Sentencing

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Chronicle AM: New CBS Pot Poll, CO Drug Defelonization Passes House, More... (4/19/19)

A new CBS poll has record support for marijuana legalization, Vermont's governor throws up an obstacle to the tax and regulate bill, the US immigration agency says using marijuana or even working in the state-legal industry makes immigrants "morally unfit" to become citizens, and more.

Marijuana is all over the news today. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New CBS Poll Has Support for Legalization at All-Time High. The latest annual CBS news poll on attitudes toward marijuana legalization has support at 65% -- an all-time high for the poll. Most respondents also viewed marijuana as less dangerous than alcohol. Legalization is now favored even by Republicans (56%), and the only age group to not have majority support for legalization -- people 65 and older -- is now evenly split with support at 49%.

Federal Bill Would Let People Use Marijuana in Public Housing in Legal States. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has filed the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act, which would allow people who use marijuana in compliance with state laws to live in public housing. Current federal law prohibits people using federally illegal drugs from being admitted to public housing and allows their eviction if caught. The Norton bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Montana 2020 Legalization Initiative Planned. A new group calling itself Coalition406 has announced plans to create a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Big Sky Country. The latest polling has support for legalization at 51%. "Coalition406 will sponsor a statewide listening tour over the coming weeks to discuss preliminary thoughts for a November 2020 initiative to hear from real Montanans on this issue," said Coalition406 campaign manager Ted Dick, a former executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.

Vermont Governor Won't Support Regulated Marijuana Without Saliva Testing for Drivers. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said for the first time Thursday that he would not sign legislation to tax and regulate marijuana unless it had a provision that would allow saliva testing of motorists. The tests are opposed by many civil rights and liberties groups, but the House Judiciary Committee that same day reviewed a draft proposal for language around saliva testing that could be inserted in SB 54, the tax and regulate bill that has already passed the Senate.

Wisconsin Legalization Bill Filed. For the fourth time, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) has filed a marijuana legalization bill. The bill would set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce as well as a process for expungement of old marijuana convictions. "Far too many lives and communities have been damaged by out of date and backwards cannabis policies, and we must take this important and necessary step towards rectifying these damages," Sargent said in a press release. "The simple truth is, the most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal." A January Marquette University poll has support for legalization at 59%, but the Republican-controlled legislature does not favor the proposal.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill that would add over a dozen conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana, HR 1365, is heading for a House floor vote after passing its last committee hurdle on Wednesday. The bill would add cancer, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions.

Drug Treatment

Pennsylvania Bill Would Bar Addiction Centers from Requiring Positive Drug Tests Before Treatment. State Rep. Jack Rader (R-Monroe County) has cosponsored a bill that would ban addiction treatment centers from requiring people to test positive for opioids or other drugs in order to get admitted for care. Rader said he cosponsored the bill after a constituent told him her son had applied for drug treatment but had been required to test positive for opioids in order to begin treatment. He had gotten off opioids while waiting for treatment, but then used some to qualify for treatment and instead overdosed and died. The measure is HB 1024.

Immigration Policy

Using State-Legal Marijuana or Working in the Industry Makes Immigrants Morally Unfit to Be US Citizens, Federal Agency Rules. In a rules clarification Friday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services held that using marijuana or working in the industry even in states where it is legal violates the requirement that immigrants demonstrate five years of "good moral character" before applying for citizenship. In a memo detailing the ruling, USCIS said that "violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing [good moral character] for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law." That includes working in the state-legal marijuana and medical marijuana industries. There is an exception for one-time possession of less than an ounce.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Lower Penalties for Drug Possession Offenses. The House on Thursday approved HB 19-1263, which would defelonize drug possession in the state. The measure passed the House on a 40-25 vote and now heads to the Senate.

Chronicle AM: Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decrim, Denver Moves to Expand Pot Social Clubs, More... (4/16/19)

The Denver city council is trying to make it easier for marijuana social consumption businesses to open, a Colorado drug defelonization bill advances, a Democratic presidential contender calls for opioid decriminalization, and more.

The Denver city council is trying to find room for more social consumption spaces. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Moves to Boost Social Consumption Businesses. More than two years after voters approved social use of marijuana in licensed businesses, only two such businesses exist, and now, the City Council is moving to boost their prospects. The Council voted 9-2 on Monday to advance a proposal that would allow such businesses to operate closer to rec centers, day cares, and other such facilities. The law approved by voters required that such establishments be at least 1,000 feet from schools, but city officials added similar requirements for day care, rec centers, and addiction treatment centers. Under this bill, that distance requirement is dropped to 500 feet for all categories except schools.

Hemp

Nebraska Hemp Bill Advances. State lawmakers have given a first approval to a measure to legalize hemp production, LB 657. The bill advanced on a 37-4 vote despite a filibuster from a senator who warned it was a stalking horse for marijuana legalization. The bill enjoys bipartisan support and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) says his administration is working with bill sponsor Sen. Justin Wayne (D-Omaha) to get the bill through. It still needs two more votes before going to the governor.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Democratic Presidential Contender Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decriminalization. Startup veteran, Venture for America founder, and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang used a CNN town hall Sunday night to flesh out an earlier proposal to decriminalize opioids. Calling opioid addiction "a plague," Yang said the goal of decriminalization was to get more Americans in treatment and out of jail. "We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use," Yang said. "I'm also for the legalization of cannabis."

Sentencing Policy

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill that would shift drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors was approved by the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday. That's the final committee vote before HB19-1263 heads for a House floor vote. The bill has already been approved by the House Finance and House Judiciary committees.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, CT Legalization Bills Advance, More... (4/9/19)

A drug defelonization bill advances in Colorado, marijuana legalization bills advance in Connecticut, Oregon medical marijuana growers are put on notice, and more.

The Colorado legislature is taking up both marijuana expansion and drug possession defelonization in this session. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Social Consumption, Marijuana Delivery Bills Advance. The House Finance Committee narrowly approved a pair of bills aimed at expanding access to legal marijuana Monday. HB 1230 would require the Marijuana Enforcement Division to create a licensing system for social marijuana consumption, while HB 1234 would allow delivery of medical marijuana only for the first year, expanding to the legal adult market in year two. The social consumption bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, while the delivery bill head for a House floor vote.

Connecticut Legalization Bill Package Advances. The Judiciary Committee approved a trio of bills Monday that would legalize marijuana and expunge old pot convictions. SB 1085 is the main legalization bill, while SB 1089 would ensure that employers could mandate marijuana could not be smoked at a workplace and HB 7372 would establish an equivalent of a DUI test for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Regulators Release Additional Draft Rules. The state Department of Health and Senior Services has released more draft rules for the state's medical marijuana program. The new draft rules for facility evaluation criteria and medical marijuana testing facilities can be viewed here. Draft rules must be finalized by June 4.

Oregon Medical Marijuana Growers Warned to Report Inventory. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program has warned medical marijuana growers that they need to come into compliance with inventory reporting requirements or face stiff penalties. The program issued a bulletin reminding growers they need to use the Oregon Medical Marijuana Online System (OMMOS), and that they must report their onsite marijuana inventory and any sales.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado House Panel Advances Drug Defelonization Bill. The House Finance Committee has approved HB19-1263, which would change the penalty for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Chronicle AM: Guam Legalizes Pot, New Mexico Decriminalizes Pot, Andrew Yang Talks Drug Pardons, More... (4/4/19)

A US territory legalizes weed, a US state decriminalizes it, Florida medical marijuana battles continue, and more. 

Marijuana Policy

Federal Lawmakers Reintroduce STATES Act. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has refiled the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, or STATES Act, in both the House and Senate. Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was joined by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in filing the Senate bill, while Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) sponsored the bill in the House.

Guam Legalizes Marijuana. Gov. Leon Guerrero (D) Thursday signed a marijuana legalization bill into law, making Guam the first entity to legalize marijuana this year and the second US territory to do so, after the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The law will create a system of taxed and regulated sales, with a 15% excise tax.

New Mexico Decriminalizes Marijuana. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has signed into law a bill decriminalizing the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana. The maximum penalty will be a $50 fine. The legislation also reduces penalties for pot paraphernalia.

Medical Marijuana

Florida House Committee Votes to Limit Strength of Smokable Marijuana. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Wednesday to cap the amount of THC allowed in smokable marijuana flowers at 10% despite the objections of patient advocates who noted that much stronger buds are already available on the market. The move comes less than a month after the legislature removed a ban on the use of smokable marijuana.

Florida Judge Rules Patients Have No Right to Grow Their Own. The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Tampa patient does not have the legal right to grow his own medicine. The decision overturns a lower court ruling that held the patient could grow plants to be juiced as part of his treatment for cancer.

Drug Policy

Democratic Presidential Contender Andrew Yang Calls for Legalized Marijuana, Commutations for Non-Violent Drug Offenders.  Presidential contender Andrew Yang said Wednesday he would issue mass commutations for imprisoned non-violent drug offenders on 4/20. "I would legalize marijuana and I would pardon everyone who's in jail for a non-violent, drug-related offense," Yang said. "I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, and I would high-five them on their way out of jail."

(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.)

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, ND Moves to End Civil Forfeiture, More... (4/3/19)

Drug defelonization is advancing in Colorado, asset forfeiture reform heads to the governor in North Dakota, New Jersey bail reforms are having a dramatic impact, and more.

North Dakota legislators are making it harder for cops to get their hands on cash and property. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana for Autism Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday signed into law HB 19-1028, which adds autism to the list of disabling medical conditions that qualify a person to use medical marijuana. A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who cited concerns from medical professionals.

Hemp

Idaho Senate Approves Modified Hemp Bill, House Unhappy. The Senate on Monday approved a hemp bill, HB 122, but amended it to address law enforcement concerns, leaving House backers withdrawing their support from the bill. Rep. Dorothy Moon (R) withdrew as a sponsor, saying the amended bill effectively "makes hemp illegal to grow, possess and transport in Idaho."

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Senate Approves Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate voted 46-1 Monday to approve a bill requiring a criminal conviction before authorities can seize cash or valuables.  The House passed HB 1286 in February. The bill now goes to the governor.

Bail Reform

New Jersey Judiciary Releases Annual Bail Reform Report, with Additional Key Statistics. The New Jersey Judiciary released its second Annual Report to the Legislature and Governor on the state’s historic bail reform law. Key findings include that the state's pretrial jail population has declined 43.9 percent since December 31, 2015, and that last year, only 102 people had cash bail set for them out of more than 44,000 criminal defendants.

Sentencing

Colorado Proposal to Defelonize Drug Possession Offenses Advances. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill 8-3 Tuesday that would reduce the penalties for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. HB19-1263 will now advance to the House Finance Committee.

Chronicle AM: China Bans All Fentanyl Variants, DC Gets 76,000 Naloxone Kits, More... (4/2/19)

China bans all fentanyl variants, Sri Lanka is to resume drug executions, marijuana sentencing reform bills advance in Iowa and Texas, and more.

A lethal dose of fentanyl (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill Filed to Protect Legal Marijuana States. For the fifth consecutive congressional session, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has filed a bill to block the federal government from going after states that have legalized marijuana. The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt states with legal marijuana from federal intervention. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Arkansas Decriminalization Bill Filed. Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) and cosponsors filed HB 1972 on Monday. The measure would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a maximum $200 fine. Currently, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Iowa Bill to Reduce Pot Penalties Advances. A bill that would reduce penalties for possessing five grams of weed or less passed the Senate Monday on a 40-8 vote. SF 378 would move possession of five grams or less from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor. The bill now heads to the House.

Texas Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill to decriminalize small-time pot possession was approved by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday. HB 63 would reduce criminal penalties for low-levels of marijuana possession, allowing a person carrying cannabis to receive two civil penalties before facing misdemeanor charges. The next step is a House floor vote.  

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Speeds Access to Opioid Addiction Medication. The state's Human Services Commissioner announced that beginning this week, Medicaid recipients will no longer have to wait for approval from an insurance company before a doctor can prescribe them medication-assisted treatments. Previously, people faced delays as doctors submitted paperwork and waited for an okay from the patient's Medicaid managed-care plan.

DC Police, Community Groups Will Get 76,000 Naloxone Kits. The city of Washington, DC, has purchased 76,000 kits of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. The kits will be distributed to police officers and community health organizations by September 30. Last year, the District saw more deaths from drug overdoses than from homicides.

International

China Bans All Types of Fentanyl. Chinese officials said Monday that the country is banning all variants of fentanyl by declaring them controlled substances under Chinese law. The move makes good a pledge Premier Xi Jinping made to President Trump late last year. The move could slow the supply of the drug and its variants to the US, where it is implicated in tens of thousands of overdose deaths. But the ban does not cover precursor chemicals, which are often sent to Mexico, where traffickers use them to produce fentanyl.

Sri Lanka Burns Cocaine Haul as President Announces First Executions in Decades. President Maithripala Sirisena used the public burning of seized cocaine to announce the first executions in decades as part of a crackdown on drugs. ’To curb the illegal drug menace, it is necessary to implement the death penalty," he said.  "The death penalty will be implemented in the coming days. The list has been prepared and we have decided on the date too. The move toward a drug crackdown has been criticized by human rights groups and the European Union. 

Chronicle AM: No Legal Pot for NJ (Yet), CO Drug Defelonization Bill Filed, Guam Legal Pot Bill, More... (3/28/19)

New Jersey doesn't yet have the votes to pass legalization, Guam sends a legalization bill to the governor, a Colorado drug defelonization bill gets filed, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Banking Bill Advances in House. The House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 Thursday to approve HR 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. The bill aims at ensuring that state-legal marijuana operations have access to banking and financial services. This marks the first time a marijuana banking bill has been approved by a congressional committee.

Connecticut Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The General Law Committee voted 10-8 Monday to approve a bill that spells out many of the details of a proposed system of legal marijuana for adults. The bill is one of a number of bills aimed at legalizing pot this session and could eventually be combined with others to craft a comprehensive bill.

Guam Legalization Bill Heads for Governor’s Desk. Legislators in the US island territory voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as allowing adults to possess, grow, and consume their own. The measure, Bill 32-35, now goes to the desk of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D), who is expected to sign it. If she does, Guam will become the first US state or territory to pass legalization this year.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Ways and Means Committee voted 14-6 Wednesday to approve HB 481, which would legalize marijuana for adults and create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. The bill would also allow adults to grow and possess their own. The bill now goes to a House floor vote before heading to the Senate.

New Jersey Legalization Bill Stalled. A much anticipated Monday vote on the legalization bill, A 4497/S 2703, didn’t happen after legislative leaders realized they still didn’t have the votes in the Senate to pass it. "History is rarely made on the first try," Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a press conference announcing the postponement. "Certainly I’m disappointed but we are not defeated… We all remain committed to passing this bill and making our state a national model for justice and opportunity because ultimately this is the right thing to do for New Jersey, and we know the people of New Jersey are on our side."

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. More than a dozen legislators have filed HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Kansas CBD Oil Bill Passes House. The House passed HB 2244 on Wednesday. The bill would allow parents of minor patients to travel to Colorado to obtain CBD oil and bring it back to Kansas legally.

North Dakota Senate Rejects Allowing Edibles. The Senate on Monday narrowly rejected HB1364, which would have allowed medical marijuana patients to buy and use edible products. The measure had passed the House and actually won majority support in the Senate but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to amend a recent ballot measure. Senators expressed fears children would get access to the drug.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Bill Wins Senate Support. A civil asset forfeiture reform bill, HB 1286, that has already passed the House found support in the Senate Tuesday. Sen. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee said after a hearing she was open to amending the bill to get it passed. As it stands, the bill would require a conviction before forfeiture proceedings could take place.

Drug Policy

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Filed. A bill to defelonize the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, HB 19-1263, has been filed in the House. Under the bill, those convicted of simple drug possession would face misdemeanor charges with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. The current maximum sentence for simple possession is 18 months. The bill was introduced last Friday. 

Transforming Global Drug Policy: From A Punisher Paradigm to Embracing Human Rights [FEATURE]

By its very nature, the global drug prohibition regime relies on the repressive apparatus of state actors to enforce compliance, and that has severe implications for human rights. Now, a coalition of United Nations member states, U.N. bodies, and leading human rights experts has launched a landmark set of international legal standards aimed at putting human rights concerns at the center of drug policy.

Drug execution in Iran, 2017. The Islamic Republic has greatly reduced the use of the death penalty for drugs. (handsoffcain)
The human rights implications of the global war on drugs cover a dizzying array of governmental abuses of their citizens. Whether it's the mass imprisonment of drug users in the US, the death squad-style atrocities of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody anti-drug campaigns, the spraying of herbicides on coca-growing peasants in Colombia, forced drug treatment camps in Southeast Asia, or the resort to the death penalty for drug offenses in any number of countries, the quixotic global effort to eradicate drugs has left a trail of human rights abuses.

For years, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have championed the need to put human rights front and center when it comes to drug policy. But with the issuance this week of the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy recognition of the necessary centrality of human rights moves from the sidelines to the very center of the global drug prohibition regime. Released under the aegis of the U.N. Development Program and the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) with the endorsement of key member states, the guidelines create a comprehensive set of human rights standards to guide governments in developing drug policies that comply with basic standards of universal human rights.

They also come at a key juncture in the global drug policy-formation process. The guidelines are being released as high-level governmental representatives are gathered at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna to shape a new global drug strategy. With decades of evidence showing the systemic failures of the punitive paradigm, including widespread human rights violations, the U.N. and member states are facing a rising clamor for a shift in policy -- one that not only respects human rights but also places global drug policy in line with broader U.N. objectives.

"Drug control policies intersect with much of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the pledge by Member States to leave no one behind. Approaches that violate human rights and fail to curb the illicit drug trade are leaving a trail of human suffering," said Mandeep Dhaliwal, director of UNDP's HIV, Health and Development Group. "For countries who are ready to place human dignity and sustainable development at the heart of their drug control policy, these guidelines offer valuable guidance to promote more effective and humane drug control policy."

universal human rights logo
One focus of the guidelines is criminal justice and the rule of law, and they feature recommendations across the realm of the administration of justice. Whether it's arbitrary arrest and detention, discriminatory policing practices, or drug decriminalization, the guidelines bring the global state of human rights law regarding drug policy into full view, including ending the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Drug decriminalization gets particular attention. The guidelines note that at least 25 national governments have decriminalized the possession of drugs for personal use and that the U.N. system has jointly called for drug decriminalization as an alternative to arrest, conviction, and punishment of drug users.

"Punishment and exclusion have been instrumental to the war on drugs" said Judy Chang, Executive Director of the International Network of People who Use Drugs. "The time has come to privilege human dignity over social isolation and champion human rights, putting an end to the shameful legacy of mass incarceration."

But the guideline encompass more than criminal justice; they also make clear that a human rights emphasis is key in improving people's rights to health, an adequate standard of living, and to be free from torture. The guidelines say that states are obligated by their health obligations to ensure the availability and accessibility of harm reduction services, such as needle exchanges and safe consumption spaces. Those services must be adequately funded, appropriate for the needs of vulnerable groups, and respectful of the human dignity of their clients, the guidelines say.

"Ninety-nine percent of people who inject drugs do not have adequate access to harm reduction services and are left behind in progress against HIV," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "More than 12 percent of people who inject drugs are living with HIV and over half have hepatitis C. The only way to advance progress is to put people at the center, not drugs."

The guidelines also emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of farming communities -- especially women -- even to the extent of urging governments to temporarily permit the cultivation of illicit drug crops to allow farmers the chance to make a smooth transition to alternative crops. They cite Thailand's success in helping farmers move from opium production to alternative livelihoods.

Issuance of the guidelines will help member states, multilateral organizations, and civil society in their fight to help the rights-supporting U.N. Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights assume their deserved central role in the formulation of both international and national drug policies. For too long, globally accepted human rights standards have been sidelined by repressive approaches.

"Human rights should not just inform critiques of the response to drugs worldwide, they should also be the main drivers of its reform, underpinning checks and balances to break cycles of abuse" said Julie Hannah, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, University of Essex "Fighting inequality and injustice is a more effective way of addressing the global drug problem than prisons and police."

Chronicle AM: NJ Legal Pot Deal Reached, Key UN Body Calls for Global Drug Decrim, More... (3/12/19)

Marijuana and medical marijuana bills are seeing action in the states, South Dakota's governor vetoes an industrial hemp bill, a key UN organization calls for global drug decriminalization, and more.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) says he has reached an agreement with key legislators to legalize weed by month's end. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill to Allow Social Consumption Filed. State Rep. Jonathan Singer (D) and cosponsors filed House Bill 1230 last Friday. The bill would pave the way for legal marijuana “tasting rooms” beginning in January. The bill would also allow hotels, spas, and other businesses to apply for cannabis licenses. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper last year, but now the governor is the more marijuana-friendly Jared Polis.

Minnesota Senate Committee Kills Legalization Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday killed a bill that would have legalized marijuana on a 6-3 vote along party lines. SF 619 would have allowed adults to use, possess, grow, and buy marijuana from licensed retailers.

New Jersey Governor, Key Lawmakers Announce Agreement on Legalization Bill. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders announced Tuesday that they had reached agreement on a bill to legalize marijuana. They also announced that they planned to pass the bill on March 25. "I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes," the governor said.

New York Legalization Bid Hits Bump. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Monday that it is now unlikely that marijuana legalization will be included in the state budget, which is due this month, suggesting that there are roadblocks remaining on the path to legalization. "I’m no longer confident marijuana will be done in the budget," Cuomo told reporters at the Capitol, adding that legislative leaders are still far apart on a path forward. "I’ve had discussions with them on it. There is a wide divide on marijuana. I believe ultimately we can get there, and we must get there," he said. "I don’t believe we get there in two weeks. And also that’s what the legislative leaders have said."

Washington Senate Approves Expungement Bill. The Senate on Monday approved SB 5605, which would expunge some 69,000 past convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession in the state. A companion measure is moving in the House.

Medical Marijuana

Earl Blumenauer Reintroduces Veterans Medical Marijuana Bill. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is back once again with a bill that would allow doctors at the Veterans Administration to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. HB 1647 is similar to bills that Blumenauer has sponsored for the past several years but were blocked by intransigent House Republican leaders. This year, though, the Democrats control the House.

Michigan Adds Cerebral Palsy to List of Qualifying Conditions. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced Monday that it had added cerebral palsy to the list of qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana. It rejected adding chronic aggressive behavior after panel members unanimously recommended denial.

New Mexico Medical Marijuana Access Expansion Bill Passes Senate. The Senate on Monday approved SB 406, which would allow for onsite consumption of medical marijuana at dispensaries, allow people living on Indian land to grow their own, and create civil protections for patients for schooling, child custody, and medical care. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez (R) last year, but she’s gone now.

Hemp

South Dakota Governor Vetoes Hemp Bill. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on Monday vetoed HB 1191, which would have legalized industrial hemp production in the state. In her veto message, she said it could be a first step toward legalizing marijuana and that it could make law enforcement’s job more difficult. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly but passed the Senate by a margin just short of veto-proof. It’s not clear yet whether the legislature will attempt an override.

International

Key UN Organization Calls for Global Drug Decriminalization. The UN Chief Executives Board (CEB), representing 31 UN agencies including the Office on Drugs and Crime, had adopted a position calling on member states to adopt science-based, health-oriented approaches to drug policy—namely decriminalization. The policy shift came in January, but was not publicly announced.

Israel’s Netanyahu Says He’s Open to Marijuana Legalization. Faced with a party that advocates marijuana legalization gaining momentum in the weeks before national elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was looking into legalizing it himself. Younger voters have been drifting toward support for the Zehut Party before the April 9 elections.

UN Reports Methamphetamine Production Skyrocketing in Southeast Asia. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported Monday that methamphetamine production in Southeast Asia is booming, with prices dropping and usage expanding even as seizures hit record highs. "Data on seizures, prices, use, and treatment all point to continuing expansion of the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia," said Tun Nay Soe, the agency's inter-regional program coordinator. "The shift to methamphetamine has affected even countries traditionally known to have a relatively large market for heroin, such as China and Malaysia,” he added. “In Malaysia, the number of methamphetamine users detected by law enforcement authorities surpassed that of heroin users for the first time in 2017." 

Chronicle AM: Beto, Bernie Talk Criminal Justice Reform; FDA Oks Ketamine for Depression, More... (3/6/19)

Democratic presidential contenders begin staking out criminal justice reform positions, yet another poll has a national majority for marijuana legalization, the FDA approves ketamine for depression, and more.

Bernie Sanders talks criminal justice reform, but he's not the only Democratic doing so. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Quinnipiac Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday has support for marijuana legalization at 60% nationwide, with only 33% opposed. An even larger number of respondents (63%) said old marijuana arrest records should be expunged.

Texas Decriminalization Bill Gets Hearing. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a hearing Monday on House Bill 63, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) has been pushing the issue since 2015. No vote was taken.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia House Approves CBD Access Bill. The House on Tuesday approved HB 324, which would allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil to patients through dispensaries. The state legalized CBD cannabis oil for medicinal use in 2015, but there is no legal way to buy, sell, or obtain it. This bill would fix that. It now heads to the Senate.

Hawaii Will Allow Out of State Patients to Obtain Medical Marijuana. As of Tuesday, people with medical marijuana recommendations from other states are able to purchase medical marijuana while in the state. Officials said the change will ensure that visitors and part-time residents can get their medicine.

New Mexico Temporarily Boosts Plant Limits for Producers. The state health department issued an emergency rule last Friday to temporarily boost the number of plants producers can grow. The rule lifts the maximum from 450 plants to 2,500 plants through the end of August. The department will initiate a rule-making process to determine what the final plant count should be. The move comes amidst concerns over lack of supply.

Ketamine

FDA Approves Ketamine for Depression. The Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription treatment for depression that is derived from ketamine. The new treatment, called esketamine, is a nasal spray developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and will be sold under the brand name Spravato. The approval comes even as the FDA acknowledges that ketamine's anti-depressant properties are not well understood. Ketamine is an old anesthetic but has also been used as the club drug Special K in recent years.

Drug Policy

Beto O'Rourke Calls for Broad Drug, Criminal Justice Reforms. The Democratic presidential contender called for marijuana legalization and a "criminal justice system that is more fair and that urgently puts our country closer to the words written above the highest court in our land: equal justice under law" in an email to supporters this week. He also lambasted "the new Jim Crow" and the "school to prison pipeline," he said disproportionately targeted black children. He also called for an end to cash bail and the use of private prisons.

Bernie Sanders Calls for an End to the War on Drugs. In campaign rallies last weekend in Brooklyn and Chicago, the Vermont senator called for legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs, while calling for the need to address racial disparities in the emerging legal marijuana industry. "No more war on drugs that has destroyed so many lives," Sanders. "When we talk about criminal justice reform, we are going to change a system in which tens of thousands of Americans every year get criminal records for possessing marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying our economy in 2008," he said. "No, they didn't go to jail, they got a trillion dollar bailout."

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Clash with Police. Farmers in Cordoba province's Alto Sinu region who are returning to coca cultivation after two years of waiting for economic and security assistance that never arrived clashed with riot police as they protested the national government's failure to support the shift to substitute crops. They said they had been left no choice but to go back to coca. Coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia has reached an all-time high, having risen to 171,000 hectares in 2017 from 48,000 in 2013.

(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.)

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