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Mobile, AL, Cops Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed, More... (11/22/23)

Sarasota, Florida, is moving to recriminalize pot possession after it decriminalized it three years ago, a deadly SWAT raid in Alabama is raising alarms, and more.

President Biden met with his national security advisors to address ways to combat fentanyl trafficking. (
Marijuana Policy

Sarasota, Florida, Set to Move Resolutely Backward on Marijuana Policy. The city commission in 2020 voted to decriminalize the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, but now it wants to recriminalize it.

Under decriminalization, people busted with small amounts of weed had to pay a $100 fine or do 10 hours of community service. Police told commissioners that 90 percent of offenders have not paid the fines.

The commission then voted 4-1 Monday to ask the city attorney to draft an ordinance to repeal the decriminalization program.

Drug Policy

White House Statement on National Security Meeting to Address Fentanyl. The White House issued the following readout Tuesday after President Biden met with national security advisors on combatting fentanyl:

"Today, President Biden met with his national and homeland security leadership to ensure that his administration drives progress to address the deadly scourge of illicit fentanyl and to discuss efforts underway to tackle the global crisis posed by synthetic drugs.  The President and his team discussed how to build upon last week’s significant commitments from China and Mexico to crack down on the precursors, production, and trafficking of illicit fentanyl. 

"President Biden was briefed by Secretary Blinken, Secretary Mayorkas, Attorney General Garland, and DEA Administrator Milgram.  The President underscored how critical it is to our understanding of foreign drug trafficking organizations—and ability to fight illicit fentanyl — that Congress reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before it expires at the end of next month, and he reiterated his commitment to do everything he can to counter the illicit fentanyl crisis in the United States, which is the number one cause of death for people aged 18-44.

"President Biden has made beating the overdose epidemic a key priority in his Unity Agenda for the Nation, including a focus on cracking down on global illicit drug trafficking and disrupting the flow of illicit fentanyl and its precursors. To advance President Biden’s Unity Agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to address the overdose epidemic and save lives. President Biden is also calling on Congress for immediate action to help provide $1.55 billion to strengthen addiction treatment, overdose prevention measures, and recovery support services across the country, and more than $1.2 billion to crack down on drug trafficking to keep dangerous drugs like illicit fentanyl out of our communities. "

Law Enforcement

Mobile, Alabama, Police Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed. A Mobile SWAT team with a search warrant for drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession shot and killed 16-year-old Randall Adjessom after they broke into his home in pre-dawn raid and allegedly encountered him with a pistol in a hallway.

Police claimed they knocked on the home's door "multiple times" before breaking the door down, but it is unclear how forcefully they knocked or how long they can residents to respond to their knocks.

Randall Adjessom was not the target of the search warrant; his 18-year-old brother D'Angelo Adjessom was. D'Angelo was not at home at the time of the raid, but was arrested when he returned to the home shortly afterward.

This week, local media revealed the haul from the raid: 8 grams of marijuana and a scale.

"On a marijuana warrant?" Councilmember Carroll Williams asked incredulously. "You know all the states right now that are making marijuana legal? Legal! On a marijuana warrant! It wasn't like somebody killed somebody, but we entered that place like we were going to find a murderer."

After news of the killing broke, Mayor Sandy Simpson announced an immediate ban on most pre-dawn search warrants and called for comprehensive review of the Mobile Police Department's policies, but that was too late for Randall Adjessom. 

Hawaii AG Unveils Pot Legalization Draft, Boston Settles Hair Drug Test Lawsuit with Black Cops, More... (11/21/23)

Ohio's GOP Senate leader is plotting changes to the marijuana legalization law approved by voters just weeks ago, the city of Boston pays out for using discriminatory hair drug tests on police officers, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Attorney General Unveils Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) last Friday unveiled a comprehensive 294-page proposal to legalize adult use marijuana and pledged to work with the legislature to get it enacted. The proposal would create a regulatory framework for people 21 and over to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers.

Although recent years have seen several marijuana legalization bills, none of them have become law, although the Senate passed such a bill in March. Lawmakers have generally welcomed the attorney general's effort, although some advocates and activists have some issues with it.

Lopez did "a really good job pulling together all of the different input and providing a comprehensive bill," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Tarnas (D), while the attorney general's proposal is "the best version to date," said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D).

But while advocates cheered the inclusion of home grows, they want to see some changes, including relief for people who have been arrested under pot prohibition.

"The attorney general’s draft bill falls short when it comes to fostering equity and reparative justice," Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. "It should be revised. We were pleased to see home cultivation included. But the draft ramps up criminalization in other areas and fails to include provisions newer legalization states have adopted to stop ruining cannabis consumers’ lives.

"The draft bill does not include expungement or resentencing, nor does it protect responsible cannabis consumers from losing their children, jobs, benefits, or professional licenses," she said. "It imposes an unscientific per se DUI standard that ensnares sober drivers, and imposes up to a year in jail under a broad open container law. The draft also pours millions of dollars into cannabis law enforcement—an amount equal to the entire allocation for social equity and community reinvestment."

Ohio Senate President Vows Changes to Voter Approved Marijuana Law, Says Voters Did Not Understand Some Provisions. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) says he is working with lawmakers to develop and pass legislation to revise the marijuana legalization law approved by voters last month. He said "that's what the public generally wants" because voters did not focus on details and simply decided "are we going to legalize marijuana or not."

"Now did the voters, for example, know that there was going to be a preference for licenses to people that have formerly been convicted for selling drugs illegally? Probably not very many people thought of that," he said. "It’s important for the folks to go through here and look to see what changes are going to be made, which we think the public generally wants."

While Americans don't want government to infringe on their civil liberties, they "also want the protections of government, and that’s really the fine line that governments have to find. That’s why generally it’s better to have these things sorted out in the legislature… There needs to be some protection for the public, just like we regulate alcohol," Huffman argued.

He also said lawmakers would fast-track the changes by not filing a new bill, but by incorporating marijuana amendments into an unrelated House-passed bill, pass that in the Senate, then send the revised measure back to the House for a concurrence vote.

Lawmakers have announced various proposed changes, including around public consumption and the allocation of tax revenues.

Drug Testing

Boston Settles Police Drug Testing Lawsuit, Will Pay $2.6 Million to Black Cops. The city of Boston has agreed to pay $2.6 to Black police officers to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit over a drug test that used hair samples to identify drug use.

The four plaintiffs will receive $650,000 each.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that has represented the officers, shared his excitement that the lawsuit is finally settled and how the long-lasting litigation impacted his clients.

"This settlement puts an end to a long, ugly chapter in Boston’s history," Orren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, who litigated the case. "As a result of this flawed test, our clients’ lives and careers were completely derailed. The city has finally compensated them for this grave injustice," he said.

"You can imagine what effect that would have to be falsely labeled in this way, and a number of officers were terminated as a result. Many had to leave the field entirely, and their dreams of being a law enforcement officer were shattered," Sellstrom added. "It totally upended our client's lives and in the process also deprived the residents of Boston from having exemplary police officers on the force.

The Black police officers filed suit against the city in 2005, claiming that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives. The city and the company administering the test denied any bias, but the city eliminated the test in 2021.


Japan Amends Marijuana Law, for Better and Worse. Last month, the Japanese government approved a bill amending the country's nearly 75-years-old Cannabis Control Act, renaming it the Law Concerning Regulation of the Cultivation of Cannabis Plants. The act opens the door for the creation of a medical marijuana and industrial hemp industry in the country, but also goes backward on recreational marijuana use.

The new law will allow for pharmaceutical products that are extracted from marijuana plants. Until now, such cannabis-based drugs could only be used in clinical trials.

But the new law also categorizes THC as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Control Act, closing a loophole in the Cannabis Control Act that criminalizes the import, export, cultivation, transferal, or possession of marijuana plants, but does not criminalize use.

"What previously had no penalties will now be harshly punished, with a maximum of seven years in prison. I opposed the bill because there is a serious problem here," said Rep. Taro Yamamoto of the left-leaning Reiwa Shinsengumi Party.

NY Governor Signs Trio of Reform Bills, SD Legal Weed Initiative Filed, More... (11/20/23)

New York's governor signs bill to seal criminal records, a second South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative is filed, and more.

Will marijuana ever be legal in the Badlands? Maybe next year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Governor Signs Bill to Provide Tax Relief to NYC Marijuana Businesses. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 7508, which provides tax relief to New York City cannabusinesses that are blocked from making federal tax deductions under a section of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) known as 280E. The signing came less than a week after the Senate and Assembly formally sent their identical bills to the governor's desk.

"This bill would allow a deduction for business expenses, incurred by taxpayers authorized by the Cannabis Law to engage in the sale, distribution, or production of adult-use cannabis products or medical cannabis, for purposes of the unincorporated business tax (UBT), the general corporation tax (GCT), and the corporate tax of 2015, commonly referred to as the business corporation tax (BCT)," a summary says.

The bill also amends the city's tax code to add sections allowing deductions "in an amount equal to any federal deduction disallowed by section 280E of the internal revenue code."

"This modification to income is appropriate because, while the expenses of cannabis-related business cannot be deducted for federal purposes, New York law permits and encourages these businesses akin to any other legitimate business occurring in the State," a memo attached to the bill says. "The City's business taxes should similarly encourage these business activities."

South Dakota Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. State Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has drafted a title and explanation for a marijuana legalization initiative from activist and medical marijuana operator Emmett Reistroffer. That is the second marijuana legalization initiative filed for next yer's elections.

The Reistroffer initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. It would also allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for dual-use licenses to sell their products to any adult.

An earlier initiative from Matthew Schweich has already been approved for circulation. Schwiech has been involved in the two previous marijuana legalization initiatives, one that won in 2020 only to be overturned by the state Supreme Court and one that was defeated last year.

Both initiatives will need 17,509 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. If both were to pass, the one with most votes would go into effect.

Harm Reduction

New York Governor Signs Bill to Expand Access to Fentanyl Testing Supplies. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law "Matthew's Law," Senate Bill 2099C, which will expand public access to fentanyl testing supplies. Such supplies will be distributed by pharmacists or health care professionals.

"Matthew's Law" is named for Matthew Horan, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in November 2020.

"For too long, pharmacies and other local health care providers have struggled to provide the resources proven to prevent overdose deaths. With our historic investments in testing expansion, along with this legislation, we are working to ensure that every New Yorker has access to life-saving testing kits," Gov. Hochul said.

"We are in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in history and expanding the availability and use of resources like test strips is vital to the ongoing efforts to prevent overdose deaths in New York State," said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports. "These materials are lifesaving, and we need to continue to take steps to make sure that we are getting them in the hands of people that need them so that they can reduce their risk of overdose."

Law Enforcement

New York Governor Signs "Clean Slate Act" to Seal Criminal Records. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law the "Clean Slate Act," Senate Bill 7551A, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed years after an individual is sentenced or released from incarceration if that individual is not subsequently convicted of an additional criminal act.

"Following their release from any incarceration, records of individuals with eligible misdemeanor convictions will be sealed after three years and those with certain felony convictions, after eight years," said bill sponsor Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D). "The Clean Slate Act will not seal the records of individuals convicted of sex crimes, murder, or other non-drug Class A felonies; law enforcement, prosecutors, the New York State Education Department, the courts, and other groups will continue to have access to all criminal records under this law."

But it does include drug offenses.

PA Bill Allowing MedMJ Growers to Sell Direct to Patients Advances, Cartel Gun Bill Filed, More... (11/17/23)

The South African National Assembly has approved a marijuana legalization bill, a bipartisan federal bill to disarm cartels by blocking the flow of American guns south is filed, and more.

Peso Pluma. The popular Mexican artist has been threatened by cartels over his narcocorridos. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania House Approves Bill to Let Medical Marijuana Growers Sell Directly to Patients. The House on Wednesday approved a measure, Senate Bill 773, that would allow licensed medical marijuana growers in the state to sell their products directly to patients. The bill has already passed the Senate, but will have to go back for a concurrence vote after changes were made in the House.

Under the measure, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard (R), the state Department of Health would create a process to allow the state's 10 independent marijuana grower-processors to apply to obtain a dispensary permit to engage in direct commerce with patients. The House amended the bill to allow the state's four independent dispensaries to grow their own medical marijuana as well.

Under the state's current medical marijuana law, only 25 businesses can be licensed for growing and processing, and only five of those can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. That has created a near monopoly on medical marijuana in the state, one dominated by out-of-state operators.

If the Senate approves the changes in a final vote, the bill will then go to the desk of Gov. Josh Shapiro (D).

Drug Policy

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Disarm Cartels by Stopping Trafficking of American Guns Across Southern Border. On Tuesday, House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Thompson (R-CA) joined Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) to introduce the "Disarming Cartels Act" to curtail the trafficking of US-made firearms and ammunition southbound over the US-Mexico border. The measure is also cosponsored by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Guns originating in the United States power human- and drug-trafficking efforts and other illicit activities by cartels and other transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and beyond. "Firearms purchased in the United States are being illegally trafficked to Mexico, arming the cartels and fueling the fentanyl epidemic," said Thompson. "Going after the bad actors that facilitate the exchange of guns for fentanyl will help us crack down on illegal drug trade while preventing firearms from getting into the hands of cartels and other criminal organizations. The Disarming Cartels Act will help us secure our border, reduce the flow of fentanyl in our country, and disrupt the illegal flow of firearms into Mexico. As Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I'm proud to support this important bill with Reps. Goldman, Castro, Titus, Danny Davis, and Eleanor Holmes Norton."

"Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the devastating threat posed by the fentanyl trade and human smuggling and trafficking, all of which are predominantly controlled by Mexican drug cartels at our southern border," Goldman said. "But Republicans simply ignore that the source of the cartels' power is the hundreds of thousands of American-manufactured weapons of war that flow out of the United States and into the hands of the cartels. If we want to address crime across our southern border, then we must address the exportation of American guns across the border. The Disarming Cartels Act will do just that."

Mexico has one gun store in the entire country and restrictive firearm regulations. Yet, on an annual basis, there are nearly 30,000 annual firearm deaths in Mexico.

More than 500,000 American-made guns are trafficked to Mexico every year, and seventy percent of firearms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico can be traced to the United States. Criminal organizations operating in Mexico purchase firearms and ammunition from U.S.-based retailers to target law enforcement and military personnel, harm citizens, and enforce cartel control of territory.

To disrupt the trafficking of U.S.-sourced firearms into Mexico, the Disarming Cartels Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Increase interagency collaboration to identify, target, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations responsible for exporting firearms and related munitions from the United States to Mexico.
  • Instruct Homeland Security Investigations within U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to establish a mechanism for sharing aggregated information about interdictions of southbound firearms and U.S.-sourced firearms in Mexico with Federal partners.
  • Expand the collection and analysis of information concerning firearms recovered at crime scenes in Mexico to identify US-based gun traffickers.
  • Enhance coordination with Mexican agencies to increase outbound inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the southwest land border.
  • Establish performance measures for efforts to disrupt the smuggling of U.S.-sourced firearms to Mexico.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide annual reports on the Department's actions to disrupt the smuggling of US-sourced firearms and munition to Mexico.


Mexico's Tijuana Bans Narcocorridos. Last week, the Tijuana city council approved an ordinance banning the performance or even playing in public spaces of narcocorridos, popular ballads that glorify drug kingpins and their exploits. The move comes after threats last month against popular singer Peso Pluma and popular band Fuerza Regida, who have performed narcocorridos. The threats are presumably coming from rivals of the people honored in their songs.

Under the ordinance, any artist who "transmits, exhibits, sings or reproduces music, videos, images or any other similar thing that promotes the culture of violence or makes apologies for crime or for the authors of illegal acts in a live performance" can be subject to fines of up to $72,000. That money would be directed to municipal programs for the prevention, treatment and control of drug abuse.

"What cannot be part of Mexican folklore, nor represent us, is the narcocorrido and the apology of crime," Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said in announcing the law.

But Peso Pluma said that narcocorridos are a reflection of real life. "It's bad to say that it's normal -- we all know that," Peso Pluma said. "But it's the reality. What we say and what we sing and what's lived and what's heard isn't a lie."

Still, they have long been a target for authorities in the Mexican version of culture wars. Tijuana banned narcocorrido hitmakers Los Tucanes de Tijuana from playing in the city in 2010, and the following year, the state of Sinaloa banned the songs from being played in bars and nightclubs. In 2015, the state of Chihuahua threatened 36 hours of jail time and a $20,000 fine for anyone performing narcocorridos, and in 2017, another narcocorrido hitmaking band, Los Tigres del Norte, were fined for playing "Contrabando y Traicion" ("Contraband and Betrayal") in Chihuahua City.

South African Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The National Assembly on Tuesday approved a long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana, It now goes to the other chamber in the parliament, the National Council of Provinces, for a concurrence vote.

The Supreme Court had ruled in 2018 that the prohibition of possession and personal cultivation was unlawful and gave parliament two years to come up with a remedy. It took longer than two years, but now it is finally happening.

The bill to codify legalization was finally introduced in 2020, but action has been delayed, even as South Africa's government has included marijuana in a list of sectors to prioritize in the interest of economic expansion.

The bill does not include specific possession or cultivation limits, which are likely to be addressed in rulemaking from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamo.

"People should bear in mind what this bill is about. It is about cannabis for private use by adults," MP Janho Engelbrecht said. "You are not allowed to buy or sell cannabis, because this still remains a criminal activity with severe consequences. If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it, don't buy it."

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has said that it's the government's hope that the non-commercial legalization bill will serve as a jumping off point for lawmakers to enact more robust regulations to support the establishment of a marijuana market in the country.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation address last year that he wants to his the country enter the global medical hemp and cannabis industry, arguing that it could generate more than 100,000 jobs.

For now, however, the simple legalization bill that's moving through the Parliament is focused on removing criminal penalties in accordance with the Constitutional Court's unanimous 2018 ruling, which followed a lower court decision in the Western Cape province covering Cape Town to end prohibition.

OH GOP Eyes Changes to New Legal Weed Law, National Drug Survey Data Released, More... (11/15/23)

New York advises drug treatment providers to quit testing for marijuana in most cases, Ohio GOP lawmakers want to modify the just-passed marijuana legalization initiative, and more.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has okayed testimony from police drug recognition experts despite questions about their process.
Marijuana Policy

OH GOP Senate President Says Senators Will Push for Changes to New Marijuana Legalization Law Before It Takes Effect Next Month. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said Wednesday that senators will push for changes in the state's new marijuana legalization law before it takes effect next month. But details are still unclear -- and the House may not be in agreement.

"It's kind of all hands on deck here," Huffman said.

Within hours of the vote last week, Huffman, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R), and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signaled they wanted to modify the legalization initiative even though it won with 57 percent of the vote. DeWine has urged lawmakers to move quickly and Huffman joins him in seeking to have rules in place by December 7, when legalization commences.

But Stephens said the real deadline for regulation is sometime before next fall, when the first commercial marijuana licenses are supposed to be issued. "That runway is all the way through September before the first licenses are even issued, so to do that decision-making process in the next couple of weeks, it's going be a real challenge to put forth such a large program that quickly," Stephens said Tuesday.

Among the changes the Republicans are considering: changing the tax rate, using the revenue to fund county jails or police training, and clarifying the language around public smoking. Under the initiative, smoking pot in "public areas" would be a minor misdemeanor, but property owners and "any public place" could decide to accommodate marijuana use. Some businesses are complaining that the language is unclear.

The Senate could also limit the number of marijuana retail outlets and reexamine the language around THC content caps.

New York Officials Advise Drug Treatment Providers to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana in Most Cases. The state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) has issued new guidance to drug treatment providers that advises against routine screening for marijuana use, similar to the approach the office uses with alcohol. Some clinicians are hailing the move as a step away from abstinence-only recovery efforts and toward a more flexible harm reduction approach.

New state guidance for addiction services and treatment programs in New York advises against routine screening for marijuana use, an approach designed to parallel that used for alcohol. Some clinicians see the change, which is being implemented following the state's legalization of cannabis, as a step away from an abstinence-only view of recovery and toward a more flexible approach aimed at minimizing harm.

"With the legalization of adult-use cannabis in NYS, testing for the metabolite of THC routinely is not recommended unless the patient has identified a reduction in, or cessation of cannabis as part of their treatment goals," says the guidance document from OASAS. "Alcohol and THC metabolites should not be included in routine toxicology panels," it adds, "unless a clinician determines that alcohol or cannabis is a concern and toxicology testing would be appropriate clinically."

OASAS regulates about 1,700 prevention, treatment, and recovery programs statewide, as well as a dozen treatment centers it operates directly. The guidance applies to "providers working in OASAS-certified programs who use toxicology testing over the course of a patient's treatment." The office's website describes its approach as "responsive, data-driven, person-centered, and prioritizes equity."

Peter Grinspoon, a marijuana specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School instructor, saw the new guidance as a matter of harm reduction. "This is one of those questions where you can't really disentangle the social history and the politics from the science," he said. Historically "a lot of this is predicated on the idea that cannabis was a gateway to addiction" -- an idea he dismissed as a "foolish notion."

While medical professionals' perspective on the harms or benefits of marijuana "depends on his or her vantage point," Grinspoon added, addiction treatment providers have "been a big part of the problem with cannabis, because they really just get in their own echo chamber about the harms, and they don't have the context of, like, yes, sure, this can happen, and it's tragic when it does happen, but it's not what usually happens."

Drug Use

HHS, SAMHSA Release 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Results. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on Monday released the results of the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The report shows how people living in United States reported about their experience with mental health, substance use, and treatment related behaviors in 2022. The report is accompanied by a high-level brief that includes infographics.

"The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides an annual snapshot of behavioral health nationwide," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "This data informs knowledge, policy and action, and drives our shared commitment across government, healthcare, industry and community to offer resources and services to those in need."

"To tackle the behavioral health crisis in this nation, we need to fully understand the issues surrounding mental health and substance use, and the impact they have on people and communities," said Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm. "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to meeting people where they are with information, resources, and support. The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health allows us to follow an evidence-based path forward as we provide support for those struggling with substance use and work to build healthier futures."

"The data released today is crucial for informing our policies, protocols and understanding of our nation's health," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the leader of SAMHSA. "This important work better situates policy makers, researchers, practitioners and the general public to understand the collective behavioral health needs across the country and anticipate the needs of future generations."

The 2022 NSDUH report includes the following key findings:

  • Among people aged 12 or older in 2022, 59.8% (or 168.7 million people) used tobacco products, vaped nicotine, used alcohol, or used an illicit drug in the past month (also defined as "current use"), including 48.7% (or 137.4 million people) who drank alcohol, 18.1% (or 50.9 million people) who used tobacco products, 8.3% (or 23.5 million people) who vaped nicotine, and 16.5% (or 46.6 million people) who used an illicit drug.
  • In 2022, 70.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 24.9%) used illicit drugs in the past year. Marijuana was the most used illicit drug, with 22.0% of people aged 12 or older (or 61.9 million people) using it in the past year.
  • In 2022, 48.7 million people aged 12 or older (or 17.3%) had a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year, including 29.5 million who had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), 27.2 million who had a drug use disorder (DUD), and 8.0 million people who had both an AUD and a DUD.
  • In 2022, almost 1 in 4 adults aged 18 or older had any mental illness (AMI) in the past year (59.3 million or 23.1%).
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2022, 19.5% (or 4.8 million people) had a past year major depressive episode (MDE).
  • 1 in 20 adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.2 million or 5.2%), 1.5% (or 3.8 million people) made a suicide plan, and 0.6% (or 1.6 million people) attempted suicide in the past year.
  • Over 1 in 8 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year (13.4% or 3.4 million adolescents), 1 in 15 made any suicide plans (6.5% or 1.7 million adolescents), and nearly 1 in 25 (3.7% or 953,000 adolescents) attempted suicide in the past year.

Law Enforcement

New Jersey Supreme Court Says Drug Recognition Experts Reliable but Limits Their Use. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the testimony of police drug recognition experts is reliable enough to be used as evidence, but limited its use, citing concerns about the experts' processes. Drug recognition experts are trained to determine whether drivers are impaired by drugs that can’t be detected by roadside tests, bloodwork, or breathlyzers.

The ruling came in a case brought by the Office of the Public Defender with support from the ACLU of New Jersey, which made the most of the court's concerns. The case dates back to 2015, when Jerseyite Michael Olenowski was charged with driving while intoxicated on two separate occasions.

"Although we believe evidence regarding the DRE protocol should never be admissible at trial, the Court today took important steps to show its commitment to sound science, to stop the prosecution from proving its case through shortcuts and the overuse of police officers in place of empirical evidence to sustain criminal convictions, and to make clear to all courts, prosecutors, defendants, and the public that it will maintain the integrity of criminal prosecutions." said Assistant Deputy Public Defender Molly Mclane.

The high court split on the decision, with even the majority making it clear the ruling was unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

"We presume that researchers will continue to study the efficacy of the DRE methodology, and we do not foreclose future litigation with appropriate testimony to re-examine it," wrote Superior Court Judge Jack Sabatino, who is temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court.

In a dissent joined by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis wrote that her colleagues on the court approved the admissibility of drug recognition expert testimony despite admitting that they could not determine its reliability.

"The majority opinion discounts legitimate concerns about the reliability and accuracy of the DRE protocol and upholds the admission of DRE evidence despite acknowledging that 'the factors of testability and false positive error rate are largely inconclusive' and that 'DRE testimony does not, in and of itself, establish impairment,'" she wrote.

LA Poll Has Majority for Weed Legalization, White House Pushes for Opioid Funding, More... (11/14/23)

The mayor of Washington, DC, declares an opioid public health emergency, red state Louisiana now has a majority for marijuana legalization, and more.

Drug overdoses in DC are set to surpass last year's record high. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Slight Majority for Legalization. A new poll from the University of New Orleans Research Center has support for marijuana legalization at 52 percent in the deep red state. Prior to 2021, the majority of registered voters were firmly against legalization, but that has now shifted.

"What we're finding is that there has been this switch over the last couple of years for the majority opposition now to majority support so it seems to be this consistent majority out there that would like to see the recreational use of marijuana legalized," said UNO political science professor Ed Chernevak.

The survey was conducted from October 25 to November 2 and queried 429 respondents.

Opiates and Opioids

White House Pushes for Opioid Funding. The White House on Tuesday used the release of new data from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showing more than 48 million people experienced a substance use disorder in 2022 and that three-quarters of them did not get treatment to push for funding to deal with the opioid crisis.

"Overdose deaths have flattened in 2022 and 2023 after sharp increases from 2019 to 2021. That's progress. And it is important to recognize, but we still have a long way to go.And today's data underscores this point," said White House Drug Policy Director Rahul Gupta. "The bottom line is that we're dealing with a historic and unprecedented epidemic. And it requires historic and unprecedented funding to match the scale and President Biden's supplemental funding request will help us get there."

Last month, the administration asked for $1.2 billion for a law enforcement crackdown on fentanyl and related drugs and $1.55 billion to expand opioid treatment and harm reduction programs that are provided under State Opioid Response grants. No legislation to deal with opioid overdoses has had a floor vote in either chamber this year.

"Right now, the President's emergency supplemental budget request is before Congress with a request for additional, critical funds to take on the overdose crisis," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. "Now Congress must do its part."

Washington, DC, Mayor Declares Opioid Public Emergency. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Monday declared a public emergency over the opioid crisis as the number of fatal overdoses has doubled in the past five years, driven largely by fentanyl. Opioid deaths this are on track to surpass the record 461 deaths recorded last year.

The emergency order goes into effect immediately. It directs city agencies to use a shared overdose tracking system so outreach teams can identify and respond to hot spots more effectively and it suspends some contracting rules to more quickly provide services.

Bowser acted after the DC Council last week passed a nonbinding resolution urging her to declare the public health emergency.

"We have too many people dying in our city related to fentanyl overdoses most specifically," Bowser said. "We believe that the contracting vehicle will allow us to move -- we hope -- more quickly," she said.

But the emergency only lasts 15 days and has no funding or on the ground services, such as housing, transportation, or job services, and that is causing some advocates to warn that it is insufficient.

"The most important thing is these types of declarations need to come with funding and services that could be immediately stood up. If we say it's a crisis, we need to respond as if it's a crisis," said Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of state advocacy and criminal legal reform at the Drug Policy Alliance. "We need to think beyond the strategies that may have seemed realistic five years ago."

WI Psilocybin Research Bill Filed, German Pot Legalization Vote Postponed, More... (11/13/23)

A leading critic of former Philippines President Duterte's drug war has been freed from prison after being jailed for nearly seven years on bogus drug charges, Vietnam sentences 18 people to death for drug offenses, and more.

psilocybin mushrooms (Pixabay)

Wisconsin Bipartisan Bil to Create Psilocybin Research Program for Vets with PTSD. Sens. Jesse James (R) and Dianne Hesselbein (D), as well as Reps. Nate Gustafson (R) and Clinton Anderson (D) have joined together to file a bill that would create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.

The bill would create a pilot program to study the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. The program would be run through the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where a multidisciplinary psychedelics research division has been in place since 2021.

"Wisconsinites, especially our veterans struggling with treatment-resistant PTSD, deserve the 'Right to Try' the best possible care and support," Gustafson said. "I am proud to work across the aisle to propose a bipartisan bill to create a medicinal psilocybin treatment pilot to fulfill our moral duty to our veterans, who have selflessly served our country."

"The mental health of our veterans is incredibly important. Increasing treatment opportunities for veterans with PTSD is something we should all agree on," Anderson said. "I'm proud of this bipartisan bill to support those who served our country."

Massachusetts Governor Proposes Bill to Study Psychedelic Treatments for Veterans. Gov. Maura Healey (D) filed a bill on Veterans Day to increase benefits and promote inclusivity for veterans in the state that includes a provision that would create a "public-private working group to study the health benefits of psychedelics as treatment for veterans suffering from physical or mental health disorders related to their service."

Healey's bill comes after various legislators have already been discussing psychedelic legalization, and two versions of a psilocybin initiative petition have been filed in the state by the group Massachusetts for Mental Health Options.


German Lawmakers Postpone Marijuana Legalization Vote Scheduled for Next Week. Lawmakers in the Bundestag have postponed a final vote on marijuana legalization that was scheduled for next week, saying that the issue "will be decided in December," according to lawmaker Carmen Wegge.

"I know this is a huge disappointment for many," said Wegge, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). "That's why this decision wasn't easy for anyone. However, well-designed improvements are in all of our interests."

A member of the allied Green Party, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, explained the delay on social media by saying that "some wording still needs to be worked on." Legalization will come, she emphasized, "just a little later."

"I am confident that the law will become significantly better as a result of the discussions," Green Party lawmker Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said. "This is for a good cause, quality comes before time pressure. Some wording still needs to be worked on," she said, adding that legalization will come, "just a little later."

Philippine Politician Jailed by Duterte for Criticizing His Drug War Freed After Seven Years. Former senator Leila de Lima has been granted release on bail after being held in prison for nearly seven years on bogus drug charges after she criticized then-President Rodrigo Duterte war on drugs, under which tens of thousands of people were killed.

As she left prison, she was greeted by dozens of supporters. De Lima thanked her supporters, the news media, and the administration of Duterte successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. "for respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law."

De Lima is a global cause celebre. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that her imprisonment was arbitrary and without legal basis.

She was jailed in 2017 after starting a Senate probe into Duterte's drug war. Earlier, she had clashed with Duterte when, as human rights commissioner, she investigated death squad killings in Davao City, where Duterte was mayor for two decades.

Five witnesses who testified against her in the drug case have recanted their testimony in the past couple of years, leading to hopes that the charges against her will be dropped or that she will be acquitted. De Lima has already been acquitted in two of the three cases brought against her.

"We have waited a long time for this day, believing that what is right and true will always prevail," said Leni Robredo, the former vice president, opposition leader and presidential candidate, under whose ticket de Lima unsuccessfully ran for reelection from prison in 2022.

Amnesty International called on the Marcos administration to ensure De Lima's safety. "The government must now guarantee her safety, security and protection as she remains the target of vilification and threats," it said in a statement.

Vietnam Sentences 18 to Death in Drug Bust. A Vietnamese court has sentenced 18 people to death, including two South Koreans and a Chinese national, after they were convicted of having "illegally stored, trafficked and traded more than 216kg of drugs" between May and June 2020.

The trial took place in the Family and Juvenile Court of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court. Some drugs were "consumed domestically" while others went to South Korea, the court found.

One man was charged with "illegal transportation of drugs" and "using fake seals or documents of organizations," while the others were convicted of "illegal possession of drug", "illegal trading of drugs", "illegal drug trafficking" and "organization of illegal use of drugs", state media said.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws, including the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 21 ounces of heroin or 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. More than 100 people were executed last year, though it is unclear how many were drug offenders.

OR Leaders Visit Portugal for Look at Decriminalization, VA Could See Legal Marijuana Sales, More... (11/10/23)

President Biden remains steadfast in his opposition to federal marijuana legalization, Ohio's Republican governor calls for the legislature to amend the brand new marijuana legalization initiative before it goes into effect next month, and more.

Marijuana Policy

After Ohio, Biden's Marijuana Policy Remains Unchanged, White House Says. "Nothing has changed" about President Biden's stance on marijuana -- he rejects legalization -- after Ohio voted on Tuesday to legalize it, creating a situation where a majority of Americans now live in states where weed is legal.

Asked Wednesday at a briefing whether Biden feels "marijuana restrictions should be loosened on the federal level," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre replied that, "The president put out his stance on marijuana about a year and a half ago. Nothing has changed there," Jean-Pierre said. "I will leave it to the people of Ohio to decide on how they're going to move forward with their own Constitution, but I'm just not going to speak to it further," she said. "We've been very clear."

While Biden has said that federal legalization is a line too far, he has voiced support for allowing states to set their own marijuana policies and he has directed an administrative review of federal marijuana scheduling, which has resulted in the Department of Health and Human Services recommending moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA is currently weighing that recommendation.

Ohio Governor Calls for Modification of Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has said he accepts that state voters approved marijuana legalization, but called on lawmakers to make changes to the law before it goes into effect less than a month from now. Both DeWine and the GOP-led legislature opposed the initiative.

"We respect what the people have done," DeWine said. "What the people have clearly told us is they want legal marijuana in Ohio. We are going to see that they have that. We're also going to live up to our responsibility to all the people in the state of Ohio, whether they voted for it or voted against it," he added.

"People have a right to smoke it. People have a right to consume it," DeWine continued. "But also that everybody else who doesn't choose to do so is also protected with their rights as well. My recommendation to the General Assembly is that they take action to make sure that both rights are protected," DeWine said.

What about the children? DeWine asked.

"One goal will be to make sure that they are protected from advertising in regard to marijuana," DeWine said. "We want to do everything within our power to reduce the number of inadvertent consumption of gummy bears, cookies and other products that have marijuana. "We have every responsibility to do everything we can to keep those (emergency room visits) numbers down as much as we can."

Virginia Election Results Could Open Path to Legal Marijuana Sales. Tuesday's election results delivered both houses of the state legislature to the Democrats, removing an obstacle to legalizing and regulating marijuana sales. Led by Democrats, the legislature legalized the use and personal cultivation of marijuana in 2021, but after the 2022 elections, Republicans blocked the enactment of a regulatory framework for sales to begin next year.

This year, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a legal sales regulation bill, but the Republican-controlled House killed it.

Now, with the Democrats in control of both houses but with Republican Glenn Youngkin still sitting as governor, expect a contentious process of attempting to move forward with legal sales. At least one lawmaker, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) is expected to introduce a legal sales bill, but with a slew of new lawmakers, ongoing calls for strong social equity and justice provisions, and uncertainty over what position Youngkin will take, that is probably just the beginning.

JM Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, is looking for a bill that above all, can pass and be signed into law. That would mean compromise, he said."Without the supermajority required to overturn a veto, any serious adult-use sales legislation must be both pragmatic and palatable in order to succeed," Pedini said. "Such a measure should be easy to read, limited in scope and have strong bipartisan support."

Drug Policy

Oregon Lawmakers Back from Trip to Review Portugal Decriminalization. As the state's voter-approved drug decriminalization law comes under increasing attack, a delegation of two dozen state lawmakers and other stakeholders went to Portugal last week to gain insights into its two-decade experience with drug decriminalization and apply lessons that might be appropriate for Oregon.

"We are in our third year here in Oregon working towards a health approach to addiction, as opposed to criminal justice response, and really felt like it was important for us to see a a system that's been doing that for over 20 years." said Health Justice Recovery Alliance Executive Director Tera Hurst.

The delegation met with members of the Portuguese parliament, government officials, law enforcement, providers, and drug users.

The biggest lesson from the trip, said Hurst, was the importance of a "patient-first" approach.

"Predominantly, it was about, we need to shift our focus of people who use and are having substance use issues as criminals and really center them as patients. And I found that really striking," Hurst said.

Although drug decriminalization in Oregon is under attack just three years after it passed, Portuguese leaders told the delegation it took significant time for changes to be felt.

In Portugal, leaders pointed out it took significant time before change was noticeable.

"It was eight years before they saw the impact that they were hoping to see," said Janie Gullickson of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. "It takes time. And that's what I'm hoping we can have people understand -- that it's going to take time."

IN Supreme Court Rules for Jury Trials in Asset Forfeiture Cases, Sinaloa Cartel Hands Out Food, More... (11/9/23)

Florida Supreme Court justices were skeptical of the state's effort to keep a marijuana legalization initiative off the ballot, a Canadian Senate committee calls for an immediate psychedelic research program for veterans, and more.

People in Navolato, Sinaloa, lining up for food donations from the Sinaloa Cartel after Hurricane Norma. (X)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Supreme Court Justices Voice Skepticism About State's Effort to Throw Out Marijuana Legalization Initiative. An effort by state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) to keep the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative off the November 2024 ballot ran into skeptical justices as the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on her motion Wednesday.

Justice Charles Canady said he was "baffled" by Moody's argument that the initiative's ballot summary would mislead voters because it says that marijuana would be legal in Florida, when it is illegal federally.

The initiative's ballot summary says it "does not change, or immunize violations of, federal law," Justice John Couriel noted. "C'mon," it also says 'applies to Florida law.' We can't not read the context of the whole statement."

The state also claimed that because the ballot summary says medical marijuana treatment centers and "other state licensed entities" could distribute recreational marijuana, voters might assume they are authorizing the creation of more licenses.

"The ballot summary is playing on a desire of voters to see greater competition in this marketplace," the state argued.

But Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz scoffed, asking what kind of voter would want recreational marijuana but would vote against it because they disagreed with the structure of the marketplace. The state argued that the language needs to be clear regardless.

Attorneys for the initiative noted that they had studied previous Supreme Court guidance on marijuana legalization initiatives and drafted their accordingly.

"This court has said many times that it's reluctant to strike language from the ballot," initiative attorneys argued. "If there was ever a case not to do it, it's the one where the ballot sponsor looked at this court's precedents, tried to follow them scrupulously, and even adopted the language that this court said is appropriate."

The court has until April 1 to reach its decision. If it approves the initiative, the measure will need the approval of 60 percent of voters to pass.

Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Supreme Court Rules Civil Forfeiture Defendants Have a Right to a Jury Trial. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that civil asset forfeiture defendants have the right to a jury trial.

The ruling came in the case of Alucious Kizer, from whom police seized $2,435 in cash after a traffic stop where they found drugs in his vehicle. Under state civil forfeiture law, police can seize assets if they are suspected of criminal activity. King challenged the seizure, but the state Court of Appeals ruled that he was "not entitled to trial by jury."

"The State insists that Kizer has no right to a jury trial because civil forfeitures pursuant to Indiana's drug forfeiture laws are a special statutory procedure intended exclusively for trial by the court," Justice Christopher M. Goff of the Indiana Supreme Court summarized in an opinion published October 31. "Kizer disagrees, arguing that the State's theory would effectively deprive Hoosiers of a jury trial when filing suit under any modern statutory scheme."

The court sided with Kizer. "The historical record -- consisting of statutes and judicial decisions reflecting contemporary practice -- strongly suggests that Indiana continued the common-law tradition of trial by jury in actions for the forfeiture of property," wrote Goff. The seizure of assets suspected to be used in the commission of a crime, he added, is "an essentially legal action that triggers the right" to a jury trial.

The Supreme Court returned Kizer's case to a lower court for a jury trial to determine whether he will get his $2,435 back.

"The right to a trial by jury of our peers is core to our system of justice," said Sam Gedge, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. "For centuries, courts across the nation have confirmed the obvious: when the government sues to forfeit your property, you're entitled to make your case to a jury."


Canadian Senate Committee Calls for Immediate Launch of Psychedelic Research Program to Explore Treatments for Veterans. The Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs issued a report Wednesday that calls for "the immediate implementation of a robust research program" funded by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Department of Defense, in partnership with federal health agencies, to carry out studies into the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy for veterans with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The subcommittee was critical of VAC's current approach to psychedelic medicine, calling it a "wait and see" approach that is "ill-suited" to the moment. The agency "should be doing everything in its power to improve the health of veterans, particularly those who have exhausted all the treatment options available to them," the report said. "Research on these subjects is constantly evolving and will continue to do so. No one can predict whether progress will be spectacular or whether there will be setbacks. What we know today is that there is no reason to wait for results from other countries, because the results would still need to be confirmed for our veterans," the report says. "It is the Government of Canada's duty to assure veterans that it is doing everything in its power, immediately, to respect its solemn commitment to support, at any cost, those who chose to defend us with honour."

Sen. David Richards, chair of the subcommittee, said that the panel "heard harrowing stories from veterans who have returned home from conflict zones only to face the darkest moment of their lives." The research into psychedelic-assisted therapy is too promising to ignore," he said. "Our veterans sacrifice so much -- we must do everything we can to help them."

Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Distributes Food to Families Affected by Hurricane in El Chapo's Hometown. After Hurricane Norma wreaked havoc along the Mexican Pacific Coast last week, men linked to the Sinaloa Cartel delivered groceries to affected families in the Sinaloa municipality of Navolato, the birthplace of imprisoned cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Images and videos have circulated of residents standing in lines to receive bags of necessities marked on the outside with the initials JGL, alluding to Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzman Loera. People received toilet paper, sugar, corn flour, egg and cans of tuna, among other items.

Navolato is also the home Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, El Chapo's son, who is known as El Chapito. Ivan and his brothers form the Los Chapitos faction of the Sinaloa Cartel and ran the Juarez Cartel out of town back in 2020.

Gallup Poll Has Support for Legalizing Pot at All-Time High, House Move to Block Weed Rescheduling, More... (11/8/23)

The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments over whether a marijuana legalization initiative will appear on the November 2024 ballot, a key House committee chair is moving to block marijuana rescheduling, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High. A Gallup survey released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high of 70 percent, with 29 percent opposed. Support for legalization had been rising for years before holding steady at 68 percent for the last three years, but now it has bumped up again.

Some 87 percent of Democrats were down with legalization, as were 70 percent of independents, as well as even 55 percent of Republicans. Among non-white adults, support was at 72 percent; among white adults, it was 69 percent.

Support also correlated with youthfulness, with 79 percent of 18-34-year-olds in favor, compared with 71 percent between 35 and 54 who said the same, while among people 55 and over, support was at 54 percent.

The poll comes a day after Ohioans voted to become the 24th marijuana legalization state, pushing the number of Americans who live under legalization to more than half.

House GOP Leader Files Spending Bill Amendment to Block Federal Marijuana Rescheduling. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), powerful chair of the House Rules Committee, which has blocked numerous marijuana reform amendments, has filed an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that would bar the use of federal funds to reschedule marijuana.<

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services urged the DEA to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA is currently proceeding with its review.

Sessions' amendment would prohibit any funds from being used to "to deschedule, reschedule, or reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act." If passed by the House, the only recourse would be for House and Senate negotiators in conference committee to excise that language and for the House to then agree to it.

Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Marijuana Legalization Amendment. The state Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today that will determine whether a marijuana legalization initiative in the form of a constitutional amendment will appear on the November 2024 ballot.

The measure from Smart & Safe Florida gathered more than a million signatures to qualify for the ballot, but has been challenged by state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R). In June, Moody filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing that the measure should be thrown out because its language is misleading to voters and that it does not clearly state that marijuana would remain illegal under federal law. She also claimed the measure would prevent the legislature from regulating amounts greater than the three ounces the measure legalizes.

"If the amendment passed, not even the legislature would be able to clear the way for possession of greater amounts of marijuana. Were voters warned that the amendment would restrict marijuana possession in this way -- effectively banning most or all marijuana cultivation -- they might reconsider their support for the initiative," Moody wrote.

Smart & Safe Florida responded that it has followed the roadmap established by the court for past sponsors of marijuana-related initiatives and that the legislature would not be blocked from regulating larger amounts of weed.

"This Court approved the language for a reason: It unambiguously informs voters that the amendment does not alter federal law or immunize violations of federal law. And SSF relied on this Court's clear guidance in undertaking the costly campaign to put the issue on the ballot," the group said in a brief it filed with the court.

The court has until April 1 to render its decision.

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