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

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

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

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

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

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

Harm Reduction

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

NM Legalizes Marijuana, Criminal Justice Reformer Named DEA Chief, More... (4/13/21)

A simple policy change causes a massive drop in pot arrests in San Antonio, the Maryland legislature has approved the legalization of drug paraphernalia, Vancouver sets proposed drug decriminalization quantities, and more.

New Mexico becomes the latest state to legalize marijuana, and the third in the past few weeks. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances Again. A marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, passed a fifth House committee Monday. The bill was approved by the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee on an 11-7 vote. It now heads to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, which is scheduled to take up the measure on Wednesday.

New Mexico Legalizes Marijuana. With the signature Monday of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 2, New Mexico has legalized marijuana, becoming the 17th state to do so, the third to do so in the past few weeks, along with New York and Virginia, and the seventh to do since last November's elections.

San Antonio Pot Prosecutions Down 99% Since 2018. Under a cite and release policy instituted by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales (D), the number of people arrested for marijuana possession has dropped dramatically. In 2018, the DA's office prosecuted 4,515 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, but in 2020, that number had dropped to 15. That's a 99.6% decrease.

Drug Policy

Biden Names Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Anne Milgram to Head DEA. President Joe Biden (D) has selected former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram, a longtime criminal justice system reform advocate, to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the White House said Monday. The agency has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration.

Maryland Legislature Approves Bill to Legalize Drug Paraphernalia. The General Assembly on Monday approved a bill to legalize the possession of drug paraphernalia, Senate Bill 420. The bill has already passed the Senate, so it now heads to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). The House passed the bill by a veto-proof margin, but the Senate tally was one short of the number needed to override a veto.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses Passes Senate. A bill that seeks to end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, Senate Bill 73, passed the Senate Monday on a 25-10 vote. The bill now heads to the California State Assembly.

International

Vancouver Outlines Personal Possession Amounts for Drug Decriminalization Proposal. As part of its application to Health Canada for a federal exemption from federal drug laws to decriminalize drug possession in the city, Vancouver has outlined its recommendations for what amounts should be decriminalized. The city is recommending the decriminalization of one gram or 10 rocks for crack cocaine, 1.5 grams for amphetamines, two grams for opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, and three grams for cocaine. Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Monday the goal is remove criminal penalties and reduce stigma by focusing on a health-centered approach.

With Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Bill, Canada Seeks an Off-Ramp from the War on Drugs [FEATURE]

On February 16, Canada's governing Liberal Party finally moved to enact long-promised reforms to criminal justice by introducing a sweeping new bill that would make arrests for drug possession only one option for police, end all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, end some other mandatory minimums, and open the way for conditional (probationary) sentences for a variety of offenses. But is it enough?

Canadian parliament building, Ottawa (Creative Commons)
The government's move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces mounting pressure for reform on two fronts. First, Canada is facing an unprecedented drug overdose crisis, with the province of British Columbia especially hard-hit. Last year, the provincial Coroners Service reported, BC saw a whopping 1,716 drug overdose deaths, up a startling 74 percent over 2019. The province has always been on the cutting edge of drug reform in Canada, and spurred by the crisis, BC formally asked the federal government in early February for an exemption to the country's drug laws to allow it to decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of drugs. That request is still being considered by Ottawa.

But the pressure for drug decriminalization isn't just coming from British Columbia, it's coming from inside the criminal justice system. In July 2020, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police called for drug decriminalization, recommending the "current enforcement-based approach for possession be replaced with a health-care approach that diverts people from the criminal justice system." The following month, the federal prosecution service issued a directive permitting prosecution of drug cases only in the most serious cases.

And public opinion supports decriminalization. An Angus Reid poll released after the government announced the new bill found that seven out of 10 Canadians felt the country's opioid crisis had worsened in 2020, and 59 percent supported the decriminalization of all illegal drugs.

Second, just as last summer's massive protests in the United States channeled and amplified long-standing demands for racial and social justice here, so they echoed north of the border. Canada has its own not-so-noble history of racism and discrimination, and the number of Black and Indigenous people swept up in the country's criminal justice system demonstrates that the legacy of the past continues to this day.

Indigenous people make up 5% of the Canadian population but accounted for 25% of all federal prisoners in 2019. Similarly, Black Canadians accounted for about 3% of the population but more than 7% of prisoners that year. As the Justice Ministry noted in a 2017 report, after Conservatives passed tough anti-crime measures early this century, Black and Indigenous were disproportionately targeted for mandatory minimum sentencing in the decade ending in 2017. And as the Office of the Correctional Investigator reported, non-white inmates are more likely to sent to maximum security prisons, have forced used against them, and be denied parole.

As the government rolled out the bill, C-22, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act," Justice Minister David Lametti made clear that not just public health but also racial justice was on its mind.

Trudeau had asked him to "address systemic inequities in the criminal justice system," he told a press conference. "We are turning the page on a failed Conservative criminal justice policy," he added. "It was an approach that did not make our communities safer. It did not deter criminals. It did not make the justice system more effective or more fair. Its singular accomplishment has been to incarcerate too many Indigenous people, too many Black people and too many marginalized Canadians."

The bill envisions reforms in policing, prosecuting, and sentencing drug offenders and sets out statements of principle for dealing with drug offenses, including "problematic drug use should be addressed primarily as a health and social issue," state actors should recognize human rights and harm reduction imperatives, and criminal sanctions are stigmatizing and not consistent with public health practice.

Under these principles, when encountering people using or possessing drugs, police would be granted the discretion to "consider whether it would be preferable... to take no further action, or warn the individual, or, with the consent of the individual, to refer the individual to a program or to an agency or other service provider in the community that may assist the individual."

Similarly, the bill mandates the prosecutors open drug possession cases only when a warning, referral, or alternate measures are "not appropriate, and a prosecution in appropriate in the circumstances." And it gives judges much broader discretion to order probationary sentences instead of confinement.

C-22 looks as if it were designed to cut off inputs to the Canadian prison system at every level of the system. Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has represented Toronto's Beaches-East York riding (district) since 2015 and is a longtime proponent of full drug decriminalization, says that is exactly what it is supposed to do.

He filed private member's bills this session for decriminalization (C-235) and for an evidence-based diversion model (C-236) to reduce drug arrests and prosecutions. It is that latter bill that the government has now largely adopted as C-22.

"I favor drug decriminalization because the war on drugs is an absolute failure that harms the people we want to help," he told the Chronicle. "Our opioid crisis has taken more than 16,000 lives since 2016, and there is systemic racism in the criminal justice system, including around drug charges."

"My goal was to call for full decriminalization, with a second bill to show the government if they weren't inclined to favor decriminalization, here's an alternative that would get us closer to the goal and would be more politically feasible. This bill seriously restricts the discretion of police and prosecutors to proceed, according to a set of principles that will ensure a stronger focus on human rights and harm reduction," he said. "It doesn't go as far as I want it to go, but it is unquestionably a step forward. It will be virtually impossible for the state to move forward with drug possession charges and prosecutions."

Donald Macpherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and author of Vancouver's groundbreaking Four Pillars drug strategy in the 1990s, has a more jaundiced view of both the Liberals and C-22.

"The things that are in this bill are all things the Liberals promised when they were elected in 2015, and if they had done this then it would have been seen as a good move, getting rid of egregious stuff the Harper government had implemented," he told the Chronicle. "But now, the discussion has moved so far that even police chiefs are calling for decriminalization. It's too little, too late."

Even the limited support he gave the bill was filled with caveats.

"Overall, though, it is a good thing, it is incremental progress, getting rid of the mandatory minimums is probably the most powerful aspect in terms of criminal law," McPherson conceded. "But the bill was supposed to deal with the disproportionate impact of drug law enforcement on people of color, and it won't do it. There will be more probationary sentences and more alternatives to imprisonment, but arrests and prosecutions will be 'at the discretion of' and Black and Indigenous people will now be caught up in kinder, gentler diversion programs."

Still, passage of C-22 would be a step in the right direction, Macpherson said.

"It is preparing the ground for the next step, full decriminalization, which I think is now inevitable. The harms of criminalization in Canada are now so evident to everyone that the question now is not whether to but how to," he said. "We saw this with cannabis -- at a certain point, the change in the discourse was palpable. We're now at that point with drug decriminalization."

Long-time Vancouver drug user activist Ann Livingston, cofounder of the pioneering Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and currently executive project coordinator for the BC-Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, had an even more jaundiced view than Macpherson, scoffing at more police discretion and expanded probationary sentences.

"I'm glad to see the mandatory minimums gone, but the Liberals want more police, and we say don't do us any more favors," she told the Chronicle. "And the police have always had discretion to not make drug arrests; they just never exercise it. And probation -- many of the people in jail are there for probation violations, even administrative ones, like missing appointments."

For Livingston, the cutting edge is now no longer criminal justice reforms or even decriminalization but creating a safe supply of currently illegal drugs. Limited opioid maintenance programs, including heroin, are available in the city, but they aren't enough, she said.

"Here in British Columbia, we had 900 COVID deaths last year and 1,700 overdose deaths. What we need is a safe drug supply," she argued. "We have to have clear demands and what we are demanding is a pure, safe supply of heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth. This is a crisis; this is the time to do this drug law stuff right. And to get serious. The feds tell us they place no barriers on heroin prescribing, but then they fight about who is going to pay for it."

If Justin Trudeau and the Liberals think passing C-22 is going to quiet the clamor for more fundamental change in Canadian drug policies, they should probably think again.

Canada

Canada Considers Decrim, DOJ Rescinds Sessions-Era Sentencing Guidance, More... (1/29/21)

State legislatures are dealing with marijuana bills, the Justice Department reverts to less harsh charging and sentencing policies, and more.

Faced with a spiraling drug overdose crisis, the Canadian federal government ponders drug decriminalization. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Idaho Bill to Amend Constitution to Bar Marijuana Legalization Advances. The measure, a joint resolution, would ban all psychoactive drugs not already legal in the state, but was inspired by fears of marijuana legalization. It was approved Friday in the Senate State Affairs Committee on a party line vote. To become law, the measure would have to pass both the House and the Senate with a two-thirds majority and then be approved by a simple majority of the electorate in the November 2022 general election.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization, Home Cultivation Bills Killed. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Wednesday to retain a marijuana legalization bill, effectively killing it for the rest of the legislative session. The committee also voted to kill a bill that would allow home cultivation of marijuana.

New Jersey Home Cultivation Bill Filed. Even as the legislature and the governor continue to spar over bills decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana after voters approved it in November, Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) has filed S 3407 (not yet available on the legislative website), which would legalize the cultivation of up to six plants by individuals once a legalization bill is signed into law. "The people of New Jersey made it clear in November that they want to lift the prohibition on cannabis," Cardinale said in a statement. "Since then, the Legislature has spent three months fumbling around with what should have been a simple task, and complicated the legalization effort with countless fees, licensing and extra layers of bureaucracy."

Pennsylvania Governor Calls for Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization in 2021 Agenda. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is calling for marijuana legalization as part of his 2021 agenda, which was released Thursday. "The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy," Wolf said. "Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Lawmakers Kill Home Cultivation for Medical Marijuana Patients. A bill that would have allowed registered medical marijuana patients to grow their medicine was unanimously defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Sentencing Policy

Justice Department Rescinds Harsh Charging and Sentencing Policy, Reverts to Obama-Era Policy. Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson has revoked harsh Justice Department guidance to federal prosecutors imposed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017. Wilkinson reverted to guidance issued by then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010, which, in a bid to reduce imprisonment, directed prosecutors to do an individualized assessment of relevant facts in deciding what cases to charge and what sentences to seek. That guidance, though, does not include a 2013 Holder memo directing prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimum sentences in some drug cases.

International

Canada Ponders Drug Decriminalization in Bid to Fight Overdoses. The Canadian federal government is pondering whether to decriminalize drug possession in a bid to tamp down rising drug overdose numbers, a government official told Reuters this week: "A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Wednesday that decriminalization was under consideration and that discussions with Vancouver were under way but would not comment further." Vancouver has already called on the federal government to let it decriminalize drugs inside the city limits.

Senate Approves Marijuana Research Bill, ICC Philippines Examination Progresses, More... (12/16/20)

A California bill would put an end to mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, Toronto is moving to open safe injection sites in select homeless shelters, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte may make it to the Hague yet. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Research Bill. With a favorable vote Tuesday night, the Senate has passed the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act (S.2302). It would ease the application process for marijuana researchers and would prod the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop medicines derived from marijuana. The House passed a separate marijuana research bill last week. The passage of bills in both chambers means there is still a chance that a marijuana research bill could still pass in the remaining days of the session.

Sentencing

California Bill Would Repeal Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Offenses. State Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) last week introduced Senate Bill 73, which would repeal mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. "We are living with the consequences of bad, racist policies enacted in the 1970s and 80s, which disproportionately criminalize and harm Black and brown communities," Wiener said in a statement. "Our drug laws are a stain on California, and we must stop hurting communities and wasting valuable resources jailing people who have committed nonviolent drug offenses." The bill would give judges discretion to sentence such offenders to probation when appropriate. Under current law, a number of nonviolent drug charges come with mandatory sentencing provisions.

International

Toronto Plans to Open Safe Injection Sites in Homeless Shelters. Canada's largest city is moving to set up overdose prevention centers that include safe injection facilities in homeless shelters. The city will spend almost $8 million on a new "multi-pronged strategy" known as the Integrated Prevention and Harm Reduction Initiative (iPHARE). More than $3 million of that money will go to expanded harm reduction services, including safe injection sites in selected shelters across the city. The sites will only be open to residents of the shelters. Between April 1 and September 30, at least 132 people died of drug overdoses in the city.

Mexico President Blames Small "Mistakes" for Delays in Marijuana Legalization Bill. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that small errors in drafting the long-awaited marijuana legalization bill were the cause of the delay in passing the bill this month. He said legislators had requested a delay in the bill's Supreme Court-imposed Tuesday deadline to deal with it. "The period was practically over but they are matters of form and not substance," he said. "It is nothing more than a matter of mistakes that were made, lack of precision on quantities and there can be no contradictions in the law itself," Lopez Obrador said, referring to how much marijuana citizens can possess legally.

International Criminal Court Says Preliminary Examination of Filipino Drug War Shows Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity. In a report released this week, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) for the International Criminal Court (ICC) said a preliminary examination found there was "reasonable basis to believe" Filipino forces committed crimes against humanity in President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody crackdown on drug users and sellers that has led to thousands of killings since 2016. While OTP noted that Philippines officials have claimed the deaths were justified, it said that "such narrative has been challenged by others, who have contended that the use of lethal force was unnecessary and disproportionate under the circumstances, as to render the resulting killings essentially arbitrary, or extrajudicial, executions."

The examination now moves to its final stage, admissibility, looking at whether the Philippine justice system has is responding to the killings in a legitimate way. If the Philippines can't or won't hold perpetrators accountable, the court can take the case. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has promised a decision will be by mid-2021 over whether to seek authorization from the court to open a formal investigation. She has also pointedly warned that the court's resources fall badly short of what's needed to carry out their mission, which affect how cases are prioritized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Policy

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

International

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

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

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

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

seized methamphetamine in Georgia (Warner Robbins PD)
Marijuana Policy

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

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

Methamphetamine

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International

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

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

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

OR Drug Decrim Init Gets Chan/Zuckerberg Donation, DC Dems Endorse Psychedelic Initiative, More... (10/6/20)

Facebook's founder kicks in half a million dollars for Oregon drug decriminalization, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition launches a national dialog on the overdose crisis and COVID, a group of French MPs show their reactionary side, and more.

Peyote buttons and other natural psychedelics would be effectively decriminalized by a DC initiative. (Creative Commons)
Drug Policy

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Backs Drug Decriminalization in Oregon With $500K, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated $500,000 in support of Oregon's Measure 110, the drug treatment and decriminalization initiative. That makes them the second largest donors to the effort, behind Drug Policy Action, the political and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has kicked in $850,000.

Psychedelics

DC Democrats Endorse Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative. The Democratic Party of the District of Columbia has formally endorsed Initiative 81, which would effectively decriminalize a range of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, and peyote. After a presentation from Decriminalize Nature DC last week, party delegates approved the endorsement by a vote of 23-10.

International

Canadian Drug Policy Coalition Launches National Dialogue Series on the Overdose Crisis and COVID-19. In response to the country's ongoing overdose crisis amid the pandemic, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition at Simon Fraser University, in partnership with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, is launching Getting to Tomorrow: Ending the Overdose Crisis -- 18 public health dialogues across Canada over the next two years aimed at identifying and moving towards solutions to the overdose crisis, in the context of COVID-19, by building consensus and shared meaning. "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the illegal drug toxicity death crisis as a catastrophic failure of Canada's current approach to drugs. Governments have moved mountains in response to the COVID-19 pandemic while a coherent pan-Canadian approach to over 15,000 overdose deaths in the past four and a half years has failed to materialize," said Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. "We hope the Getting to Tomorrow dialogue series will inform, engage, and inspire Canadians to become more involved in building a new approach to drugs based on principles of public health and human rights, and lead to improved health and safety for all in our communities."

French MPs Hit Out Against Proposed Marijuana Legalization. Some 80 members of parliament have written an open letter against marijuana legalization after renewed debate on the topic started last week. "There is no 'soft drug'. Drugs are a poison, a plague that we must fight," they wrote. Some MPs had called for legalization as a means of undercutting drug dealers, but this group was having none of it: "Legalizing the sale of cannabis will make current dealers turn towards other, even more dangerous substances. Just because law enforcement struggles to keep up with dealers, doesn't mean that we should legalize the practice," they wrote. They see marijuana and other drugs as the cause of "psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, school failure, dropping out of school, dropping out of society." It concluded by quoting Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who said "drugs are shit."

Mexico Cartel Hitmen Gun Down Six Police Officers in Durango. Gunmen believed to be with the Sinaloa Cartel ambushed a policy convoy in Durango state last Thursday near the town of El Mezquital, killing six officers and leaving seven wounded. Vehicles abandoned by the attackers contained bloodstains, suggesting that some of them had been injured as well.

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

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