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CDC Says ODs Hit Record High Last Year, CA Bans "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death, More... (10/12/23)

More usual suspects come out against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, the FDA issues a warning about the home use of prescribed ketamine, and more.

prescription ketamine (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Senate Urges Voters to Reject Marijuana Legalization Initiative. On Wednesday, the day early voting began for next month's election, the Republican-led Senate passed a resolution urging voters to reject the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative. The measure, Senate Resolution 216, resorted to Reefer Madness-type arguments in its bid to scare voters into a "no" vote. "The proposed statute authored by the commercial marijuana industry," it says, "does not serve the best interests of the people of Ohio, will bring unacceptable threats and risks to the health of all Ohioans, especially children, will create dangers in the workplace and unacceptable challenges and costs to employers, will make Ohio's roads more dangerous, will impose significant new, unfunded costs to Ohio's public social services, and serves only to advance the financial interests of the commercial marijuana industry and its investors."

The resolution asserts that marijuana is "a gateway drug," that drug overdoses "have been the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio" since 2007 (but the 33,000 overdose deaths in a decade are fewer than the 42,000 people killed by COVID), and that a whole litany of dire consequences would arise from legalization, including more emergency room visits for children, increased risk of young people developing psychosis, lower intelligence and learning ability, more car crashes, higher crime rates, a bigger illicit cannabis market and "great risks at the workplace to employers, other workers, customers, and others."

Polling last month had the initiative at 59 percent.

Drug Policy

CDC Says Drug Overdose Deaths Hit All-Time High Last Year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an estimate of drug overdose deaths and projects that 112,024 people died in the 12 months ending in May of this year, some 2,700 more than the previous year. That is a 2.5 percent increase, which indicates a slight leveling off of the still-increasing overdose numbers.

Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, noted that the increase is leveling off.

"We still have an extraordinary number of overdose deaths that is orders of magnitude higher than we've seen in previous years," said Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. However, "the increase that we [saw] in 2021 has slowed down. There were extraordinary increases in 2020 and 2021 that have started to flatten out in 2022 -- now going into 2023. They're not declining yet," Keyes said. "But the pace of the increase is certainly slowing. So that is both good news and indicative of a continuing public health crisis."

The death toll rose especially sharply in Western states, with Washington seeing the biggest increase, a jump of 37 percent from the previous year. That increase is likely a function of the late introduction of fentanyl into drug markets in the Pacific Northwest.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in the vast majority of overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is an unpredictable product, and people who use too much can rapidly have an overdose," Keyes said, adding that the drug is particularly dangerous for people who don't know they are consuming it. "Many people who use drugs are more tolerant to fentanyl and prefer it," she said. "Other people use it without knowing it, and that can be very dangerous because people who don't have a tolerance to opioids who are exposed to fentanyl only need a very small amount of exposure to rapidly induce an overdose."

FDA Issues Warning Over Home Consumption of Telemedicine-Prescribed Ketamine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an alert warning about the dangers of unsupervised use of compounded ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders. The drug, a powerful anesthetic, is increasingly popular for treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other difficult-to-treat mental health issues.

Compounded drugs are drugs created in pharmacies (as opposed to manufactured in pharmaceutical plants) that are modified for the specific needs of individual patients. Ketamine is often used under supervision as part of psychiatric therapy at clinics or "wellness centers," but is also prescribed by online marketers who prescribe it via telemedicine for unsupervised home use.

"Patients who receive compounded ketamine products from compounders and telemedicine platforms for the treatment of psychiatric disorders may not receive important information about the potential risks associated with the product," the FDA warned.

Ketamine is unapproved and unregulated for psychiatric use, but doctors can prescribe it "off label" for any condition they desire. The boom in telemedicine during the pandemic has seen large numbers of online prescribers emerge, who dispense the medication after a brief video interview. Some prescribe as many as 30 doses at a time.

"Whenever you have something new, there may be people who run ahead with it. And there will be people who do things based on less evidence rather than more," said Dr. Joshua Berman, medical director for interventional psychiatry at Columbia University, who helped develop the department's ketamine program.

"Our concern is that these online sellers are going to ruin it for everybody," said Peter Koshland, who runs a compounding pharmacy in San Francisco. "Our fear is that regulators, if they perceive a threat to public health, will move to take this amazing medicine away and leave patients at risk."

Law Enforcement

California Becomes First State to Ban "Excited Delirium" As Cause of Death in Police Encounters. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Assembly Bill 360, which bars coroners or medical examiners from using the term "excited delirium" on death certificates.

The state becomes the first to ban the phrase, which medical associations have said is rooted in racism and which has often been used to justify the deaths of people in police custody, especially those using stimulant drugs.

The signing of the bill was a victory for "justice, police accountability, human rights and health," said Dr. Michele Heisler, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights. "This baseless concept can no longer be used in California to absolve law enforcement for deaths in custody, misinform responses to people facing medical and behavioral crises, or block access to legal remedies."

Two years ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its opposition to the use of the term, saying reports showed a pattern of using the term as "justification for excessive police force, disproportionately cited in cases where Black men die in law enforcement custody."

OH Legal Weed Initiative Early Voting Starts, CA Psychedelic Research Initiative, More... (10/10/23)

The Canadian government issued a report on five years of marijuana legalization, medical marijuana is now one vote away in the Ukrainian parliament, and more.

It's time to vote, Ohio.
Marijuana Policy

Early Voting for Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Begins. Early voting for the marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot as Issue 2 began on Wednesday. Election day is November 7.

Sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. The initiative also allows for the home cultivation of six plants per adult, with a limit of 12 per household.

The initiative would also create a new state agency called  the Division of Cannabis Control, which would have the authority to "license, regulate, investigate, and penalize adult use cannabis operators, adult use testing laboratories, and individuals required to be licensed," according to the text of the measure. Cannabis products would carry a 10 percent tax, which would be dedicated to administrative costs of marijuana regulation, substance misuse treatment programs and a social equity and jobs program.

A Fallon Research poll last month had support for the initiative at 59 percent.


California Psychedelic Research Initiative Begins Signature-Gathering. Signature-gathering has gotten underway for the TREAT California Act, an initiative that would authorize the state to spend $5 billion to create a state agency focused on advancing research and development of psychedelic therapies.

The initiative would not decriminalize or legalize any substance, but would create a state constitutional right to conduct research using all psychedelic substances except peyote. It would create a state agency called the Treatment, Research, Education, Access, and Therapies (TREAT) Institute. The institute would identify opportunities for advancing scientific research and development into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

"It’s clear we are in a mental healthcare crisis, as conventional therapies too often fail to offer relief for people suffering from PTSD, suicide, and depression, and the effects are simply catastrophic," Jeannie Fontana, CEO of the TREAT California campaign, said in a statement. "We have a moral imperative to address the limitations inherent in our current system, and it’s time we got started."

The initiative will need to come up with 874,161 valid voter signature by next July to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.


Canadian Report Finds Legal Marijuana Industry Struggling. Health Canada has released the "What We Heard Report" on the state of the marijuana industry five years after legalization. The report found that weed companies are finding it difficult to turn a profit because of high taxes, mark-ups, and the costs of regulatory compliance.

The review was mandated by the bill that legalized marijuana and was conducted by an expert panel, which is charged with advising the Health Ministry on how well legalization has met the laws objectives, including protecting the health and safety of Canadians, as well as identifying areas where the law needed to be improved.

"Public health stakeholders insisted that the focus of the regime should be on reducing harms associated with consumption, high-potency products, higher-risk product formats, polysubstance use (that is, the consumption of at least two substances), cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, driving after cannabis use, and cannabis poisonings of children," the panel wrote in the report.

"Public health stakeholders were generally supportive of the precautionary approach—including the 10-milligram delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit for edible cannabis products and restrictions on promotion of these products. There were some suggestions that further restrictions should be considered such as stricter age limits on who can possess, distribute, and buy cannabis, setting minimum pricing retailers can charge, and restrictions on selling flavored products."

The illicit market remains an issue but a diminishing one, the panel found.

"While not a direct measure of access, the growth in legal sales—and the decline in illicit sales—indicates that consumers are migrating to legal suppliers," the panel wrote. "Estimates of legal market share vary, but suggest that more than half, and up to as much as three-quarters, of cannabis is being obtained from legal sources (for example, in 2022, a survey found 63 percent of cannabis users always or mostly accessed legal sources, another observed cannabis consumers bought 82 percent of the cannabis they used from legal sources, and 68 percent of household spending on non-medical cannabis was attributed to legal sources)."

The panel wrote that it "heard a great deal about the economic condition of the legal cannabis market," and that industry representatives "expressed concern in that companies in the legal market are struggling to realize profits and maintain financial viability.

"A main message from industry representatives was that, despite the growth of the legal cannabis market, companies across the supply chain are struggling to realize profits and maintain financial viability," the panel wrote in the report.

"Specifically, they noted that the hyper-competitive cannabis market for producers and retailers, combined with the various regulatory fees, distributor mark-ups and fees, and taxes are stifling companies of all sizes. Some noted that other industries, such as alcohol and tobacco, are not subject to federal regulatory fees and that they pay less mark-ups and taxes (for example, beer). Some stakeholders proposed that Health Canada move towards an ‘à la carte’ model for regulatory fees (that is, transactional fees for specific services) and remove the annual regulatory fee. Others felt that the government should adopt a progressive excise tax framework, whereby the tax rate is connected to the size of the firm or the price of the product. Others suggested adjusting the tax rate to 10% for dried cannabis, as opposed to the current model of $1 or 10% per gram, whichever is greater."

Ukraine Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Parliamentary Committee Vote. The parliament's National Health, Medical Care, and Health Insurance Committee approved the government-supported medical marijuana bill on Tuesday, clearing the way for a final vote in the unicameral legislative body, the Verkhovna Rada.

The bill would create a national medical marijuana program to provide access to patients with conditions such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from war—a proposed reform that comes as Ukraine continues to experience violent conflict after Russian invaded the country last year.

"We did everything [so that] patients could get their medicine as soon as possible," said MP Olga Stefanyshyna. "So far medical cannabis has not entered in the history of Ukraine. Waiting for the 2nd reading, we believe it will work this time!"

CA Governor Vetoes Weed Labeling Bill, OR Supreme Court Rules on "Possesion with Intent," More... (10/10/23)

Some of the usual suspects line up against the Ohio marijuana legalization initiative, California's governor vetoes a "what about the kids?" marijuana labeling bill, and more.

Cocaine, meth, and MDMA will be effectively decriminalized in Australia's New South Wales. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Vetoes Marijuana Labeling Bill Opposed by Industry. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has vetoed a labeling bill opposed by the industry as too onerous, Assembly Bill 1207, the Cannabis Candy Child Safety Act. The bill would have banned the sale, distribution or manufacturing of cannabis products with packaging and labeling deemed "attractive to children." That would have included promotional material displaying fictional humans, animals, fruits and vegetables.

The industry lobbied for the veto and instead supported Senate Bill 540, which also passed the legislature and which Newsom has now signed into law. That bill instructs the state Department of Cannabis Control to revisit packaging and labeling restrictions "in line with evolving science" and to create "a brochure encouraging responsible cannabis use."

"We're enormously grateful for the governor's thoughtful and nuanced approach to cannabis advertising," said Tiffany Devitt, who manages government affairs for CannaCraft, a Santa Rosa producer. "By vetoing AB 1207 and signing SB 540, he's taken a science-based approach to safeguarding consumers while preserving the ability of California cannabis companies to compete in the national market."

Ohio Business Groups Oppose Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Several influential state business organizations have come out against Issue 2, the marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot next month.

Citing concerns over workplace safety and company's ability to find workers who can pass drug tests, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Business Roundtable and the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association are opposing the measure.

Legalization presents "No upside for businesses that I can see," said Steve Stivers, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Haren, a spokesperson for Ohio’s pro-legalization sponsor, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, dismissed the business groups’ worries as "Reefer Madness type scare tactics."

Drug Policy

Oregon Supreme Court Rules Mere Possession of Large Quantities of Drugs Not Sufficient to Prove Intent to Sell. The state Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that mere possession of a large amount of drugs is not enough to justify charges of possession with intent to distribute drugs. The high court said more evidence was required to show "possession with intent to sell."

The ruling comes in the midst of growing debate over state drug policy, with a joint legislative committee reviewing drug treatment and enforcement efforts and two different initiative campaigns seeking to roll back or otherwise modify Measure 110, the 2020 initiative that decriminalized drug possession in the state.

One of initiatives proposed to change the 2020 law contains language to restore the "possession with intent to sell" standard established through a 1988 decision by the Court of Appeals. That standard had been sufficient to prove "attempt transfer" until the Supreme Court's ruling.

"It is sufficient for us to say what an ‘attempted transfer’ is not: It is not established by evidence that a person possessed a large quantity of a controlled substance and had a general intent to transfer it at an undetermined future time," the court held. "Some additional evidence that the person made an effort to engage in the act of transferring is required. The question of what sort of additional evidence might be sufficient is one that we decline to address in the abstract, as we expect that courts will face it in a great variety of fact patterns.

"In this case, the record is legally insufficient to prove that defendant made an effort to transfer fentanyl. The record shows that defendant possessed a nonuser amount of fentanyl and that some of the fentanyl was packaged in a manner consistent with an intent to deliver it. What the record lacks is evidence that defendant had taken additional steps to engage in conduct that would cause the fentanyl to change hands."

The Supreme Court did not dismiss the case but sent it back to Washington County Circuit Court, where prosecutors could present additional evidence.


Australia's New South Wales Joins Rest of Country in Relaxing Drug Laws. State government officials have announced that as of New Year's Day, people caught with small amounts of drugs will have the option of paying a fine or getting counselling rather than be arrested and subjected to court proceedings. That will bring the state in line with the rest of the country's states and territories.

The new policy will apply to the possession of up to a quarter-gram of MDMA and a gram of cocaine or methamphetamine. The state already applies the policy for up to 30 grams of marijuana.

Police still maintain the discretion to make an arrest, a move that activists denounced about data showed that the diversion scheme was applied less often for indigenous people.

Legislation to effect the change will be introduced in parliament this week.

CA Governor Vetoes Pot Shop Food and Beverage Bill, DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing, More... (10/9/23)

Arizona pot shop social equity licenses are having a hard time getting their doors open, Kentucky's governor signs an executive order creating a medical marijuana working group, and more.

Doctors will be able to prescribe this opioid dependence disorder drug via telehealth for another year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Social Equity Marijuana Retailers Set to Miss Key Deadline. The state's social equity marijuana retail licensees are supposed to have their shops open by Sunday, but more than half of them are poised to miss that deadline.

While they could face penalties for failing to meet the state-mandated deadline up to having their licenses revoked, state regulators say they will not do that but will allow them more time to get up and running.

Some 26 retail licenses out of 169 are allocated to social equity licensees, who face a number of obstacles to opening, including a lack of funding, lawsuits, competition from existing operators and other factors. They also have to operate under more restrictive rules than other marijuana businesses.

Social equity operators can sell to medical marijuana patients, but patients who buy at those shops have to pay a 16 percent excise tax and cannot buy edibles with more than 100 milligrams of THC per package. Social equity shops can also only sell customers one ounce of buds a day, while the 130 medical marijuana sellers that were grandfathered into the adult-use market can sell 2.5 ounces.       

California Governor Vetoes Bill to Allow Marijuana Retailers to Sell Food and Beverages. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has added another notch in veto belt against progressive drug reforms (he has recently vetoed psychedelic decriminalization and safe injection site pilot project bills) by vetoing a bill that would have allowed localities to give marijuana retailers the ability to prepare and serve non-marijuana food and beverages, Assembly Bill 374.

In his veto message, Newsom said he was concerned the bill could undermine the state's smoke-free workplace protections. He said he "appreciated" that struggling pot shops needed more revenue streams, but that was not enough for him to sign the bill.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) was an effort to move away from the marijuana-only shop model and "bring much-needed tourist dollars into empty downtowns."

"Californians are proud of our state's wine culture, and we do everything we can to make sure that our winemakers receive the support they need -- we need to be doing the exact same thing for cannabis," Haney said. "If we don't start better supporting these businesses we are going to lose decades of being at the forefront of the cannabis movement and other states will be ready to swoop in and take it from us."

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Creating New Medical Marijuana Working Group. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) last Thursday announced the creation of a new working group to study marijuana policy developments in the state and the country, as well as announcing the launch of a new government website so people can follow the upcoming implementation of the state's medical marijuana program.

The medical marijuana program is set to begin in 2025. People who are interested in the program's progress can go to to follow along with the implementation process.

The Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Workgroup will consist of 12 membrs who will "study the evolving medical cannabis industry policy and the state of medical cannabis policy in our Commonwealth and around the country."

"This group will include individuals and state and local government and the private sector with relevant experience in law enforcement, agriculture, health care, workforce and economic development," he said. "They will be making recommendations to the program and other state agencies that interact with this new law and with Kentuckians to ensure they have safe access to medical cannabis."

Drug Policy

DEA Extends Telehealth Prescribing of Controlled Substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last Friday that they will extend pandemic-era telehealth prescribing flexibility for controlled substances through the end of 2024.

This is the second temporary extension of relaxed prescribing rules for drugs such as opioid use disorder medications and stimulant medications for ADHD. The rules allow doctors to prescribe the drugs virtually without first having an in-patient evaluation.

The rule ensures "a smooth transition for patients and practitioners that have come to rely on the availability of telemedicine for controlled medication prescriptions, as well as allowing adequate time for providers to come into compliance with any new standards or safeguards," the DEA and the HHS wrote. The DEA will work to write new regulations by the fall of 2024.

BC Bill Would Criminalize Public Drug Use, MPP and NORML Merger Talk, More... (10/6/23)

MPP and NORML are in preliminary merger talks, Georgia will become the first state in the country to offer medical marijuana products in pharmacies, and more. 

San Francisco. Safe injection sites are on mayoral candidates' minds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Top Marijuana Advocacy Groups Ponder Merger Amid Fundraising Challenges, Leadership Transitions. With its executive director having recently resigned and its ability to undertake expensive ballot initiative campaigns curtailed by funding challenges in an era where most people now live in legal marijuana states, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is considering a possible merger with the nation's largest marijuana consumer advocacy group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

MPP was formed as a breakaway from NORML back in 1996, when then-NORML staffers Rob Kampia and Chuck Thomas left the group and to create the new organization. Since then, MPP has had access to millions of dollars in philanthropic donations, but those have largely evaporated as legalization spread and wealthy donors said the industry should step up and fund reforms. The industry has not been so good at doing that, and now MPP says it will have to give up on expensive ballot initiatives and concentrate on Congress and state legislatures.

"I do believe that we were victims of our own success," acting executive director Matthew Schweich said. "We’re highly effective. We passed so many laws through so many states and so many ballot initiatives. And people just got used to our success." MPP is still in "a strong position long-term to maintain its current operations," and the rationale behind the restructuring "is to ensure that we can operate effectively for years to come," he added. "So that’s important to know—but if people want there to be a stronger MPP like we saw in the past, we’re going to need philanthropic donors to return to the fold," he said. "It is just not sustainable to maintain the type of scale that we should have without philanthropic donors returning to help our costs."

"It’s really a shame that we’re no longer able to play a leading role in initiatives," said Karen O’Keefe, MPP's director of state polices who focuses on state legislatures. "There are states where cannabis consumers will have to suffer under prohibition for a decade or more longer probably because there’s just not the funding there to get voters there, per se. By not having the funding to put this issue on the ballot, it delays progress in those states considerably," she said. "And it also doesn’t have that message [to state legislatures]—especially in this high turnout election year, when we would presumably see a lot better results that can help spur quicker action in all of their neighboring states and in Congress."

Now, MPP and NORML are talking about a possible merger, although those conversations have largely happened at the board level and MPP says those talks are "preliminary."

"We are having very early discussions with NORML about various ways that we might partner with them to achieve our mutual cannabis reform goals," said MPP board Chairman Sal Pace. "We’re considering many options for potential collaboration, but there’s nothing new to share right now."

Medical Marijuana

Georgia to Become First State to Offer Medical Marijuana Products in Pharmacies. The state is set to become the first in the nation to offer medical marijuana products at independent pharmacies after the state Board of Pharmacy began accepting applications this week.

Nearly 120 pharmacies have agreed to offer medical marijuana products from Botanical Sciences, one of two licensed production companies in the state. It is likely to take a few weeks before product is available at the pharmacies.

The only medical marijuana product available to state residents is low-THC cannabis oil, with less than 5 percent THC. Patients will be able to buy the product at pharmacies if they show a medical marijuana registry card and identification.

The move will make the product much more widely available for state residents. Currently, there are only seven dispensaries where it can be bought.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Mayoral Candidates Split on Safe Injection Sites. We are still more than a year away from the next mayoral election, but candidates are already attacking each other over pressing issues in the city, including drugs and homelessness. Now, support for a potential safe injection site is one issue dividing candidates.

The race to become San Francisco’s next mayor is still in its early stages, but that hasn’t stopped candidates from trading barbs over their plans to solve the city’s most pressing issues.  

Mayor London Breed campaigned for the position in 2018 in part by supporting safe injection sites, but has since backed away from spending city funds for their operation. This year, Breed's campaign said she would allow a nonprofit to fund and operate a safe injection site, but is awaiting federal guidance before allowing the city to fund it.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai says he support safe injection sites, but wants them to work in conjunction with sober living facilities and other treatment options.

But Levi-Strauss heir Daniel Lurie is opposed. He says he would not support opening such sites and that they would generate "drug tourism" to the city. Instead, he said he would focus on "shutting down open air drug markets and getting everyone sheltered." 


British Columbia Bill Would Make Drug Use Illegal in Almost All Public Places. A bill filed Thursday would make it illegal to use drugs in almost all public spaces, a move reform advocates say would effectively kill the province's drug decriminalization policy less than a year into the three-year pilot project.

The law would ban within 15 meters of a playground, splash pool, skate park, sports field, beach or park and within six meters of the doorways of businesses, residences, recreation centers or any public space.



"Decriminalization was never about the ability to use hard drugs wherever you wanted, and this law makes that very clear," Premier David Eby of the New Democratic Party said as he announced the bill. He said people would instead be directed to safe injection sites.

The provincial coroner called the move "tremendously disappointing" and said the government is advancing a bill "that attempts to push people into back alleys and back corners."

"People are being set up to fail and die," said Vince Tao of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, who added that advocates were shocked by the "all-encompassing" list of restricted areas. "This is a huge step back," Tao said. "I think we can altogether admit that decriminalization is dead."


NY Governor Looks to Expand Legal Pot Market, Sinaloa Cartel Says No More Fentanyl, More... (10/4/23)

The Florida Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments on a marijuana legalization initiative, New York's governor rolls out a plan to expand the legal weed market and crack down on the illicit one, and more.

Seized fentanyl. (DHS)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Supreme Court Sets Date for Hearing on Whether Marijuana Legalization Initiative Can Go on Ballot. The state Supreme Court has set November 8 as the date for oral arguments on whether a marijuana legalization initiative can appear on the November 2024 ballot. The court must approve the wording of the initiative before it can be certified for the ballot.

The initiative from Smart & Safe Florida would legalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana by people 21 and over, but contains no provision for home cultivation. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be authorized to sell marijuana to anyone over 21.

The initiative is being challenged by state Attorney General Ashley Moody (R), who argues that it does not meet “the requirements of Florda Statures” and that it marks an effort to create a “monopolistic stranglehold” on the state’s marijuana market by Trulieve, a Florida-based multistate marijuana operator and the state’s largest medical marijuana company, which has contributed the vast bulk of the $40 million raised for the campaign.

The state Supreme Court has rejected five of the past nine voter initiatives it has reviewed and is “heavily tied” to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has repeatedly spoken out against marijuana legalization.

New York Governor Announces Plan to Expand Legal Marijuana Market, Tackle Illegal Sales. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has announced that the state intends to expand its legal marijuana market with hundreds of new retailers while aggressively cracking down on unlicensed marijuana sales. She announced that hundreds of licenses are being made available to grow and sell marijuana beginning today. Applications will be open for two months.

Hochul also touted efforts to crack down on the illicit market, announcing the seizure of more than 8,500 pounds of weed after 246 inspections. And she announced that the state will join forces with local municipalities to obtain orders closing illicit pot businesses, as well as using multiple state agencies to target the operators of illicit businesses.

“We know there's room for improvement as New York works to launch a brand-new cannabis industry and crack down on illicit operators, and I'm committed to working with all stakeholders to get the job done right,” Hochul said in a statement. ”My Administration is laser-focused on shutting down illegal storefronts, protecting the health and safety of children, and helping small businesses thrive. We will continue working to build the most equitable adult-use cannabis industry in the nation that invests in communities and rights the wrongs of the past.” 


Sinaloa Cartel Says It is Out of Fentanyl Business. Banners appearing on overpasses and near highways Monday in northern Mexico signed by a Sinaloa Cartel faction said the drug trafficking organization has gotten out of the sale and production of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid tied to roughly two-thirds of all fatal drug overdoses in the US in recent year.

The banners came from Los Chapitos, the sons of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, former head of the Sinaloa Cartel. They claim they have banned the production or sale of fentanyl within Sinaloa.

“In Sinaloa, the sale, manufacture, transport or any other business dealing with fentanyl, is strictly prohibited, including the sale of chemicals used to produce it,” the banners read. “You have been warned. Respectfully, Chapitos.”

This is not the first time Los Chapitos have denied links to fentanyl trafficking. In May, they claimed in a letter that they were not involved in the fentanyl trade. “We have never produced, manufactured or commercialized fentanyl nor any of its derivatives,” the letter said. “We are victims of persecution and have been made into scapegoats.”

But experts scoff at the assertion. Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said there is concrete evidence that “Sinaloa is the biggest producer of fentanyl in Mexico” and that there has been no sign the cartel is moving away from it.

“I think the Chapitos started feeling the pressure when they increased the reward for their capture,” said Vigil "I think they are trying to create a massive illusion to take the pressure off,” he said. “It’s almost like a big campaign to convince the US they’re not involved. It’s nothing more than pure propaganda."

US Lawmakers Call for Comprehensive Fentanyl Harm Reduction Strategy, Afghan Opium Drop, More... (10/3/23)

A House committee has again blocked an amendment to stop pre-employment marijuana testing for federal job applicants, a Michigan ban on pre-employment marijuana testing of most state workers has gone into effect, and more. 

There are a lot fewer opium poppies in Afghanistan these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

House Rules Committee Again Blocks Amendments to End Marijuana Testing for Federal Job Applicants. Rep. Robert Garcia's ongoing attempt to end the practice of drug testing for marijuana for federal job applicants has again been blocked, this time by the GOP-led House Rules Committee, which declined to allow a floor vote on his amendments to the spending bills for the Departments of Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies, as well as for the legislative branch.

Garcia has tried repeatedly and to no avail to attach his amendment to various spending bills, including the departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, State and Foreign Operations, and Veterans Affairs.

The amendments say that, with certain exceptions, the agencies and departments in question cannot use their funding "for testing applicants for marijuana."

Michigan Ban on Pre-Employment Drug Testing for State Workers Now in Effect. A new rule barring pre-employment drug testing for all state workers except those subject to random drug testing went into effect October 1.

Some safety-sensitive and other state positions are still subject to pre-employment testing and all state employees are still subject to drug testing based on impairment suspicion, random selection and post-accident, according to the commission.

Safety-sensitive positions include those operating certain vehicles, equipment and machinery. The ban also doesn’t apply to law enforcement positions, health care workers and prison employees.

Workers can still be disciplined or fired if they have impaired levels of drugs or alcohol, including marijuana, while at work. 

Harm Reduction

Sen. Markey, Rep. Lee Urge Biden Administration to Enact Comprehensive Fentanyl Harm Reduction Strategy, Including Safe Injection Sites. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) today led 18 of their colleagues in urging the Biden-Harris administration to develop and publicly announce a national fentanyl harm reduction strategy specifically focused on enhancing public health infrastructure and addressing the collateral consequences that stem from drug arrests and convictions.

The lawmakers emphasized that this strategy should support increased availability of local overdose prevention centers (OPCs) and expanded access to vital medical interventions, including naloxone, drug testing strips, sterile syringes and pipes, methadone, and buprenorphine.

The lawmakers urged the administration to:

  • Deploy federal resources to enable agencies to better identify and repeal collateral consequences that result from drug possession arrests and convictions, such as the drug felony ban on federal food security programs;
  • Improve equitable access to effective harm reduction services — which involves an examination of barriers that community-based syringe services programs may face in applying for federal funds, such as reporting requirements that incorporate personally identifiable information — and adopt policies that minimize those barriers; and,
  • Close research gaps and undertake a comprehensive evidence review on the role of distribution of safer smoking supplies in harm reduction measures, including engagement and retention, risks for overdose and infectious diseases, referral and linkage to other services, and health equity.

"Furthermore, strong evidence indicates that OPCs reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, prevent overdose deaths, reduce public injections and the volume of shared or discarded syringes, and increase the number of drug users who enter treatment programs. The Biden-Harris administration should set forth federal policy to support the availability and expansion of OPCs as effective harm reduction tools," the lawmakers wrote.

"Further criminalizing fentanyl and doubling down on punitive drug policies only complicates our efforts to address the overdose crisis; people are deterred from seeking needed medical help, and illicit drug manufacturers and sellers are incentivized to create new and increasingly deadly drugs that aren’t covered by existing criminal laws," they continued. "With the Biden-Harris administration’s recent announcement of a plan to address the growing threat of fentanyl, we urge you to take every opportunity to prevent fentanyl-related overdoses from claiming scores of American lives daily."


Afghan Opium Poppy Cultivation Drops 85 Percent, New Analysis Finds. A satellite analysis of the Afghan opium crop by the geographic information services company Alcis estimates that opium cultivation has declined by 85 percent since the Taliban re-took power and decreed a ban on it.

Poppy cultivation was nearly half a million acres in 2022 but dropped below 75,000 acres this year, leading experts to describe the ban "as the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history."

The key opium-producing province of Helmand saw a whopping 99 percent reduction in cultivation, while Farah saw a 95 percent reduction, and Nimroz say a 91 percent reduction.

Pushing for Social Equity as Pennsylvania Heads Toward Marijuana Legalization [FEATURE]

Pot prohibition in Pennsylvania is getting squeezed. Of its neighboring states, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have already legalized marijuana, Ohio voters will have their chance to approve it in November, and only West Virginia shares the state's status as a medical marijuana-only state.

State Sen. Sharif Street (D-North Philadelphia) is a key cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill. (
Efforts to advance adult use legalization in Harrisburg have been stymied for years by Republican control of the statehouse, but after last year's elections, the state now has a Democratic governor in Josh Shapiro, the House now has a Democratic majority, and cracks are now appearing in the Republican-led Senate, where at least two GOP senators are ready to get on board.

Gov. Shapiro in March proposed marijuana legalization as part of his 2023-2024 budget, and this year, there are once again are marijuana legalization bills before the legislature. Rep. David Delloso has once again filed a state liquor store model legalization bill, House Bill 1080, and one of those Republican Senate converts, Sen. Dan Laughlin, is the cosponsor of another legalization bill, Senate Bill 846.

"Legalized adult use of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and this legislation accomplishes that while also ensuring safety and social equity," said Laughlin upon filing the bill in July. "With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs."

The bill would legalize the possession of marijuana by people 21 and over and set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It would also address social equity by granting licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants while providing room for new and existing licensees to ensure demand in Pennsylvania is met. It would also all non-violent marijuana convictions. Ensuring that minority communities disproportionately impacted by drug prohibition is critical, black legislators say.

"We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs," said Sen. Sharif Street, a Democratic cosponsor of the bill. "Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address a variety of community needs throughout Pennsylvania."

Social equity was definitely on the mind of attendees at last week's Cannabis Opportunities Conference -- part of the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunity's (DACO) Black Cannabis Week. The event was hosted by Sen. Street and covered by Marijuana Moment.

"This is going to be a multibillion-dollar industry," Street. "We need to make sure that we're inclusive… We need to make sure that folks can participate at every level of this industry."

Bill cosponsor Rep. Donna Bullock (D), who has previously spoken out against the dominance of large, multistate marijuana companies, was adamant that legalization come with strong social equity provisions.

"No bill will move with my name on it until I'm comfortable that we actually answer those questions," she said. "No bill will move with my name on it until I know for sure we're not repeating the mistakes of equity in name only. If you think you're going to get me with just some expungements, you got it wrong," she added.

"I think sometimes some people get scared to say 'Black,'" Rep. Darisha Parker (D) said. "If we're going to really do this for a legislative perspective, then all of us in the state need to make sure that we're actually doing it, making sure that we're actually supporting the individuals for this social equity bill that we're going to be putting forward. This is our reparations," she added. "Let's get busy."

These black lawmakers agreed that they were willing to take the time to ensure that some of the harms done by the drug war be redressed and that the communities that suffered them get recompense.

Lawmakers are "still taking inventory" to see what's worked in other states and what hasn't, Parker said.

"We've had… a hundred years of getting this wrong. I'm not in a rush to get it wrong again," said Bullock.

Street concurred, saying that in Pennsylvania "we're usually not the first to get anything done, but we'd like to be the first to get it right."

It looks like there is some work to be done to make sure marijuana legalization aids those communities harmed by the drug war, and it looks like there is a committed legislative contingent in Harrisburg ready to make sure that happens. Stay tuned.

House Dems Reintroduce Weed Legalization Bill, San Francisco Mayor Wants Forced Treatment for Benefits, More... (9/22/23)

Wisconsin Democrats roll out a marijuana legalization bill, a Pennsylvania medical marijuana expansion bill passes the Senate, and more.

Members of the Sinaloa Cartel parading through San Gregorio Chemic in Chiapas state, near the Guatemalan border. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

House Democrats Reintroduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 5601), one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Following efforts led by states across the nation, the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level. The bill also aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The bill:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.  
    • Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant ProgramProvides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

The MORE Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, Better Organizing to Win Legalization, and Minorities for Medical Marijuana, the Center for American Progress, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Wisconsin Democrats File Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Melissa Agard and state Rep. Darrin B. Madison have introduced a marijuana legalization bill. This bill would allow Wisconsin to join thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws broadly legalizing cannabis in some form. Republican majorities in the legislature have blocked any progress on such bills in the past.

"I’ve said this time and time again – we know that the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal," said Sen. Agard. "For the past decade, I have worked to undo Wisconsin’s antiquated and deeply unjust marijuana policies and put our state on a prosperous path forward.  

"Legalizing cannabis is a matter of public safety and racial justice here in Wisconsin," said Rep. Madison. "People in Wisconsin indulge in cannabis use and deserve the ability to buy safe cannabis and use it responsibly without being criminalized. According to the ACLU, Black people were 4.24 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Wisconsin during 2018. Similar disparities exist in convictions, leading to immeasurable harm to black communities in Wisconsin. The bill we’ve introduced today lays a solid foundation for those that have been harshly convicted for non-violent possession charges and the ramifications of those convictions." 

Under the proposal, adults in Wisconsin aged 21 and older could legally have marijuana in their possession. The measure would also lay the groundwork for a regulated cannabis market to launch in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The Senate has approved a bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing growers to sell directly to patients despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition. The bill was approved last Wednesday on a 44-3 vote.

Sen. Chris Gebhard and a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced Senate Bill 773  earlier this year. The current state medical law authorizes licenses for 25 businesses growing and processing medical marijuana, but only five of those licensees can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. SB773 would allow all medical marijuana growers and processes to sell directly to patients.

The bill now goes to the House, where it may become a vehicle for broader reforms, from allowing for patient home cultivation to converting the bill into a full-on legalization bill. But changes too profound could endanger an amended bill's prospects back in the Senate, which would have to address any changes.

"There will certainly be vigorous discussions there on what shape this bill will come back to the Senate in said Sen. Dan Laughlin (R). "If this becomes a vehicle for adult use, I doubt that it would pass this chamber. However, I think if they do add home-grown to this bill, it would strengthen the bill and I believe that we would be able to get it through this chamber as well."

Drug Policy

San Francisco Mayor Proposes Mandatory Drug Treatment for Cash Assistance Programs. Trying a new tack in the city's ongoing effort to get a grip on open air drug use and an overdose crisis, Mayor London Breed is now proposing that city residents with addiction issues who receive cash assistance be required to undergo drug treatment in order to keep receiving payments. The proposal would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Under the proposal, people who apply for County Adult Assistance Programs would have to undergo screening for substance use disorder and participate in a treatment program if they're found to have an addiction. People who refuse or who "do not successfully engage in treatment" would not be eligible for cash assistance.

"We fund a wide range of services, and we want to help people get the care they need but under current state law, local government lack tools to compel people into treatment," Breed said. "This initiative aims to create more accountability and help get people to accept the treatment and services they need."   

Some, but not all, supervisors are on board. Board President Aaron Peskin demurred, saying that Breed should focus on stopping dealers and open-air drug markets rather than "drug testing people on welfare."

"If she can't find the way to prevent several hundred brazen criminals from selling deadly drugs -- how does she think she will find the resources to drug test thousands of welfare recipients?" Peskin said

Drug Testing

Washington Department of Corrections Sued Over Faulty Drug Tests, Harsh Punishments. Columbia Legal Services (CLS) filed a class action complaint against the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), challenging the widespread practice of imposing harsh discipline on people in DOC facilities based on unreliable drug testing. People have faced months in solitary confinement, delays in release from prison, loss of visitation, and other cruel punishments after colorimetric tests have returned "presumptive" positive results on incoming mail and other possessions.

Clifton Bell, et al. v. Washington State Department of Corrections, filed in Thurston County Superior Court last Friday, alleges that DOC’s actions violate plaintiffs' rights under Washington State law and the Washington State Constitution.Plaintiff Gregory Hyde was placed in administrative segregation (another term for solitary confinement) for almost five months after a presumptive positive test result. The item that tested positive for drugs was a packet of crossword, word search, and Sudoku puzzle books sent by Mr. Hyde’s father and stepmother.

After facing months of irreversible disciplinary actions, DOC returned the books in question to Mr. Hyde with no explanation or expungement of the infraction. His father’s name remains on DOC’s records as having mailed drugs to the prison.

"I think DOC is using its power to punish people who can’t fight back," said Mr. Hyde."My elderly father just wanted to send me some puzzle books. Now they’re saying he’s a drug dealer. Now my father is too far away to see because I got transferred to a different facility. My father is impoverished and on a fixed income. I think it’s an abuse of power. I don’t think DOC should be doing this."

Manufactured by companies like DetectaChem and MMC International, the colorimetric tests (also called roadside tests or field tests) are designed to be initial screening testsand the manufacturers are clear that they require confirmatory testing to be valid. Similar test technologies have been found unlawful in many settings, including in other state prison systems. In 2021, a Massachusetts court forced that state’s DOC to stop using similar colorimetric tests from another manufacturer, with the court describing them as "only marginally better than a coin flip"at identifying drugs. The tests in that case were found to deliver false positives nearly 40 percent of the time.


Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Lauded by Chiapas Townspeople for Rescuing Them from Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Townspeople in San Gregorio Chemic, Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, cheered a 20-vehicle convoy of Sinaloa Cartel fighters as they paraded through the city after having driven out the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC).

JNGC fighters had seized the town and blocked the only highway access to it for nearly two weeks, killing and extorting local residents along the way. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced over the weekend that he was sending 800 National Guard troops to the area. He also implored local youth not to be seduced by the Sinaloa Cartel.

'It turns out that on the border with Guatemala, in Comalapa, towards Motozintla, there are organized crime groups that are fighting for the territory (Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel) to have spaces, to store drugs that enter from Central America, to have control of that territory and they will confront each other, fortunately there have not been many murders,' López Obrador said during his daily presser with the media.

A local Catholic priest said that local residents may have been intimidated into cheering on the Sinaloa Cartel. "Others will say that they have already allied themselves with drug traffickers. They line them up," he said. "It's not that they want to. There will be people who do it on their own, but people are being forced and that is not worth it. People are being forced to defend one cartel, to fight for another and they are being used as cannon fodder."

NCAA Moves to End Marijuana Ban, Study Finds Mexican Cartels a Major Employer, More... (9/25/23)

A pair of Republican senators file a bill to require congressional approval to down-schedule marijuana, the House Rules Committee advances a pair of psychedelic research amendments to the defense spending bill, and more.

College basketball under the aegis of the NCAA. An end to the weed ban could be coming soon. (Creative Commons/Phil Roeder)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Senators File Bill to Block Marijuana Legalization Without Congressional Approval. Last Friday, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), joined by her colleague Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), introduced the Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act to give Congress final approval over the legalization of marijuana. 

According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has signaled it will follow a recommendation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. This would, in essence, legalize marijuana federally. 

This recommendation was issued after President Biden requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and HHS evaluate marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance.  The Deferring Executive Authority (DEA) Act will require congressional review of rules rescheduling marijuana. 

"Congress makes the laws in this country, not DC bureaucrats," said Lummis. "The American people through their elected representatives in the Senate and House should have the final say on such a momentous change as the legalization of marijuana. The Biden administration’s rush to reschedule marijuana without compelling scientific evidence appears to be political, not about what’s best for the American people."  

NCAA Committee Recommends Legislation to Remove Marijuana from Banned Substances List in All Three Divisions. The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended legislation that would remove marijuana from the NCAA's list of banned drug classes at all three divisions, the organization announced last Friday. The recommendation calls for a "robust educational strategy" for college athletes when it comes to marijuana.

"Cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug and that a harm-reduction approach to cannabis is best implemented at the school level," the NCAA said in a statement following midweek meetings in Indianapolis. 

The committee reasoned that removing marijuana from the list of banned substances achieves several aims: acknowledging the ineffectiveness of the current policy of banning, testing, and penalizing; affirming that NCAA drug testing is aimed only at performance-enhancing substances; and emphasizes the importance of moving toward a harm reduction strategy.

The recommendation now goes to the governing structures of the NCAA's three divisions.

"When making a decision on an important topic like this, we agree that the membership should have an opportunity to vote on the final outcome," committee chair James Houle, lead sport psychologist at Ohio State, said in a statement. "We are recommending a big shift in the paradigm when it comes to cannabinoids. We want to modernize the strategy with the most up-to-date research to give schools the best opportunity to support the health of student-athletes."


House Rules Committee Clears Pair of Psychedelic Research Amendments to Defense Spending Bill. The House Rules Committee last Saturday approved two psychedelic research amendments for inclusion in the must-pass defense spending bill. It also cleared the larger defense bill for a House floor vote this as a government spending deadline looms.

One amendment, sponsored by Reps. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), would provide $15 million in funding for DOD to carry out "Psychedelic Medical Clinical Trials."

The other amendment, also from Crenshaw, would require the Defense Health Agency to "submit a report to Congress on options to ensure that active-duty service members who are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are able to participate in clinical trials under the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purposes of studying the effectiveness of psychedelic substances."


Mexican Drug Cartels Employ 175,000 People, Study Finds. Mexican drug trafficking organizations—the so-called cartels—employ roughly 175,000 people, according to new research findings published in the journal Science. That makes organized crime the fifth-largest employment sector in the country. 

The study examined a decade of data on murders, missing persons, and imprisoned people and used a mathematical model to determine overall cartel membership and which policy responses would best reduce violence. Homicides in the country have tripled since 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon escalated the domestic drug war by sending in the army.

The study authors argue that the best way to reduce violence is not to lock up more gang members, which they argue would actually increase the murder rate, but to cut cartel recruitment.

"More than 1.7 million people in Latin America are incarcerated, and adding more people to saturated jails will not solve the insecurity problem," wrote the authors.

The analysts identified 198 armed criminal groups in the country, although two of them, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel, battle for national domination.

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