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Study Finds Meth Deaths Rose Steadily in Recent Years, USSC Charts Rise in Federal Fentanyl Cases, More... (1/25/21)

Marijuana legalization bills are filed in Florida and Hawaii, a bill to protect medical marijuana-using veterans is filed in Congress, and more.

Federal fentanyl prosecutions are rising rapidly, the US Sentencing Commission reports. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Marijuana Legalization Bills Filed. State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) have filed companion marijuana legalization bills, HB 343 and SB 710, respectively. The bills would "establish a robust and free-market regulatory approach to the governance of cultivation, processing, and retail sales of both medical and adult-use marijuana." They would legalize up to 2.5 ounces for people 21 and over.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A marijuana legalization bill was filed last week in Honolulu. The bill, SB 704, would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales, as well as legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allowing for the personal cultivation of up to six plants, of which three can be mature.

Washington State Home Cultivation Bill Advances. A bill that would allow people to grow their own weed at home, HB 1019, was approved by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee on a 7-2 vote last Friday. Although the state has legalized marijuana, home cultivation remains a felony. This bill would allow people to grow up to six plants and keep the fruits of their harvest.

Medical Marijuana

Bill to Protect Veterans Who Use Medical Marijuana Filed in House. Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) has filed a bill to protect military veterans who are using medical marijuana in compliance with state laws from being penalized. HR 430 would also clarify that Department of Veterans Affairs doctors can discuss the benefits and risks of medical marijuana with their patients. The bill is now before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Sentencing Commission Finds Big Increases in Fentanyl Prosecutions. In a report released Monday, the US Sentencing Commission finds that while fentanyl and fentanyl analogues account for only 5.8% of federal drug trafficking cases, the number of fentanyl cases has doubled each fiscal year since 2015 and the number of fentanyl analog cases has doubled each fiscal year since 2016. Fentanyl cases jumped from 24 to 886, a whopping 3,592% increase, while analog cases jumped from four to 233, an even larger 5,725% increase.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine Overdose Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Study Finds. A study supported by the National Institutes of Health finds that meth overdose deaths rose sharply nationwide between 2011 and 2018, with the death rate rising from 4.5 to 20.9 per 100,000 among people aged 25 to 54. The numbers rose across all racial and ethnic groups, but American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest death rates overall. The research was conducted at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Feds Loosen Up Buprenorphine Prescribing, VA Marijuana Legalization Bill, More... (1/15/21)

State legislatures are beginning to turn their sights to marijuana legalization, the Trump administration loosens restrictions on prescribing buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, and more.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is supporting marijuana legalization. (virginia.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Indiana State Senator Proposes Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Senator Karen Tallian (D-District 4) has filed Senate Bill 223 to legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. She also filed Senate Bill 87, which would create a commission to regulate legal forms of cannabis, such as hemp and CBD.

New Mexico Governor Says Marijuana Legalization a Top Priority. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Wednesday that marijuana legalization will be one of her top legislative priorities this year. In an outline of her proposal, she called for legalization "through legislation that protects the state's medical cannabis program, provides for workplace safety and roadway protections and enforcement and clear labeling of products." She said the same thing last year, but the legalization bill she supported was killed by a Senate committee.

Virginia Governor's Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A marijuana legalization bill supported by Governor Ralph Northam (D) was filed Wednesday. Filed by state Senators Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the bill would allow for licensed marijuana sales starting January 1, 2023. The bill would also allow for the personal possession of up to an ounce and envisions a 21% state tax rate, with localities being able to add another 3%.

Drug Policy

Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed in New York. Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D) has filed S1284, which would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance and instead levy fines of $50. Similar measures are being considered by lawmakers in California, Virginia, and Washington, but have not yet been filed.

Drug Treatment

Trump Administration Will Let Most Doctors Prescribe Buprenorphine. Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir announced Thursday that the administration has shifted its addiction medicine policy to give more doctors more flexibility to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. He cited rising drug overdoses and the coronavirus crisis. "Many people will say this has gone too far, but I believe more people will say this has not gone far enough," Giroir said. "This is a measured, logical, appropriate, evidence-based, and patient-centered intervention that may save tens of thousands of lives." Under the new policy, any doctor with a DEA prescriber license can treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine, and doctors who have undergone training and receive a waiver can treat up to 275 patients.

International

France to Ask Public Opinion on Legalizing Marijuana. Parliament launched an online questionnaire on marijuana policy Thursday. The idea is to assess public sentiment on the issue before possible legislative actions. "The goal is to inform debate as much as possible. The success of the survey will depend on the largest number of people possible participating," said MP Robin Reda.

Marijuana Policy

Indiana State Senator Proposes Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Senator Karen Tallian (D-District 4) has filed Senate Bill 223 to legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. She also filed Senate Bill 87, which would create a commission to regulate legal forms of cannabis, such as hemp and CBD.

New Mexico Governor Says Marijuana Legalization a Top Priority. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Wednesday that marijuana legalization will be one of her top legislative priorities this year. In an outline of her proposal, she called for legalization "through legislation that protects the state's medical cannabis program, provides for workplace safety and roadway protections and enforcement and clear labeling of products." She said the same thing last year, but the legalization bill she supported was killed by a Senate committee.

Virginia Governor's Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A marijuana legalization bill supported by Governor Ralph Northam (D) was filed Wednesday. Filed by state Senators Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the bill would allow for licensed marijuana sales starting January 1, 2023. The bill would also allow for the personal possession of up to an ounce and envisions a 21% state tax rate, with localities being able to add another 3%.

Drug Policy

Drug Decriminalization Bill Filed in New York. Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D) has filed S1284, which would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance and instead levy fines of $50. Similar measures are being considered by lawmakers in California, Virginia, and Washington, but have not yet been filed.

Drug Treatment

Trump Administration Will Let Most Doctors Prescribe Buprenorphine. Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir announced Thursday that the administration has shifted its addiction medicine policy to give more doctors more flexibility to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. He cited rising drug overdoses and the coronavirus crisis. "Many people will say this has gone too far, but I believe more people will say this has not gone far enough," Giroir said. This is a measured, logical, appropriate, evidence-based, and patient-centered intervention that may save tens of thousands of lives." Under the new policy, any doctor with a DEA prescriber license can treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine, and doctors who have undergone training and receive a waiver can treat up to 275 patients.

International

France to Ask Public Opinion on Legalizing Marijuana. Parliament launched an online questionnaire on marijuana policy Thursday. The idea is to assess public sentiment on the issue before possible legislative actions. "The goal is to inform debate as much as possible. The success of the survey will depend on the largest number of people possible participating," said MP Robin Reda.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Planned Philadelphia Safer Injection Site Violates Drug Law [FEATURE]

With a decision Tuesday, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals has brought to a screeching -- if hopefully temporary -- halt for efforts to establish a groundbreaking permitted safer injection facility in the city of Philadelphia. In the case of US v. Safehouse, the nonprofit group set to run the site, the court held that allowing the supervised onsite consumption of illegal drugs "will break the law" because it conflicts with a 35-year-old amendment to the Controlled Substances Act aimed at crack houses.

The Vancouver safer injection site. We still can't have those in America. Yet. (vcha.ca)
Never mind that the city is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic and needs to try something new after decades of failed prohibitionist drug policies. The sanctity of the drugs laws must be maintained, the court held: "Though the opioid crisis may call for innovative solutions, local innovations may not break federal law," it opined.

This is just the latest twist in the years-long effort to address an opioid overdose outbreak in the city that began about a decade ago, with overdose deaths nearly doubling between 2009 and 2018 and numbering more than a thousand a year every year since 2016. The crisis led to the formation of a Mayor's Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia, which issued a final report and recommendations in 2017 calling on the city to consider rolling out overdose prevention services, including safe injection sites, or, as Safehouse refers to them, overdose prevention sites.

Safehouse was formed to make that possibility a reality. Led by Jose A. Benitez, the executive director of the harm reduction group Prevention Point Philadelphia, Safehouse picked up a powerful ally in board member Ed Rendell, the former governor of the state and mayor and district attorney of Philadelphia. With Rendell's clout, the organization had overcome local obstacles and was preparing to open the first legal safe injection site in the country when Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department struck.

The US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed a civil lawsuit in February 2019 asking a federal judge to find safe injection sites illegal under the Controlled Substance Act's "crack house" statute, throwing plans to open up into limbo. Eight months later, the court held that "the ultimate goal of Safehouse's proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it, and accordingly, [the "crack house" statute] does not prohibit Safehouse's proposed conduct."

A February 2020 ruling from the same court reiterated the legality of safe injection sites in the Eastern District, but that summer, the judge ordered Safehouse to pause amidst the coronavirus pandemic and the police violence protests. Meanwhile, the US Attorney appealed the ruling that the proposed safe injection site was legal, with oral arguments held in November, and the 3rd Circuit's decision issued this week.

The Justice Department pronounced itself pleased.

"The Court's decision reaffirms that 'safe' injection sites are a violation of federal law," said Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement. "The Department supports efforts to curb the opioid crisis ravaging this country, but injection sites are not the solution. There are more productive ways to address drug abuse, and today's ruling by the Third Circuit has confirmed that these sites are illegal and therefore not the answer."

"The rule of law is still alive and well in Philadelphia -- having been re-affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which held that it is a federal crime to open a heroin injection site or 'consumption room' for illegal drug use," added US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William M. McSwain. "The 3rd Circuit's opinion is a faithful reading of the statute's plain language and is consistent with Congress's intent to protect American neighborhoods from the scourge of concentrated drug use."

Reform advocates saw it quite differently.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the already devastating overdose crisis, the Third Circuit's reversal of the earlier court's decision -- which held that safe consumption sites do not violate federal law -- will inevitably result in the unnecessary loss of countless lives," Lindsay LaSalle, managing director of policy for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said in a statement. "The 3rd Circuit's decision is misguided -- it is abundantly clear that Congress never intended to criminalize legitimate public health interventions through [the 'crack house' statute]."

The 3rd Circuit's decision is precedential, meaning it holds throughout the district, which includes Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the US Virgin Islands. But other jurisdictions, such as San Francisco and New York City, where similar efforts are underway, are not bound by it, and DPA is encouraging groups pursuing such efforts to "continue to work toward authorization and implementation of supervised consumption sites to address the overdose crisis in their cities and states."

There may be help coming in the new Congress and Biden administration as well. Advocates say they will seek action in Congress to clarify that safer injection facilities should be permitted, and from the Biden Justice Department to provide guidance to US Attorneys to lay off on them.

CDC Says Drug ODs Hit Record High Amid Pandemic, NJ Legalization Lacks Home Grow Provision, More... (12/21/20)

Another Mexican politican gets gunned down, the Scottish public health minister has been fired over record overdose deaths, and more.

This could still get you up to five years in prison even after legalization in New Jersey. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey's Marijuana Decriminalization and Legalization Bills Have No Provision for Home Cultivation, Which Remains a Serious Felony. The bills to implement voter-approved marijuana legalization and to decriminalize possession in the meantime have no provisions allowing for the home cultivation of the plant. Under current state law, growing one plant is punishable by up to five years in prison, while growing 10 plants could earn up to 20 years behind bars. That strikes long-time Garden State activist Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion as unjust, to say the least. "Big guys, corporations, they can violate federal law in the state of New Jersey and grow tons of marijuana," Forchion argued. "But a little housewife down in South Jersey wants to grow 10 plants in her backyard, she'll be treated as a first-degree felon."

Drug Policy

US Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Record High During Coronavirus Pandemic, CDC Says. The year ending in May 2020 saw more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths, according to a new update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although drug overdose deaths were already rising after a blip downward in 2018, the CDC suggested the coronavirus was playing a role. "The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. "As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it's important to not lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways. We need to take care of people suffering from unintended consequences."

International

Former Governor of Mexico's Jalisco State Gunned Down in Puerta Vallarta. Former Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval was assassinated in the beach resort town of Puerta Vallarta last Thursday night as he ate in a restaurant. He was initially shot while in the restaurant restroom, and when his security team dragged him outside, they were ambushed. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing, but it comes amidst a rising tide of violent conflict among Mexican cartels and between the cartels and the police and military. "Sandoval's murder is one of several attacks and killings of Mexican government officials in recent years," said Maureen Meyer, the Mexico Director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. "This rising violence and insecurity speaks to the Mexican government's ongoing challenge to effectively combat organized criminal organizations that continue to expand their influence in the country."

Scottish Health Minister Fired as Overdose Deaths Hit Record High. Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick has been forced out of his job after the country recorded its highest ever number of drug overdose deaths. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ousted him as opposition Labor and Liberal Democrats called for his resignation after drug deaths jumped to 1,264, twice the number in 2014. Sturgeon has appointed Angela Constance as a full-time minister for drugs to replace him.

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."

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>

AZ, MT Marijuana Legalization Polls, NM MedMJ Reciprocity Expansion, British Drug Deaths Up, More... (10/15/20)

The Drug Policy Alliance is in a new push to move the MORE Act, there are new polls on the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives, and more. 

Turnout is going to be crucial for the Arizona and Montana marijuana legalization initiatives. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Drug Policy Alliance & JustLeadershipUSA Lead Extensive Coalition of Organizations Representing Directly Impacted People in Calling on Congress to Support Marijuana Reform. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) Thursday led a group of 34 organizations founded and led by people directly impacted by the country’s criminal legal system in urging members of Congress to support comprehensive marijuana reform by passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) when it comes up for a vote on the House floor following the November 2020 election.. They sent a letter to Congress that argues that ending marijuana prohibition through the MORE Act is critical to addressing extensive racial disparities within the criminal legal system and providing economic relief for the communities that have borne the brunt of these draconian drug policies, creating a clear pathway for them to participate and benefit from the legal marijuana economy.

Arizona Polls Have Marijuana Legalization Initiative with Majority Support. Two new polls have Proposition 207: The Smart & Safe Arizona Act at over 50% support. A poll from OH Predictive Insights has the measure winning 55% to 37%, while a new Monmouth University poll has it winning 56% to 36%, up five points from a previous Monmouth poll last month.

Montana Poll Has Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Leading, But Still Under 50%. A new Montana poll has the  I-190 and CI-118 marijuana legalization initiatives with 49% support from likely voters, with 39% opposed, 10% undecided, and 2% saying they will not vote on the initiatives. That means the initiatives must pick up at least one out of five undecided voters to get over the top.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Judge Orders State Health Department to Loosen Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Rules. First Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wilson in Santa Fe ruled Tuesday that reciprocal medical marijuana patients can buy, possess and use medical marijuana in New Mexico, regardless of whether their identification matches the state where their medical recommendation to use cannabis came from. His order will also allow New Mexicans to get a recommendation to use medical marijuana from another state and become a reciprocal patient in New Mexico. 

International

England and Wales Had Record High Fatal Drug Overdose Levels Last Year. The British Office for National Statistics reported Thursday that drug-related deaths hit a record high last year in England and Wales. There were 4,393 drug-poisoning deaths in England and Wales in 2019, compared with 4,359 in 2018, the highest number since comparable records began in 1993. The rate of drug deaths for men actually declined, but that for women increased.

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

CDC Reports on Rising Cocaine Overdoses, Mexico Poppy Farmers Vow to Fight Eradication, More... (10/9/20)

South Dakota's marijuana legalization initiative picks up support from a leading state political figure, the CDC says cocaine overdose deaths nearly tripled between 2013 and 2018, and more.

Cocaine overdose deaths rose dramatically between 2013 and 2018, the CDC reports. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

California Eradicated More Than A Million Illegal Pot Plants This Year. The state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting has eradicated 1.1 million plants at 455 different grow sites this year. The campaign also racked up 140 arrests and the seizure of 174 weapons. Southern California's Riverside County yielded some 293,000 plants -- the biggest haul -- while Northern California's Tulare, Trinity, Lake and Siskiyou counties rounded out the top five.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Supports South Dakota Marijuana Legalization. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D), who represented the state in the Congress for nearly three decades, has come out in support of the Amendment A marijuana legalization initiative. "I did not advocate for legal marijuana while I served in the Senate but, like many other Americans, my viewpoint has vastly evolved in recent years, and my passion for improving how our society delivers health care as well as pioneering social and political change has never been stronger," Daschle said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Cocaine

Cocaine Overdose Deaths Rising Dramatically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that cocaine overdose deaths have nearly tripled over five years, rising at an average rate of 27% per year from 2013 to 2018. "While much attention has been given to the increase in drug overdose deaths involving opioids, it's also important to recognize that deaths involving other drugs, such as cocaine, have also increased in recent years," said Dr. Holly Hedegaard, lead researcher and injury epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

International

Mexico Opium Farmers Vow to Stop Military from Burning Poppies. Saying authorities have failed to deliver educational, health, and road improvements, residents of 33 communities in the state of Guerrero have pledged they will not allow the military to destroy their poppy fields. They say that opium cultivation is their only source of income. Farmers have proposed blocking the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway and the one linking Chilpancingo and Iguala and warned that if anything happens to military aerial eradication helicopters or military personnel engaged in eradication it would be the fault of the federal government. "We are determined to prevent our poppy plantations from being destroyed whether it is by air or land," said a document agreed to by the villagers.

Bipartisan Policy Center Recommends Safe Injection Sites, Marijuana Busts Declined Last Year, More... (10/2/20)

The House includes marijuana banking language in its latest COVID relief bill, pot busts declined last year, an Arizona poll is looking good for marijuana legalization there, and more.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signs a pack of marijuana business bills. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

After Climbing Three Years in a Row, US Marijuana Arrests Fell by 18% Last Year. According to the just-released FBI Uniform Crime Report 2019, there were some 545,600 marijuana arrests in the US last year, 92% of them for simple possession. That's an 18% decline from 2018. Marijuana arrests peaked at nearly 873,000 in 2007.

House Democrats Include Marijuana Safe Harbor in Latest COVID Relief Bill. The House is including language to allow financial services for the marijuana industry in its latest $2.2 trillion COVID relief bill. It does so by including the text of the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595) within the relief bill. No word yet on how the Republican-led Senate will respond.

Arizona Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new statewide poll of likely voters has support for the Prop 207 legalization initiative at 57%, with 38% opposed. The numbers are basically unchanged from the same poll in August, which had 57% in favor, with 37% opposed.

California Governor Signs Four Bills Affecting Marijuana Industry. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law four bills relating to the marijuana industry. Assembly Bill 1458 eases requirements for edibles manufacturers, Assembly Bill 1525 lets the state or local governments share financial information with the consent of marijuana licensees, Senate Bill 67 establishes marijuana appellations, and Senate Bill 1244 clarifies that marijuana labs may tests samples provided by law enforcement in a bid to reduce illicit cultivation.

Colorado Governor Mass Pardons People Busted for Marijuana Possession. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Thursday signed an executive order pardoning people convicted of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana prior to legalization. "We are finally cleaning up some of the inequities of the past by pardoning 2,732 convictions for Coloradans who simply had an ounce of marijuana or less. It's ridiculous how being written up for smoking a joint in the 1970's has followed some Coloradans throughout their lives and gotten in the way of their success," Polis said. "Today we are taking this step toward creating a more just system and breaking down barriers to help transform people's lives as well as coming to terms with one aspect of the past, failed policy of marijuana prohibition."

Harm Reduction

Bipartisan Policy Center Report: Use Federal Money for Syringe Exchange Programs. The Bipartisan Policy Center released a report Wednesday looking at how federal money is being used to combat the opioid epidemic. The report recommended states do more to combat rising overdose deaths, including adding more syringe exchange programs to help reduce overdose deaths and disease transmission. "(Syringe exchange services) don't increase drug use, but rather facilitate entry into treatment as well as access to naloxone, which, as you know, is a lifesaving antidote for an opioid overdose," BPC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anand Parekh said.

House Postpones Marijuana Legalization Vote Until After Election Day, BC Expands "Safe Supply" of Drugs, More... (9/17/20)

There will be no House vote on marijuana legalization until after the election, Vermont lawmakers reach agreement on regulated legal marijuana sales, British Columbia moves to expand access to a "safe supply" of drugs to replace street drugs, and more.

The House punts on passing marijuana legalization right now. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House Postpones Vote on Marijuana Legalization Bill Until After Election Day. A House Democratic member and several aides said Thursday that a pending vote on the MORE Act marijuana legalization and expungement bill will not happen until after Election Day. The bill was set to be voted on next week, but there were already reports that it would be pushed back to allow the House to concentrate on getting a pandemic relief package passed. Some moderate House Democrats have been expressing concern that passing a marijuana bill before the relief bill was passed would leave them open to attacks by Republicans.

Pennsylvania Governor Reiterates Call for Marijuana Legalization. At a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) once again pleaded with lawmakers to move on legalizing marijuana in the state. Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and have said legalization is not on the table. "The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous disruptions to Pennsylvania's economy, and with the additional federal aid stagnating in Congress, we need to do everything we can right here in Harrisburg right now, to help ourselves recover from this pandemic," Wolf said. "Some states that have legalized adult use cannabis have received literally hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue."

Vermont: Lawmakers Finalize Marijuana Retail Sales Legislation. A legislative conference committee has finalized an agreement on Senate Bill 54, which would allow for the regulated commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults. Now, the revised language must be approved by the House and Senate and then be signed by Gov. Phil Scott (R).

International

British Columbia Moves to Increase "Safe Supply" of Drugs. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry issued a public-health order on Wednesday that will allow registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe, make more medications available, and expand eligibility to people who are at risk of overdose, including those who may not necessarily be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. "We know the pandemic has only made the street drug supply in BC more toxic than ever, putting people who use drugs at extremely high risk for overdose," Dr. Henry said in a statement. "Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services." Since the COVID crisis began, the province already allowed doctors to prescribe take-home doses of pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs. Now, they will be available to anyone at risk of overdose.

Drug War Issues

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