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Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this website. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Report on Options for Safe Injection Sites, Berkeley Could Decriminalize LSD, More... (11/28/22)

Irish opposition parties are talking drug reform, the Congressional Research Service issues a report on how to get around legal proscriptions on safe injection sites, and more.

LSD in blotter acid form. There is a proposal in Berkeley to decriminalize it. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

Berkeley Ponders Becoming First City to Decriminalize Not Just Natural Psychedelics But LSD, Too. A proposed ordinance to decriminalize natural psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms that has been under study in the city for the past three years may be expanded to include the synthetic hallucinogen LSD as well. A pair of Berkeley community health commissioners are promoting the move, saying that LSD meets the definition of a psychedelic and that "nobody deserves to go to jail for having a psychedelic experience." They have now rewritten the 2019 proposed ordinance to include LSD, prompting Decriminalize Nature, the original sponsors o the ordinance to now oppose it. The Community Health Commission is set to vote Tuesday on whether to refer the rewritten ordinance to the city council. At least 15 towns or cities across the US have passed natural psychedelic decriminalization or lowest priority ordinances, but Berkeley's would be the first to include LSD.

Harm Reduction

Congressional Research Service Provide Options for Allowing Safe Injection Sites The service, a nonpartisan agency that provides information on all kinds of issues to Congress, has issued a report highlighting the "uncertainty" of the federal government's position on safe injection sites, but also pointing out that the facilities could operate securely if Congress passed legislation barring the Justice Department from interfering with them, similar to actions it has taken to allow state medical marijuana laws to be implemented. The Trump administration Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block a Philadelphia safe injection site from opening, and the Biden Justice Department has so far shown much less enthusiasm for attacking the harm reduction facilities, but their fate remains uncertain. While the Biden administration is evaluating the legality of the facilities, CRS said: "Congress could resolve that uncertainty by enacting legislation. If Congress decided to allow supervised consumption sites to operate, it could consider the breadth of such authorization. One option would be to exempt supervised consumption sites from CSA control entirely" Or Congress could approve a temporary spending bill rider "to exempt from federal prosecution facilities operating in compliance with state and local law, as it has done with state-sanctioned medical marijuana activities." A third option "would be for Congress to impose specific registration requirements for supervised consumption sites under the CSA, as it has done for entities that administer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction," CRS continued. The report is Recent Developments in Opioid Regulation Under the Controlled Substances Act.

International

.Two opposition parties are championing major reforms in drug policy, albeit with two distinct proposals. People Before Profit's Gino Kenny has filed a private members' bill to decriminalize the possession of up to seven grams of marijuana, while the Labor Party is proposing a broader drug decriminalization bill. Kenny said marijuana prohibition is "a waste of time and resources" and that "there is a groundswell of opinion for a different narrative and a different status quo." The Labor Party, meanwhile is set to file its drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, with proponents arguing again that persecuting drug users was a waste of the police and the courts' time. But Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan said that the current government follows a drug strategy that embodies a "health-led rather than a criminal justice approach to drug use," it has no plans to decriminalize any drugs. 

Biden to Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, Texas GOP Rep's Cartel Bill, More... (11/21/22)

A German provincial official seeks to scuttle the federal government's marijuana legalizattion plans, the first marijuana reform legislation passed by Congress is about to be signed into law, and more.

A conservative Texas congressman files yet another punitive bill aimed at the border. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Will Sign Marijuana Research Bill This Week, White House Says. A bill to remove hurdles to marijuana research that passed the House two months ago and the Senate last week will be signed into law this week, the White House said. The bill, HR 8454, is the first marijuana reform legislation to ever pass Congress. The bill will create a more efficient pathway for researchers seeking large quantities of marijuana and will require that the attorney general act withing 60 days to either approve an application or seek more information from the applicant. The bill will also allow researchers to grow their own marijuana.

Law Enforcement

Texas GOP Representative to File Bill to More Harshly Punish Cartels. Conservative Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is set to file a bill that would significantly ramp up penalties for people involved with Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The "Declaring War on the Cartels Act" (not yet available on the congressional website) would make crimes related to drug trafficking, human smuggling, sex trafficking, violence, fraud, and immigration offenses committed by cartel members punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. It would also bar cartel members and their families from admission to the US and allow for the revocation of naturalized citizenship and green cards for people convicted of such activity. It would also allow for the seizure of cartel funds, with those monies going into a special fund to increase enforcement against them. This is just the latest border bill Crenshaw has filed. He has also filed bills to allow for the longer detention of immigrant minors, ban asylum claims except at ports of entry, and to increase the number of ICE prosecutors.

 

International

Colombian Coca Grower Communities in Caqueta Declare Humanitarian Siege to Protest Forced Eradication. Coca growing communities in Caqueta state have mobilized to protest violent forced coca eradication and the national government’s failure five years after peace accords were signed to implement agreements for voluntary coca eradication and alternative development. More than 22,000 families signed up for that program, which is stalled. Peasants pointed to violent eradication campaigns in the Solano, Milán, La Montañita and El Pajuil areas in Caquetá. Peasant groups are calling for dialog to resolve issues that are pitting the peasantry against the military. The Colombian military claimed in August that forced eradication had ended, but the communities in Caqueta beg to differ.

 

Bavarian Health Minister Asks EU to Scuttle Germany’s Marijuana Legalization Plan. Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek met in Brussels with the European Union’s director-general for migration and home affairs last week in a bid to block the German federal government’s proposal to legalize marijuana. Holetschek is a member of the center-right Union bloc and strongly opposes Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s legalization blueprint. As part of that plan, the German proposal is being sent to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to ensure it is compatible with EU and global drug laws. The German government says it will only move forward with legalization if the plan is approved by the EU. Holetschek warned that "the German government’s planned cannabis legalization doesn’t just endanger health, but I am convinced that it also violates European law."

More Than 300,000 Pot Arrests in 2020, FDA Points Toward OTC Naloxone, More... (11/17/22)

Congress passes a marijuana research bill, a bipatisan pair of senators file a psychedelic research and rescheduling bill, and more,

The FDA is moving to make the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone over-the-counter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Despite Legalization in Nearly Half the Country, More Than 300,000 People Were Arrested for Marijuana in 2020. Some 317,79 people were arrested on marijuana charges in 2020, according to the FBI. That is a 36 percent decline from 2019, but it still the equivalent of arresting every resident of a mid-size city such as Orlando, Corpus Christi, or Riverside, California. The marijuana arrest figure is also for the first time not the most common cause for a drug arrest, with 36 percent of drug arrests for stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, compared to 27 percent for arresting marijuana. Black Americans continued to bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement, accounting for 38 percent of all pot arrests despite making up only 13 percent of the population.

Congress Passes Marijuana Research Bill. With a final vote in the Senate Wednesday, both houses of Congress have approved the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454). The bill now goes to the desk of President Joe Biden (D). If he signs it, it will open the way to further research into the medical benefit of marijuana and CBD. Under the bill, the DEA must allow registered entities to manufacture, distribute, dispense, and possess marijuana for research purposes. "There is substantial evidence that marijuana-derived medications can and are providing major health benefits. Our bill will make it easier to study how these medications can treat various conditions, resulting in more patients being able to easily access safe medications,: said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who introduced the bill along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) introduced the bill in the House.

Harm Reduction

FDA Announces Preliminary Assessment that Certain Naloxone Products Have the Potential to be Safe and Effective for Over-the-Counter Use. The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued a Federal Register notice, Safety and Effectiveness of Certain Naloxone Hydrochloride Drug Products for Nonprescription Use, that may help facilitate the development and approval of certain nonprescription naloxone drug products, including through the switch of certain naloxone drug products from prescription status to nonprescription status. Naloxone is a medicine that can help reduce opioid overdose deaths and when administered timely, usually within minutes of the first signs of an opioid overdose, can counter the overdose effects. "Today’s action supports our efforts to combat the opioid overdose crisis by helping expand access to naloxone," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. "The agency will keep overdose prevention and reduction in substance use disorders as a key priority and area of intense strategic focus for action as rapidly as possible."

Psychedelics

Cory Booker, Rand Paul File Bill to Reschedule Psychedelic Breakthrough Therapies and Remove Research Barriers. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed a bill on Thursday that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer breakthrough therapies like psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule I to II, while also removing research barriers for strictly controlled substances, the Breakthrough Therapies Act. The move came on the same day that House lawmakers announced the formation of psychedelic caucus aimed at promoting new treatments from currently controlled substances. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create a procedure where current Schedule I drugs could be designated as breakthrough therapies could be transferred to a lower schedule that would make it easier to research them and promote drug development.

KY Governor Signs MedMJ Executive Order, AMA Endorses Fentanyl Test Strips, More... (11/16/22)

A congressional committee takes up marijuana legalization, Pennsylvania's governor signs a fentanyl test strip bill into law, and more.

Marijuana got a hearing on the Hill Tuesday. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Holds Hearing on Marijuana Legalization. The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing Tuesday on marijuana legalization. Led by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the committee examined "Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level," using a joint memo published last Friday to lay out the main points of discussion.

Witnesses included Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts), Amber Littlejohn (Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce), and Jillian Snider (Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties). Among topics covered were the failed war on drugs, the need for state-level action to accompany President Biden's marijuana pardon announcement, veterans' access to medical marijuana, and hemp's potential as a building material. No votes were taken.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing Some Residents to Use Medical Marijuana. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing patients who meet certain requirements to use and possess medical marijuana. Those eligible must suffer from one of 21 specified medical conditions. The medicine must be purchased in a state where it is legal (and keep your receipt!) and will be limited to eight ounces. Patients must get a letter from a physician certifying that they suffer from one of the specified conditions. The plan goes into effect on January 1.

Harm Reduction

AMA Reiterates Call for Harm Reduction Measures to Attack Overdose Problem. At its annual interim meeting this month, the American Medical Association passed a resolution encouraging the use of harm reduction practices to reduce overdose deaths in the county. The resolution called on city and state medical societies to advocate for harm reduction policies that create immunity for "drug paraphernalia" used in harm reduction, such as fentanyl test strips. "Fentanyl test strips are a point-of-care test that identifies fentanyl contamination in a drug supply with a specificity of 87.5% and a sensitivity of 95.2%," the resolution notes, but also notes that "possession of fentanyl test strips is explicitly legal in only 22 states."

But it is not just fentanyl test strips that the AMA wants to see: "The AMA has strongly supported increased use of a broad array of harm-reduction efforts to reduce death and other harms from nonmedical use of drugs, including for people who inject drugs," the group said. "These efforts include greater access to naloxone, syringe services programs and pilot programs for overdose prevention sites/supervised injection-use facilities. Fentanyl strips are part of this effort, and we urge states to take steps to help a vulnerable population."

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Fentanyl Test Strip Legislation in Bid to Reduce Overdoses. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) held a ceremonial signing Wedmesday for a new law (Act 111) that legalizes the use of fentanyl test strips and other forms of drug checking to prevent overdose deaths. The legislation passed the state House and Senate unanimously before going to the Governor's desk. The most recent data show Pennsylvania had the third highest number of overdose deaths of any state in the country for the 12-month period ending May 2022. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to easily test the drugs for the presence of fentanyl.

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."

Opiate Treatment Program (OTP) Barriers, Schumer Says Progress on SAFE Banking Act +, More... (11/1/22)

There's a drug crackdown going on in India's Punjab, Afghan drug prices are rising despite questions about whether the Taliban ban is actually happening, and more.

An Aghan opium poppy field. It is almost planting time again. Will the Taliban ban actually take place? Stay tuned. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Schumer Says Senate Close to Passing Marijuana Banking, Expungements Bill After Talks with Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that Congress is "very close" to filing and then passing the SAFE Banking Act + bill, which includes provisions including banking protections for state-legal marijuana businesses and expungements of past marijuana convictions. Schumer cited progress he had made in talks with a "bunch of Republican senators."

Schumer had blocked earlier efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which has passed the House seven times, but now appears ready to move on it as prospects for a broader legalization bill fade. "We are getting very close," Schumer said. "I am working in a bipartisan way with Democrats and Republicans to take the SAFE Banking Act, which allows financial institutions to involve themselves in cannabis companies and lend money to them -- but it also does some things for justice, such as expunging a record. So, expunging the records is important, and we're getting clos We may be able to get something done rather soon. I'm working with a bunch of Republican senators, a bunch of Democratic senators, to get something passed."

Drug Treatment

State Opioid Treatment Program Regulations Put Evidence-Based Care Out of Reach for Many. Opioid treatment programs (OTPs) are the only health care modalities that can offer methadone as well as buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone to patients. They are the only facilities that can offer methadone, but federal and state rules not based on evidence are curtailing access to high-quality OTP care, the Pew Trust reports in new research.

Among barriers to OTP treatment, Pew found that 20 states require a new OTP to seek state approval baed on demonstrating a need for services before opening, seven states impose restrictive zoning rules on OTPS that don't apply to other health are facilities, 10 states don't allow clients to take medication home in the first 30 days of treatment, 48 states allow OTPs to throw patients out of the program for not being abstinent from opioids or other drugs, and 23 states specify a counseling schedule for patients rather than providing individualized care. Click on the link for methodology and a full data set.

International

Afghan Drug Prices Soared After Taliban Ban, Despite Little Evidence of Enforcement. Illegal drug prices have skyrocketed in Afghanistan since the Taliban banned the drug trade in April, even though there is only limited evidence that the militants are enforcing the ban. Opium prices have increased more than 50 percent, while methamphetamine prices have also risen, according to countrywide data gathered by the private, UK-based satellite imagery company Alcis. While analysts said the ban is not yet widely enforced, prices are rising based on fears of a future crackdown. A new opium poppy planting season is about to get underway, and it is unclear to what degree local Taliban commanders intend to or even can enforce a ban on poppy production. Satellite data, though, has shown a crackdown on ephedra (used to manufacture meth) markets and meth labs already underway.

But any crackdown would come in the face of a massive nationwide economic crisis that could drive people away from supporting the Taliban. "The things that people used to survive on in the face of a drugs ban -- in terms of joining the [army], working in the cities in construction -- those options are gone," David Mansfield, a researcher on the report and expert on Afghanistan's drugs trade, said. "Do local Taliban... press on this and risk increasing a humanitarian crisis, alienating a population, or do they let it ride because of the fear of resistance?"

India's Punjab Police in Massive Drug Crackdown. Police in the Punjab have arrested 6,997 drug smugglers since July and registered 5,436 FIRs (first information reports -- the initial report of a possible criminal offense), of which 580 are for possessing large quantities of drugs. The crackdown is part of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's "war against the drug menace plaguing the state."

Between roadblocks and other searches, police have seized nearly 260 kilograms of heroin, as well as an additional 147.5 kilograms seized at the ports of Gujarat and Maharashtra. They also seized 300 kilograms of raw heroin, 197 kilograms of marijuana and nearly three million pills, capsules, and vials of pharmaceutical opioids. State police chief Gaurav Yadav has called on police to investigate all leads in every case no matter how small and to aggressively seize the assets of drug suspects.

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.

The Public Stands Behind Oregon's Drug Decrim and Addiction Funding Law [FEATURE]

It has been nearly two years since Oregon voters approved Measure 110, a sweeping drug decriminalization and public health services funding initiative, and it still has strong public support. That could be because it is producing the kinds of results Oregonians want to see.

Measure 110 is bringing addiction recovery services not just to Portland, but to places like this, too. (Pixabay)
In voting for Measure 110, Oregonians sought to move the emphasis of drug policy from law enforcement to a public health approach, and that is what they are getting. Drug possession arrests, which had already dropped by half in 2020 because of the pandemic, significantly decreased after Measure 110 took effect on February 1, 2021, according to data from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, falling another 65 percent from the 2020 levels in the first six months of 2022.

And Measure 110, which tapped into marijuana tax revenues to fund a broad spectrum of addiction services -- from low-barrier drug treatment and peer support and recovery to overdose prevention and housing and employment support (but not drug treatment covered by Medicaid or insurance) -- is setting the stage for a massive expansion of those services by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the field.

Late last month, the Oversight & Accountability Council, the body tasked with overseeing the distribution of the funding, approved the remainder of the initial $302 million made available under Measure 110, and on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it had finished awarding that money to more than 237 service providers in the form of grants.

With the state suffering more than a thousand overdose deaths in the past year, there is criticism that authorities have moved too slowly. Oregon Health Authority behavioral health director Steve Allen acknowledged as much, saying the agency had learned it needed to give more support and technical assistance to the volunteer committee tasked with grantmaking decisions.

"We understand the frustration this caused in our communities," Allen said. "When you do something for the first time you're going to make mistakes."

But now the money is out there, and it will help fund 237 service providers in 36 Behavioral Health Regional Networks (BHRNs), aimed at ensuring that help is available in even the most remote rural corners of the state. That includes 111 groups providing screening and behavioral health needs assessments, 112 groups doing individual intervention planning, 113 groups doing low-barrier drug treatment, 172 groups doing peer support and mentoring, 88 groups providing housing services, 84 groups providing harm reduction services, and 51 groups doing job support.

The money is going to allow these groups to expand their services by hiring and training new staff, securing additional facilities, buying vehicles for mobile support services, and even purchasing housing.

"Measure 110 changes the system so that there is no wrong door to access services," said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of the Health Justice Recovery Alliance. "Thanks to Measure 110, you don't have to get arrested before you are maybe offered help. Measure 110 is changing the addiction recovery service landscape so that regardless of the path, supportive services will be more readily available closer to home."

"It's been a long road, but we're ecstatic to see all of the Measure 110 funding for the 2021-2023 biennium finally being approved and going out to service providers to expand critical addiction services in Oregon communities. This is the first step in ensuring Oregon delivers on its promise of replacing a criminal legal approach to drugs with a public health approach and offering the rest of the country a glimpse of what is ultimately possible when we offer people support instead of punishment," said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was a key supporter of Measure 110 and which is partnering with the Health Justice Recovery Alliance on implementation.

Even with the slow rollout, Oregonians are liking what they are seeing. A poll released this month by Data for Progress found majority support for Measure 110 in every region of the state -- even the conservative eastern an southwestern areas -- and a strong bipartisan majority who agree that problematic drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not one for the criminal justice system.

When asked whether Measure 110 should remain in place, 58 percent said yes. That included 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents, but only 31 percent of Republicans.

The polling suggests that tying drug decriminalization to the expansion of recovery services is key to getting it over the finish line. When asked about individual components of the program, 91 percent supported peer mentoring, 90 percent supported employment help, 86 percent supported funding addiction recovery, 84 percent supported housing assistance, but only 62 percent supported harm reduction measures and only 61 percent supported decriminalization itself.

It is almost as if Oregonians made a bargain with themselves: Give us strong measures to aid recovery and we will grudgingly accept such vanguard measures as harm reduction and decriminalizing drugs. These pollsresults should send a clear message to people contemplating future decrim initiatives about how to broaden support for them.

White House Issues Annual Drug Countries List, CA Governor Signs Forced Treatment Bill, More... (9/16/22)

A federal appeals court shoots down yet another effort to move marijuana off Schedule I, new research finds prentant Black women are more likely to be tested for marijuana, and more.

The annual list of naughty and nice drug producing and trafficking nations is released. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. A group of defendants who had been convicted on federal marijuana charges had their bid to have the substance removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act shot down by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of August. They had argued that the scheduling of marijuana had no rational basis because it does not meet the criteria for a Schedule I drug and the court should "strike the offending statutory classification as unconstitutional"and leave reclassification to Congress. But the appeals disagreed, ruling that there is a "conceivable basis" for the classification.

Blacks Disproportionately Drug Tested for Marijuana During Labor, Analysis Finds. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that patients ordered to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Black and are also likely to be on subsidized health insurance plans. The research assessed drug screening practices at one St. Louis hospital and found doctors ordered marijuana-related drug tests in 753 patients out of just under 4,000 deliveries. Seventy percent of those subjected to testing were Black. Marijuana tests were also more likely for those patients who were younger or on public insurance. Most subjected to testing came up negative, but of those who did positive, 90 percent were referred to child welfare authorities, even though there were no statistically significant differences between them and other mothers in terms of preterm birth rates or other indicators of natal health.

"Isolated marijuana use was a poor predictor of other substance exposure in our cohort, but a urine drug screening test result positive for marijuana exposed a historically underserved population that is already subject to pervasive systemic racism in the medical field to further stigmatization without changing outcomes. The utility of using isolated marijuana use as a criterion for urine drug screening appears limited in benefit but rife with inequitable potential to harm and should be carefully reconsidered in labor and delivery units for necessity," the authors concluded.

Drug Treatment

California Governor Signs Forced Drug Treatment Bill. To the dismay of drug reform and mental health advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 1338, the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Act, which create a civil court system in all counties that would force people who are experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health issues to undergo an involuntary court process and treatment plan. Although the CARE Act sailed through the legislature, the proposal was opposed by a wide range of advocates who feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction. It will take away people’s basic right to make their own decisions and force them into court-mandated treatment programs, which have been shown to often exacerbate harms while worsening existing health disparities and the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal legal system. The CARE Act will fail to meet the urgent needs of our communities or offer a path to effective evidence-based treatment, recovery and other health services for Californians who are unhoused, struggling with substance use disorder, or experiencing other mental health issues, they argued.

Foreign Policy

White House Issues Annual List of Major Drug Trafficking and Producing Countries; Contains the Usual Suspects. The White House has released its annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2023 and has identified the following countries as major transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The annual exercise also designated four countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Notably, all four of these countries are political foes of the US, unlike major drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia and Mexico, which are US allies.

Grassley, Whitehouse Lead Senate Caucus in Issuing Report onStrategies to Combat Money Laundering By Drug Cartels. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RR), Chairman of the caucus, havereleased a bipartisan report entitled: Strengthening U.S. Efforts to Attack the Financial Networks of Cartels. The report offers recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by closing loopholes in the U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) framework that enable narcotics traffickers to obscure and access their illicit proceeds.Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and James Risch (R-ID) have also endorsed the report.

Its recommendations include: Help partner nations strengthen their institutions to better defend against corruption and implement justice sector reforms; better track whole-of-government efforts to combat narcotics-related illicit finance;  deploy experts in narcotics-related illicit finance to assist partner nations; authorize innovative and effective programs to combat international money laundering, such as Trade Transparency Units; use regulatory authorities to close loopholes in the U.S. AML framework, including by: ensuring greater transparency in the cross-border transportation of stored value or prepaid access devices, and fully implementing the beneficial ownership requirements of the Corporate Transparency Act; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and pursue the maximum allowable criminal penalties for culpable banks, employees, and executives who fail to timely report suspicious transactions; and address vulnerabilities in the AML framework by swiftly enacting the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance, and Counterfeiting Act. The report does not explain how these proposals to deepen the drug war would lead to any different result than decades of previous prohibitionist measures. 

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