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RI Marijuana Legalization Push Hits Bump, UN Warns Pandemic Could Propel Drug Use, Cultivation, More... (6/25/21)

There's progress on medical marijuana this week in the South, a key Rhode Island lawmaker slams the brakes on a marijuana legalization push, and more.

The coronavirus pandemic could propel new cultivation of illegal drug crops, the UNODC reports. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Key Lawmakers Slams Brakes on Legalization Effort. On the day after the state Senate passed a marijuana legalization bill, an amended version of Senate Bill 568, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick) signaled he was in no hurry to finish the job. He said the state could afford to wait to legalize it while authorities consider diverging proposals, that a proper regulatory structure needed to be created, and that he wanted to ensure that the state gets adequate revenues from legalization. "If we're going to legalize recreational use of marijuana, we want to make sure that the state gets its fair share," he said. He said he had seen "six or seven legitimate proposals" for marijuana legalization that are "very divergent." But the Senate has only passed the one.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill into Law. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46. The new law allows people suffering from a specified list of medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendations. The state had enacted a law allowing for the use of CBD in 2014 and broadened that law in 2016, but now has enacted a full-fledged medical marijuana law. But patients will not be allowed to use smokable marijuana nor grow their own. Instead, 12 commercial growers and 12 dispensaries will be authorized to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana. The system is expected to be up and running by the fall of 2022.

Louisiana Governor Signs Bill Allowing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law House Bill 391, which will allow patients to use smokable medical marijuana. The bill passed non-controversially, and its sponsor, Rep. Tanner Magee (D-Houma) said its purposes was to drive down costs and respond to popular demand. "Having the raw form of it, which the public has shown they really want, will allow them to drive down their costs so they can pass on to the consumer and have a real alternative to opioids," Magee said. Smokable medical marijuana will not be available for purchase until January because of time lags with the two state universities who are currently the only institutions authorized to produce medical marijuana.

International

UNODC Releases Annual Report, Warns That Fallout from Pandemic Could Last for Years. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the 2021 World Drug Report Thursday and warned that the coronavirus pandemic is propelling more people into drug use, has caused drug trafficking groups to adapt to changed conditions, and sowed economic hardship that could lead to increased cultivation of illicit drug crops. "[D]rug markets have swiftly resumed operations after the initial disruption at the onset of the pandemic; a burst that has triggered or accelerated certain pre-existing trafficking dynamics across the global drug market," UNODC said. "Among these are: increasingly larger shipments of illicit drugs, a rise in the frequency of overland and water-way routes used for trafficking, greater use of private planes for the purpose of drug trafficking, and an upsurge in the use of contactless methods to deliver drugs to end-consumers. The resilience of drug markets during the pandemic has demonstrated once again traffickers' ability to adapt quickly to changed environments and circumstances." On the potential increase in drug crops, UNODC said: "While the impact of COVID-19 on drug challenges is not yet fully known, the analysis suggests that the pandemic has brought increasing economic hardship that is likely to make illicit drug cultivation more appealing to fragile rural communities. The social impact of the pandemic -- driving a rise in inequality, poverty, and mental health conditions particularly among already vulnerable populations -- represent factors that could push more people into drug use."

UN For First Time Engages with Marijuana Regulations. In the 2021 World Drug Report released Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for a global ban on marijuana advertising, saying "a comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring cannabis would ensure that public health interests prevail over business interests." While the call is in line with the UN's long-standing opposition to marijuana legalization, it also marks the first time the anti-drug agency has engaged with the notion of regulating -- not merely prohibiting -- marijuana use and production.

CT Set to Become 19th Marijuana Legalization State, Another Filipino "Narco Politician" Gunned Down, More... (6/17/21)

A minor civil asset forfeiture bill advances in Michigan, another new poll has strong support for drug decriminalization, and more.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Connecticut is now before the governor. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for Governor's Desk. With final votes in the House and Senate approving Senate Bill 1201, Connecticut is set to become the 19th state to legalize marijuana. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) had aired concerns about whether an equity program went too far in prioritizing marijuana business licenses for people with marijuana arrests or convictions—even if they were now wealthy—but late amendments in the legislature addressed those concerns, and he is now expected to sign the bill.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan House Approves Minor Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. On a vote of 108-1, the House on Tuesday approved House Bill 4240, which mandates the funds derived from civil asset forfeitures will be distributed "through the treasurer of the unit of government overseeing the law enforcement unit, so that they may be appropriated for uses that enhance enforcement of criminal laws." The bill comes after a scandal last year in which the former Macomb County prosecutor was charged with official misconduct and embezzlement of civil asset forfeiture funds while in office. The bill does not otherwise restrict civil asset forfeiture.

Drug Policy

Second Recent Poll Finds Strong Support for Ending War on Drugs. A new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab found that 71% of respondents said federal anti-drug policies aren't working and reform is needed, 59% supported decriminalizing drug possession, 60% support moving regulatory authority of drugs from the DEA to HHS, and even 55% support decriminalizing small-time drug sales. An ACLU/Drug Policy Alliance poll last week had even stronger results, with 83% saying the war on drugs had failed and 66% supporting drug decriminalization.

Law Enforcement

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Limited Policing Reforms. The Assembly has passed a package of bills approving police reform measures, including barring chokeholds unless an officer's life is under threat, requiring police who shoot someone to take a drug test, and tracking the use of no-knock warrants. But some Democrats said that failing to enact a complete ban on chokeholds and no-knock search warrants meant the Assembly was not seriously addressing the issue. Legislative leaders countered that the bills were a step in the right direction.

International

Another Filipino Accused of Being "Narco Politician" Shot Dead in Police Custody. Former Talitay Mayor Montasser Sabal was shot and killed by police Wednesday after they arrested him on drug trafficking charges. Police said he tried to grab a gun from officers while being brought to Manila. In May 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte identified 44 mayors and other elected officials as "narco politicians." More than 20 on the list have already been killed in similar circumstances. In cases where police ackowledge killing people in anti-drug operations during the Duterte drug war -- 6,117, a figure far lower than the 30,000 estimated by NGOs watching the situation, police claim those killed were resisting arrest ("nanlaban") in all but a few cases. In its request for authorization to investigate announced this week, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court wrote there is "a reasonable basis to believe that between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, members of Philippine security forces... deliberately killed thousands of civilians..."

CT Senate Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill, CA Bill to End Drug Mandatory Minimums Advances, More... (6/16/21)

Connecticut edges ever closer to marijuana legalization, Texas sees a modest expansion in its medical marijuana program, and more.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will, unsurprisingly, not cooperate with an ICC investigation into drug war killings. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Senate Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill, But Governor Threatens Veto Over Equity Provision. The state Senate on Tuesday approved a marijuana legalization bill Tuesday, but it faces a veto threat from Gov. Ned Lamont (D) over a social equity provision that allowed anyone with a prior marijuana arrest or conviction priority for a marijuana business license. Lamont's office objected because even wealthy people with a past conviction would get priority. The Senate subsequently amended the bill to set an income limit, but it's unclear if that will satisfy the governor. The bill now heads to the House.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Governor Signs Bill Modestly Expanding Medical Marijuana Program. Gov. Greg Abbott ® on Tuesday signed into law a bill, House Bill 1535, that adds cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify patients to legally access cannabis and doubles the amount of THC concentration that is allowed, from 0.5 percent to one percent.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimums for Non-Violent Drug Offenses Wins Assembly Committee Vote. The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 73, which would end mandatory jail and prison sentences for people get convicted of drug possession for a second or subsequent time. This restriction also applies for the sentencing of probation for first-time offenders for a number of nonviolent drug charges. The bill now heads for the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

International

Philippines Will Not Cooperate in International Criminal Court Investigation of Drug War Killings. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into thousands of killings committed in the course of his bloody war on drugs and drug users, a presidential spokesman said Tuesday. The comment comes a day after the ICC prosecutor asked the court to order a full investigation of the killings, which Duterte unleashed when he took office back in 2016.

Supreme Court Rejects Reduced Charges for Low-Level Crack Offenders, ICC Prosecutor Seeks to Open Philippine Drug War Investigation, More... (6/14/21)

Connecticut lawmakers will meet in special session this week in a bid to get marijuana legalization done, Wyoming activists began initiative campaigns for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana, and more.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has requested authorization to open a formal investigation of Phiiippines drug war abuses. (ICC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Lawmakers to Take Up Marijuana Legalization in Special Session This Week. After failing to reach agreement on marijuana legalization legislation during the regular legislative session, lawmakers are set to return to Hartford this week to take up the issue. Democrats say they have the votes to pass it, despite Republican concerns.

Wyoming Marijuana Advocates Roll Out Medical Marijuana, Decriminalization Initiative Campaigns. Marijuana advocates and Libertarian Party members held a press conference outside the state capitol in Cheyenne as they turned in two ballot initiatives, one that would legalize medical marijuana and one that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sentencing

Supreme Court Rejects Reduced Charges for Low-Level Crack Cocaine Offenders. The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the First Step Act does not apply to low-level crack cocaine offenders, even though supporters of the law said it was intended to do so. The court held that the language of the law meant it applied only to people convicted of possessing larger amounts of cocaine, not those arrested with only a small amount. The decision was unanimous.

International

International Criminal Court Likely to Proceed with Official Investigation of Philippine Drug War Killings. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has concluded its preliminary examination into drug war-related abuses in the Philippines and decided there is sufficient evidence to request judicial authorization to proceed with an official investigation. "The situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary examination since 8 February 2018," said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. "During that time, my Office has been busy analyzing a large amount of publicly available information and information provided to us under article 15 of the Statute. On the basis of that work, I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines 'war on drugs' campaign."

ICC Prosecutor Announces Request to Authorize Philippines Investigation

Dear friends,

ICC headquarters, The Hague, Netherlands
Today the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced it has sought authorization from the court's pretrial chamber to conduct an investigation into the Philippine drug war killings.  The announcement comes a day before ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda completes her nine-year term.

It was three years ago last February when Bensouda announced a preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) into the Philippine drug war killings.  That March, as you likely know, President Rodrigo Duterte transmitted a withdrawal notice from the Philippines from the ICC's Rome Treaty.  In March of this year, the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed court challenges to the withdrawal which argued that Duterte had overstepped his bounds and that the Senate of the Philippines had to ratify the move for it to take effect.  Regardless, the court maintains jurisdiction over crimes within its scope committed prior to one year from Duterte's withdrawal notice, meaning through March 2019.

The announcement also comes amid increased warnings by OTP and other ICC officials as well as advocates that the budget provided them by states parties to the treaty is insufficient for its mission, including its current workload of investigations, cases and examinations.  In December Bensouda announced a finding in her office's Ukraine preliminary examination that called for an investigation, but OTP has yet to seek the actual legal authorization needed from the court's pretrial chamber to conduct one.  So it is encouraging (and a relief) to see her send such a request in the Philippines case.  (You can watch our December 2020 expert forum discussing the ICC's resources and other challenges online here.)

Our October 2020 "Autocrat Fair" protest, pro-ICC sign at right.
Perhaps such an announcement will come out today or tomorrow about Ukraine.  If not, we can only speculate right now as to the reasons for the different handling.  One possible reason is that the Philippines case involves a situation of ongoing atrocities being committed, whereas the Ukraine case involves allegations from 2013 and 2014.  Another is President Duterte's withdrawal of Philippines from the Rome Treaty, an attack on the viability if not the very existence of the court itself, and an act that could encourage other rights-abusing leaders to follow suit, if not strongly answered.

How the Office of the Prosecutor will prioritize the Philippines investigation is a question that the incoming prosecutor, Karim Khan, will have to decide.  ICC cases are a years-long endeavor under the best of circumstances, much less with the court's tightly-constrained budget, and the current Philippine presidency's hostility toward the investigation.  Still, today's news is a major step forward in the process, and one that will make an impact in the court of public opinion.

Prosecutor Bensouda's announcement of the authorization request is online here.  An article in the Philippine news outlet Rappler is online here.

Duterte Issues More Death Threats to Drug Dealers, AL Law Applies "Implied Consent" to Saliva Tests, More... (6/1/21)

Myanmar may see a rebound in opium production in the wake of the coup and the pandemic, Philippines President Duterte stays true to thuggish form, and more.

More trouble down Mexico way. It's getting hot in the Michoacan's Tierra Caliente.
Drug Testing

Alabama Law Increases Use of Saliva Tests to Catch Drug-Impaired Drivers. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a bill that will treat saliva tests the same as breath and blood tests, meaning drivers in the state will have given "implied consent" to be tested and will lose their driving privileges for three months if they refuse. Previously, saliva tests did not carry that "implied consent" provision and drivers accused of driving under the influence could refuse them without sanction.

International

Mexico Cartel Violence Flares in Michoacan. After confrontations with National Guard members last week, warring cartels burned vehicles and blocked highways in the Tierra Caliente region of the state of Michoacan. Eleven roads were reported blocked in five municipalities: Apatzingán, Buenavista, Parácuaro, Tepalcatepec and Aguililla. In Aguilla, gunmen from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel burned vehicles to block more security forces from entering, while in Buenavista guardsmen and state police were attacked with sticks and rocks by local residents. Meanwhile, members of the rival United Cartels blocked roads in Apatzingan, Buenavista, and Paracuaro. No word on any casualties.

UN Warns of Likely Bump in Myanmar Opium Production After Pandemic, Coup. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is warning of a potential rise in opium production because of economic dislocation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the February 1 military coup. Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer, behind Afghanistan. Production had been trending down since 2014, but the twin threats could reverse that: "The opium economy is really a poverty economy; it functions in a sense the opposite of what the licit economy does. As people exit that economy and they need to make money, they are going to be looking at places they can make it, and often people that are in poor areas and poverty-stricken areas look to make money from the opium economy," said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Probably 12 months out, 18 months out, we're going to be looking at an expansion unless past history is wrong. There's a cycle of this happening in the country over its history," he added.

Philippines President Rejects Providing Full Details on Drug Crackdown, Threatens to Kill More Drug Dealers. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech Monday that he would not open up police records about killings in his bloody anti-drug crackdown, comparing the campaign to the government's war against the communist New People's Army. "This is a national security issue like the NPA," he said. The Supreme Court disagrees, noting in a 2018 resolution that anti-drug operations do not usually "involve state secrets affecting national security" like those dealing with "rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers." Duterte also warned drug dealers that: "If I am there, I will really kill you. I don't care if there's TV around. I will really kill you."

LA House Passes Legal Pot Study Resolution, Peru Coca Zone Massacre, More... (5/25/21)

An Illinois marijuana equity bill heads for a House floor vote, a loosening of medical marijuana regulations during the pandemic may be made permanent in Pennsylvania, the Texas legislature advances bills to reduce penalties for pot concentrates and to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and more.

The Shining Path is suspected of massacring villagers in a coca-producing region of Peru. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Marijuana Equity Licensing Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill designed to get more people from drug war-ravaged communities involved in the legal marijuana industry, House Bill 1443, has passed out of the House Rules Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote.

Louisiana House Passes Marijuana Study Resolution. The House on Monday approved House Resolution 1, which directs the House Criminal Justice Committee to conduct a study of the impact of the use and legalization of marijuana. The move comes after efforts to approve legalization stalled in the legislature last week.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill to Lessen Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates. The Senate has approved House Bill 2593, which would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana concentrates to a class B misdemeanor. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024. The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Methampheamine

Oregon Bill Would Re-Legalize Over-the-Counter Pseudoephedrine Sales. In 2006, Oregon became the first state to ban OTC sales of cold and allergy remedies because they contain pseudoephedrine and could be used in home meth manufacture. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2648, would end the ban and allow anyone over 18 to buy products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription, has been filed. It is currently before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Psychedelics

Texas Senate Approves Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill. The Senate has approved House Bill 1802, which would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of a budget-neutrality amendment passed in the Senate.

International

Peru Coca Zone Massacre Leaves 14 Dead. At least 14 men, women, and children were killed in a massacre in the Ene River Valley, one of the country's most important coca-growing areas. Pamphlets from a Shining Path splinter group were left at the scene, and authorities were pointing the finger at the group. Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired guerrilla group, led a brutal insurgency that left 70,000 dead in the 1980s, but had largely been eliminated since 1992. But remnants remain in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), where they have morphed into coca and cocaine traffickers.

Philippines Senator Lobbies for Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who once led the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, argued that the death penalty for drug offenses should be reinstated Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that aims to toughen the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He complained that imprisoned Chinese drug lords were still running their businesses from behind bars, saying "the frustration of law enforcement is that had these drug lords been executed, we would not have these problems now." But drug reform advocate Dr. Lee Edson Yarcia pointed out that under the proposed bill, the death penalty is not imposed on top drug lords or syndicates: "This was included in the provision about persons who are in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, or meetings," he noted. The House passed a reform bill last year, but the Senate has yet to file one. This was a preliminary hearing.

LA House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana, Vancouver Drug Decriminalization Battle, More... (5/12/21)

The Louisiana House votes to decriminalize pot possession, a Connecticut marijuana legalization effort may require a legislative special session, and more.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is prioritizing marijuana legalization over a marijuana banking bill. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Must Pass Marijuana Legalization Before Taking Up Pot Banking Bill, Schumer Says. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview Tuesday that he is prioritizing a marijuana legalization bill that is still being drafted over a marijuana banking bill, the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1677), that has already passed the House. Biden said he and colleagues will be "introducing our [marijuana legalization] bill shortly" and that the banking bill should wait because "we're not going to bargain against ourselves."

Connecticut Key Players Say Marijuana Legalization May Get Bumped to Special Session. House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) said Tuesday that a marijuana legalization bill may be taken up in a special session later this year as the regular session faces a looming deadline. "It’s just one of those issues that we’re working through some of the details that were of concern to everyone over the past couple months, but we’re making progress," Rojas said. told a reporter from CT News Junkie during a press conference. House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) added "if we can find a path to a deal, it’s the kind of thing that I think you could always go into overtime if you had to," and that "we’d all be comfortable coming to special session for that issue."

Louisiana House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The House voted 67-25 Tuesday night to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 652. The bill would make possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable only by a $100 fine, even for repeat offenses. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are unclear.

International

Vancouver Drug Decriminalization Gets Harsh Criticism from Advocates Over Personal Possession Limits. The city is embarking on a plan to decriminalize drug possession but is getting serious flack from drug user advocates who say that the amount of drugs people can possess without criminal charges are too low and do not reflect the realities of drug use. They warn that setting the limits too low could encourage drug users to seek out synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines, setting the stage for more drug overdoses. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) has announced that it is withdrawing from talks with the city, and it and other drug policy advocates complain that drug users were largely excluded from the decriminalization process and that police have to large a role.

White House Removes Buprenorphine Restrictions, BC Formally Requests Drug Decrim, More... (4/27/21)

A new poll has record support for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, House Republicans file a bill to protect gun rights of state-legal marijuana users, House Democrats file a bill to end the lifetime ban on federal cash and food benefits for people with drug felonies, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

House Republicans File Gun Rights Bill for Marijuana Users. A group of House Republicans have filed a bill, HR 2830, that would allow marijuana users to purchase guns in states where marijuana is legal. "There's no reason somebody who uses marijuana responsibly and legally should be barred from purchasing a firearm, we're past that," Guns Save Life Executive Director John Boch said."We shouldn't be removing the constitutional rights of people to keep and bear arms just because they're using a drug or recreational marijuana," he added.

Pennsylvania Poll Has Record Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Muhlenberg College annual public health poll has support for marijuana legalization at 58%, the highest level of support for legalization since the poll began tracking the issue. "The trend on public support for legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania is clear, with support growing for the eighth year in a row," Chris Borick, director of the college's Institute of Public Opinion, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. "As the state government considers this policy option, the public is increasingly coming to the conclusion that they support legalization."

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Legislature Approves Resolution Seeking Medical Marijuana Exemption from DEA. The state legislature has adopted a resolution, HCR 132, asking the state Health Department to seek an exemption from the DEA to permit it to run its medical marijuana program without fear of federal interference. The resolution asks the Health Department to seek an "exception to regulations" and to seek a DEA rulemaking process to protect the state's medical program from violating the Controlled Substances Act's requirements for drugs in Schedule I.

Drug Policy

House Democrats File Bill to End Ban on Federal Assistance for People with Drug Felonies. A handful of Democratic congressmen on Monday filed the Making Essentials Affordable and Lawful (MEAL) Act (not yet on the congressional web site) to stop states from imposing a lifetime ban on people with drug felonies from receiving federal cash and food assistance. Most states have already waived the ban, but the drug war-era law that imposes the ban remains on the books.

Drug Treatment

Biden Administration to Allow Nearly All Doctors to Prescribe Buprenorphine. The administration announced on Tuesday that it intends to dramatically deregulate the opioid maintenance treatment drug buprenorphine. The move was first proposed by the Trump administration back in January and would allow just about any doctor to treat patients with the drug, which is considered the most effective medication for opioid addiction.

International

British Columbia Formally Requests Permission from Canadian Federal Government for Provincial Drug Decriminalization. Five years to the day after the province declared a public health emergency because of overdose deaths, British Columbia has formally requested a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize the personal possession of drugs. The province is specifically seeking a province-wide exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to eliminate criminal penalties for drug possession. "Stigma drives people to hide their drug use, avoid health care and use alone," Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said. "Through province-wide decriminalization, we can reduce the fear and shame that keep people silent about their drug use, and support people to reach out for help, life-saving supports and treatment."

MedMJ for Vets Bill in Congress, Pfizer Donating One Million Naloxone Doses, More... (4/16/21)

A medical marijuana bill moves in Tennessee, Idaho lawmakers defeat an anti-drug legalization constitutional amendment, and more.

the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (gov.pa)
Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Bill to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Military Vets Filed in Congress. A bill that would federally legalize medical marijuana for veterans was refiled in Congress Thursday. Reps. Barbara lee (D-CA) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), both co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and nine other original cosponsors filed the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act on the House side, while in the Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is leading the proposal, and he's joined by five other lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The bill would allow vets in states with legal medical marijuana programs to use it with a physician's recommendation, and it would allow doctors at Department of Veterans Affairs to make such recommendations.

Idaho House Kills Bill That Would Have Blocked Medical Marijuana. The House on Thursday defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have blocked the state from ever legalizing any illicit drug by requiring a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to do so. House Joint Resolution 4 failed after a half-dozen House Republicans voted against it saying Idahoans want medical marijuana.

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to allow for the use of medical marijuana, Senate Bill 667, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and now heads for the Senate Calendar Committee. Companion legislation, House Bill 880, is also moving, having passed out of one House Health subcommittee and scheduled for a House Health Committee vote net week.

Harm Reduction

Pfizer to Donate One Million Doses of Naloxone in a Bid to Blunt Overdose Deaths. Responding to a record number of drug overdose deaths in the United States, Pfizer has made a commitment to Direct Relief to donate 1 million doses of the drug naloxone, which saves lives by reversing opioid overdoses.The newly committed 1 million doses are in addition to the more than 1 million doses Pfizer has donated since 2017, which Direct Relief has distributed at no cost to nonprofit, community-based organizations across the United States. Deaths and emergency room visits from opioid overdoses have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 87,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in September 2020 -- the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.

Drug Policy

Washington Senate Approves Bill to Make Drug Possession a Misdemeanor. The Senate voted Thursday to approve Senate Bill 5476, which would make drug possession a misdemeanor. The bill comes after the state Supreme Court threw out the state's felony drug possession law, leaving drug possession decriminalized. Some legislators argued for decriminalizing drug possession; others argued for refelonizing it but making it a misdemeanor is what the Senate passed.

International

Canada Opposition MP Files Drug Decriminalization Bill. New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Don Davies, who also serves as the party's health critic, has filed a private member's bill to remove provisions criminalizing drug possession from the Criminal Code. "Decades of criminalization, a toxic illicit street supply and a lack of timely access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery services have caused this ongoing catastrophe. It's time to treat substance use and addiction as the health issues they truly are," he said at a news conference. A Liberal bill to reform drug laws filed in February doesn't go far enough, Davies said.

Drug War Issues

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