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Patrick Kennedy Wants to Be Drug Czar, NJ MJ Implementation Bill Heard, More... (12/14/20)

Jostling over who will be named Joe Biden's drug czar has begun, Arizona gets working on rules for the nascent legal marijuana industry, more cartel conflict in Mexico, and more.

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy is openly lobbying to be named drug czar in the Biden administration. (nationalcouncil.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Begins Working on Draft Rules for Recreational Marijuana Sales. State health officials have commenced the rulemaking process for legal marijuana commerce. Since election results were certified on November 30, adults can legally possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants, but legal sales can't start until the rules are set. State officials anticipate sales could begin in the spring. The initiative that legalized marijuana mandates that the state begin accepting applications from medical marijuana dispensaries that want to become recreational shops beginning January 19 and that licenses be issued to more than 60 days after applications are received.

New Jersey Senate Committee Considering Marijuana Legalization Plan Today. The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting Monday to consider S21, the bill to implement marijuana legalization after voters approved it in November. It is also considering a number of other bills, including S3256, which would downgrade the crime of possession of psilocybin mushrooms to a "disorderly person offense."

Drug Policy

Patrick Kennedy Launches Public Bid to Be Named Biden's Drug Czar. Former congressman and mental health and addiction treatment advocate Patrick Kennedy has begun a well-publicized bid to be named head of the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) in the Biden administration. Kennedy is an opponent of marijuana legalization. There are other contenders, including former board president for the American Society of Addiction Medicine Kelly Clark, former Obama era addiction policy official Westley Clark, and March of Dimes chief medical officer Rahul Gupta, who heads the Biden administration's ONDCP transition team. Notably, all of these contenders come from the public health sphere, not the law enforcement sphere as has typically been the case with past drug czars.

International

Australian Capital Territory to See Drug Decriminalization Bill. A backbench member of the Australian Capital Territory's (Canberra) governing Labor Party will introduce a bill to decriminalize drug possession in the ACT Legislative Assembly next year. The opposition has not rejected the idea outright, but says it needs further review. If passed, it would make the ACT the first place in the country to enact drug decriminalization. An early draft of the bill sets possession limits at half a gram of MDMA and two grams of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Mexican Cartel Battle in Michoacan Now in Second Week. Fighting over control of 13 municipalities in the state of Michoacan between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Cartels United, which consists of the Sinaloa Cartel and other criminal groups, has gone on for more than a week now. Most recently, 13 people were killed in attacks last week in the towns of Chinicuila and Tepalcatepec, where residents dug trenches across roads to try to prevent gunmen from entering, as well as in Morelia, Zamora, and Uruapan. Multi-sided gun battles pitched cartel hitmen against each other, as well as police, soldiers, and armed residents. At least three civilians were among the dead.

Philippines Says Despite UN CND Vote, Marijuana Is Still a Dangerous Drug. Responding to the recent vote at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) removing marijuana from the most dangerous drug schedule, the Philippines is holding firm. The undersecretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board, Benjamin Reyes, said that doesn't mean marijuana is no longer a dangerous drug. "It is still included. It's just that marijuana (may now) have possible medical use, but still dangerous just like cocaine and opium," he said.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Delayed Until Next Year, Wyoming Poll Has Majority for Legalization, More... (12/9/20)

More than a dozen marijuana reform bills have been filed in Texas, Canada will allow a small number of health professionals to possess and use magic mushrooms to help them better serve their mushroom-using patients, and more.

Even in Wyoming, there is now a majority for marijuana legalization. (kr.usembassy.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. In a bid to fend off a marijuana legalization initiative in 2022, state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas County) has filed a bill to achieve that goal legislatively. He filed a similar bill last session. "The way you convince your colleagues is to sit down with them and say, guys, we can can either deal with this at our level or the people of the state of Florida are going to deal with it via constitutional amendment," said Brandes. The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Texas Sees More Than a Dozen Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization Bills Filed. More than a dozen bills to legalize or decriminalize marijuana have been filed for the forthcoming legislative session. Two bills would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of weed and allow up to 12 plants to be grown at home. "I think there is an excellent chance we are going to have a meaningful conversation on legalization, but more importantly where we find common ground on decriminalization and medical access that's where we see a real opportunity for this legislative session," said Heather Fazio, head of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Wyoming Poll Has Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming has support for marijuana legalization at 54%. That's a continuation of a steady upward trend since 2014, when support was at only 37%. It rose to 41% in 2016 and 49% in 2018.

International

Canada to Allow Small Number of Health Care Professionals to Use Psychedelic Mushrooms, Health Care Minister Says. Health Minister Patty Hadju has said in a recent interview that Ottawa will let a small number of medical professionals possess and consume magic mushrooms to allow them to better treat a growing number of patients who now have permission to use the drug. The interview is the first sign of the ministry's response to therapists who have applied to use the drug. "I also am happy to say that yesterday [December 5] Health Canada granted exemptions to a number of health care professionals who wanted to possess and consume mushrooms containing psilocybin," Padju said. She added that the decision was "controversial for some and not for others, but the doctors that prescribe this therapy wanted to understand what it would feel like and how to best use it to help their patients that are struggling."

Mexico's Chamber of Deputies Delays Vote on Marijuana Legalization Until Next Year. The Chamber of Deputies had decided to delay approving a marijuana legalization bill until next year to give deputies more time to study the bill. The Congress will not be in session again until February. The Mexican Supreme Court has mandated that the plant be legalized and regulated, but an end of December deadline imposed by the court appears to have gone up in smoke.

In Historic Vote, UN CND Votes to Remove Cannabis from Most Restrictive Drug Schedule [FEATURE]

In an historic vote Wednesday, the 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with setting drug policy, voted to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the United Nations' drug classification system as they met in Vienna.

Vienna International Centre
The vote followed an independent scientific assessment undertaken by some of the world's leading experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017 and 2018. The Geneva-based WHO is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

Wednesday's vote removing cannabis from Schedule IV means the global anti-drug bureaucracy now recognizes the therapeutic value of cannabis and no longer considers it "particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects."

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, this decision by the CND is long past due, but nonetheless welcome.

"With this decision, the UN closes a 60-year denial of what has been documented as being among the most ancient medicinal plants humankind has domesticated," said independent researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, who has monitored the CND process for years.

It will be 60 years in March since cannabis was placed in Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic without ever having been subject to any scientific assessment.

"As a medical patient myself I know how necessary this change in international law is, to help reduce the suffering of millions of people and how it adds a much needed pain treatment with promise in mitigating reliance on opiates at a key moment in history," said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (USA), one of the global civil society groups that has been pushing for reform at the UN.

While the CND accepted the WHO's recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, it failed to advance some other recommendations, including rejecting a recommendation on medical CBD. That means CBD remains unscheduled, outside treaty controls, and liable to national bans. The failure to adopt more progressive WHO recommendations was "disappointing and represents a lost opportunity to make the treaty best fit to purpose," activists said.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. Still, Tuesday's vote is a long overdue step in the right direction and lays the groundwork for more progress in years to come.

NJ to End Pot Possession Prosecutions, OR County to End Drug Possession Prosecutions, More... (11/27/20)

The impact of voters' choices earlier this month is beginning to be felt, a new poll has New Yorkers ready to legalize marijuana, Vancouver's city council votes to move toward drug decriminalization, and more.

Drug decriminalization begins to take hold in Oregon, so we're going to be seeing less of this. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Marijuana Possession Prosecutions. In a Wednesday letter to city, county, and state prosecutors, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered them to put a halt to small-time marijuana possession prosecutions until at least January 25. "It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action," Grewal said in a statement. "Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature.".

New York Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Sienna College poll released Tuesday has support for legalizing marijuana at an all-time high, with 60% saying it is time to free the weed. That's up five points from the same poll in February, when 55% supported it. Meanwhile, the number of people who opposed it dropped from 40% in February to 32% now.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Court Rules State Must Change "Unreasonable" System to Decide Who Can Sell Medical Marijuana. A three-judge appellate court ruled Wednesday that the state's system for determining who get can medical marijuana dispensary licenses was not transparent, created confusion in the industry, and was "unreasonable." The court threw out a 2018 decision awarding six licenses and ordered the health department to come up with a better rating system.

Drug Policy

Oregon County to End Low-Level Drug Possession Prosecutions. Prosecutors in Clackamas County, just outside Portland, sent a letter to local police chiefs Monday telling them that while they disagreed with voters' decision to decriminalize drug possession earlier this month, they will heed their wishes and drop drug possession cases. "Having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources," the prosecutor's office said.

International

Canadian Government Gives Formal Response to Petition to Decriminalize Psychedelics. Responding to a petition presented to parliament signed by more than 15,000 Canadians calling for the decriminalization of psychedelics, government ministers formally replied that no such move would take place until psychedelics underwent further study. The ministers also pointed to ways some people could obtain exemptions to use them legally despite federal prohibition.

Vancouver City Council Unanimously Approves Motion to Seek Decriminalization of Drug Possession. The Vancouver city council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a motion asking the federal government to let it decriminalize simple drug possession. The motion was spearheaded by Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who cited high drug overdose death numbers. "On the same day that the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that a person a day continues to die in our city due to drug overdose, Vancouver has once again decided to lead the way on drug policy in order to save lives," Stewart said. "If approved by the federal government, we will begin a robust process to determine how decriminalization will be implemented in Vancouver."

UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to Take Up Cannabis Scheduling Next Week

The 53 member states of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UN body charged with supervising the application of the international drug control treaties that form the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, is set to meet in Vienna on December 2-4, and it will take up the question of making some modest scheduling changes to the way cannabis is classified.

Vienna International Centre, home to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
As explained in an October briefing paper from the International Drug Policy Consortium and the Transnational Institute, cannabis is currently both a Schedule I and a Schedule IV drug under the international drug treaties. Schedule I includes "substances that are highly addictive and liable to abuse or easily convertible into those (e.g. opium, heroin, cocaine, coca leaf" -- although Bolivia begs to differ on the latter), while Schedule IV includes Schedule I drugs with "particularly dangerous properties and little or no therapeutic value" (e.g. heroin, carfentanil).

With medical marijuana legal in dozens of countries in one form or another, the ever-increasing mountain of evidence supporting the therapeutic uses of cannabis, not to mention outright legalization in 15 American states Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico about to come on board, the harsh scheduling of cannabis is out of touch with both the science and the tide of history. Led by dedicated public health officials in the UN bureaucracies -- with equally dedicated activists monitoring the process and advocating -- the push is underway to revise those schedules.

But this is the United Nations, and change comes at a glacial pace and even then, only incrementally. The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) is charged under the UN drug conventions with assessing the harms and benefits of substances and making scheduling recommendations. For the first time in its history, it assessed cannabis in 2018, through an examination by WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). In January 2019, the WHO formally recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV and that CBD cannabis preparations containing less than 0.2% THC, such as tinctures and extracts, be removed from the schedules altogether.

Now the recommendations are back in Vienna, where the CND after several delays is finally expected to vote on them. As the official discussion at an October intersessional meeting of the CND shows, governments with regressive drug policies have argued that recognizing marijuana's medical benefit could lead to increased abuse of the drug, and some have questioned WHO's scientific analysis.

While civil society groups gave the WHO's recommendations decidedly mixed reviews, including its "very questionable rationale for keeping cannabis in Schedule I," they also applauded its "obvious recommendations deserving support." The removal of cannabis form Schedule IV in particular would signify UN recognition that cannabis really does have therapeutic uses.

Stay tuned. The CND session and possible progress on cannabis liberalization at the international level are just days away.

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, Senate Approves Meth "Emerging Drug Threat" Bill, More... (11/19/20)

Madison WI ends penalties for pot use and possession, Vancouver, BC to take up a drug decriminalization ordinance, Mexican marijuana legalization bill heads for a Senate floor vote, and more.

seized methamphetamine in Georgia (Warner Robbins PD)
Marijuana Policy

North Carolina's Governor Racial Equity Task Force Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization, Study of Legalization. Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice has recommended that the state study marijuana legalization and enact decriminalization in the meantime. Attorney General Josh Stein (D) who co-chairs the task force, made the case succinctly: "You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana," he said.

Madison, Wisconsin, City Council Votes to Remove Penalties for Marijuana Use, Possession. The city's Common Council unanimously approved three marijuana-related ordinances Tuesday that should reduce pot arrests in the state's capital. One allows adults to possess up to an ounce, another allows them to consume it on public or private property, and a third decriminalizes the possession of pot paraphernalia.

Methamphetamine

Senate Approves Meth Bill by Unanimous Consent. The Senate on Monday approved SB 4612, the Methamphetamine Response Act. The bill declares meth "an emerging drug threat" and requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) to come with a response plan within 90 days. That plan, which must be updated annually, must include an assessment of threat, as well as treatment and prevention programs and law enforcement programs. It must also set the level of funding needed to implement the plan. The House version of the bill, HR 8210, is parked in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is where it has been since being introduced.

International

Vancouver Mayor to File Motion to Decriminalize Drug Possession. Vancouver, British Columbia, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced Wednesday that he will file a motion to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in the city. "It's not a criminal issue, it's a health issue," he said, saying the move is "long overdue." If the council passes the measure, the city will ask the federal government to "decriminalize personal possession of illicit substances within the City's boundaries for medical purposes."

Mexico Denies Threatening to Expel DEA Agents After Ex-Defense Minister's Drug Arrest. President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador denied Thursday that Mexico had threatened to expel American DEA agents to retaliate for the arrest of ex-Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos upon arrival at LAX last month. At the same time, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had threatened a review of security cooperation because the US did not provide advance notice that Cienfuegos was under investigation, but said there was no specific threat to expel DEA agents.

Mexican Senate Committees Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The marijuana legalization bill has been formally approved by the Senate Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies committees and is headed for a full floor vote soon. The bill would legalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults and allow the cultivation of up to four plants for personal use. It would also set up a taxed and regulated marijuana market.

"Autocrat Fair" -- Protest by Movement for a Free Philippines and StoptheDrugWar.org, Trump International Hotel

Our October 27th event with Movement for a Free Philippines, "Autocrat Fair," launched the "Stand with Human Rights and Democracy" campaign -- a pro-democracy, pro-human rights movement branching from our work on the Philippine drug war killings.

The event also featured a statement provided by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an organization found by journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his assassination in Istanbul by Saudi agents; and a statement from US Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

Click here to watch our YouTube playlist, or visit the Stand with Human Rights and Democracy (also known as "Stand Global") web site. Read our post-event press release here. Please also watch the campaign's first video, "Trump and Duterte -- Allies in Violence" (YouTube and Facebook copies).

United Press International (UPI) photos here.

Photos by Conrado Muluc:

Trump and Duterte -- Allies in Violence (video)

Please watch our new video on Duterte's drug war violence and Trump's support for it. Then visit the "Stand with Human Rights and Democracy" campaign web site at DemocracyStand.Global, sign up for the email list, and like the campaign's Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

SD Poll Has Both Legal Pot, MedMJ Initiatives Winning; Canada Sees First Legal Magic Mushroom Harvest, More... (10/26/20)

A new poll has both of South Dakota's marijuana initiatives winning, a Glasgow activist who runs an unauthorized mobile safe inject site has been arrested but is unbowed, and more.

Psilocbyin molecule. Canada has just seen its first legal harvest of psychoactive mushrooms. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Poll Has Narrow Lead for Marijuana Legalization, Big Lead for Medical Marijuana. A Sioux Falls Argus-Leader/KRLO-TV poll has support for the Constitutional Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative at 51%, with 44% opposed, and only 5% undecided. The same poll also asked respondents about the Measure 26 medical marijuana initiative and shows it with a much larger lead, with 74% supporting it only 23% opposed, with 3% undecided.

International

Canada Sees First Legal Magic Mushroom Harvest. Numinus Wellness, Inc., a Vancouver-based company, had completed the first ever legal harvest of psilocybin mushrooms in the country. The company was issued the first license to produce and extract psilocybin from mushrooms by Health Canada back in June. "The first harvest of legally grown Psilocybe mushrooms is a significant milestone for the whole industry" said CEO Michael Tan. "Now, we can progress with research and development of standardized cultivation, extraction, and testing methods and exploring product formulations to support safe, evidence-based, accessible psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, as well as build a sequenced spore library." 

Canada Health Minister Calls on Alberta to Keep Prescription Heroin Program Going. Health Minister Patty Hajdu is calling on the government of Alberta to keep open its program providing pharmaceutical grade heroin and Dilaudid to patients diagnosed with severe opioid misuse disorder. Provincial Premier Jason Kenney has said he intends to stop funding the program in the spring. "We are disappointed by this decision from the Alberta government, and we urge them to reconsider," said a spokesperson for Hajdu.

Scottish Safe Injection Site Van Operator Arrested. Peter Krykant, who operates a mobile safe injection site was arrested last Friday by Glasgow police after they searched his van. But he was not arrested for violating the Misuse of Drugs Act. Instead he was charged with obstructing police who sought to search the van. Glasgow is at the center of the country's deepening opioid use crisis and the worst HIV epidemic in more than 30 years. An unbowed Krykant says only a change in the law to allow legal consumption of heroin and cocaine would allow for the issue to be fully addressed./p>

Filipino President Says Hold Him Responsible for Drug War Killings; NM Pot, Decriminalization Poll, More... (10/20/20)

New York should be advancing marijuana legalization early next year, Mexico's Senate should be voting on marijuana legalization by month's end, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte says to hold him responsible for drug war killings. Talk is cheap. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Governor's Advisor Says State Will Legalize Marijuana by April. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top advisor on marijuana, David Culver, said that marijuana legalization legislation will be included in the state budget in January and that the goal was to get it passed by April. The moves will come as neighboring New Jersey votes on legalization in two weeks. "We’re watching New Jersey closely. We’ve always been confident that we get to this before New Jersey, so if they pass the referendum they still have to have agreement between the governor the Senate over there," Culver said, referring to necessary implementing legislation that will need to be approved if voters pass the ballot question. "We’re working on this. We’re going to reintroduce this in our budget in January. We think we can get it done by April 1."

Drug Policy

New Mexico Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization, Near Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization. A poll sponsored by Drug Policy Action, the political and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, has support for marijuana legalization with social equity provisions at 72%, support for drug defelonization at 62%, and support for drug decriminalization at 49%. Gov. Michelle Luhan Grisham (D) has called for marijuana legalization, but it has yet to get through the legislature.

International

Mexican Senate Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization by Month's End, Majority Leader Says. Ricardo Monreal, Senate leader of the ruling MORENA Party, has said the Senate will vote to approve the bill before the end of October. The legislature is operating under the pressure of a twice-extended Supreme Court deadline since the court declared marijuana prohibition unconstitutional in 2018. Once the Senate passes the bill, it will still have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Different stakeholders are still at odds over the precise nature of the bill, though.

Philippine President Says He Accepts Responsibility for Drug War Killings. President Rodrigo Duterte has brashly said he accepts responsibility for the thousands of people killed in the bloody anti-drug campaign he unleashed after his election in 2016. "If there's killing there, I'm saying I'm the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war," Duterte said. "If you get killed, it's because I'm enraged by drugs," said the president known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric. "If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly." He did, however, reject responsibility for the thousands of people killed not by police but by so-called vigilantes.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Drug War Issues

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