Harm Intensification

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Feds Approve "Contingency Management" Drug Treatment, DE Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies, More... (3/11/22)

A medical marijuana bill advances in Kentucky, congressional negotiators have slashed harm reduction funding in the final appropriations bill of the year, and more.

Congress appears ready to slash harm reduction funding in the face of an overdose epidemic. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies. House Bill 305, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state, is dead, coming up two votes short in a key vote Thursday. Those two votes belonged to Republican representatives who had previously said they would vote for the bill, but one did not vote, saying he had an unspecified conflict of interest, and the second voted "no" after submitting four amendments, three of which were rejected, and claiming his failed "prove that [Democrats] do not care about bipartisanship." Also, bill sponsor Rep. Ed Osieski (D) failed to switch his vote from "yes" to "no" before the vote ended, which would have allowed him to bring the bill back to the floor later in the legislative session. 

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 15-1 to approve a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 136, clearing the way for a House floor vote, which could come as soon as next week. A similar bill passed the House in 2020, but did not get taken up by a Senate committee because of lack of support and the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In a bid to win broader support, bill sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes (R) narrowed the bill this year by including provisions that ban smoking marijuana or growing it oneself, but Senate leadership still has "concerns."

Drug Treatment

Biden Administration Approves "Contingency Management" Drug Treatment. The Department of Health and Human Services has cleared the way for "contingency management" drug treatment, a somewhat controversial program that pays people with drug problems for not using drugs. The notion is supported by decades of research that shows giving people repeated small amounts of money for meeting recovery goals has a large impact on helping people remain sober. But the use of the program was limited by fears it would violate a federal law that forbids kickbacks to patients until the HHS inspector general's office issued an advisory legal opinion last week giving the okay. "Although the arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal anti-kickback statute if the requisite intent were present, the OIG [Office of Inspector General] will not impose administrative sanctions on requestor in connection with the arrangement," the opinion said.

Harm Reduction

Congress Proposes Cuts in Harm Reduction Funding in Final Spending Package. The final appropriations package released Wednesday dramatically shrinks the amount of funding lawmakers will send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fight HIV/AIDS and drug overdoses. The House last July approved $69.5 million for the CDC's Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic Program, which provides grants to private harm reduction programs. Then, last September, Senate Democrats released their version of the bill, cutting the funding down to $30 million. But now, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise that is even lower yet, $18 million. That's more than the $13 million allocated in the last year of the Trump administration, but only about one-quarter of what the House originally approved. 

SD Not Legalizing, Israel Decriminalizing, TN Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Advances, More... (3/7/22)

Bills to produce marijuana-consuming workers advance in Illinois and DC, an Idaho bill to require drug tests for substitute school teachers is killed, and more.

Legislation legalizing fentanyl test strips as an overdose prevention measure is moving in several states.
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Approves Workplace Protections for Marijuana Users. The House last Thursday approved a bill that would bar most employers from firing workers or refusing new hires merely for testing positive for marijuana use. House Bill 4116 now moves to the Senate. "If we're going to legalize the substance, you should talk about individual liberties and what people want to do on their weekends," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Morgan (D) said. "We should allow people to make good choices and not be discriminated against in the workplace because of those choices as long as it's not affecting the workplace."

South Dakota House Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill (Again). The House on Thursday killed a marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 3, that had been revived via a procedure called a smokeout earlier in the week. The bill had already passed the Senate, only to be killed by the House State Affairs Committee last Monday. But 24 members rose last Tuesday to revive the bill, only to see the House kill it once and for all. That clears the way for a marijuana legalization initiative campaign that is already in the signature gathering process.

Washington, DC, Council Committee Approves Bill to Ban Most Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing. The DC Council's Labor and Workplace Development Committee voted unanimously last Thursday to approve a bill to ban most workplaces from subjecting job applicants to pre-employment marijuana testing. This is an important step towards eliminating historic inequities of cannabis use and ensuring that those who use cannabis medically or recreationally are not penalized in their workspaces [for what they do] on their private time," said bill sponsor Councilmember Trayon White (D). The bill now heads before the full Council.

Drug Testing

Idaho Bill to Drug Test Substitute Teachers Killed. A bill that would have required that substitute teachers be drug tested, House Bill 651, died in a House floor vote last Thursday. Bill sponsor Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) was worried that substitute teachers would either use drugs or sell them to children. "Substitutes come and go. Most districts have no qualifications other than, you're 18, you want to sub, let's go for it. This provides a horrid opportunity for people who want to either solicit drugs to our children or are on drugs themselves." The bill advanced to the House floor despite the opposition of school districts and educators only to be shot down on a 38-31 vote.

Harm Reduction

Tennessee Senate Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The state Senate has approved legislation legalizing the use of fentanyl test strips, HB2177, in a bid to reduce overdoses in the state. The test strips are currently banned as drug paraphernalia, but this bill removes them from that classification. The bill was supported by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee (R).

International

Israel Moving to Decriminalize Marijuana as Legalization Stalls in Knesset. With marijuana legalization stalled in the Knesset, Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced Sunday that the government is considering decriminalizing recreational marijuana use and expunging the criminal records of those convicted of personal possession or use of marijuana. Sa'ar is expected to sign regulations putting the move into effect in coming days, with approval at the Knesset expected shortly thereafter. The change would go into effect immediately upon approval by the Knesset.

White House Outlines Policies on Overdoses and Opioid Epidemic, GOP Legal Pot Bill Could Get Hearing, More... (3/3/22)

Costa Rica becomes the latest country to legalize medical marijuana, an Oklahoma psychedelic study bill is moving, and more.

President Biden used the SOTU to outline policies on overdoses and the opioid epidemic. (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

GOP Congresswoman Says Her Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Get a Hearing. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who has filed the States Reform Act legalization bill (HR 5977), said Thursday that she has received reassurances that her bill will get a hearing even though her party is in the minority. She also said that there was "no quid pro quo" requiring her to support House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Expungement and Reinvestment (MORE) Act (HR 3617). "Personally, I want to respect the process and MORE is going to come up again and let Democrats do MORE Act. It'll die in the Senate," she said. "And so when that's done, we will do our hearing, and there was nothing done in exchange for it. I just made the ask and we're making it happen."

Opiates and Opioids

Sacklers and Purdue Pharma Reach New Deal with States Over Opioids. Members of the Sackler family, who founded Purdue Pharma, have announced a deal with a group of states that had resisted Purdue's bankruptcy plan. Under the deal, which would settle thousands of pending lawsuits for the company's role in the opioid crisis and still must be approved by a judge, the family agrees to pay an additional one billion dollars, bringing the total they have now agreed to pay to $6 billion. "While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities," they said in a statement. While Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges of minimizing OxyContin's risk of addiction and misleading marketing, no Sackler family member has ever been criminally charged or admitted wrongdoing.

Psychedelics

Oklahoma Bill to Study Therapeutic Psychedelics Advances. A bill that seeks to allow research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelics, House Bill 3414, has been approved by the House Public Safety Committee and now heads for a House floor vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), would allow the state's universities and other research institutions to begin studying psilocybin and psilocyn, the psychoactive substances in magic mushrooms.

Drug Policy

Biden Uses State of the Union to Outline Policies on Addiction and Overdose Epidemic. The president outlined his comprehensive approach, including increased funding for public health and supply reduction. He is requesting a historic $41 billion for drug policy efforts that will further these efforts, including $10.7 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services "to fund research, prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services, with a focus on meeting the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder." Overall, the president is proposing $23.5 billion for public health approaches to drug use and its consequences.

The Administration has prioritized funds for harm reduction. The American Rescue Plan included $30 million in support for harm reduction services -- a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs. Additionally, CDC and the SAMHSA announced that federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.

The president also proposed spending $17.5 billion for supply reduction (read: enforcing drug prohibition), including $5.8 billion for interdiction efforts, an increase from the amount spent this year.

International

Costa Rica Legalizes Medical Marijuana. With the signature of President Carlos Alvarado on a revised medical marijuana bill, Costa Rica becomes the latest nation to legalize medical marijuana. Earlier in the year, Alvarado had vetoed the bill, but lawmakers made changes requested by the president. The bill also legalizes hemp, but not recreational marijuana. Alvarado is about to leave office, and the two presidential candidates seeking to replace him, José María Figueres and Rodrigo Chaves, have both spoken in favor of legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

New Zealand Medical Marijuana Patients Now Have Access to Smokeable Buds. Medical marijuana patients suffering from chronic pain will now be able to purchase smokeable buds after the Ministry of Health approved imports from an Australian firm. The buds are supposed to only be used to make a tea, but smoking or vaping them activates their soothing qualities more quickly, and patients and providers say it will be smoked and vaped.

DE Marijuana Legalization Advances in House, AL Fentanyl Test Strip Bill Nears Final Vote, More... (2/22/22)

Bills to end civil asset forfeiture and block "equitable sharing" with the feds are filed in Tennessee, a Delaware marijuana legalization bill advances, and more.

Trucker shortage? 60,000 are sidelined because of testing positive for marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances in House. The House Appropriations Committee last Thursday quietly advanced a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 305. The committee "walked the bill," which allows the bill to advance without a public hearing. The bill has already been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill now heads for a House floor vote. The last time a legalization bill got that far, back in 2018, it lost on the House floor by four votes. HB305 would allow legal personal possession of 1 ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older and set up a framework for its taxation and sale. It allocates 30 retail sale licenses, 30 manufacturing licenses, 60 cultivation licenses and five testing licenses to be issued within 16 months of the bill's approval.

Opiates and Opioids

Alabama Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips Faces Final House Vote. A bill that would legalize fentanyl test strips, Senate Bill 168, has passed the Senate and two House committee votes and now heads for a House floor vote. The bill aims to address the state's opioid overdose crisis by allowing users to test their substances for the presence of the powerful opioid.

Asset Forfeiture

Tennessee Bills Would End Civil Asset Forfeiture, Opt State Out of Federal Program. A pair of Republican lawmakers have introduced companion bills aimed at ending civil asset forfeiture in the state and blocking state law enforcement from evading the law by handing cases off to the federal government under what is known as the "equitable sharing" program. Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) introduced House Bill 2525 and Sen. John Stevens (R) introduced the companion, Senate Bill 2545 earlier this month.

The opt-out from "equitable sharing" is particularly important given that a policy directive issued in July 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions greenlighting the practice remains in effect. The language in the bill on "equitable sharing" is quite direct: "A state or local law enforcement agency shall not transfer or offer for adoption property, seized under state law, to a federal agency for the purpose of forfeiture under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Public Law 91-513-Oct. 27, 1970, or other federal law." The bills are now in committee in their respective houses.

Drug Testing

Expert Blames Marijuana Testing for Drug Drivers as Leading Cause of Driver Shortage. Chris Harvey, the head of equity strategy at Wells Fargo, is blaming drug testing for making a major contribution to the truckdriver shortage that is causing problems in the supply chain and contributing to rising prices. "It's really about drug testing," Harvey said, speaking at an industry conference last week. "We've legalized marijuana in some states but, obviously, not all... What we've done is we're excluding a significant portion of that trucker industry."

More than 60,000 truckers have been sidelined for testing positive for marijuana as of December under industry drug testing policies that have become stricter even as marijuana is broadly legalized. Under a 2020 law, all truck drivers who have failed a drug test must be listed in a federal database to block them from being hired by other companies. Some 110,000 truckers have tested positive, with 56 percent of them for marijuana use. There is currently a shortage of about 80,000 truckers.

MD Lawmakers Take Up Marijuana Legalization, Former Honduras Prez Detained on US Drug Charges, More... (2/15/22)

The Oregon Health Authority has released draft rules for therapeutic psilocybin, the New Mexico legislature approves legalizing fentanyl test strips, and more.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Alabama Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. Senator Rick Singleton (R) has filed a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 160 would make first offense possession of more than two ounces a misdemeanor but with a maximum penalty of a $250 fine, a second offense would be a $500 fine, and a third offense would merit a felony charge and a $750 fine but no jail time. Possession of less than two ounces would also be subject to a $250 fine but would only be an infraction. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Maryland Lawmakers Begin Work on Marijuana Legalization as Plans for Referendum Quicken. Lawmakers in Annapolis have begun working on a pair of bills aimed at legalizing marijuana in the state. The first bill, House Bill 1, sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, would put the question of legalization before the voters in November, while the second bill, House Bill 837, also from Clippinger, provides a framework for lawmakers to come up with a scheme for taxation and regulation.

If the referendum bill is approved by both lawmakers and voters, possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana would become a civil violation punishable by only a $100 fine starting January 1, 2023. And expungement of past possession convictions would be automatic. The legislation would also require the state to conduct a "disparity study" to evaluate barriers groups may face in gaining access to the legal industry.

Psychedelics

Oregon Releases Draft Rules for Therapeutic Use of Psilocybin. The state health department has released draft rules for the therapeutic use of psilocybin. The move is in response to the passage of Measure 109 in November 2020, which gave the state two years to come up with a framework for regulating magic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes. While most of the draft rules deal with how to credential and evaluate training programs for those administering psilocybin, one rule specifies that only one species of mushroom, psilocybe cubensis, will be allowed. Growers would not be allowed to use dung or wood chips to cultivate mushrooms or make synthetic psilocybin and would also not be able to make products that might appeal to children, such as "products in the shape of an animal, vehicle, person or character."

Harm Reduction

New Mexico Legislature Approves Fentanyl Test Strip Bill. The state Senate on Monday gave final approval to House Bill 52, which legalizes test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl. The move is a bid to reduce overdoses. Overdoses linked to fentanyl began climbing in the state in 2019. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who supports it.

International

Former Honduran President Detained on US Drug Charges. Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who left office less than a month ago, has been detained by Honduran authorities to face extradition to the US to face drug charges. An extradition request presented to the Honduran Supreme Court accuses Hernandez of participating in a "violent drug-trafficking conspiracy" that transported 500 tons of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela to the US since 2004. His brother, Juan Antonio Hernandez, is already doing a life sentence in the US for drug trafficking, and so is another trafficker, Geovanny Fuentes, who implicated Hernandez in the conspiracy. It is not clear if or when Hernandez will be extradited; the Supreme Court judge who will hear his case is affiliated with his political party and has a history of freeing suspects in corruption cases.

Manchin and Rubio File Anti-Crack Pipe Bill, New Overdose Memorial Site, More... (2/14/22)

Oregon goes after water haulters in a bid to repress illicit pot grows, the Utah House approves a psychedelic study task force bill, and more.

Joe Manchin apparently doesn't like harm reduction. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Bill Targets Water Haulers in Bid to Clamp Down on Illicit Marijuana Grows. A bill aimed at reining in rampant illicit marijuana production in the southern part of the state, House Bill 4061, would do so by imposing new record-keeping requirements on water haulers and imposing civil and even criminal penalties for haulers who violate the rules or sell to illicit marijuana growers. The bill would also make it a crime to pump ground water to supply illicit marijuana grows without a water right. Farm groups have raised concerns that the bill could have unintended consequences, and legal marijuana growers object to proposed additional licensing requirements. Bill sponsors said they will attempt to amend the bill to address those concerns.

Psychedelics

Utah House Approves Psychedelic Study Task Force Bill. The House last Thursday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 0167, which would create a task force to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances and to develop possible regulations for their lawful use. The bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which would "study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness." The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Bill Would Reform State Asset Forfeiture Laws but Federal Loophole Would Remain. The House Judiciary Committee has introduced an asset forfeiture reform bill, House Bill 2648, which would end civil asset forfeiture (without a criminal conviction) in most cases and addresses "policing for profit" by directing all seizures go to the general fund instead of going to the law enforcement agency that made the seizure, as is the case under current state law. But the bill does not address a loophole that allows state and local law enforcement to get around state asset forfeiture laws by turning cases over to the federal government, which under its equitable sharing program then returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the seizing agency. Instead, it specifically allows police to "transfer the custody or ownership to any federal agency if the property was seized and forfeited pursuant to federal law." The bill gets a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Harm Reduction

Public Health Group Vital Strategies Launches Online Drug Overdose Memorial Site, Harm Reduction Media Campaign. The public health organization Vital Strategies launched a new, interactive, online memorial on Monday to honor those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose -- more than one million in the past two decades in the US -- far surpassing car crashes and firearm fatalities combined. Inspired by the AIDS quilt, the digital mosaic allows anyone to commemorate a loved one lost to overdose and calls for urgent action in their name.

The memorial's launch is accompanied by the largest-ever national advertising campaign promoting harm reduction, starting with a full page ad in the New York Times featuring 200 real people working in harm reduction, on the front lines of the overdose crisis. Three video ads featuring overdose prevention advocates whose own lives were saved by harm reduction will air 6,000 times in and around Washington, DC on a range of channels including: CNN, BET, ESPN, YouTube, Hulu and various podcasts, totaling 37 million impressions.

Manchin, Rubio File Bill to Block Federal Government from Buying Crack Pipes. US Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sought to score political points around last week's federal "crack pipe" controversy by a filing a bill last Friday to bar the use of federal funds to buy and distribute devices used to consume drugs, such as glass pipes used for smoking crack and meth and syringes. Their bill is the cutely acronymed Preventing Illicit Paraphernalia for Exchange Systems Act, or PIPES Act.

"Every American and West Virginian has been impacted by the drug epidemic that has killed over 101,000 Americans from April 2020 to April 2021," Manchin said. "While this is a heartbreaking issue that must be fully addressed by the federal government, using taxpayer funds to buy paraphernalia for those struggling with substance use disorder is not the solution." But the provision of supplies such as clean syringes and "smoking kits" that include rubber stoppers, screens, cleaning dowels, vaseline, and scouring pads are a proven harm reduction intervention aimed at reducing overdoses and the spread of infectious disease, as well as improving overall user health.

DOJ Signals Openness to Safe Injection Sites, Congressional Commission Issues Overdose Strategy Report, More... (2/8/22)

Pennsylvania sees its first ever legislative debate on marijuana legalization, Tennessee sees a slew of marijuana-related bills, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Sees First Legislative Debate on Marijuana Legalization. For the first time ever, Keystone State lawmakers took up the topic of marijuana legalization as the Senate Law & Justice Committee held a hearing on Monday. The hearing was on a proposal from committee Chair Sen. Mike Regan (R-York County), but focused largely on unsafe practices in the industry and products going through existing black markets. The committee heard from lawmakers, medical marijuana industry representatives, and law enforcement officials. Another, bipartisan marijuana legalization bill, Senate Bill 473, which includes expungement and social equity provisions, is also before the committee. No votes were taken. Regan said the committee would hold another hearing in coming months to see what "trials and tribulations" other states had endured.

Tennessee Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. Lawmakers in the Volunteer State are facing a slew of marijuana legalization, decriminalization, and medical marijuana bills filed this session. So far, the legislative web site shows at least 28 bills, most of them addressing legalization. The state is one of seven that have allowed for the use of CBD cannabis oil, but that is as far down the road as the legislature has gone so far. An attempt to decriminalize marijuana possession was killed last session, as was a broader medical marijuana bill.

Opioids

Congressional Commission Urges Five-Pronged Strategy to Confront Overdose Crisis. A bipartisan congressional commission. the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking released a report Tuesday calling for a multipronged strategy to confront the nation's overdose crisis. The commission called for the strategy to be based around five pillars: Restoring the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to cabinet rank, disrupting the drug supply through better coordinated law enforcement, demand reduction through treatment and harm reduction measures, using diplomatic means to cut off the supply of fentanyl precursor chemicals, and developing surveillance tools to monitor new drug trends. In other words, new, improved drug war, albeit with a slightly gentler touch regarding harm reduction.

Harm Reduction

Justice Department Signals It Could Allow Safe Injection Sites. In a statement to the Associate Press, the Justice Department said it is "evaluating" the harm reduction intervention and seeking guidance from regulators on "appropriate guardrails." That is a drastic change from the Trump administration, under which the department successfully sued to block a Philadelphia safe injection site, and is the first hint, after months of silence, that DOJ is open to safe injection sites. "Although we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate guardrails for such sites, as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety," DOJ said in the statement last Friday.

DOJ isn't the only federal government entity to edge closer to supporting safe injection sites. In December, the National Institutes of Health mentioned them in a call for harm reduction research, and that same month, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Dr. Rahul Gupta said he was "interested in looking at the science and data behind all of the emerging harm reduction practices."

SAFE Banking Act Gets Another Chance in the House, Opioid Makers Settle with Native American Tribes, More... (2/2/22)

An Arizona judge upholds social equity provisions in the state's marijuana law, the SAFE Banking Act will get another House floor vote, and more.

Marijuana Policy

SAFE Banking Act Heading for Another House Floor Vote. The House Rules Committee has cleared the way for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to get another chance at passage. The bill, which aims to provide protections for financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana businesses, had passed out of the House as part of a defense appropriations bill but was killed by Senate negotiators who favored a vote on marijuana legalization first. Last week, bill sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) offered it as an amendment to a large-scale tech and manufacturing research and innovation bill, and on Tuesday, the Rules Committee determined the proposal to be in order, meaning it will be taken up by the House as part of that larger bill.

Arizona Judge Upholds Rules for Social Equity Marijuana Licenses. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit challenging the state's rules implementing a program aimed promoting social equity in the marijuana industry. The program is reserving 26 marijuana business licenses for "people from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws." The lawsuit filed by the Greater Phoenix Urban League and a business argued that the rules lack a means to prevent license transfers and to ensure that profits remain in communities, but Judge Randall held that the rules satisfied the broad mandates under the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization law.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Patients Can Buy Buds Beginning in March. Patients registered in the state's Medical Cannabis Program will be eligible to buy dried cannabis flower for smoking from the state's medical cannabis dispensaries starting March 1. In preparation for the change, registered patients interested in smokable cannabis can make an appointment for a consultation with a medical cannabis dispensary pharmacist beginning Feb. 1 so they will be pre-approved to buy pre-packaged dried flower and pre-rolls once available. Consultations, which can be in-person or virtual, are required when a patient changes the type of medical cannabis they receive. Smokable cannabis may be available a few days before March 1, if the state's relevant administrative rules are finalized early. Patients should check with their medical cannabis dispensary for further details. The sale of smokable cannabis is limited to patients and caregivers who are 21 years or older and who are registered with the Medical Cannabis Program.

Opioids

Drug Distributors, Johnson & Johnson Settles with Native American Tribes Over Opioid Distribution. Three drug distributors -- McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen -- and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson have reached a $665 million settlement with Native American tribes regarding the flood of prescription opioids into Native communities. More than 400 tribes sued the companies for producing and shipping opioids to the tribes regardless of concerns about overdoses and other health issues. The companies maintain they followed federal law and did nothing wrong but agreed to the settlement anyway. The lawsuit is part of a broader push-back after an expansion of opioid prescribing in the late 1990s and early 200s that has seen numerous lawsuits against drug companies, as well as reductions in opioid prescribing, which has left some chronic pain patients in the lurch.

Officials Now Say Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Scare a False Alarm, Competing CO Psychedelic Inits, More...(2/1/22)

A Calfornia Republican lawmaker wants to go back to the bad old days, Colorado now sees competing psychedelic legalization initiatives, and more.

fentanyl (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California GOP Bill Would Make Unlicensed Marijuana Cultivation a Felony Again. Assemblyman Thurston Smith (R-Riverside) has filed a bill that would recriminalize growing marijuana plants without a license, Assembly Bill 1725. The bill would make growing more than six plants without a license a felony punishable by up to three years in jail. Smith said his bill was aimed at enormous illegal grow operations. "These illicit growers have been operating with impunity, knowing that the law allows them to grow with barely a hindrance. For far too long, (state lawmakers in) Sacramento (have) been soft on crime, and the illicit market has exploded with massive unlicensed grows popping up all around the state." The bill faces long odds in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Massachusetts Marijuana Host Community, Social Equity Bill Advances. The Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy took up legislation aimed at putting tighter rules on legally required contracts between hosts communities and marijuana businesses and establishing a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. The measure, House Bill 174 faced no opposition in the committee. The bill is a priority of House Speaker Ron Mariano (D), and takes on aspects of the state's pot laws that both regulators and the industry have said need to be addressed.

"The gap between the law's stated commitment to equity and the on-the-ground reality of the industry shows just how much work we have left to do," Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, said. "There's universal agreement about the problems: high costs of entry and lack of access to capital create a near-impossible barrier for many talented entrepreneurs. This bill addresses both sides of that coin. I'm thrilled we're finally advancing it."

Opioids

Connecticut Scare on Fentanyl-Tainted Marijuana Mostly Unfounded, State Says. The state Department of Health reported in November that nearly 40 overdoses were linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, but it now turns out that there was only one case -- and that case was most likely caused by accidental contamination. In the original report, the state said there had been 39 overdoses believed linked to fentanyl-tainted marijuana, that the patients required revival with naloxone, and they "denied any opioid use and claimed to have only smoked marijuana." But the health department says at least 30 of the 39 had histories of opioid use.

The department also said that only one marijuana sample tested positive for fentanyl. "Based on the information gathered since the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl, the CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident," a department spokesman said. Boyle wrote in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media. The contamination likely occurred when the dealer "failed to clean their instruments before processing the marijuana and cross-contaminated it with fentanyl," he said.

Psychedelics

Colorado Sees Second Psychedelic Initiative Filed. Activists with Decriminalize Nature Boulder County have filed an initiative that would allow people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, gift and deliver psilocybin, psilocyn, ibogaine, mescaline and DMT. The initiative would also allow psychedelic services for therapeutic, spiritual, guidance, or harm reduction purposes with or without accepting payment. A separate psychedelic initiative backed by New Approach PAC and David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap company, the Natural Medicine Health Act, envisions a two-tiered regulatory model where only psilocybin would be legalized and regulated for therapeutic purposes until June 2026, after which regulators could add other psychedelics.

New Synthetic Opioids in Overdose Crisis, Jordanian Army Ambushes Drug Smugglers, More... (1/28/22)

Tennesseans could send their legislators a message on marijuana policy under a pair of bills just filed, Costa Rica's president vetoes a medical marijuana bill and demands changes, and more.

captagon molecule (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Tennessee Odd Couple Lawmakers File Bill for Statewide Poll on Marijuana Legalization. Firebrand conservative Rep. Bruce Griffery (R-Paris) has paired with liberal Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) to file identical bills that would give state residents a chance to get their voices heard on the topic of marijuana legalization, Senate Bill 1973 and House Bill 1634. The bills would require county election commissions to put three non-binding questions related to marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot and forward the results to the legislature.

The questions the bills pose are: 1) Should the state of Tennessee legalize medical marijuana? 2) Should the state decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana? and 3) Should the state legalize and regulate the commercial sales of recreational marijuana? While the results would be non-binding, strong popular support for marijuana reforms could end up moving the legislature, which for years has been resistant to them.

Opioids

Two Powerful, Little-Known Synthetic Opioids Show Up In Overdose Crisis. In a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers from the DEA, a toxicology lab at the University of California-San Francisco, and the Knox County (Tennessee) Regional Forensic Center are raising the alarm about two powerful synthetic opioids that are starting to show up in overdose deaths. The two drugs, Para-fluorofentanyl and metonitazene, are now being seen more often by medical examiners in overdose deaths and, increasingly, one of the two drugs is the sole drug used before the overdose.

These opioids are often mixed with fentanyl, which is implicated in about two-thirds of all overdose deaths. In Knoxville, of 770 fatal overdoses between November 2020 and August 2021, 562 featured fentanyl, with another 190 of those also testing positive for meth. But 48 But 48 involved para-fluorofentanyl, and 26 involved metonitazene, according to the report, and those numbers are on the rise, researchers said.

International

Costa Rican President Vetoes Medical Marijuana, Demands Changes. President Carlos Alvarado on Thursday vetoed a medical marijuana bill passed by the Congress, saying it needed changes before he would approve it. He said the bill needs to be changed to limit home cultivation and consumption. "I trust that they will be accepted, and the law will be in force soon," said Alvarado, whose term ends in May. Now, the bill goes back to Congress to see if it will make the changes Alvarado wants.

Jordanian Army Says It Killed 27 Armed Drug Smugglers. The Jordanian army said it killed 27 armed drug smugglers on Thursday, wounded others, and sent others "supported by other armed groups" retreating back across the border into Syria. The smugglers were carrying captagon, a popular Middle Eastern amphetamine. This is only the bloodiest of a growing number of such incidents in the past year, many involving shootouts, which has prompted the army to toughen its rules of engagement with smugglers.

"We will strike with an iron fist..those who dare think of tampering with our national security," the army statement said. Witnesses said as many as 80 armed smugglers crossed the border in dense fog, only to be ambushed by the Jordanian army. As many as 50 are missing and believed dead, another witness said.

Syria has become a hub of captagon manufacturing and smuggling during its decade-long civil war. Jordanian officials say the Lebanese militia/political party/social welfare organization Hezbollah is behind the surge in smuggling. Hezbollah denies it.

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