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New Bid for SAFE Banking Bill, OH Activists' MJ Legalization Measure Heads to Legislature, More... (1/31/22)

South Dakota medical marijuana patients will get to enjoy their edibles after all, a New Hampshire subcommittee kills one marijuana bill but more are coming, and more.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is trying once again to propel the SAFE Banking Act forward. (house.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congressman Files New Marijuana Banking Reform Amendment to Major Spending Bill. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, announced Friday that he is bringing forth an amendment to a major technology and manufacturing research and innovation bill that would incorporate the measure aimed at protecting the state-legal marijuana industry. The SAFE Banking Act has cleared the House five times by now, only to die in the Senate. Most recently, Senate negotiators pushing for full legalization stripped it from a defense spending bill that had passed the House.

"The SAFE Banking Act is the best opportunity to enact some type of federal cannabis reform this year and will serve as the first of many steps to help ensure cannabis businesses are treated the same as any other legal, legitimate business," Perlmutter said. "I will continue to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking over the finish line and signed into law."

New Hampshire House Subcommittee Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted 16-1 last Friday to kill a marijuana legalization bill. But more marijuana bills are coming, including one related to home cultivation, one setting fines for possession, and another legalization bill. The bill killed last Friday was House Bill 1468-FN.

Ohio Activists Have Enough Signatures to Force Legislative Vote on Marijuana Legalization. The secretary of state's office announced last Friday that the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol had handed in enough valid voter signatures to force the legislature to act on marijuana legalization -- or give voters a shot at it. The legislature now has four months to approve marijuana legalization. If it votes not to or neglects to act at all, the Coalition would then be able to place the issue directly before voters by gathering another 133,000 valid voter signatures.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Kills Bid to Ban Edibles. The state House of Representatives voted last Thursday to defeat House Bill 1058, which would have blocked medical marijuana patients from using edibles, concentrates, and extracts. The measure had been approved in committee, but died on a 47-21 vote.

DE Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes Committee, SD Lawmakers Move to Ban MedMJ Edibles, More... (1/27/22)

Psilocybin is making some news this week in Colorado, Wisconsin Republicans roll out a restrictive medical marijuana bill, and more.

South Dakota -- no medical marijuana edibles for you if the legislature has its way. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health and Human Development Committee voted Wednesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150. The bill legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over but does not allow people to grow their own. Instead, people would have to purchase marijuana from a state-regulated cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution industry. Basically, the same bill has been introduced each year since 2019 but has never gotten as far as a House floor vote. This year, a proposed Social Equity Loan fund was removed because funding measures would require a three-fourths supermajority to pass. Governor Jay Carney (D) remains opposed to the bill despite changes made designed to appease him.

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota House Committee Votes to Ban Edibles. Ignoring the will of the voters, who in 2020 overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative that included access to marijuana edibles, the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted narrowly to ban them. The committee voted 7-6 to approve House Bill 1058. "The purpose of the bill is about keeping children safe from exposure and accidental ingestion of edibles," claimed sponsor Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence). The bill would make it difficult for medical marijuana retailers to have viable businesses by restricting what are popular items in most medical marijuana states, industry supporters say.

Wisconsin Republicans File Medical Marijuana Bill. State Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R) have filed a restrictive medical marijuana bill that would bar the use of smoked or vaped marijuana, It would also create a commission to regulate medical marijuana in the state. Physicians would have to be certified by the commission before they could recommend medical marijuana. The bill, which has yet to be posted to the legislative website, faces long odds.in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) has said he thinks medical marijuana legalization should be a federal issue.

Psychedelics

Colorado Activists File Revised Psilocybin Legalization and Healing Center Initiatives. Activists behind Denver's historic 2019 vote to decriminalize psilocybin have now filed revised versions of a pair of proposed initiatives, one that would legalize psilocybin and one that would create licensed healing centers where the drug could be used for therapeutic purposes. The original legalization initiative included a wide range of psychedelics including DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline, but the new one merely legalizes psilocybin and regulates it for therapeutic use until 2026. After that, regulators could include other psychedelics. The revised initiatives also do away with specified possession limits and include social justice provisions.

Colorado Lawmakers File Bill to Study Psychedelics and Mental Health Treatment. Reps. Alex Valdez (D-Denver), Edie Hooton (D-Boulder), and Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins) have filed a bill that would create a panel to study psychedelics and mental health treatment. The measure, House Bill 1116, would have the panel meet for one year to "study the use of plant-based medicines to support mental health, report its findings and make policy recommendations" to the Colorado General Assembly, the governor and other state officials.

The panel would consist of 17 members and would include physicians, veterans, natural healers, plant-based medicine advocates, Indigenous communities, criminal defense lawyers and law enforcement, The bill allows for the study of four natural psychedelics: DMT, ibogaine, and psilocybin and psilocin, which are the active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms.

These States Could Legalize Marijuana via the Ballot Box in 2022 [FEATURE]

A new year is here, and with it, new opportunities to expand the legal marijuana landscape at the ballot box. Currently, marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, with medical marijuana allowed in 36 states and DC. Given that marijuana legalization is as popular as apple pie -- the most recent Gallup poll has support at a record 68 percent--we should expect to see more join the ranks. There are eight states that could increase that number at the ballot box this year.

(There are also legalization efforts at statehouses -- look for a feature story on that shortly.)

Among the eight states with ballot prospects are several states where legalization would be achieved in a hybrid fashion: The legislature would have to approve a bill calling for a referendum on the issue, and then voters would get their say.

The year is young, and none of the initiatives below have yet qualified. They must all overcome procedural hurdles and signature gathering requirements (except for those hybrids). But if they can manage to get qualified, the polling numbers suggest they can win, even in the reddest states.

With a big tip of the hat to Ballotpedia, Marijuana Moment, and NORML, who are all keeping an eye on the action, here's the list of states working to legalize it at the ballot box this year:

Arkansas

Two separate marijuana legalization initiative campaigns were derailed by coronavirus disruptions and restrictions in 2020, but both are back this year, along with a potential third initiative. All take the form of initiated constitutional amendments.

One initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Arkansans for Marijuana Reform. It would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana buds and two ounces of concentrates and would let people grow up to six mature marijuana plants and six seedlings. Legal marijuana commerce would be handled by the state Department of Finance and Administration, which would have to issue at least one retail license per 15,000 residents.

A second initiative, submitted by Arkansas True Grass,would legalize sales as well as personal possession. Adults could purchase up to four ounces at a time and grow up to 12 plants for personal use, while licensed and regulated marijuana commerce would be taxed at 13 percent at the retail level (8 percent excise tax and 5 percent local sales tax). Past marijuana convictions would be expunged.

The third initiative was just filed this week. It is from former state lawmaker Eddie Armstrong (D), who is also involved in an Illinois marijuana business and who announced back in October that he had formed a campaign called Responsible Growth Arkansas to put a legalization constitutional amendment on the ballot. His Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would legalize marijuana but seems more interested in who would get coveted licenses. It would have authorities issue licenses first to people who already had medical marijuana licenses and would cap the number of dispensaries at 120.

All three campaigns will need to come up with 89,151 valid voter signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Kentucky

This is a hybrid state: Six members of the House have filed House Bill 225, which, if passed, would put before the voters a referendum question on marijuana legalization. The proposal would allow anyone 21 or over to possess, use, buy, or sell up to an ounce of marijuana and grow, harvest, and store up to five plants for personal use. The measure would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.

Whether this bill will move remains to be seen. It went to the Committee on Committees on January 5 and, as of this writing, it has not advanced or been scheduled for a hearing.

Maryland

Another hybrid state. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D), chairman of legislative group studying the issue of marijuana legalization, has filed House Bill 1, which, if passed, would place before voters the following question: "Do you favor the legalization of adult -- use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" If voters approved it, the General Assembly would then be charged with writing the rules covering "use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis."

This bill could move. It was House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) who formed the marijuana working group, and Clippinger is not only chairman of the group but also chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to which it has been referred.

But Jones's counterpart, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), seems more inclined to support getting a straight legalization bill passed before November than going down the referendum route. Either way would work.

Missouri

Missouri has two marijuana legalization initiatives already cleared for circulation and one measure in the legislature that would, if passed, result in a public referendum on the issue.

Legal Missouri 2022 has filed an initiative that legalizes marijuana for people 21 and over and automatically expunges criminal records for past nonviolent marijuana offenses. It also includes social equity provisions aimed at broadening participation in the industry. The group kicked off its signature gathering campaign in December and needs at least 107,246 valid voter signatures by July 28.

A different group, Fair Access Missouri, has filed multiple initiatives aimed at creating a system of legal marijuana sales for people 21 and over. The group describes itself as a "grassroots coalition of activists, patient advocates, and entrepreneurs working to give Missouri voters an open market with low taxes and low barriers to entry." Fair Access Missouri is also now in the signature gathering phase.

And then there is Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), who has filed a joint resolution, House Joint Resolution 33, to put a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot. He filed the same bill last year, but it did not advance. It is not currently scheduled for a House hearing.

New Hampshire

And another hybrid. The House has already approved a marijuana legalization bill this year, as in years past, but all such bills so far have gone on to die in the Senate. Maybe this year will be different, but in case it is not, three House members have introduced bills to place marijuana legalization constitutional amendments on the ballot. The measures are CACR 20 from Rep. Renny Cushing (D),CACR 34 from Rep. Joshua Adjutant (D) (D), and CACR 35 from Rep. Abdrew Prout (R).

These bills face a significant uphill battle. First, they have no win a 60 percent supermajority in both the House and Senate, which would be a tough slog in the GOP-controlled legislature, and then two-thirds (67 percent) of the voters would have to approve it.

Getting two-thirds of the voters to approve it, though, may not be as challenging as it appears. A recent poll had support for marijuana legalization in the state at 75 percent.

Ohio

And another hybrid. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is campaigning to put a marijuana legalization initiative before the legislature, which would then have four months to approve it. If the legislature votes no or fails to act, the initiative would then go to the voters in November, provided the campaign successful completes another round of signature gathering.

Right now, the campaign is struggling to get past the initial round of signature gathering. The initiative needs 132,887 valid voter signatures to begin the process at the statehouse, and it handed in more than 200,000 raw signatures early in January, but state officials determined that only 199,925 were valid. Campaigners then did a final round of petitioningand came up with an additional 29,918 raw signatures. State officials have yet to confirm the signature count, but less than half of those raw signatures need to be valid to get the campaign past the hurdle.

Oklahoma

Two different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns are underway in the Sooner State.

Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action is behind State Question 819, which would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. The measure would legalize up to eight ounces for people 21 and over and has strong home grow provisions, allowing for up to 12 plants (and the fruits of their harvest). It also includes employment and parental rights protections and would make some changes to the state medical marijuana program.

The deep-pocketed national drug reform powerhouse New Approach PAC is behind State Question820, which would allow people 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings at home.

SQ 819 is a constitutional amendment, so it has a higher signature requirement that SQ 820, which is an initiated statute. SQ 819 will need at least 177,958 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, while SQ 820 will only need 94,911. Once the campaigns get the go-ahead for signature gathering, they have 90 days to get it done, with a June cut-off date for latecomers.

South Dakota

South Dakotans approved a marijuana legalization initiative in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote, only to have the will of the voters overturned by the state Supreme Court. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML), the folks behind the 2020 effort, are back again with a new, trimmed-back initiative that does not include business licensing, sales, or regulations, instead leaving that to the legislature.

The campaign is in the midst of signature gathering, having turned in some 15,000 raw signatures in December. A 2022 initiated measure requires 16,961 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters to qualify for the November ballot, but the campaign has until May 3 to complete signature gathering. It says its goal is 25,000 raw signatures.

VA GOP Bill Would Gut Marijuana Social Equity Funding, Mexico Murders May Have Peaked, More... (1/24/22)

North Dakota marijuana initaitive campaigners will have to go back to the drawing board, social equity funding is on the chopping block in Virginia's GOP marijuana implementation bill, and more.

The South Carolina will -- after seven years -- debate a medical marijuana bill this week. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short on Signatures. Activists behind an effort to put a marijuana legalization ballot measure before the voters in November have failed to come up with enough signatures to do so. The deadline for handing signatures for the campaign was Saturday, and the group had only gathered 19,500 raw signatures by then. They needed 31,164 valid voter signatures to qualify. The activists said they are already looking ahead to medical marijuana access and marijuana legalization initiative campaigns for 2024. The legislature took up marijuana legalization last year, but that bill was killed in the state Senate.

Virginia Republican Files Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill that Cuts Taxes, Reduces Social Equity Funding. Delegate Michael Webert (R-Fauquier) has filed legislation to implement marijuana legalization approved by last year's Democratic state legislature, but that legislation makes some changes to what the Democrats envisioned. The bill, House Bill 950, would cut the tax on retail sales from 21 percent to 10 percent in what Webert said is a bid to undercut the black market. It would also eliminate the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which would have allocated 35 percent of tax revenues to providing scholarships, community programs and business loans to people and communities "historically and disproportionately targeted and affected by drug enforcement." Instead, those funds would now go to repairing or replacing school roofs. The bill also eliminates preferences for people with past marijuana convictions but would allow priority access for people who live in communities with higher than average enforcement, as well as people who are economically disadvantaged or who attended a historically black college or university in the state.

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Medical Marijuana to (Finally) Be Debated. Senator Tom Davis's (R-Beaufort) Senate Bill 150, the South Carolina Compassionate Use Act, will finally be debated on the Senate floor this week. Davis has been trying for seven years to get to this point. Befitting the conservative state, Davis's bill is also conservative. It bars the use of smokable marijuana, requires an in-patient doctor's visit and a written treatment plan, and limits the conditions that can be treated to a specified list including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma. sickle cell anemia and autism. Davis says he thinks he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate and send it to the House, but House leaders have not indicated whether they would take it up before the session ends.

International

Mexico Killings Declined Slightly Last Year. The country's annual death count, driven largely by drug prohibition-related violence, was down for the second year in a row, official figures indicated. Homicides hit an all-time high of 34,690 in 2019 before dropping to 34,544 in 2020 and dropping again to 33,308 last year. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the government of then-President Felipe Calderon deployed the military in a bid to stem rising levels of violence -- only to see the number of killings rise year after year for more than a decade. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador created a new security force, the National Guard, to deal with high levels of violence, but the decline in killings is more likely related to social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Citizen Observatory, a civil society group.

Overdose Surge Hits Black Men the Hardest, Austin No-Knock Raid Ban and Decrim Inits, More... (1/19/22)

The prospects for home marijuana gardens in the Garden State grow dim, black men are bearing the brunt of the fatal overdose crisis, and more.

Black men are dying of drug overdoses at a rate higher than any other demographic group. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Unlikely to Allow Home Marijuana Cultivation. Marijuana legalization proponent and incoming state Senate President Nick Scutari (D) has signaled that home cultivation of marijuana will not be allowed once the state's adult-use market launches. That launch date was originally set for the middle of next month but is now running behind schedule.

Scutari said he "did not see (home cultivation) happening right now" because it would only further the illicit marijuana market. "I'm not against marijuana being grown at home for medical purposes and maybe even just recreational purposes," Scutari said. "But we've got to let this industry… it's not even off the ground yet."

The issue of home cultivation is creating a divide between activists and marijuana businesses, with legal operators interested in minimizing home grows and protecting market share, while activists argue that medical marijuana patients in particular should have the right to grow their own.

Austin Marijuana Decriminalization, No-Knock Raid Ban Initiative Approved to Go Before Voters in May. The Austin City Council on Tuesday approved an activist-led initiative to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock police raids. That was the final obstacle on the path to putting the issue before city voters in municipal elections in May. The council could have adopted the measure as an ordinance, which activists said they would have preferred, but it instead deferred, leaving the call to the voters.

"The City Council's vote to schedule an election on the Austin Freedom Act is a testament to the incredible work of our organizers and volunteers who are fighting for progressive change in their community," Mike Siegel, political director of Ground Game Texas, said. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, voters will have the opportunity in May to end the criminalization of marijuana possession and the dangerous practice of no-knock police raids."

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Medical Marijuana. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are teaming up in a bid to make it more difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana-related products, and they are aiming at Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. Delta-9 THC is the most potent psychoactive compound found in marijuana, but Delta-8 also produces psychoactive effects and is considered legal under federal law because it has never been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Sponsored by Reps. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and Andrew Learned (D-Brandon), House Bill 679 would increase regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected by the state's medical marijuana law. The bill would prohibit Delta-8 sales to people under 21, limit advertising toward children, create evaluation procedures for new products, and prevent medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profit.

Harm Reduction

Recent Overdose Surge Has Hit Black Men the Hardest. The Pew Research Center reports that amidst a record surge in drug overdose deaths, "while overdose death rates have increased in every major demographic group in recent years, no group has seen a bigger increase than Black men. As a result, Black men have overtaken American Indian or Alaska Native men and White men as the demographic group most likely to die from overdoses." Black men die of drug overdoses at a rate of 54.1 per 100,000, overtaking Native American men (52.1) and white men (44.2). Latino men died at a lower rate of 27.3 per 100,000, with Asian American men bringing up the rear with a rate of 8.5.

NJ Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills, Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana, More... (1/18/22)

It's January, and the marijuana bills are coming fast and furious, a Utah bill would create a psychedelic therapy task force, and more.

Louisiana US Senate candidate Gary Chambers fires up for his first campaign ad. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Democrats are back once again with a marijuana legalization bill. State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) has filed House Bill 150, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by people 21 and over, but bans people from growing their own. The bill also envisions a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce and includes a small social equity provision that would earmark a portion of pot taxes for aiding communities most hard hit by the war on drugs. But the bill's prospects are cloudy since it would need a supermajority to pass the legislature and would then face a governor reluctant to sign it.

Louisiana US Senate Candidate Smokes Blunt in Campaign Ad. Democratic US Senate candidate Gary Chambers on Tuesday released his first campaign ad, a video showing him smoking a marijuana blunt and calling for its legalization. "Every 37 seconds someone is arrested for possession of marijuana," said Chambers in the video. "States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. Most of the people police are arresting aren't dealers but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me," he goes on. In a tweet accompanying his ad, Chambers added: "I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology." He is running to challenge sitting US Senator John Kennedy (R).

Maryland Marijuana Legalization Constitutional Amendment Bill Filed. Delegate Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) has filed House Bill 1, a marijuana legalization bill with a twist: It takes the form of a constitutional amendment, which would have to win a supermajority of both the House and Senate before going to voters at the polls during a general election. The measure would legalize marijuana possession for people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. If it gets past the legislature, voters would be asked: "Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" Recent polls show roughly two-thirds of Marylanders are ready to free the weed.

Psychedelics

Utah Bill Would Create Psychedelic Task Force. Rep. Brady Brammer (R-Highland) has filed House Bill 167, which would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The task force would be co-chaired by the head of the state Health Department and the head of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and would also include a licensed psychiatrist; a licensed psychologist; a representative from the Utah Medical Association, someone who researches and studies neuroscience and mental health; a health system representative; and a patient who is knowledgeable about using a psychotherapy drug, among others. Although not mentioned specifically in the bill, supporters say psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, is the drug most likely to be considered by the task force.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Governor Signs Syringe Access Expansion Bills into Law. Governor Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday signed into laws a pair of bills that will ease access to syringes. The Syringe Access Bill (S-3009/A-4847) removes authority to approve and close syringe access programs (SAPs) from local municipalities and places that authority with the New Jersey Department of Health, aligning SAPs with other public health services. The Syringe Decrim Bill (S-3493/A-5458) decriminalizes possession of syringes and allows for expungement of previous convictions. By shifting authority from municipalities to the New Jersey Department of Health, this legislation effectively prevents the Atlantic City SAP, called the Oasis Drop-In Center and operated by South Jersey AIDS Alliance, from being closed by the Atlantic City Council. In July 2021, the Atlantic City Council voted to remove municipal approval from the SAP over the objections of people who use drugs, people living with HIV, local and statewide advocates, and the Murphy administration.

International

Canadian Harm Reductionists Sue Alberta Over Policy to Require Safe Injection Site Users Show Health ID Cards. Harm reduction groups are taking legal action to try to block the province of Alberta from requiring that people using a safe injection site show their Health Canada identification cards. The policy is set to go into effect on January 31, and harm reductionists say it will create a barrier to using the service and increase the risk of fatal overdoses. The Alberta Court of Appeal has agreed to an emergency hearing on January 27. This latest move comes after a provincial judge earlier this month dismissed an injunction that would have blocked implementation of the new rule.

Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana. The Thai Food and Drug Administration is set to propose removing marijuana from the country's list of proscribed drugs on Wednesday, clearing the way for Health Minister Anutin Charmvirakul to grant final approval. "While the law change will allow all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and used, recreational use will likely remain controlled as marijuana extracts with higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels that get people high will still be regulated," said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research. "Producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics from marijuana will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the decriminalization."

Global Coalition to Internationally Reschedule Psilocybin, Mississippi Medical Marijuana Bill, More... (1/12/22)

A Florida bill seeks to make it easier to prosecute drug overdoses as murders, an Austin initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession has enough signatures to qualify for the May ballot, and more.

Austin voters are nearly set to vote on a municipal marijuana decriminalization initiative in May. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Austin Appears Headed for May Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Measure. The Austin city clerk verified Monday that a campaign to put a measure on the May municipal ballot to decriminalize marijuana and ban no-knock raids has collected enough signatures to qualify. But the city council must first vote to put it on the ballot. The measure, backed by Ground Game Texas, would bar Austin police from ticketing or arresting people for low-level marijuana or pot paraphernalia charges, or paying to test substances suspected of being marijuana. But possession would remain a misdemeanor under state law, and it is unclear whether Austin police would abide by such an ordinance.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Legislature Takes Up Medical Marijuana. More than a year after voters approved medical marijuana and months after the state Supreme Court nullified the will of the voters, the state legislature is ready to respond. On Tuesday, Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven) filed Senate Bill 2095, which has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and could see action as soon as this week. If it passes the committee, it would then head for a Senate floor vote. Then it would go to the House, but House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R) has said medical marijuana is not a big priority of his.

Sentencing Policy

Florida Bill to Ease Murder Prosecutions in Drug Overdose Cases Advances. A bill that would make it easier to prosecute fatal drug overdoses as first-degree murder cases was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Sponsored by state Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), Senate Bill 190 would lower the standard for bringing a murder charge from requiring that prosecutors prove the drug was the "proximate cause" of an overdose death to proving only that it was a "substantial factor."

Brodeur said prosecutors were complaining that they were having difficulty bringing murder charges because "very frequently victims have multiple substances” in their systems when they overdose. "In moving from proximate cause to substantial factor, what we're saying is, rather than getting a battle of the experts that have to prove that this (drug) was the actual cause of death versus something else in your system, as long as there was enough of this one by itself to cause death, that’s enough for prosecution. And that makes it much simpler," Brodeur said.

Public defenders warned that the measure could remove the incentive for people to report overdoses "if they know that there’s a possible death penalty prosecution" that could result. The bill also would add methamphetamine to the list of drugs that can be eligible for first-degree murder charges in overdose deaths. That list currently includes such substances as cocaine, opium and fentanyl. The proposal also would toughen penalties for selling controlled substances within 1,000 feet of facilities that provide substance abuse treatment.

A similar House Bill (HB 95) needs approval from the House Judiciary Committee before it could go to the House floor for consideration.

International

Global Coalition Launches Push to Reschedule Psilocybin Under International Rules. The newly formed International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative (ITPRI) has announced a new campaign to get psilocybin mushrooms rescheduled at the international level. The group says it is seeking the change in order to ease barriers to research. Member organizations include the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Beckley Foundation, Mind Medicine Australia, Drug Science and Open Foundation. The coalition wants psilocybin removed from Schedule I of the UN's 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, arguing that it is neither especially risky nor with only limited therapeutic uses, the two conditions required for drugs to be placed in Schedule I. As a first step, the coalition will attempt to find a UN member nation to ask for a formal review of the risks and benefits of the psychedelic.

NH House Approves Marijuana Legalization (Again), WA Therapeutic Psilocybin Bill Filed, More... (1/7/22)

Kansas Democrats propose constitutional amendments to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, an Indiana lawmaker files a medical marijuana bill, and more.

Psilocbyin mushrooms could be legalized for therapeutic purposes under a Washington state bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kansas Democrats Announce Plan for Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendments. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) announced on Thursday they will introduce a pair of constitutional amendments to put the issues of marijuana legalization and access to medical marijuana directly to the voters. Democratic lawmakers next door in Iowa announced a similar move earlier this week. Republican-led legislatures in both states have blocked further marijuana law reforms, but the Democrats are hoping the legislatures will at least pass the measures and let the voters decide.

New Hampshire House Again Votes to Legalize Marijuana. For the third time since 2019, the House has approved a marijuana legalization bill, this year's version being HB629-FN. The bill would allow adults to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. It could be traded or given away but not sold. The House passed a broader bill that would have allowed taxed and regulated sales in 2019, only to see it die in the Senate. And a bill similar to this one passed in 2020, only to die in the Senate. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) opposes legalization, but this bill passed the House with a veto-proof majority. It now heads to the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Indiana Lawmaker Files Medical Marijuana Bill. State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) has filed a bill to allow medical marijuana use in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 231, would create a medical marijuana program where patients and caregivers with a physician's recommendations could possess and use marijuana. It would also set up a regulatory authority to oversee the program. Prospects are uncertain in the Republican-dominated state legislature.

Psychedelics

Washington State Lawmakers File Therapeutic Psilocybin Bill. State Senators Jesse Salomon (D) and Liz Lovelett (D) have introduced a bill that would allow people to use psilocybin and psilocin, the psychoactive ingredients in magic mushrooms, with the assistance of a trained and state-licensed psilocybin services administrator. The bill, Senate Bill 5660, is titled the Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act. People would have to go to a licensed service center to partake, unless they suffer certain medical conditions or are unable to travel, in which case they could receive psilocybin at home and meet remotely with a facilitator. Under the bill, the state Department of Health would issue licenses and regulate the new industry. The act would further establish the Washington Psilocybin Advisory Board within the department to advise on issues such as available scientific and social research, best practices for supported use as well as criteria for the bill's social opportunity program.

Duterte Will "Never Apologize" for Drug War Killings, Oklahoma MJ Legalization Init Filed, More... (1/6/22)

It's January and marijuana legalization efforts are winding up, Manhattan's new DA will refuse to prosecute some drug crimes, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Iowa Lawmakers Release Proposal to Put Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot. Three state Senate Democrats have filed a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in the state. The proposal would put the state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission in charge of regulations, would allow people 21 and over to possess and purchase marijuana, and set up a system of taxed and regulated production and sales. To become law, the amendment would have to be approved by two General Assemblies and then put on the next election ballot. Senators Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), Sarah Trone Garriott (D-Windsor Heights), and Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) introduced the proposal.

New Hampshire House Refuses to Pass or Kill Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House on Tuesday voted down an attempt to kill a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 237, but then also refused to pass it. The bill would have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years old and older, regulated its use and commercial sales, and tax those sales. The motion to kill the bill failed on a 171-158 vote, while a motion to pass the bill failed on a 170-163 vote. The House then decided on a 300-32 vote to table the bill.

New York Governor Announces $200 Fund for Social Equity Marijuana Businesses. The state will create a $200 million fund to assist social equity applicants trying to get marijuana business licenses, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced during her State of the State address Wednesday. But the funding mechanism -- a "public/private" model based on licensing fees and taxes -- has some minority industry members concerned that the funding will only be available after the industry has already been established, still leaving social equity applicants in an adverse position.

Oklahoma Activists File New Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Activists on Tuesday filed a new marijuana legalization initiative with state officials. This time, the local activists are being backed by the national New Approach PAC, which has backed a number of successful initiatives in other states. A different group of state activists has already filed its own legalization initiative. This newest measure would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce, grow up to six plants and six seedlings, and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales. If and when the initiative is approved for signature-gathering, the campaign will have 90 days to come up with 94,911 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Proposed Current Dosage Amount for Medical Marijuana is Too High. Governor Tate Reeves (R) is digging in his heels on concerns about how much marijuana medical marijuana patients could use under proposed legislation. "If 10 percent of the Mississippi population gets a marijuana card, that's 300-thousand Mississippians," he said. "At 11 joints a day, that's 3.3 million joints a day, 100 million joints a month,1.2 billion joints on the streets of Mississippi a year and I just think that's too much to be on the streets." Voters approved medical marijuana in the November 2020 elections, only to see it thrown out by the state Supreme Court. Both Reeves and the legislature have vowed to enact medical marijuana legislation, but they have yet to reach an agreement.

Prosecution

Manhattan DA Announces Office Will Not Prosecute Certain Offenses, Including Some Drug Offenses. New Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued a memo this week directing his prosecutors to seek jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses and not prosecute charges such as marijuana misdemeanors, fare-jumping, trespass, unlicensed vehicle operation, prostitution, or resisting arrest unless the offense is accompanied by another misdemeanor or felony. Also, small-time drug sellers will not be charged with felonies and will be eligible for diversion. Bragg is only the latest big city progressive prosecutor to embrace such an approach to prosecution; prosecutors in places like Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have been leading the way.

International

Duterte Says He Will "Never Apologize" for Drug War Deaths. Outgoing Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte remains unrepentant about the thousands of people killed in his bloody war on drugs. In a major speech Tuesday, he said police doing their duty had a right to fight back when their lives were endangered, and that he would not apologize for his actions. "I will never, never apologize for the deaths of those bastards," he said in English, before adding in Tagalog, "Kill me, imprison me, I will never apologize." Official government numbers put the death toll in Duterte's drug war at 6,200, but human rights groups say the real toll is more than 30,000. The Duterte administration is currently trying to fend off an International Criminal Court investigation of human rights abuses in its drug war.

Study Confirms Safety of Group Psychedelic Sessions, MS Lawmakers to Take Up MedMJ Again, More... (1/5/22)

Wyoming marijuana legalization activists are forced to turn their aim to 2024, a New Mexico bill to legalize fentanyl test strips is coming, and more.

psilocybin molecule (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Wyoming Activists to Focus on 2024 for Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Initiatives. Having decided they cannot gather enough voter signatures in time to put marijuana decrim and medical marijuana initiatives on the 2022 ballot, reformers are turning their attention to 2024. They cited poor weather conditions, the pandemic, and slow action on their petitions by state officials for coming up short for this year. They would have needed 41,776 valid voter signatures by next month to make the 2022 ballot, and only have about 30 percent of that number at this point.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Legislature Convenes, Is Set to Take Up Medical Marijuana. The legislature is back in session, and medical marijuana is on the front burner. Voters approved medical marijuana at the polls in November 2020, only to have the results nullified by the state Supreme Court, and lawmakers have vowed to enact the will of the voters by passing a medical marijuana bill. It was supposed to have been done in a special session late last year, but Gov. Tate Reeves (R) never called it because he was unsatisfied with the proposed legislation. Now, the legislature will give it another try.

Psychedelics

Psilocybin Clinical Trial Confirms Safety of Group Psychedelic Sessions. A new study published in the The Journal of Psychopharmacology found no detrimental effects from administering psilocybin in a group setting. The study reported the results of a large clinical trial checking on both short- and long-term effects of administering the drug. While researchers in the 1960s studied the effects of psychedelics when administered in a group setting, since interest in medicinal applications of psychedelics rebounded in recent years, almost all research has focused on the administration of the drugs to individuals.

Harm Reduction

New Mexico Attorney General to Push Bill Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Faced with a 25 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) says he is getting behind pending legislation to make fentanyl test strips legal. Under current state law, they are considered drug paraphernalia. State Rep. Tara Lujan (D-Santa Fe) says she will file the bill this week and that it also has the support of the governor and the state health department.

International

Abu Dhabi Court Sentences Two Filipinos to Death for Drug Dealing. The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court has sentenced two unnamed Filipinos to death after convicting them of possessing and selling "narcotics and psychotropic substances."

The death sentences contradict the position of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, as in this 2019 statement: "As part of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) does not support the use of the death penalty. Just last December [2018], more countries than ever before -- 121 Member States -- supported a General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The three international drug control conventions, which form the foundation of the global drug control system that has been agreed by nearly every country in the world, cannot be used to justify the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences alone. Application of the death penalty may also impede international cooperation to fight drug trafficking, as there are national laws that do not allow the exchange of information and extradition with countries which may impose capital punishment for the offences concerned. The dangers posed by illicitly-trafficked drugs are evident and lives are at stake. But use of the death penalty cannot provide durable solutions or protect people."

Drug War Issues

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