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OR Pot Pardons, Deadly Colombia Cocaine Clashes, More... (11/22/22)

A new Pew poll has a supermajority for medical marijuana, New York rolls out its first three dozen pot shop licenses, and more.

The black market cocaine trade continues to drive violence in Colombia. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pew Poll Finds Supermajority for Medical Marijuana, Strong Majority for Legalization. A new Pew poll finds continuing strong support for both medical marijuana and broader marijuana legalization. Support for legalization for adults was at 59 percent, while an additional 30 percent also supported legalization for both medical and recreational use, bringing its level of support for medical marijuana to 89 percent. Only 10 percent said marijuana should remain illegal. The findings are largely unchanged from a Pew poll in April 2021. People in every age group indicated majority support for recreational marijuana except for those 75 and over. Only 30 percent of that group supported recreational legalization. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democrats supported recreational legalization, while only 45 percent of Republicans did. Among racial groups, Blacks were most supportive at 68 percent, followed by Whites at 60 percent, but neither Hispanics (49 percent) or Asians (48 percent) reported majority support for recreational legalization.

New York Award First Three Dozen Legal Pot Licenses; They Go to Social Equity, Non-Profit Applicants. State regulators awarded 37 licenses to legally sell marijuana on Monday. The licenses went to people with prior marijuana convictions and non-profits, including the anti-poverty Doe Fund and Housing Works. The move comes a year and a half since the state approved marijuana legalization. In the meantime, unlicensed sales have proliferated, especially in New York City. The state's Office of Cannabis Management also approved eight new licenses for marijuana processors, bringing the total to 32, and three new licenses for testing lab, bringing that total to seven. The retail pot shop licensees will be able to open up to three shops with each license.

Oregon Governor Issues More Than 47,000 Pardons for Marijuana Possession Convictions. Outgoing Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday that she has issued pardons for 47,144 marijuana possession convictions affecting some 45,000 people. The pardons are for people caught with less than an ounce of pot who were at least 21 at the time of their arrest and go up to July 2016, when marijuana became legal in the state. The pardon action also forgives more than $14 million in fines and fees associated with the busts. "No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon." Issuing the pardons represents an effort "to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession," she added.

South Carolina Poll Has Supermajority Support for Medical Marijuana, Majority Support for Legalization. A new Winthrop poll has support for medical marijuana at a whopping 78 percent and support for marijuana legalization at 54 percent. The poll comes months after a medical marijuana bill passed the Senate only to die in the House. One GOP congresswoman described legislators who blocked reform as being "on the wrong side of history." On medical marijuana, 82 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans were in favor, but when it comes to full legalization, two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats were in favor, but only 39 percent of Republicans were.

International

Clashes Between Colombian Cocaine Traffickers Leave 18 Dead Near Ecuador Border. Rival drug trafficking groups engaged in a shoot-out last Saturday in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador, leaving a toll of at least 18 dead. On one side were holdouts from the former rebel army FARC who have rejected a 2016 FARC truce with the government. On the other side was a drug trafficking group known as Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commando), who also include former FARC fighters as well as remnants of a rightist paramilitary group that traffics cocaine to Ecuador and Brazil. The two groups have been fighting over control of the trade in the area for at least three years. The rebel FARC faction, also known as the Carolina Ramirez Front, has held exploratory talks with the government of President Gustavo Petro aimed at a truce, but nothing has come of that yet. 

PA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, Ecuador Drug Gang Violence Spikes, More... (11/4/22)

A late poll has good news for the Missouri marijuana legalization initiative, drug gangs rampage in Ecuador, and more.

Sen. Tom Hickenlooper (D-CO) files a bill to set up a framework for federal marijunana legalization. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Sen. Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Develop Federal Marijuana Legalization Framework. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on Thursday announced a plan to roll out legislation to create a framework for federal marijuana legalization. His proposed bill, the PREPARE Act, would create a "Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis," which would make recommendations related to marijuana policy, but would not be empowered to set policies itself. "This bill will provide lawmakers across the ideological spectrum the opportunity to engage on cannabis reform by creating a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the federal government to establish effective regulation to be enacted upon the termination of its 85-year prohibition of cannabis," Hickenlooper's office wrote in a summary of the bill.

New Missouri Poll Has Marijuana Initiative Winning. Polling on the fate of the Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative has been all over the place, with two recent polls showing it losing with 43 percent and 48 percent of the vote. But a third recent poll had it winning with 62 percent of the vote. That poll was from SurveyUSA, and now that polling organization is out with a new poll, again having the initiative winning, this time with 61 percent of the vote. Twenty-eight percent were opposed and 11 percent were undecided, with those undecideds evenly split between potential supporters and opponents.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Thursday signed into law House Bill 1393, which decriminalizes fentanyl test strips. It does so by no longer defining the test strips as drug paraphernalia under the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Devices, and Cosmetic Act of 1972. Pennsylvania thus becomes the latest of a number of states that have passed similar legislation this year in a bid to reduce the rising incidence of fentanyl-involved fatal drug overdoses. "Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste, and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is nearly impossible for an individual to know if it has been laced with fentanyl," said Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. "We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, individuals have an additional tool to fight the overdose crisis. This legalization is a big win in the harm reduction space."

International

Ecuador State of Emergency Declared as Drug Gang Violence Spikes. President Guillermo Lasso declared a new state of emergency Tuesday and a 9:00pm curfew in the Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country after an outbreak of gang violence that included two headless bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards taken hostage by inmates, a series of nine car bomb explosions in two coastal cities, and the shooting deaths of five police officers. President Lasso said the violence was "a declaration of open war" and that he was "prepared to act harshly" to suppress it.

Lasso added that soldiers and police had raided jails and seized weapons, included thousands of explosive and dynamite sticks, and arrested 28 people. Still, fresh clashes were reported in prisons in Guayaquil. Analysts say the local gangs are emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and are resorting to violence in a bid to intimidate authorities.

"In certain areas, the state has been displaced," said Col Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador's military intelligence, referring to parts of Guayaquil and Ecuador's Pacific coast. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence."

Colombia President's Drug War Heterodoxy Draws Critics, Belgian Drug Trafficker Threats, More... (9/27/22)

Singapore arrests its citizens for doing drugs outside the country, Colombian President Petro's frank talk about the need for a new model drug policy is activating critics, and more.

Cocaine prohibiion is getting some renewed attention these days. (Pixabay)
Foreign Policy

Pair of GOP Senators Question Colombian President's Commitment to Cooperating with US on Drugs. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP -- the drug czar's office), expressing their concerns with Colombian President Gustavo Petro's drug policy changes and intentions to modify extradition policy with the United States. They are upset that Petro has initiated peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which they specify is "a left-wing Foreign Terrorist Organization" and that he has resumed diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela, or "the Maduro narco-regime," as they put it.

"Petro's favorable actions toward actors working closely with drug traffickers in our hemisphere call into question the Colombian president's commitment to cooperating with the United States to prevent the flow of drugs crossing our border," they charged. They also took issue with Petro's proposal to limit extradition to people who refused to cooperate with the Colombian state, saying it "incentivizes criminals to avoid extradition by bribing or coercing the sitting political regime."

The Colombian president has vocally called for an end to the US's current drug policy in Colombia and his government is considering -- but has not yet enacted -- significant drug policy reforms, such as decriminalizing small-scale coca production.

Colombia Ex-President Warns Petro's Call to Change Course in Drug War Could Make Country a "Narco-State." Ivan Duque, the rightist predecessor to current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, has warned that Petro's call to make a radical change in the war on drugs could turn the country into a "narco-state" that could threaten the security of the US and other countries in the region.

"Now, what worries me is that there is now the possibility of getting into the permission, or the legalization of cocaine and consumption," said Duque. "I think that it will be very bad for Colombia and that will be very bad for the countries in the hemisphere, and I think that could generate also a major security threat to the United States. So by no means I'm in favor of the legalization of the cocaine trade… But I also have to say it, Colombia cannot turn into a narco state. I think the world now has unified in the concept of prohibition, and I think if just one country, let's say Colombia, decides to legalize cocaine, it'll turn itself into a narco state."

The Petro government has so far rejected cocaine legalization, but it is considering the decriminalization of small-scale peasant coca cultivation.

International

Belgian Prime Minister Condemns Threats Against Justice Minister from Drug Traffickers. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday condemned serious threats against the country's justice minister as "totally unacceptable" after a car containing firearms was found near his home. Belgian media says the threats could involve kidnapping by drug traffickers, who have been angered by a recent ramping up of Belgian enforcement activity after an unprecedented flare-up of violence among traffickers this summer. Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands are the main European hubs for cocaine trafficking, with 90 tons of the drug being seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp last year.

Singapore Arrests Citizens for Using Drugs in Other Countries. The city-state's Central Narcotics Bureau announced Saturday that authorities had arrested 41 citizens so far this year for using drugs outside the country. Under Singaporean law, citizens who use drugs outside the country face the same punishment as those caught using drugs inside the country. A first offense can garner up to 10 years in prison, but most people charged with the crime are sent to rehabilitation if there are no other charges against them. The policy is in line with the city-state's draconian drug policies, which include the death penalty for trafficking as little as 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of marijuana.

Arkansas Legalization Init Cleared for November, Colorado Psilocybin Init Trailing, More... (9/23/22)

Republicans seek political advantage by calling Mexican cartels "terrorist organizations," the FDA eases rules for groups distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug nalxone, and more.

Colorado magic mushroom proponents have an uphill fight ahead of them, a new poll suggests. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Marijuana Legalization Initiative for November Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted after all. The move comes after the Board of Election Commissioners ruled that the measure's ballot title was misleading, but the high court disagreed, holding that "initiative power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions" and that the board and prohibitionist groups who had intervened in the case "have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient."

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psilocybin Initiative Trailing. A new poll has the magic mushroom decriminalization initiative, Proposition 122, well south of the 50 percent plus one votes needed to pass in November. The Fox 31/Chennel2/Emerson College/The Hill poll had only 36 percent supporting the measure, with 41 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided. While the large number of undecideds leaves room for hope, they would have to break pretty decisively in favor of the initiative for it to get over the top. Only Democrats favored the initiative (53 percent), while 61 percent of Republicans opposed it. Two racial/ethnic groups emerge as opponents: 64 percent of Blacks oppose it, as do 63 percent of multiracial voters.

Harm Reduction

Opioid Reversal Drug Access to Ease Under Relaxed FDA Rules. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that harm reduction programs distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone will not have to comply with certain federal product tracing requirements. The agency said it would not enforce certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements on programs that are distributing the drug to at-risk communities while an opioid public health emergency exists. "Combating the opioid overdose epidemic is an urgent public health priority for FDA," the agency wrote in the guidance. The FDA "is committed to advancing solutions to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States, including by supporting efforts to increase public availability of and access to naloxone."

Foreign Policy

GOP Senators File Bill Designating Drug Cartels as Terrorist Organization. Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rick Scott (R-FL) filed a bill Tuesday to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act. "The illicit drugs and other deadly activities being carried out by cartels are killing Americans at record rates. Since Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to turn a blind eye, we are going to do something about it by designating the drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations," said Sen. Marshall. "As these cartels continue to invade our porous southern border in an increasingly militarized approach, this designation is needed to ramp up our efforts to combat them. We will not rest in our fight to stop fentanyl's terrible scourge wreaking havoc in Kansas and across the US." Nonetheless, Mexican cartels are not foreign terrorist organizations; they are drug trafficking organizations.

GOP Texas Governor Designates Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that designated specified Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, although since Texas does not set US foreign policy it is not clear just exactly what that means. The order instructs the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) "to take immediate action to keep Texans safe amid the growing national fentanyl crisis." Abbott also directed DPS to identify Texas gangs that support the cartels and seize their assets.

Colombia President Tells UN Drug War Must End; Good MA, MO Pot Polls, More... (9/20/22)

The Missouri Democratic Party can't bring itself to endorse the marijuana legalization initiative, clashes between coca grower union factions in Bolivia continued for another week, and more.

Colombian President Petro remains on message about ending the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. A new Goucher College poll consisting mostly of likely voters has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization ballot question at 59 percent, with 34 percent opposed and seven percent undecided. The ballot question is a legislatively-initiated measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. If it passes, a bill already passed by the House that would allow for the possession of up to 1,5 ounces of marijuana would be legalized and between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would be decriminalized.

Missouri Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new SurveyUSA poll of registered voters has support for the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative at 62 percent, with 22 percent opposed, and 16 percent undecided. If these numbers hold true, even if all undecideds decided to vote against the initiative, it would still win.

Missouri Democratic Party Declines to Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Democratic Party has decided to maintain a stance of neutrality on the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative. The party said that while it supports marijuana legalization, it is concerned that the measure "may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,"in a news release Monday. "Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,"the party said. The initiative gives existing medical marijuana businesses a head start on recreational licensing, and that, too, is causing concerns among Democrats.

International

Colombia President Tells UN Democracy Will Die in World Doesn't End Drug War, Pursue Different Strategy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that "democracy will die" if world leaders don't come together to end the current war on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed," he said. "The war on drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses [from fentanyl], which is not produced in our Latin America,"he said. "You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The [Black] prisoner will become a business of prison companies." Petro has previously said the war on drugs has left a million people dead in Latin America, and at the UN on Tuesday, he warned that if current policies continue, another million would die and "they will fill our lives with blood."

Another Week, Another Coca Clash in Bolivia. The two competing factions of coca growers seeking control of the Adepcoca coca growers' union clashed with stones in central La Paz Monday after separate marches into the city. On one side is a faction led by Arnold Alanes, which is close to the government and operated an officially unsanctioned "parallel" coca market in La Paz until it was burned down two weeks ago by member of a faction led Freddy Machicado, who is currently in jail after being arrested for the destruction of the "parallel" market. 

San Francisco Deprioritizes Natural Psychedelics, UK Blocks Bermuda Pot Legalization, More... (9/8/22)

Prisoners and advocacy groups call on the Bureau of Prisons to clean up its act, Colombia's new president has some words for the US, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro continues to push against the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

San Francisco Effectively Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. The city's Boad of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that effectively decriminalizes natural psychedelics. The resolution includes the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being," and includes ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin. The resolution also allows for the "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" those substances and provides no limits on quantities that may be possessed. The resolution effectively decriminalizes these substances by designating them the lowest law enforcement priority, but they remain illegal under state and federal law. San Francisco now joins Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among California cities that have embraced such measures. A dozen other citizens around the country have, too.

Incarceration

Incarcerated People and Advocacy Organizations Urge Reform of US Bureau of Prisons. In a letter Tuesday to federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters, current and former federal prisoners and an array of sentencing, drug policy, and other advocacy groups called on her to "bring the Bureau into compliance with federal law and to lead the Bureau toward a more humane future grounded in transparency and accountability." The letter cited a number of issues and concerns, including unsafe and inhumane prisons, the need for the Bureau to use its power to seek compassionate release, the need for the Bureau to comply with the First Step Act (there are chronic delays in releasing people who qualify), and the pervasiveness of abuse, corruption, and misconduct. In addition to individual signers, the letter was endorsed by the ACLU, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Drug Policy Alliance, Fair and Just Prosecution, Federal Public and Community Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Council of Churches, and the Sentencing Project, which organized the campaign.

Foreign Policy

Colombian President Warns US Drug War Has Failed, Change Must Come. President Gustavo Petro warned the US on Wednesday the he believes the US-led war on drugs in his country is a failure and called for substantial changes in drug policy. The statement came after he met with the commander of the United States Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.  "We were now talking at length with General Laura Richardson … about the failure of the anti-drug policy. I think it should be called without fear: the policy that (Richard) Nixon had in the time It was called the War on Drugs, has failed here," said Petro from the presidential palace. "It is our duty before the United States, but also before the world, to not only say this, but to propose alternatives that will not kill more than a million Latin Americans."

Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, and Petro said that his own country is "the biggest culprit" because rural poverty makes drug cultivation and trafficking an attractive livelihood. Petro has moved to restrict the aerial spraying of herbicides and limited the resort to forced eradication of coca crops, promoting voluntary crop substitution instead. He is also proposing changes in the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US to allow those who cooperate with Colombia to avoid extradition to the US.

International

United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda from Legalizing Marijuana. In a rare move, the UK's Governor for Bermuda, who, as the queen's representative typically provides pro forma assent to the Bermudan government's actions, has intervened to block marijuana legalization in the British Overseas Territory. Even as incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss was vowing to "stand up for freedom and democracy around the world," her government was directing the governor to block the marijuana legalization bill. "I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted," the governor said. "The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda"under international anti-drugs conventions dating back to 1961. Liz Truss was foreign secretary until Tuesday when she became prime minister. In a statement, the Bermudian government said the move was "disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions. The Bermudian government said it would continue to move forward on marijuana legalization, which could put the country on a collision course with the UK. "The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment." Bermudian Premier David Burt has not commented on this move, but warned earlier that: "If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom."

CA Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Bill, FL Sets MedMJ Rules, More... (9/30/22)

Residents of La Paz, Bolivia, are growing weary of coca grower clashes, Colombia's new president calls for a regional assembly to plot alternatives to the war on drugs, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro at the Andean Presidential Council in Lima Monday. (Presidency of the Republic, Peru)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Sets Limits on Medical Marijuana Dosage, Supply. State health officials have released a rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on medical marijuana products. The emergency rule sets a 70-day cap of 24,500 milligrams of THC for non-smokable marijuana. It also sets dosage caps for other forms of ingestion, such as edibles, inhalation, and tinctures. The rule additionally caps purchases of smokable marijuana at 2.5 ounces over a 35-day period. It also creates a process for doctors to seek an exemption to quantity limits for patients they believe need to exceed those limits.

Harm Reduction

California Governor Signs Bill Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 1598, which er decriminalizes the possession of fentanyl test strips. The bill from Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel) amends the state's controlled substances law by removing drug testing equipment from its definition of drug paraphernalia. Similar bills have passed in numerous states this year. 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Spurs Protests by Residents Tired of Clashes. Activists and residents of the La Paz neighborhoods of Villa El Carmen, Villa Fatima, and Periferica were set to hit the streets to day to demand an end to the coca grower conflict that has disrupted normal life there for nearly the past month. The conflict pits two factions of the Adepcoca coca growers union, one pro-government and one anti-government, against each other and has resulted in weeks of clashes on the streets of the capital, especially around a disputed coca market in Villa El Carmen. Residents were planning to stage protests and erect roadblocks in all three neighborhoods today. They are demanding the government resolve the coca grower dispute.

Colombian President Seeks Regional Assembly to Rethink Drug Policy. At the Andean Presidential Council in Lima on Monday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called for a regional assembly to come up with alternatives to what he called the "failed" war on drugs. "We have failed in something called the war on drugs and its toll is a million dead Latin Americans, most of them Colombians, and more and more Mexicans and Central Americans," he said. “If we project further forward, we would have another million Latin Americans killed by homicide, millions of Latin Americans and North Americans in prison, most of black race, and there would be 2,800,000 Americans dying of overdoses from something we don't produce: fentanyl," he warned. Instead Petro proposed convening an assembly of Latin American countries to discuss alternative drug policies. In addition to the Colombian president and his Peruvian host, the leaders of two of the world's largest coca and cocaine producing countries, the Lima meeting was also attended by the presidents of Ecuador an Bolivia, the third largest coca and cocaine producer. 

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics, Odd SD Pot Poll, More... (8/25/22)

Colombia's new president says he will not extradite drug traffickers who quit the trade and comply with surrender conditions, a California bill to protect employees who use marijuana off-the-job is moving, and more.

Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Employees Awaits Senate Floor Vote. A measure that would ban employers from firing or punishing workers who use marijuana outside of work hours has already passed the Assembly and now awaits a Senate floor vote. Assembly Bill 2188, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would bar the use of hair, urine, and other bodily fluid tests for marijuana for employment purposes, with exemptions for workers subject to federal regulations or in safety-sensitive positions. The bill would, however, allow for saliva testing, which picks up the presence of active THC, not the inactive metabolites detected in hair and urine tests. If the bill passes, it is not clear Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would sign it; he is subject to competing pressures on the topic, with the Chamber of Commerce and other business and retail groups opposing it.

South Dakota Poll Suggests Marijuana Legalization Could Lose in November. A new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy has the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative with the support of only 43.8 percent of respondents, with 54.4 percent opposed to legalization. But the poll of 500 registered voters is raising some eyebrows, given that just two years ago, voters in the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative with 54 percent of the vote (only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court).

Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, pointed to some anomalous findings, such as support in the Sioux Falls metro area being at only 38.6 percent. But in 2020, the Sioux falls metro area state Senate districts all reported at least 57 percent approval for legalization and one had the highest support of any district in the state at 72.7 percent.

"When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me," said Schweich. "Some of the numbers don't really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we've seen. I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard," Schweich said. "I'm not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it's a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it's gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like."

Psychedelics

DEA Moves to Ban Two Obscure Psychedelics. The DEA is moving to place two obscure psychedelics on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, despite little evidence regarding addiction or other harms. The two substances are DOI (dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine) and DOC (2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine), first synthesized by psychedelic researcher Alexander Shulgin. Little research has been done on the hallucinogens, but they are said to have subjective effects similar to LSD but lasting longer. DEA says the two drugs have "potential" for abuse, but also says "To date, there are no reports of distressing responses or death associated with DOI in medical literature" and "The physiological dependence liability of DOI and DOC in animals and humans is not reported in scientific and medical literature. DEA also notes that in the past 17 years there has been one death of someone using DOC, but that was "in combination with other drugs."

International

Colombia's President Says Will Not Extradite Drug Traffickers Who Fulfill Deals with the Government. President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday said that drug traffickers who abandon the trade and comply with government surrender conditions will not be extradited to the United States. He also said his government, which was sworn in this month on a vow to bring "total peace" to the country, was reaching out to various armed groups who want to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The US views extradition as a vital tool against the drug trade, but Petro has questioned its effectiveness, and it has been a sore point for many Colombians. "Drug traffickers who do not negotiate with the state will be extradited, drug traffickers who negotiate with the state and re-offend will be extradited, without any kind of negotiation, to the United States," Petro said after a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. "Drug traffickers who negotiate legal benefits with the Colombian state and definitively stop being drug traffickers will not be extradited," he said.

Psychedelic Use Increasing in US, Colombia Looks to Cocaine Decriminalization, More... (8/22/22)

A Swiss pilot program allowing legal marijuana sales will begin in three weeks, Colombia's president plans a drug decrime move, and more.

LSD blotter paper (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million US Adults Use Hallucinogens. Hallucinogen use has increased since 2015, overall, and particularly among adults 26 and older, while use decreased in adolescents aged 12 -- 17 years, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. An estimated 5.5+ million people in the US used hallucinogens in the past year, in 2019, which represents an increase from 1.7 percent of the population aged 12 years and over, in 2002, to 2.2 percent, in 2019. LSD use between 2002 and 2019 increased overall and in all age groups, with the past 12-month rate increasing from 0.9 percent in 2002 to 4 percent in 2019 for those 18-25 years of age. PCP use between 2002 and 2019 decreased, as did the drug Ecstasy since 2015. The study is the first to provide formal statistical analyses of trends in the prevalence of hallucinogen use overall and by age groups during the last two decades. The findings are published online in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction.

International

Colombia's New President Set to Move on Cocaine Decriminalization. The government of new President Gustavo Petro is now proposing an end to "prohibition" and the beginning of a government-regulated cocaine market. Working through both national legislation and alliances with other leftist governments in the region, the Petro government hopes to make the country a laboratory for drug decriminalization. Felipe Tascón, Petro's drug czar, said Colombia hoped to take advantage of the new regional power configuration, where leftists control the governments of the trio of cocaine producing countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru) and plans to meet with his regional counterparts on the issue with an eye toward forging a unified regional bloc to take on the international drug conventions at the United Nations. Tascón also said the administration would back legislation to decriminalize both cocaine and marijuana, as well as ending aerial spraying and manual eradication of coca crops. He said that regulating cocaine sales would allow the government to wrest control of the market from drug traffickers and armed groups.

Swiss Pilot Project on Regulated Marijuana Sales Begins Next Month. A pilot project that will see marijuana sold through pharmacies to some 370 study participants is set to begin September 15. The "Weed Care" program will allow participants to legally buy marijuana from nine shops in Basel. Health officials hope the trial will help address political questions about marijuana regulation. Study participants are all current marijuana users who must fill out surveys throughout the 30-month study. "It's not about full legalization -- but regulation -- where consumption is possible in a protected setting. That's what we want to test now," said Lukas Engelberger, medical director for Basel.

ND Legal Pot Initiative Qualifies for Ballot, Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War, More... (8/16/22)

A South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative draws organized opposition, Mexico's week of cartel violence raises questions, and more.

North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Becomes Fifth State to Put a Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the Ballot This Year. The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach North Dakota has qualified for the November ballot. Similar measures have already qualified for the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota, while an effort in Oklahoma awaits a final signature count. The initiative would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over. They would be able to purchase, possess, transport, and distribute up to an ounce and 500 milligrams of THC. There is also a home grow provision allowing for up to three plants. The initiative also envisions a commercial sector licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaigns Sees Organized Opposition Emerge. Even as the sponsors of the IM 27 marijuana legalization initiative gear up to free the weed for the second time in two years (the 2020 victory was annulled by the state Supreme Court at the behest of GOP Gov. Kristi Noem), organized opposition is emerging. In late July, a group calling itself Protecting South Dakota's Kids filed paperwork with the state as a statewide ballot question committee. It is led by Jim Kinyon, with Fred Deutsch as treasurer. Deutsch is a Republic legislator who is fiercely anti-marijuana.

"Legal marijuana will destroy our communities," says the group's web site. "Protecting South Dakota Kids is a grassroots coalition made up of concerned citizens, healthcare professionals, pastors, educators, treatment providers, law enforcement, and other professionals." But IM 27 backers don't seem too concerned: "Quite a few politicians, including Governor Noem, have realized that disrespecting the will of the people is not a great political strategy," said campaign spokesman Matt Schweich. "We want to earn every vote we can and we want to exceed the 54% outcome in 2020."

Law Enforcement

Appalachian Senators Call for More Drug War. In a Tuesday letter to Dr.Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), a bipartisan group of senators from Appalachian states called for "additional assistance to combat drug-trafficking in the Appalachian region." The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty (both R-TN). They want more resources and more designations of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs).

"These additional federal resources, allocated to areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, are essential in eliminating drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. ONDCP has the statutory authority to create new HIDTAs and add new counties to existing HIDTAs once it has received a formal petition from a coalition of law enforcement agencies," the senators said in a press release. "Despite the enormous need, historically the Appalachian HIDTA has only gained approval for approximately 30 percent of petitions submitted. In the most recent round of designations, no counties within the Appalachian HIDTA -- which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia -- received the sought-after designation. This fact, juxtaposed with the region's manifest need, suggests strongly that the process of awarding needs to be revisited."

International

Mexico's Week of Cartel Violence Shakes Administration. Last week was a week of chaos as Mexican drug cartels ran amok in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez as well as in the states of Coahuila, Guanajauto, and Jalisco, and that has left the government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) looking for answers. AMLO himself suggested the attacks were part of a political conspiracy: "I don't know if there was a connection, a hidden hand, if this had been set up," he said. "What I do know is that our opponents, the corrupt conservatives, help in the black propaganda."

Defense Secretary Luis Crescencio Sandoval claimed the cartels lashed out because they feel they have been weakened. That may be a more plausible explanation than AMLO's. While AMLO took office in 2018 pledging "hugs not bullets" for violent drug trafficking organizations, in the past year his strategy has shifted Last year, Mexican soldiers were criticized for simply sitting in their bases and watching as cartels battled each other, but this year has seen more attempt to capture major traffickers, including the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero, and more meth lab busts.

"There has been a change in the strategy in fighting drug cartels. Andrés Manuel has been very much criticized recently for his 'hugs, not bullets strategy," security analyst David Saucedo said. "I think that due to pressure from Joe Biden, he is changing that and agreeing to capture high-profile drug traffickers. The narco-terrorism of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is a reaction to the president's change in strategy," Saucedo said. "If the Mexican president continues with this strategy of capturing high-ranking members of the Jalisco cartel, the Jalisco cartel is going to respond with acts of narcoterrorism in the states it controls as part of its vast empire."

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