the medical freedom they deserve and want," Day said. "We know that Nebraskans strongly support this."

Foreign Policy

Bipartisan Senators Demand Justice for Another US Citizen Imprisoned in Russia for Medical Marijuana. A bipartisan coalition of senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling on the State Department to classify imprisoned US medical marijuana patient Marc Fogel as "wrongfully detained" in Russia, the same status that has been afforded to WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner. "Mr. Fogel's recent 14-year sentence to a maximum-security penal colony for possession of less than an ounce of medical marijuana can only be understood as a political ploy by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime," the senators wrote. "Mr. Fogel, a 61-year-old with severe medical conditions, has already been detained for a year. The United States cannot stand by as Mr. Fogel wastes away in a Russian hard labor camp. As the US highlights Griner's unjust detention, Fogel's case "warrants the same degree of political attention and diplomatic intervention," the senators said.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Could Still Move Ahead with Safe Injection Sites Despite Veto of Bill. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill to allow safe injection site pilot programs in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco on Monday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said that he would support a nonprofit opening such a site in the city. "To save lives, I fully support a non-profit moving forward now with New York's model of overdose prevention programs," Chiu said in the statement. New York City has a nonprofit group running two safe injection sites. Two city nonprofits, HealthRight360 and the AIDS Foundation, said they are willing to operate sites, but need a location and funding, either from the city or from private donors, as is the case in New York City.

OK Legalization Init Has Enough Signatures, CA Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Sites, More... (8/23/22)

Prohibitionists file a legal challenge to a Missouri legalization initiative, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign comes up short, and more.

Marijuana is going to be on the ballot in a number of states, but it is not all set yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hit by Legal Challenge from Prohibitionists. The Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC, a marijuana prohibitionist group, filed a lawsuit Monday against Legal Missouri's marijuana legalization initiative, which qualified for the ballot last week. The lawsuit charges that the initiative violates the state constitution's single-subject rule. It also argues that the initiative did not really collect enough signatures to qualify and that the state wrongly certified the measure. The lawsuit was filed by a staff member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), but on behalf of the Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC. It was filed on the last day of the 10-day window to file challenges. A similar legal challenge to a legalization initiative is already underway in Arkansas.

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Has Enough Signatures to Make Ballot, But Hurdles Remain. The SQ 820 marijuana legalization has been certified as having collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but hurdles remain before it becomes official. The state Supreme Court still has to approve the signatures and if and when that happens, the secretary of state will put out a notice that opponents then have 10 days to challenge the validity of the petition. Those two things need to be accomplished by the end of September or the measure will not make the November ballot. If it doesn't make the November ballot, voters will take it up at a later election.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiatives Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. An initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state will not go before voters in November because cash-strapped activists came up short on valid voter signatures. Activists had hoped to put a complementary pair of initiatives on the ballot, but the campaign came up short both on the statewide number and on the number of counties where a 5 percent of the voters threshold was met. Each initiative needed 87,000 valid voter signatures, but one came up with only 77,843 and the other with 77,119 valid voter signatures. Both needed to get 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of the state's counties, but one achieved that goal in only 26 counties and the other in 27.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Vetoes Safe Injection Pilot Program Bill. Despite past comments that he was "very open" to allowing safe injection sites to operate in the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that would do just that, Senate Bill 57. He cited "concerns" about its implementation. In his veto message, Gov. Newsom maintained that he has "long supported the cutting edge of harm reduction strategies," but was "acutely concerned about the operations of safe injection sites without strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans."

Newson left open the possibility that he could support similar legislation in the future, saying "We should strive to ensure our innovative efforts are well planned, even when they start as pilots, to help mitigate the potential for unintended impacts. Therefore, I am instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene city and county officials to discuss minimum standards and best practices for safe and sustainable overdose prevention programs. I remain open to this discussion when those local officials come back to the legislature with recommendations for a truly limited pilot program -- with comprehensive plans for siting, operations, community partnerships, and fiscal sustainability that demonstrate how these programs will be run safely and effectively."

Oakland Entheogenic Church Sues Over Raid, Thai Minister Discourages Pot Tourism, More... (8/19/22)

Wisconsin's Republican legislative majority is out of step with the people when it comes to freeing the weed, an Idaho medical marijuana initiative campaign takes a first step, and more.

Magic mushrooms. An Oakland church argues that they are a protected religious sacrament. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Wisconsin Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Marquette Law School shows support for marijuana legalization in the state at an all-time high of 69 percent of registered voters. That's an eight-point jump since the school's last poll just five months ago. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans said they back legalization in the latest poll. A GOP legislative supermajority entrenched through gerrymandering does not care. It hasn't even approved medical marijuana except for low-THC cannabis oil.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Activists Launch Medical Marijuana Ballot Push for 2024. Activists organized as Kind Idaho have filed a proposed 2024 medical marijuana ballot initiative that is essentially identical to one it filed two years ago but which did not end up qualifying for the ballot. The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy medical marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries or grow up to six plants at home if a dispensary were unavailable or getting to one would impose a hardship on the patient. "Now the waiting game begins," said Joseph Evans, the group's treasurer. "We will be in contact again in five weeks when we come in to pick up and review the changes the [attorney general] suggests."

Psychedelics

Oakland Church That Uses Psychedelic Mushrooms as Sacrament Sues over Police Raid. The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, an assembly of the Church of Ambrosia, has filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations against the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department after police raided the church, which used magic mushrooms as a sacrament, in 2020. The suit charges that the police raid violated its 1st and 14th Amendment rights and that the city's land use code bars them from conducting religious ceremonies and sacraments with psychedelics and marijuana inside the church.

Oakland Police say the church was operating as a dispensary, and they acted after receiving a complaint. One officer, John Romero, applied for church membership, signed an agreement acknowledging the church is not a dispensary and bought 3.5 grams of marijuana, which the church says is intended for on-site consumption as part of its sacrament. Romero returned with a search warrant, damaged five safes, seized paperwork, inventory logs, $200,000 worth of marijuana and mushroom inventory, a computer, and $4,500 in cash. The church says it is about spirituality, not dope dealing."This is not just an excuse for selling drugs," church founder Dave Hodges said. "This is a sincere faith, and the work that I personally do with mushrooms is with the really high doses. There's no doubt in my mind that mushrooms were the first way our ancient ancestors understood there was more to this existence. They raided us like we were some kind of crime family they were taking down or a meth house," Hodges said. "They came in guns blazing, which they didn't need to do. They could've accomplished the same thing with two officers without their guns drawn. This was a classic smash-and-grab scenario where they took our sacrament, they took our money and they never filed any charges." The church is seeking a permanent injunction forcing the city to approve its land use application and to exempt religious use of entheogenic plants as part of the application process. "We would like for the Oakland PD to leave us alone and for the city of Oakland to consider us legitimate," Hodges said.

International

Thai Health Minister Says Pot-Smoking Tourists Not Welcome. Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul discouraged people from visiting the country only to smoke weed. "We don't welcome those kinds of tourists," Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors. The comments come just two months after Thailand largely decriminalized marijuana, leading to an influx of tourists and the opening of "cannabis cafes." Marijuana tourism could be a boon to the country's important tourism industry, which was badly wounded by the coronavirus pandemic, but the government says recreational use of the drug is not okay. But that could change, Anutin said: "It might come in the near future."

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot [FEATURE]

And then there were five: With an announcement Monday by the secretary of state that a New Approach North Dakota marijuana legalization initiative had qualified for the ballot, the number of states where legalization is on the ballot climbs to five. The others are Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (Another legalization effort in Oklahoma is awaiting confirmation that it has gathered sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.)

New Approach North Dakota easily cleared the state's signature requirement of 15,582 valid voter signatures, with the secretary of state's office reporting the group had 23,368 valid signatures.

Now officially known as Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1, the initiative 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.

"Measure 1 is a conservative approach to cannabis legalization based on legislation passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives. It balances personal freedom with personal responsibility," said state Rep. Matthew Ruby (R), a member of the campaign's sponsoring committee. "Adults will no longer be punished for using cannabis -- but only if they do so safely and responsibly. As voters have a chance to review the measure in detail, I'm confident a majority will agree this is the right approach for North Dakota."

Just four years ago, state voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, but things will be different this time around, argued New Approach North Dakota campaign chairman David Owen.

"So, the biggest difference between now and Measure 3 of 2018… is this is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana," Owen said.

"I served as a police officer in Bismarck for over five years and have defended those accused of marijuana offenses for the last twenty years, said Mark Friese, an attorney and former police officer who is the campaign treasurer. "There is no public safety benefit from arresting adults for small amounts of marijuana. It is a waste of taxpayer resources and a distraction from serious public safety concerns. Cannabis causes far less harm than alcohol. Many people find therapeutic benefits from it. The government shouldn't be in the business of punishing adults who use cannabis responsibly."

Up to now, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, and in 11 of them and DC, it was via the initiative process. We are likely to pick up several more in November. In the best-case scenario, when the dust settles after Election Day, half the states in the country will have legalized it.

ND Legal Pot Initiative Qualifies for Ballot, Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War, More... (8/16/22)

A South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative draws organized opposition, Mexico's week of cartel violence raises questions, and more.

North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Becomes Fifth State to Put a Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the Ballot This Year. The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach North Dakota has qualified for the November ballot. Similar measures have already qualified for the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota, while an effort in Oklahoma awaits a final signature count. The initiative would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over. They would be able to purchase, possess, transport, and distribute up to an ounce and 500 milligrams of THC. There is also a home grow provision allowing for up to three plants. The initiative also envisions a commercial sector licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaigns Sees Organized Opposition Emerge. Even as the sponsors of the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative gear up to free the weed for the second time in two years (the 2020 victory was annulled by the state Supreme Court at the behest of GOP Gov. Kristi Noem), organized opposition is emerging. In late July, a group calling itself Protecting South Dakota's Kids filed paperwork with the state as a statewide ballot question committee. It is led by Jim Kinyon, with Fred Deutsch as treasurer. Deutsch is a Republic legislator who is fiercely anti-marijuana.

"Legal marijuana will destroy our communities," says the group's web site. "Protecting South Dakota Kids is a grassroots coalition made up of concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement, and other professionals." But IM 27 backers don't seem too concerned: "Quite a few politicians, including Governor Noem, have realized that disrespecting the will of the people is not a great political strategy," said campaign spokesman Matt Schweich. "We want to earn every vote we can and we want to exceed the 54% outcome in 2020."

Law Enforcement

Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War. In a Tuesday letter to Dr.Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), a bipartisan group of senators from Appalachian states called for "additional assistance to combat drug-trafficking in the Appalachian region." The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (both R-TN). They want more resources and more designations of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs).

"These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. ONDCP has the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies," the senators said in a press release. "Despite the enormous need, historically the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30 percent of petitions submitted. In the most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA -- which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia -- received the sought-after designation. This fact, juxtaposed with the region's manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding needs to be revisited."

International

Mexico's Week of Cartel Violence Shakes Administration. Last week was a week of chaos as Mexican drug cartels ran amok in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as well as in the states of Coahuila, Guanajauto, and Jalisco, and that has left the government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) looking for answers. AMLO himself suggested the attacks were part of a political conspiracy: "I don't know if there was a connection, a hidden hand, if this had been set up," he said. "What I do know is that our opponents, the corrupt conservatives, help in the black propaganda."

Defense Secretary Luis Crescencio Sandoval claimed the cartels lashed out because they feel they have been weakened. That may be a more plausible explanation than AMLO's. While AMLO took office in 2018 pledging "hugs not bullets" for violent drug trafficking organizations, in the past year his strategy has shifted Last year, Mexican soldiers were criticized for simply sitting in their bases and watching as cartels battled each other, but this year has seen more attempt to capture major traffickers, including the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, and more meth lab busts.

"There has been a change in the strategy in fighting drug cartels. Andrés Manuel has been very much criticized recently for his 'hugs, not bullets strategy," security analyst David Saucedo said. "I think that due to pressure from Joe Biden, he is changing that and agreeing to capture high-profile drug traffickers. The narco-terrorism of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is a reaction to the president's change in strategy," Saucedo said. "If the Mexican president continues with this strategy of capturing high-ranking members of the Jalisco cartel, the Jalisco cartel is going to respond with acts of narcoterrorism in the states it controls as part of its vast empire."

CA Psychedelic Legalization Advances, AR MJ Legalization Back on Ballot, More... (8/12/22)

Maryland officials finalize the ballot language for a marijuana legalization referendum, a Florida marijuana legalization bill dies without a hearing, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Puts Marijuana Legalization Initiative Back on the Ballot, But Votes May Not Be Counted Pending Final Ruling. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the secretary of state to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot. The ruling came after the initiative's sponsor, Responsible Growth Arkansas, sued the state Board of Election Commissioners for removing it from the ballot even though it had garnered enough valid voter signatures to qualify. The board said it declined to certify the measure because the ballot title and popular name for the measure was misleading. While voters will have the chance to vote on it come November, their votes may not count. The court has not made a final decision on the merits of the election board's refusal to certify the initiative, and if it rules in favor of the board, those votes will be null and void.

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies Without Hearing. A marijuana legalization bill filed state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) and Michael Grieco (D) has died in the House without a hearing. House Bill1117would have legalized up to 2.5 ounces for people 21 and over and allowed for the home cultivation of up to six plants. "It's no surprise the Republican controlled legislature doesn't want to legalize adult-use cannabis," Smith says. "They didn't want medical cannabis either, but 71% of voters disagreed. And just like they did with medical cannabis, eventually the voters will overrule the legislature. It's not if, but when. Unless of course, the legislature succeeds in making it harder for voters approve citizen-led constitutional amendments, as they are currently trying to do with HB 7111 and HJR 57. Floridians need to get woke."

Maryland Officials Certify Final Text of Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. After the legislature approved two marijuana bills earlier this year, voters will have the chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November, and now election officials have finalized the language of the ballot question that voters will be asked: "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?" Meanwhile, the Department of Legislative Services has published a summary of the question for the ballot that describes its legislative history, details current marijuana laws, and notes that 18 other states have already legalized marijuana.

Massachusetts: Governor Signs Bill Creating "Social Equity Trust Fund" for Aspiring Marijuana Businesses. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 3096, which seeks to promote greater diversity among those participating in the state's licensed marijuana industry and lays the groundwork for the establishment of on-site marijuana consumption facilities. Specifically, the measure creates a "Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to encourage the full participation… of entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." Money in the fund "shall be used to make grants and loans, including no-interest loans and forgivable loans, to social equity program participants and economic empowerment priority applicants." In addition, the bill provides guidance for the eventual licensing of onsite adult-use consumption facilities.

Psychedelics

California Bill to Legalize Some Psychedelics Set for Assembly Floor Vote. A bill that would legalize some psychedelic substances, including DMT and psilocybin mushrooms, and which has already passed the Senate is now headed for an Assembly floor vote. Senate Bill 519, filed by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed its final hurdle before a floor vote by being approved in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday. The bill would legalize the possession of 2 grams of DMT, 15 grams of ibogaine, 0.01 grams of LSD, 4 grams of mescaline, 2 grams of psilocybin or 4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and 4 grams of MDMA.

San Francisco Supervisors File Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Psychedelic Measure. City lawmakers have filed a measure that would effectively move the city toward psychedelic decriminalization. It is not a legalization or decrim bill, but a lowest priority bill. The measure reads as follows: "City resources not be used for any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution" related to use of Entheogenic Plants listed on the Federally Controlled Substances Schedule 1 list." The bill is sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston (District 5) and cosponsor Supervisor Hillary Ronen (District 9).

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Makes the Ballot, But Not Everybody Is Happy [FEATURE]

Missourians will be voting on whether to free the weed in November. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Ashcroft certified that an initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana had turned enough valid voter signatures in to qualify for the ballot.

That means voters in a trio of states will have their say on marijuana legalization in November. Similar initiatives in Maryland and South Dakota have already been approved. And there could be more: Signatures for initiatives have already been turned in and are awaiting verification in North Dakota and Oklahoma, and Arkansas activists qualified for the ballot, too, only to see their efforts thrown out over the ballot title. They are appealing that decision.

"I encourage Missourians to study and educate themselves on any ballot initiative," Ashcroft said in a press release. "Initiative 2022-059 that voters will see on the November ballot is particularly lengthy and should be given careful consideration."

According to Legalize Missouri 2022, the group behind the initiative, it would allow "Missourians 21 years and older to possess, purchase, consume and cultivate marijuana," as well as providing for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. People would be able to possess up to three ounces and grow up to six flowering plants, along with six immature plants, and six clones.

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.

The measure 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." 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.

"Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit," said John Payne, Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager said in a press release on Tuesday. "Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference."

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and its state chapter supported the initiative and were part of that coalition.

"NORML's Chapter leaders in Missouri played a major role in writing this initiative so that cannabis consumers' interests are protected," Missouri NORML Coordinator and Legal MO '22 Advisory Board Chair Dan Viets said.

And national NORML was optimistic about November.

"Recent polling reveals that a majority of Missouri residents are ready and eager to end their state's failed marijuana prohibition," NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. "That is because Missourians, like the overwhelming majority of all Americans, recognize that prohibition is a disastrous and draconian practice best cast into the waste bin of history. Voters in the Show Me State want a sensible policy of legalization and regulation, and that is why we expect that they will overwhelmingly vote 'yes' on this initiative this fall."

But not everybody in the Missouri marijuana community is happy. The pro-legalization and criminal justice reform group Great State Strategies, led by lobbyist Eapen Thampy, has come out against the measure because it includes some criminal penalties, such as for smoking in a public place, and because of complaints over licensing.

"We oppose this initiative because it would create constitutional criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use and furthermore excludes those with felony marijuana charges from automatic expungement or release from prison," Thampy said in a statement. "Their licensing scheme is racist and offensive: instead of opening up the free market they create a second class, Jim Crow licensing structure that will be easily rigged by the major industry players."

Similarly, the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement said it planned to campaign against the initiative, also citing the criminal penalties, as well as fears that giving the existing medical marijuana industry the first crack at recreational licenses would give it too much control over adult-use marijuana.

"Here we are still putting people in jail over dime bags while these rich men are making millions of dollars under these dispensaries and grow facilities," group founder Tim Gilio said.

Whether the concerns of the disgruntled activists will resonate with the voters remain to be seen, but now, the Show Me state has the chance to show the rest of the country where it stands.

Biden DOJ Opposes Gun Rights for MedMJ Patients, MO Legal Pot Initiative Qualifies, More... (8/10/22)

A Florida marijuana legalization initiative campaign aimed at 2024 gets underway, a Colorado natural psychedelic initiative comes up short, and more.

Marijuana testing is contributing to the truck driver shortage. (Creative Commons)
Report: Spike in Marijuana Positives Fueling Truck Driver Shortage, Supply Chain Disruptions. Amid chronic shortages of long-haul truck drivers, federal data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that more than 10,000 truck drivers have been ordered off the road after testing positive for marijuana just between January 1 and April 1 of this year. That is a 33 percent increase over the same period in 2021. DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has also doubled the frequency of drug testing of truck drivers. Under federal law, CDL licensed drivers are not permitted to consume cannabis under any circumstances, regardless of whether marijuana use is legal where they live. Currently, more than 89,000 commercially licensed truck drivers are barred from the road because of positive drug tests; more than half of them are for people testing positive for marijuana.

Florida 2024 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Launched. A group calling itself Smart & Safe Florida filed a marijuana legalization initiative aimed at the 2024 ballot Monday. The campaign is initially being bankrolled by Trulieve, the state's largest medical marijuana provider. The measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over and allow existing medical marijuana retailers to sell to the recreational market, which would benefit Trulieve. It includes a provision that allows for -- but does not require -- the state to issue additional retail licenses. It does not include provisions for expungement, social equity, or home cultivation. The campaign will need to come up with roughly 900,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot. Previous initiative campaigns have been rejected by the state Supreme Court, but Smart & Safe Florida says its bare-bones initiative should be able to avoid or overcome legal challenges.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. A marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Legal Missouri 2022 has qualified for the November ballot, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Tuesday. The initiative takes the form of a constitutional amendment that would remove bans on the possession, manufacturing, and sales of marijuana from the state constitution for people 21 and over. Building on an earlier medical marijuana constitutional amendment, the measure would also increase the number of retail sales licenses. It also includes a provision for the expungement of records.

Medical Marijuana

Biden DOJ Says Medical Marijuana Patients Too "Dangerous" to Own Guns. The Justice Department on Monday sought to persuade a federal court to overturn a policy blocking medical marijuana patients from buying or owning guns. The department was responding to a lawsuit filed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and several medical marijuana users that argues that the policy deprives patients of their 2nd Amendment rights. The Justice Department told the court that it would be too "dangerous to trust regular marijuana users to exercise sound judgment" around guns. The department also argued that gun rights are reserved for "law-abiding" people, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "This memorandum uses the phrase 'medical marijuana' for convenience, but Congress has found that marijuana 'has no currently accepted medical use.'"

Psychedelics

Colorado Natural Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Falls Short on Signatures. Campaigners for Initiative 61, "Legal Possession and Use of Entheogenic Plants and Fungi," announced Monday that the measure would not qualify for the ballot. Monday was the last day to turn in signatures, and organizers said their all-volunteer signature-gathering campaign had come up short. Another psychedelic reform measure, Initiative 58, the "Natural Medicine Health Care Act," has already qualified for the November ballot. It would decriminalize the possession of psilocybin and allow for its use in state-regulated settings.

AR Legalization Campaign Sues to Get Back on Ballot, Honduras Coca Production, More... (8/5/22)

Coca grower factions continue to clash in Bolivia, Colombia's new president will move to decriminalize drugs, and more.

A coca lab in Honduras (HSDN)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Marijuana Legalization Campaign Sues to Get Initiative Back on the Ballot. Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group behind a marijuana legalization initiative, has filed suit against the State Board of Election Commissioners after the board earlier this week declined to certify the measure for the November ballot even though it had surpassed the required number of valid voter signatures. The board contended that the ballot title and description did not adequately describe the initiative, but Responsible Growth Arkansas says the board made an "incorrect" decision and "denied the wishes of hundreds of thousands of Arkansans to have the opportunity to vote on the Amendment."

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. Competing coca grower union factions, one affiliated with the government of President Luis Arce and the other opposed, continued to clash in La Paz this week. Adepcoca, which is the nation's largest coca union, is divided, with one faction now calling for the resignation of Minister of Rural Development Remmy Gonzales. And they are demanding the closure of a "parallel market" administered by coca union leader Arnold Alanez, whom the government recognizes as the leader of Adepcoca, and have filed a lawsuit against the government to force its closure. There are only two recognized coca markets, the Adepcoca market in La Paz and the Sacaba market in Cochabamba, and the Adepcoca growers say the third market is "illegal."

Colombia's Incoming Government Will Move to Decriminalize Drugs. The incoming administration of leftist President-elect Gustavo Petro is preparing drug policy proposals including drug decriminalization as it faces record cocaine production and violence from illegal armed groups and traffickers involved in the trade. Petro takes office on Sunday. His drug policy coordinator, Felipe Tascon, said that Petro also wants to end forced eradication of coca crops and instead concentrate on developing the rural economy. Tascon added that Petro will "speak up louder internationally" to explain that the problem is not drugs but "the problems drug prohibition created" and that "Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, if Lula wins, as progressive countries affected by narcotics can propose it as a block."

Honduras Sends in Military to Stop Illegal Coca Production. Honduran soldiers this week were on a mission to destroy a 75-acre coca field in the rugged mountains of Colon department. It's part of an effort by leftist President Xiomara Castro to prevent the country from becoming a cocaine producer. "In the operation, we are carrying out [they have seized] around 42 manzanas of coca bushes, with an approximate yield of one million 600 plants," the military said. There were also "eight nurseries with 50,000 plants ready for transplanting, six drug laboratories" and "three blocks of marijuana." More than 2.6 million coca plants have been seized this year, the military said. "We already have problems with being a transit and consumer country, but being a producer country would generate a criminality that we could not possibly control," it added.

Feds Charge Four Louisville Cops in Fatal Breonna Taylor Drug Raid, Thai Cannabis Tourism, More... (8/4/22)

Arkansas election officials knock a marijuana legalization initiative off the ballot -- at least for now -- San Francisco's new DA cracks down on drug dealers, and more.

Kentucky did not do it, but maybe the federal government can obtain justice for Breonna Taylor.
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Panel Rejects Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday blocked a marijuana legalization initiative from Responsible Growth Arkansas from appearing on the ballot in November. The board rejected the popular name and ballot title for the measure, which has already accumulated enough voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Responsible Growth Arkansas says it will appeal to the state Supreme Court. The board said it rejected the measure because members believed the ballot title didn't fully explain the measure's impact, but Responsible Growth Arkansas said the amount of detail demanded would make the ballot title "thousands and thousands of words long."

Law Enforcement

Feds Charge Four Louisville Cops in Breonna Taylor Case. The FBI has charged four Louisville police officers for their actions leading up to and during a March 2020 drug raid on the apartment of medical worker Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police gunfire after her boyfriend shot at what he believed to be intruders trying to break into the residence. Those charged include former Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Joshua Jaynes, Brett Hankison, and Kelly Hanna Goodlett, as well as current LMPD sergeant Kyle Meany was also arrested Thursday by the feds. The feds are charging the four with civil rights violations, which include charges of obstruction of justice for actions they took after the raid. The four officers largely escaped justice at the state level, with only one charged, and later acquitted -- not for shooting Taylor but for endangering the lives of neighbors by wildly shooting several rounds into the building. The killing of Taylor became a major rallying cry in the summer of protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

San Francisco DA Cracks Down on Drug Dealers. Newly-elected District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Wednesday announced tougher new policies to hold drug dealers accountable, saying anyone caught with more than five grams of drugs would no longer be referred to the city's drug court, that she will make use of sentencing enhancements for drug dealing within a thousand feet of a school, and will seek pretrial detention of fentanyl dealers in "extreme" cases. The move comes as Jenkins replaces former progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin, who was recalled amidst rising public concern over crime and squalor in the city. But the city's Public Defender called Jenkin's approach "regressive," saying it will disproportionately affect communities of color. "If District Attorney Jenkins truly wants to address the issues facing our city, she should not be relying on outdated and politically expedient soundbites about harsher enforcement," said Public Defender Mano Raju.

International

Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Penal Colony for Possessing Small Quantity of Cannabis Oil. American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced Thursday to nine years in a Russian penal colony after earlier being found of bringing cannabis oil into the country in her luggage. The guilty verdict was virtually a foregone conclusion in a criminal justice system that wins convictions in 99 percent of cases. Griner was detained by Russian authorities just a week before it invaded Ukraine, and her case is widely seen as part of the broader conflict between Russia and the United States over that conflict. Griner's attorneys say they will appeal the verdict. President Biden, who has been under pressure to win her release from her wife and the athletic community and whose administration is attempting to negotiate a prisoner swap for Griner, called her sentence "unacceptable," and vowed to continue all-out efforts to get her home.

Cannabis Cafes Emerge in Thailand. "Several" cannabis cafes have opened in Bangkok since the country decriminalized cannabis in June, despite the government's warning that the law's relaxation did not include recreational marijuana use. Recreational use has exploded under the new law, something that government officials have tried to discourage. Now, a parliamentary committee is working on a bill that could rejigger the rules and possibly impact the cannabis cafes. In the meantime, one café owner said his place had "hundreds" of customers every day. "Europeans, Japanese, Americans -- they are looking for Thai sativa. Cannabis and tourism are a match," he said.

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