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Stopping the Philippine Drug War Killings

Human Rights Challenge: One Year Later,
Drug War Extrajudicial Killings Continue


side event at the UN Commission on
Narcotic Drugs meeting, Vienna

featuring Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV

March 15, 1:10pm CET
live stream through our Facebook page

 

One of today's urgent human rights issues is extrajudicial killings in the Philippines drug war. Since taking office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has orchestrated a brutal campaign whose victims may exceed 16,000 as we approach the end of 2017. Other abuses have affected hundreds of thousands, and the killings are spreading to Indonesia.

 
from Amnesty International video,
"If You Are Poor You Are Killed"

StoptheDrugWar.org plays a prominent role in international advocacy on this issue. In March 2017 Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines sent us a speech by video for an event we held at the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. In November 2017 we released a sign-on statement, coinciding with the ASEAN Summit in Manila, calling for action by the UN and major aid donor countries.

Currently we are working with Filipino American advocates and others to pass legislation in the US Congress placing human rights conditions on aid to the Philippines, while funding positive alternatives to the drug war there, and to encourage such moves by other donor countries. And we are engaged in other work on the issue, including support for the campaign to free Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.

On February 28, we held a protest at the Philippines Embassy in Washington, DC, video of which went viral in the Philippines and garnered nearly 300,000 views as of this writing:

These efforts, which continue into 2018, are part of a global drug policy reform effort that StoptheDrugWar.org engaged in decisively in fall 2014. Much of that involves the United Nations, and our 501(c)(3) US nonprofit organization, DRCNet Foundation Inc., is an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Our international drug policy efforts are led for our organization by our founder and 24-year executive director, David Borden, who tweets as @stopthedrugwar, and who starting in 2018 will also tweet as @BordenUNEventPH. Our organization's blog will have a significant focus on the Philippines, also beginning in 2018.

 
 
TIME magazine did the first posting
of the vice president's video,
embedding it from our YouTube account.

Vice President Robredo's video and the UN Event

Our UN event drew massive attention in the Philippines. We released the video the Monday before, offering TIME magazine the exclusive first posting. TIME followed up with an interview with Robredo. Philippine media took extensive notice; it trended on Twitter and was covered by wire services and outlets throughout Asia and the Gulf region.

Unfortunately though not surprisingly, Duterte's forces hit back. The Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and the president's Spokesperson both claimed the vice president's office (OVP) must have timed the video's release to coincide with other events that week. They principally pointed to an impeachment complaint that a congressman filed against Duterte the day after we released the video. A resolution in the European Parliament calling for the release of Duterte critic Sen. Leila de Lima, passed the morning before our event, was also in the mix. They presented this as evidence Robredo was engaged in a "destabilization campaign" against the government.

 
Robredo's opponents used the
video to attack her politically.

While still in Vienna, we released a statement to media refuting those claims. It documented that UN staff had scheduled side events nearly two months earlier, and attested that OVP had made no requests of us. (Our event appears on page ten of the 2017 CND side events list; a screenshot of that document's properties page shows it was published on January 23, compared with the event's March 16 date.) Sen. Kiko Pangilinan distributed the statement to their media list, and we also contacted Philippine media. (See news links below.)

 

 
 
coverage of our statement
defending the vice president, CNN
Philippines mobile home page

The statement helped to dilute the specific charge of a coordinated campaign by the vice president. But Duterte's team had ignited a political firestorm over the video which already had its own momentum, and which turned into a campaign to impeach Robredo. At the height of the furor, opportunistic celebrities even held a concert and rally against Robredo. (Their campaign reached the US west coast, when a Filipino American group in Hayward, California held an affinity rally.)

As we approach the end of 2017, Philippine Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has not announced whether he will move on impeachment, but for now at least the storm has abated. Robredo's popularity has rebounded – while Duterte's has diminished, somewhat – and she has continued to speak out against the killings.

The political heat the vice president took for participating in our event is unfortunate, but it's just one in a set of assaults that have been waged on Robredo since she took office, and on others. Targets of the Duterte camp's attack on Philippine democracy include Senators, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice (they are holding the impeachment hearings right now), the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights and others. Along with Duterte, a mover and shaker of the manipulations is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the former dictator who lost a close race to Robredo for vice president and is challenging the vote count. One of the tactics the Duterte camp has used is a sophisticated social media manipulation campaign involving paid trolls and bots.

We are continuing our advocacy on the Philippines, and we hope to use the media profile we've gained in that country, and the numerous contacts we've made in the Philippines and internationally, to up the pressure on the Duterte administration and building the international movement for stopping the killings and for accountability. Information on some of our current work on this appears below.

 
Philippine officials provided the
government's response.
(photo by Joey Tranchina)

First, footage of our event is available online here. Along with the Robredo statement and an Amnesty international video, it includes presentations by Chito Gascon, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines; Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Prime Minister of Thailand and current chair of event cosponsor the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (video); Lousewies van der Laan, former leader of the Dutch D66 party (Skype); Alison Smith, lead counsel and head of international criminal justice programs at the NGO No Peace Without Justice; Marco Perduca, former Senator from Italy and a member of our board of directors; and a written statement from US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). We also have transcripts and a detailed summary.

 
 

Co-moderator Marco Perduca, former
senator of Italy, and David Borden
speaking with Amnesty International's
Daniel Joloy, other speakers Alison
Smith (just off screen) and Lousewies
van der Laan (on Skype).
(photo by Joey Tranchina)

News articles mentioning the event are too numerous to list here, but these are some key ones:

The Philippines' largest broadsheet newspaper and 8th most read web site in the country, The Inquirer, interviewed our executive director David Borden, as well as fellow event speaker Alison Smith, two weeks after the event. The interview, titled "Group says Duterte, not Robredo, upsetting int'l community," was widely read, shared by Inquirer readers nearly 9,000 times.

A transcript of the video is posted on Vice President Robredo's web site.

Articles covering our statement defending the vice president against the Speaker's false attack:

Articles covering our publishing of the full event footage:

Global Sign-On Statement

 
 
 

In the lead up to the November 2017 Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was hosted by Duterte in the Philippines, we organized a global sign-on statement which calls for a UN-led investigation of the drug war killings; for the leaders of ASEAN member states and other world leaders attending to speak up about the issue; and for international aid donor governments to impose human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, while funding positive programs that could serve as an alternative to the Philippine drug war, and funding the work of human rights advocates.

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals endorsed the statement. Of the 240 NGO endorsers, more than 50 are based in Asia, including a majority of ASEAN member states as well as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are also several Asia-wide networks devoted to issues such as HIV, transgender and drug user concerns, and youth democracy activism.

Some notable signatories on the document include the National Organization for Women (NOW), Doctors of the World, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG, a nationwide Philippines human rights lawyers group founded during the Marcos dictatorship years), Treatment Communities of America, prominent human rights advocate and actor of MASH fame Mike Farrell, former police chief of Seattle Norm Stamper, and others.

A political component of the statement's outreach efforts, which was in its early stages at the time of the statement's release, secured endorsements from legislators in Canada, Italy, Cambodia, and Washington State, as well as other political and governmental officials from Singapore, Canada and the UK.

The statement was covered in articles on four important Philippines news outlets, including the Inquirer, Rappler, the Philippine Star and InterAksyon. The Interaksyon article credited our coalition with renewing global calls for a UN-led probe into the drug war killings.

We continue to accept signatories for the statement, and are currently formulating the next stage of the effort, which may include a similar statement with slight modifications to update it and enable certain additional major organizations to endorse the language. A key objective of the next stage is to get major aid donor countries including the United States to adopt the policies on aid that are called for in the statement.

Legislative Lobbying

A bipartisan bill in the US Senate, "The Philippine Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," would enact human rights conditions on some law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, based on certifications by the US State Dept., while funding public health programs to address substance issues as well as human rights work. There is similar language in the current version of the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

 
 

We are working with a coalition that includes Filipino American organizations and faith networks, to pass this legislation as part of the upcoming appropriations process, or if not then later during the 2018 session of Congress. A recent update and action alert we published is online here, and includes information on what the most key states and congressional districts are. We have a write-to-Congress form supporting S. 1055 online here.

We view this legislation as important not only for its potential impact on the Duterte administration's political cost-benefit analysis on this issue, but also because of the inconsistent approach to the matter taken by the current US administration. While the State Dept. has reportedly raised some concerns about the drug war killings, President Trump has made comments which seem to green-light them.

Specifically, in December 2016 Trump and Duterte spoke on the phone, after which Duterte claimed that Trump praised his drug policies. While Duterte could have made that up, the Trump team never rebutted the claim.

After Trump and Duterte spoke again in April 2017, a statement on the White House web site said they discussed " fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs," with no qualification of that statement to exclude extrajudicial killings from Trump's apparent praise. A transcript of the April conversation leaked to Rappler quotes Trump congratulating Duterte for doing an "'unbelievable job' in the war on drugs."

Finally, Trump was silent about the issue during his appearance at the ASEAN Summit, at least publicly. A White House spokesperson said that Trump and Duterte talked briefly about human rights, but did not elaborate.

– END –

Chronicle AM: Bangladeshi Drug War Gets Ugly, OK MedMJ Init Polling Well, More... (5/25/18)

The bloody Filipino drug war model spreads to Bangladesh, Congress continues to undercut District of Columbia marijuana and drug policy, a new poll has the Oklahoma medical marijuana initiative cruising toward victory next month, and more.

Oklahomans appear poised to approve a medical marijuana initiative a month from now. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Panel Approves Continued Meddling in DC Marijuana, Drug Laws. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Thursday approved a spending bill that would continue to bar the District of Columbia from expanding marijuana legalization to include taxed and regulated marijuana sales. The bill also adds a new bar on using funds to support opening safe injection sites.

Connecticut Democrats Endorse Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party formally endorsed marijuana legalization at its convention last weekend. Legalization now becomes part of the state party's platform, which now includes this language: "The time for legalization of Marijuana has come. Doing so will raise revenue, which can be used to benefit those suffering from the disease of addiction to prescription pain medications and other opioids."

North Carolina Bill Would Legalize Up to Four Ounces. Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. (D) has filed a bill that would legalize the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana. The bill would also raise the bar from felony possession of marijuana from 1.5 ounces to 16 ounces. The measure is House Bill 944.

Wisconsin's Milwaukee County Will Vote on Non-Binding Legalization Referendum. The county board of supervisors voted 15-1 Thursday to place an advisory referendum on marijuana legalization on the November ballot. Voters will be asked: "Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?"

Medical Marijuana

Illinois House Panel Approves Using Medical Marijuana to Fight Opioid Addiction. The House Executive Committee voted 8-3 Thursday for a bill that would allow people who qualify for opioid prescriptions to apply for the state's medical marijuana program. The measure, Senate Bill 336, has already passed the Senate, but still needs some cleanup provision enacted in the Executive Committee before it goes to the House floor.

Oklahoma Poll Has Medical Marijuana Initiative in Good Shape. A new Sooner Poll has the medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, cruising toward victory in next month's election. The opposition has managed to drag approval down from 61.8% in January to 57.5% now, but that's still enough support to win a month from now.

International

Bangladesh's Philippines-Style Drug War Deepens. At least 50 people have been shot and killed by police in what human rights activists say is a politically motivated crackdown on drug trafficking. While the killings are part of an announced anti-drug campaign announced by the government, at least one family is telling reporters their relative was an opposition political activist who had nothing to do with drugs. That family and at least one other has reported their relatives being taken into custody by police hours before being found dead in what the government describes as nighttime shootouts with drug gangs. The campaign has only been underway for about 10 days.

Mexican Tourism Secretary Again Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid has once again called for marijuana legalization as a means to combat criminality and insecurity. In January, he called for legalization to stop violence in Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, home of Cancun. "I think that in Mexico we should move toward a regulation at the state level," he said in an interview with Reuters. "Maintaining marijuana in illegality is giving money to drug traffickers, and with that money what these gentlemen do is that they bribe more police, buy more weapons and are more violent," he added.

Chronicle AM: De Blasio Tells NYPD to Stop Pot Arrests, Aghan Opium Bumper Crop, More... (5/22/18)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to see an end to public pot smoking arrests, Utah medical marijuana supporters are fending off a court challenge, the "Philippine disease" appears to be spreading to Bangladesh, Afganistan sees a bumper poppy crop, and more.

Afghanistan had its largest opium poppy crop ever last year, the UNODC reports. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Opposition Marijuana Poll Has Initiative in Lead, But Under 50%. A new poll commissioned by opponents of Michigan's marijuana legalization initiative had it with 48% support, 11% undecided, and 42% opposed. After pollsters produced arguments in favor of the initiative, support stayed at 48%, but opposition dropped to 36%. After pollsters introduced arguments against the initiative, support actually jumped one point to 49%.

New York Mayor Tells Cops To Stop Arresting People for Public Marijuana Use. Over the weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) told the NYPD to just issue summonses for public pot smoking instead of making arrests. The NYPD already has a working group that has begun to evaluate its marijuana enforcement policies and will present recommendations within 30 days. Now the mayor has made it clear that an end to arrests for public pot smoking is one of the changes he wants.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Supporters Fight Back in Court. Supporters of the medical marijuana initiative showed up in court Monday to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the initiative from going before the voters in November. The Utah Patients Coalition is seeking to block a lawsuit from Drug Safe Utah that argues state officials were not legally allowed to approve the initiative.

West Virginia Lawmakers Seek Special Session for Medical Marijuana Financing. Some state lawmakers are seeking to force Gov. Jim Justice (D) to call a legislative special session to address financial problems with the state's medical marijuana law. A special session that ended Monday failed to address the issue. For another special session to be called, at least three-fifths of each chamber must sign on. That figure has been met in the Senate, but not yet in the House.

International

UN Says Afghan Opium Poppy Production Increased Sharply Last Year. Opium poppy production expanded sharply in Afghanistan last year, increasing from roughly 500,000 acres in 2016 to more than 700,000 acres last year. That's an all-time high, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said. UNODC said no single factor explained the increase but cited "political instability, lack of government control, and security" as main drivers.

Bangladeshi Opposition Warns of Police Killings of Drug Suspects. The country's leading opposition party, the BNP, on Monday accused the government of "indulging in extrajudicial killings" in the pursuit of a country-wide anti-drug drive. "A fresh drive to control narcotics has begun," BNP General Secretary Mirza Fakrul Islam Almagir said. "We also want the country to be free from drug abuse and those involved in it to be brought to justice. But it does not mean people should be killed unlawfully without trial." Almagir added that the government was now killing drug suspects in just the same way it had unlawfully killed opposition leaders and activists. Almagir also suggested the ruling Awami League should clean up its own house first.

Illinois Cop's Warning: If You Legalize Weed, We'll Have to Kill Our Drug Dogs

As the state legislature ponders a bill that could make Illinois the 10th state to legalize marijuana, law enforcement is getting nervous. Old anti-marijuana shibboleths have lost their potency, but the Macon County Sheriff's Office has a brand new reason not to free the weed: They will have to kill their drug dogs.

drug dog at work (Creative Commons)
As the Daily Pantagraph reported in an article about what happens to marijuana-sniffing drug dogs in states where it is legal, the dogs typically are trained to detect a number of drugs and it is difficult to retrain them not to alert on marijuana. Other states that have legalized it have either retired their pot-sensitive dogs, tried to retrain them, or used them to search for large, illicit amounts of marijuana.

But Chad Larner, training director of the K-9 Training Academy in Macon County, scoffed at the notion of retraining, saying it would be "extreme abuse" to try to do so, and "Larner said a number of dogs would likely have to be euthanized."

That claim is a ridiculous "red herring," Illinois NORML executive director Dan Linn told the Pantagraph. "The idea that legalizing for adults to have an ounce on them will equal… all these dogs being euthanized, that seems kind of ridiculous and hyperbolic," he said.

Other Illinois drug dog cops contacted by the Pantagraph largely agreed with Linn. They said retired drug dogs "typically live with their handlers" and they "dismissed the idea that any would be euthanized because of retirement."

The Macon County sheriff doesn't go as far as his drug dog trainer, but he is a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization because… drug dogs.

"The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you're going to have to replace all of your dogs," said Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett. "So to me, it's a giant step forward for drug dealers, and it's a giant step backwards for law enforcements and the residents of the community."

Sheriff Buffett isn't just any sheriff. He's the son of Omaha billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and he's used his family wealth both to finance law enforcement spending in the county and to basically buy his way into the sheriff's office. Earlier this year, he announced that his Howard G. Buffett Foundation was donating $1.4 million to the county to pay for everything from new records systems to new guns and ballistic vests. He was appointed to his position by retiring Sheriff Thomas Schneider last September and will serve until a new sheriff is elected in November.

Buffett also financed drug dogs across the state. His foundation paid $2.2 million in 2016 to support drug dog units in 33 Illinois counties. No wonder he and his employees are doing the 2018 version of the classic National Lampoon cover: "Buy This Magazine or We'll Kill This Dog."

Chronicle AM: No Home Grow for NH This Year, Australia Welfare Drug Test Plan, More... (5/8/17)

A new report finds legal marijuana makes a marginal contribution to state budgets, a major Las Vegas casino quits pre-employment testing for marijuana, an Australian Senate panel advances a controversial plan to drug test welfare recipients, and more.

A major Las Vegas strip casino gives up on pre-employment screening for marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Report: Legal Marijuana Boostz Government Revenues, Somewhat. A new report from Moody's Investor Service finds that legalizing and taxing marijuana boost revenues, but not dramatically. In Colorado, the report found, marijuana taxes accounted for 2% of the state budget; in Washington state, 1.2%.

No Home Cultivation for New Hampshire This Year. Legal home cultivation is dead in the Granite State this year after the Senate refused to advance a bill approved by the House. The measure, House Bill 1476, would have allowed residents to grow two mature and 12 seedlings. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to refer the bill to "interim study," where bills simply expire at the end of the session.

Major Las Vegas Casino Gives Up on Pre-Employment Marijuana Screening. In another sign of decreasing resort to drug testing for marijuana in a time of spreading legalization and low unemployment, Caesars Entertainment Group announced Monday that it has ended pre-employment drug testing for pot. "A number of states have changed their laws and we felt we might be missing some good candidates because of the marijuana issue and we felt that pre-screening for marijuana was on the whole, counterproductive," said Rich Broome, executive vice president of corporate communications and community affairs for Caesars. "If somebody is believed to be using or high at work, then we would continue to screen for marijuana and other drugs."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on Licensing Imbroglio. The state Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear oral arguments on a judge's decision to prevent the state from licensing medical marijuana cultivation operators. The judge had ruled that the licensing program violated the voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana after a complaint from a business that failed to get a license.

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Allowing CBD Cannabis Oil for PTSD, Intractable Pain. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 65, which adds PTSD and intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by CBD cannabis oil.

International

Australian Senate Committee Endorses Plans to Drug Test Welfare Recipients. The Australian federal government's Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee issued a report Monday recommending passage of the government's highly controversial plan to impose drug testing on welfare recipients. The bill would create a trial program under which some 5,000 welfare recipients would face mandatory testing. People who test positive would be placed on "income management" for two years, while those who test positive twice within two years could be forced to undergo drug treatment. The plan has been condemned by medical and social welfare organizations, including the Australian Medical Association, which expressed "significant concern" about the plan. "Elements of the proposal are unnecessarily punitive and will increase stigmatisation among the most disadvantaged in the community," the AMA said.

Chronicle AM: MO MMJ Inits Hand in Beaucoup Signatures, OH Racial Profiling Drug Dogs, More... (5/7/18)

Two separate Missouri medical marijuana initiatives appear set to qualify for the November ballot, the Utah medical marijuana initiative is generating organized opposition -- including the DEA -- Canada's prime minister says it's full steam ahead for marijuana legalization, and more.

Black drivers in Ohio are more likely to get drug dogs sicced on them than white ones, official data shows. (Wikimedia)
Medical Marijuana

Missouri Initiative Campaigns Hand in Many Signatures. New Approach Missouri and Find the Cure, the folks behind a pair of medical marijuana initiatives (they differ only on how regulations would work and where tax dollars would go), announced last Friday that they had handed in roughly double the number of signatures they need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures. Find the Cure said it had handed in more than 300,000 signatures, while New Approach Missouri said it had handed in more than 370,000. Although initiative petitions occasionally see half of their signatures get disqualified, it's far more typical for them to lose a third. If both initiatives make the ballot, the one with the most votes on election day wins.

Michigan Regulators Recommend Approving 10 New Qualifying Conditions. The state's Medical Marihuana Review Panel has recommended the approval of 10 new conditions that could qualify people to use medical marijuana. That's out of a list of 22 conditions people had asked the panel to review. The conditions include obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson's, Tourettes, spinal cord injury, autism, and chronic pain. The recommendations now go to Shelly Edgerton, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who has until July 10 to make a final decision.

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Organized Opposition, Including the DEA. Organized opposition to the Utah Patients Coalition's medical marijuana initiative has emerged, and it includes a local DEA task force, raising questions about a federal agency interfering in a state-level ballot question. Drug Safe Utah is recruiting paid canvassers to try to get voters who signed initiative campaigns to retract their signatures. Its members include the Utah Medical Association and the DEA's Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Three Democratic Senators Urge FDA to Pull High-Dose Opioids from Market. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove ultra-high dose opioids from the market because of concerns about "accidental ingestion, borrowed medication, and recreational use." The senators said patients who need high dose opioids could just take more pills, patches, or other formulations. "We believe these ultra-high dose opioids can be removed from the market without imposing hardship on those with legitimate pain needs," the senators wrote. But the Academy of Integrative Pain Management disagreed, saying the pulling the high dose opioids would "in some situations, create a greater danger because patients would be required to have several times more pills available to meet their needs. The burden of this would fall on the sickest patients, including those with cancer and/or receiving palliative/hospice/end-of-life care, whose quality of life would be diminished."

Racial Profiling

Ohio Highway Patrol More Likely to Use Drug Dogs on Black Drivers. The Associated Press has examined records on highway stops that show the state Highway Patrol uses drug-sniffing dogs on black drivers at a disproportionate rate. Blacks account for about 13% of the state population and 14% of drivers stopped by troopers, but 28% of stops where drug dogs were used. The AP made the records request after a federal appeals court criticized the arrest of a black driver on the Ohio Turnpike in 2014 and threw out the evidence used to convict him.

International

Canadian PM Says Marijuana Legalization Plan Will Proceed Without Delay. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last Thursday that his plan to legalize marijuana this summer will proceed without delay, despite misgivings being voiced in the Senate. "We're going to continue to move forward. We're going to bring in legalization as we've committed to this summer on schedule," Trudeau said.

Nigeria Bans Codeine. Responding to the rising recreational use of codeine-based cough syrups, the Nigerian federal government last week banned further imports of codeine into the country. The move comes as the country attempts to rewrite its drug and mental health policies.

Chronicle AM: Workplace Drug Testing for Marijuana Begins to Fade, NYC Safer Injection Site Rally, More... (5/3/18)

Pre-employment workplace drug testing for marijuana appears to be going out of style, a federal appeals court disappoints on scheduling cannabinoids, a Vermont saliva drug testing bill is killed, and more.

NYC protesters demand Mayor De Blasio move on a long-delayed safe injection site report. (Drug Policy Alliance)
Marijuana Policy

Clock Ticking on Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Study Bill. With the state's legislative session set to end next Wednesday, time is running out for House Bill 5394, which directs state agencies to develop a plan to legalize and regulate marijuana sales. The bill has passed out of the Appropriations Committee and awaits a House floor vote. Activists are urging state residents to contact their legislators this week to prod them.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Upholds DEA Rule on Marijuana Extracts. A three-judge panel on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a DEA rule stating that marijuana extracts, including non-psychoactive CBD, are Schedule I substances. The Hemp Industries Association and others had challenged the rule, arguing that DEA overstepped its bounds by scheduling substances, such as cannabinoids, that were not classified as illicit under the Controlled Substances Act.

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. A bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for children with severe autism has passed the House and, now, a vote in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. House Bill 627 now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Iowa Legislature Approves Prescription Monitoring Bill. The House on Wednesday gave final approval to the legislature's policy response to the opioid crisis, passing a bill that will require doctors to register prescriptions with the state's drug monitoring program within 24 hours. The bill now goes to the governor's desk.

Drug Testing

Employment Drug Testing for Marijuana Going Out of Favor. The Associated Press is reporting that numerous employers are "dropping marijuana from the drug tests they require of prospective employees." Testing for pot excludes too many potential workers, employers told the AP. Companies in labor-intensive industries -- hoteliers and home health care providers and employers with many warehouse and assembly jobs -- are most likely to drop marijuana testing. By contrast, businesses that contract with the government or that are in regulated industries, like air travel, or that have safety concerns involving machinery, are continuing marijuana tests, employment lawyers said.

Vermont Saliva Drug Testing Bill Dies. A bill that would have allowed police to obtain saliva for testing from motorists suspected of drugged driving is dead for the year. House Bill 237 had passed the House with law enforcement support, but was killed on a 4-1 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Both the Vermont ACLU and the state's Defender General Office had threatened legal action if it became law.

Harm Reduction

NYC Council Member Arrested in Protest Calling for Action on Safer Injection Sites. Dozens of community activists, social advocates, and elected political figures rallied outside New York City's City Hall Wednesday to demand the long-delayed release of a feasibility study on safe injection sites in the city. As many as a dozen people were arrested for obstructing traffic, including NYC Council Member Stephen Levine.

Feds Indict Maine Marijuana Users for Buying Guns

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Less than a month ago, AlterNet published 4 Ways Using Even Legal Marijuana Makes You a Second Class Citizen, which enumerated some of the reasons marijuana legalization by itself is not sufficient to guarantee the rights of marijuana users. One of those reasons was the inability of marijuana users to legally own or purchase guns.

Under federal law, enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), all gun purchasers must fill out Form 4473. "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" the form asks.

Last year, and just to make sure stoners got the message, ATF has added the following language: "Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

The article noted that marijuana users who want to legally purchase a weapon would have to lie on Form 4473, but that they were unlikely to be caught and prosecuted.

That has changed. The US attorney in Maine has now indicted two men on federal firearms charges for allegedly lying about their marijuana use on the gun purchase form.

Donald Henderson, 33, of Winthrop, was indicted for alleged false statements while buying a pistol from a local gun shop in February 2017 and again while purchasing another pistol the following month. The indictment alleges he checked the box saying he was not a marijuana user when he in fact was.

And Richard Quattrone, 48, of Augusta, was also indicted for lying on a federal firearms license in March 2017. The indictment says he purchased a pistol from the same local gun shop as Henderson and checked the box saying he was not a user of marijuana or controlled substances when he was in fact "an unlawful user of marijuana."

The federal prosecutors in Maine are on firm legal ground -- the law is quite clear -- but the question now becomes whether a political backlash can rein them in. That's what happened when law enforcement officials in some states tried to order registered medical marijuana patients to turn in their guns. In Pennsylvania, the state Health Department is no longer providing the names of patients to law enforcement after newspapers there reported the patients would not be able to buy firearms; in Illinois, regulators removed a rule that would have barred legal gun owners from becoming patients; and in Hawaii, police had to walk back a plan to force patients to hand in their guns.

The Jeff Sessions Justice Department, where ATF resides, is unlikely to be as swayed by angry public opinion as state officials in legal marijuana states, and that suggests that people who use marijuana need to really think twice before filling out that Form 4473. If they tell the truth, they will be barred from purchasing a gun; if they lie, they could be charged with a federal criminal offense and sent to prison.

If you're a marijuana user and really, really want to buy a gun, you may want to stick to gun shows and private purchases, but you are still potentially liable for federal prosecution if you get caught with it and the local US attorney wants to score a coup.

This is one more reason state legalization is only half the battle.

Chronicle AM: Feinstein Comes Around on Legalization, Synthetic Opioids Fuel ODs, More... (5/2/18)

Maine's legislature overrides a veto to pass a bill implementing legal marijuana sales, California's senior senator finally comes on board with legalization, Canada's legalization push faces some hiccups, and more.

Dianne Feinstein. California's senior senator finally hops on the marijuana train. (Wikimedia Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Dianne Feinstein Drops Opposition to Legal Marijuana. California's senior US senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, a longtime foe of marijuana legalization, has seen the light. In an interview Tuesday with McClatchy, she said she was now open to considering federal protection for state-legal marijuana. "Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law," said Feinstein, who is facing a primary challenge from Kevin de Leon, who supports marijuana legalization.

Maine Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bill. Both the House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Paul LePage's (R) veto of LD 1719, the bill designed to allow the state's legal marijuana industry to get up and running. The bill would establish a system of licensed retail marijuana outlets to sell marijuana to adults. Recreational marijuana sales would be taxed at 20%, while medical marijuana patients would continue to pay a 5.5% tax.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Synthetic Opioids Fueling Rise in Overdose Deaths. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are now the most common drug involved in fatal drug overdoses, researchers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported Tuesday. Fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids accounted for 14% of all overdose death in 2010, but 46% in 2016. Of more than 42,000 opioid-related overdose deaths, synthetics were implicated in more than 19,000, prescription opioids in more than 17,000, and heroin in more than 15,000. The numbers add up to more than 42,000 because many ODs involve multiple drugs.

Drug Testing

Trucking Industry Wants Hair Testing for Drivers. The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, also known as the Trucking Alliance, has announced it will push for a new federal drug testing law to undergo drug testing to prove they have been free of opioids or other illegal drugs for at least 30 days. That means testing hair follicles, which allows drug use dating back weeks or months to be spotted. The industry complains that urinalysis drug testing isn't catching enough opioid addicts or "lifestyle" drug users.

International

Canada Prime Minister Leaves Door Open for Possible Legalization Delay. Faced with calls from two Senate committees to delay the marijuana legalization bill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left the door open for a possible slowdown in enacting the government's marijuana legalization bill. The Senate aboriginal peoples committee has called for a one-year delay for broader consultations with indigenous communities, and a separate committee has called for a delay to clarify what will happen to Canadians trying to enter the US. Trudeau didn't reply directly when asked about a possible delay, but said, "We'll continue to consult a broad range of Canadians, and as our parliamentary secretary Bill Blair says regularly, legalization is not an event, it's a process. And that process will continue," he said.

Colombia Coca Eradication Falls Far Short of Goal. The government will successfully eradicate only about 60% of the coca plantings it pledged to eradicate last year, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday. And it will take longer than the government first announced. Colombia had vowed to eradicate 125,000 acres of coca planting by the end of last year, but Santos said it would only eradicate about 75,000 acres, and that would be by the of this month.

(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 web site. 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.)

Chronicle AM: New SBA Rules Hurts Pot Industry, Aghan Opium Harvest Underway, More... (5/1/18)

The Trump administration gets creative in coming up with a new way to mess with legal marijuana-related businesses, a pair of Oklahoma marijuana initiatives get approved for signature gathering, Arkansas drug testing results are in -- and they're not impressive -- and more.

It's harvest time for Afghan opium poppies. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Trump Administration Finds New Way to Hurt Marijuana-Related Businesses. Under new rules issued last month by the Small Business Administration, companies doing business with the marijuana industry will find it more difficult to obtain SBA loans. Under the new rule, banks are prohibited from using SBA-backed loans to finance any business that works directly with the marijuana industry. The rule impacts not only marijuana businesses, but could extend to web designers, gardening suppliers, consultants, and others who derive even a small portion of their income from marijuana businesses.

Oklahoma Legalization and Medical Initiatives Can Start Collecting Signatures. The state is set to vote on one medical marijuana initiative next month, but a group called Green the Vote has now received approval from the state to start collecting signatures for a pair of initiatives that would legalize medical marijuana and recreational marijuana via a constitutional amendment. The medical marijuana initiative is Proposed SQ 796; the legalization initiative is Proposed SQ 797. The group will start collecting signatures on May 11 and will need 125,000 valid voter signatures by August 8 to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri House Passes Smokeless Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Tuesday approved House Bill 1554, which would allow terminal patients and patients suffering from debilitating conditions to use a smokeless form of medical marijuana. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Hemp

Illinois Senate Approves Hemp Bill. The Senate has approved Senate Bill 2298, which would allow farmers to apply for permits to grow industrial hemp. The measure passed the Senate on a 50-0 vote and is now before the House.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Welfare Drug Testing Achieves Little. After two years of requiring people seeking Transitional Employment Assistance and/or food stamps to submit to drug screens and possible drug tests, the results are in: Out of 7,000 applicants, only 31 were considered to be likely to be using drugs and thus subject to a drug test. Of those, only 12 submitted drug tests, and of those, only four actually tested positive for drugs. That's four out of 7,000 people subjected to the demeaning and strigmatizing process.

International

Afghan Opium Harvest Gets Underway. Afghan farmers are out in the fields as the country's opium poppy harvest gets underway. The country produced a record crop of 9,000 tons of opium last year. Much of the poppy production takes place in areas outside central government control.

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