Decriminalization

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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: 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. 

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: CT Pot Legalization Bill Filed, MI Moving to Rein in Civil Asset Forfeiture, More... (1/22/19)

Marijuana reform bills are starting to pop in state legislatures, a federal court judge rules in favor of a New Mexico medical marijuana provider in a free speech case, and more. 

With Democrats in control in Michigan, civil asset forfeiture could be coming to an end

Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Legalization Bill Filed. A legalization bill cosponsored by 40 Democrat legislators has been filed. HB 5595 would allow for legal sales to adults, home cultivation of up to six plants, and give priority in licensing to existing medical marijuana businesses. The bill also contains a provision for the expungement of previous pot convictions, and it would make it illegal for anyone to drive with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

Kentucky Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) has filed a bill to decriminalize small-time pot possession. The measure, SB 82, would define less than an ounce of marijuana as a “personal use quantity” punishable only by a fine. The bill would also exempt “personal use marijuana accessories” from the state's drug paraphernalia law. Under current law, possession of eight ounces or less is a misdemeanor.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Court Upholds First Amendment Rights of New Mexico Medical Marijuana Company. US District Court Judge James Parker has found in favor of Ultra Health, the state's largest medical marijuana provider, in a case that pitted it against the New Mexico State Fair. Fair officials had blocked the company from displaying an educational booth at the fair in 2017, and Ultra Health sued. The judge found that fair staff had infringed on Ultra Health's free speech and civil rights: “The State Fair’s restrictions ... as applied to Ultra Health’s 2017 State Fair application were unreasonable in light of the purpose of the forum and the surrounding circumstances and therefore violated Ultra Health’s First Amendment right to free speech,” Judge Parker wrote in his ruling.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Legislature Takes Up Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will on Thursday take up SB 002, a measure that would require police and prosecutors to win a criminal conviction before permanently seizing someone's property. Similar bills have failed in the past, but now Democrats control both the legislature and the governor's mansion, and both House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Attorney General Dana Nessel support the effort. 

How This Red State's Cruel Meth Laws Are Putting Women Behind Bars in Record Numbers [FEATURE]

Like other Great Plains states, South Dakota has a methamphetamine problem. But it's becoming increasingly evident that South Dakota also has a problem with the way it deals with meth.

South Dakota women's prison in Pierre (KELO-TV screen grab)
Because of its strict drug laws, the state is seeing a dramatic spike in women being sent to prison for meth. According to a new report from the nonprofit South Dakota News Watch, the number of women in prison in the state has jumped 35 percent since 2013, while the male prison population has increased at only one-quarter of that rate. Nearly two-thirds of all women prisoners in the state are there for nonviolent drug offenses. The state now has the fourth-highest incarceration rate for women in the country, trailing only Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Kentucky.

Overall, about one-third of all inmates in the state are doing time for drug-related offenses, the majority of them for simple drug possession. That's a higher percentage than most other states, where drug offenders tend to make up somewhere around 20 to 25 percent of the inmate population.

The high drug-related incarceration overall and for women in particular stems less from the prevalence of drug use than from the conservative, largely rural state's reaction to it. South Dakota has not responded to decades of failed war on drug policies by reforming them, but by doubling down on them.

The state has not moved toward the defelonization of drug possession, as at least 16 others have. Instead, it has moved in the opposite direction. South Dakota has mandatory sentencing laws that include prison for not only for the manufacture and distribution of meth but also for simple possession.

State lawmakers and cops have long favored tough drug laws, and they are still at it. This year, state Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) guided bills through the legislature that heighten penalties for meth dealing and increase sentences for dealers whose clients overdose and die.

But the state's most notorious and contentious drug law -- bone that is sending hundreds of people to prison -- is the state's "possession by ingestion" statute. Otherwise known as an "internal possession" law, the statute allows for a felony conviction if a drug test reveals the presence of illicit drugs in a suspect's system. (The law also applies to marijuana, but the penalty for testing positive for pot is only a misdemeanor.)

The strictest in the nation, that law was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2004. Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a measure that would have slightly tweaked the law by removing marijuana, but that bill was killed by a unanimous vote in the first committee that heard it.

As of August, about nine percent of the male prison population and an astonishing 21 percent of the female prison population was doing time for unauthorized ingestion of a controlled substance. That's right: More than one out of five women prisoners in South Dakota is behind prison bars for nothing more than having used drugs.

South Dakota law enforcement and lawmakers may be happy with the status quo, but the man who actually runs the prison system isn't. State Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk told South Dakota News Watch that the cops' and courts' proclivity for busting and imprisoning women on drug charges is creating an expensive and ineffective cycle of imprisonment, release, and recidivism.

"We seem to think that locking individuals up is going to solve their addiction problem," said Kaemingk, a former drug officer. "They're coming to us in corrections and we're thinking that solves the problem, and I think in many cases it makes the problem worse."

Criminalizing addiction, especially among women who are mothers, Kraemingk said, creates a situation where the children are more likely to end up in prison themselves. He pointed to national studies showing that up to 80 percent of children who have parents behind bars will end up there themselves.

"Imprisonment in South Dakota is generational," Kaemingk said. "The females behind prison walls have experienced that as a child. The generation we have back there now as inmates experienced the same things when they were children."

Kraemingk and other relatively enlightened actors in the state are pushing for enhanced treatment opportunities and expanding drug courts, among other measures, to better deal with the situation, but nobody seems to be talking about not involving these women in the criminal justice system in the first place. A first step would be getting rid of that hideous "possession by ingestion" statute. The next step would be defelonization or outright decriminalization of drug possession in the state. Drug use absent harm to others should not be the state's business.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Chronicle AM: FDA Seeks Public Comment on Marijuana Classification WA Bans Gummies and Candies, More... (10/10/18)

The FDA is seeking public comment on marijuana classification, Mississippi cops continue to seize cash and other goods despite a change in state law that should have stopped them, and more.

No marijuana-infused gummies for you, Washington staters! (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Trump Administration Seeks Public Comments On Marijuana Reclassification. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comment about "the abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use" of cannabis and several other substances now under international review. Marijuana is currently Schedule I under US law and international anti-drug treaties. Public comments "will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs," Leslie Kux, FDA's associate commissioner for policy, wrote in a Federal Register filing published on Wednesday. "WHO will use this information to consider whether to recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs."

Pennsylvania Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill to decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana, House Bill 928, was approved in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Under current state law, possession is a third-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a driver's license suspension. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Philadelphia Mayor Again Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said once again on Tuesday that Pennsylvania should legalize the recreational use of marijuana statewide. "Legalizing cannabis is the right thing to do for the commonwealth," Kenney said as he announced the 2018 Cannabis Opportunity Conference next weekend. "We don't need to be wasting precious resources locking people up for marijuana possession when we should be focused on improving our schools and other priorities."

Washington State Regulators Move to Ban Marijuana Gummies and Hard Candies. The state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board announced last week it would reverse its earlier approval of marijuana-laced gummies and hard candies because they are "especially appealing to children." The board told pot companies that "all production of hard candy, tarts, fruit chews, colorful chocolates, jellies, and any gummy type products should cease" because they will no longer be approved for sale under new regulations that go into effect January 1, 2019. Stores can sell such products through April 3, 2019, or until existing inventory is depleted.

Asset Forfeiture

Mississippi Police Ignore New State Law, Keep Seizing Property. Police agencies in the state have continued to seize cash, guns, and vehicles under a state law that lapsed on June 30. That law allowed police to seize up to $20,000 in property associated with illegal drugs. Now, Mississippi agencies must sue in court and get a judge to approve seizures, as they already were required to do with larger amounts, but state police agencies have made at least 60 seizures since then without obtaining prior judicial approval.

Will Denver Be the First Place in America to Legalize Magic Mushrooms?

Denver could essentially legalize psychedelic mushrooms by next spring if a group of local activists has its way. But they have a few hurdles to overcome first.

This week, members of Denver for Psilocybin handed in to city officials a pair of municipal initiatives aimed at removing penalties for possessing and consuming the fungi, which contain the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin. That's the first step in a process that could see the issue put before voters in the May 2019 local election.

One measure, the Denver Psychoactive Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative, reflects the activists' maximum program; the other, the Denver Psychoactive Mushroom Enforcement Deprioritization Initiative, is a less ambitious backstop.

Both initiatives would make enforcement of laws against magic mushrooms a low law enforcement priority by adopting language that would "prohibit the city from spending resources to impose criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of psychoactive mushrooms." Under both initiatives, the sale of magic mushrooms would remain illegal.

The initiatives differ in two important respects. The broader one allows for the "personal possessions, use, and propagation" of magic mushrooms; the backstop version only allows for possession and use, not propagation. And the broader version contains no limits on possession, while the backstop would limit possession to two ounces.

Kevin Matthews, campaign manager for Denver for Psilocybin, told Westword he hoped the broader measure would pass muster with both city officials and voters, but that allowing propagation may be a bridge too far.

"It’s a natural right. It’s a human right. This one is our Hail Mary victory shot," Matthews said. "It’s more a matter of public opinion," he said of the two-pronged approach. "Are people ready to accept that people are already propagating?"

The Denver City Council now has a week to schedule a comment and review hearing led by Council Executive Director Leon Mason and Assistant City Attorney Troy Bratton. While the hearing is open to the public, there is no opportunity for public comment.

If the council approves, the initiatives then go to the Denver Election Division, which will have three days to decide whether to accept or reject them. Denver for Psilocybin had earlier versions of the initiatives rejected by the Elections Division but hopes it has addressed those issues with the new versions. If approved by the Elections Division, the group will then have to come up with some 5,000 valid voter signatures by January to qualify for the May ballot. They are confident that if they can get the measures on the ballot, they can win.

"I am extremely optimistic. I think we’re gonna win. I think we’re going to pass this thing," he says. Even if voters don't side with the group, "simply getting on the ballot will be a victory."

Denver isn't the only place where moves to legalize or decriminalize magic mushrooms are afoot, but it may be the first place voters get a chance to weigh in. In Oregon, activists aiming at 2020 are working on an initiative that would legalize and regulate the therapeutic use of psilocybin, while just to the south, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative campaign tried to get their measure on the 2018 ballot, but came up short on signatures. They will be back.

Magic mushrooms remain illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. But so was marijuana when Coloradans voted to legalize it in 2012. And here we are. 

Chronicle AM: No MedMJ for Vets This Year, Senate Takes Up Opioid Package, More.... (9/11/18)

A congressional conference committee has killed medical marijuana for veterans, the Senate is set to take up a package of opioid bills, the West African Commission on Drugs releases a model law for drug decriminalization, and more.

West African Commission on Drugs founder Kofi Annan. He may be gone, but his work lives on. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Vetoes Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Pot Shops That Sell to Minors. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Monday vetoed a bill that set mandatory minimum penalties for marijuana shops caught selling weed to minors. The bill would have imposed mandatory 15-day license suspensions for a first offense, 25-day suspensions for a second, and revocation for a third offense. But "this bill is not necessary," Brown said. "The bureau already has the authority to revoke, suspend, and assess fines if a licensee sells to a minor."

Medical Marijuana

Congress Removes Military Veteran Medical Marijuana Provision from Funding Bill. A conference committee working on final details for the Veterans Affairs appropriations bill has decided not to include a provision allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. The Senate bill included the provision, but the House version did not. Two years ago, both houses passed VA spending bills that included versions of the provision, but that, too, was excised in conference committee.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Senate Expected to Vote on Opioid Legislation This Week. Senate leaders announced late last week they had reached an agreement to bring a package of bills aimed at the opioid crisis to a Senate floor vote this week. The Senate will consider a substitute amendment to the opioids package that passed the House in June. Progress had stalled over Democratic concerns that a grant program would benefit only one addiction advocacy group. That has now changed. There remains a divergence between the House and Senate packages regarding requirements for Medicaid to cover treatment at more inpatient facilities and loosening privacy protections for medical records for substance abuse patients.

Sentencing Policy

Ohio Governor Candidates Clash Over Drug Possession Defelonization Initiative. Buckeye State voters will have a chance to vote to defelonize drug possession in November with the Issue 1 constitutional amendment initiative. The amendment would also bar any jail time for a first or second offense within 24 months. Mike DeWine, the Republican candidate for governor, opposes it, saying it "takes vital tools away from judges." Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray, however, supports it, saying its passage would "set the way toward a policy of being smart on crime in the future, smart on how we use taxpayers' dollars, smart on how we build people's potential to be productive citizens in our society."

International

Expert Group Publish Blueprint for West Africa Drug Decriminalization. The West Africa Commission on Drugs has published a "model law" for decriminalizing drug possession and reducing related harms in West Africa. The commission is currently chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who said on Tuesday: "West Africa faces three dangers from drugs: organized crime, corruption, and harms to people who use drugs. Our current laws increase those harms rather than help,"

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: NYC Overdose Action March, US Sentencing Commission Sets Priorities, More... (8/31/18)

The police chief in Oklahoma City wants pot busts downgraded, the US Sentencing Commission sets policy priorities for the next 18 months, marchers demand New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo take action on the state's overdose crisis, and more.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in the crosshairs Thursday as marchers demanded action on the state overdose crisis. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oklahoma City Police Chief Wants to Quit Arresting Pot Possessors. Police Chief Bill Citty is calling for adjusting city ordinances so that police officers will not have to jail people caught with small amounts of marijuana. He is backing a move to reduce the penalty for possession from a $1,200 fine and up to six months in jail to just a $400 fine. "Right now, we're taking all possessions of marijuana, and it would be a Class B offense and it would actually, they would be arrested," said Citty. "We've been arresting every single one of them. This would stop that practice. By lowering it to $400, this allows us to basically take it out of that court of record trial and we're able to assign citations for the possession of marijuana. Now, that will be if they don't have a state permit or license that allows them to have it for medical use." The proposed ordinance will be up for discussion on September 11 and again on September 28.

Utah Governor Calls for Federal Rescheduling of Marijuana. As voters in the state prepare to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to a medical marijuana initiative in November, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) is calling on Congress to reschedule it. "I'd like to see the federal government get out of the way," he said on Thursday during his monthly news conference. "We ought to call upon our congressional delegation (to) take it off the Schedule I list. Let's do the studies, let's do the clinical trials. Are they not paying attention in Washington? Evidently not," he said.

Wisconsin Voters Will Have a Chance to Weigh in on Legalizing Marijuana. Voters in 16 counties and two cities will have a chance to vote on non-binding advisory referenda for or against legalizing marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes. The referenda are on local ballots scattered across the state, from Milwaukee and Dane to LaCrosse and Langlade counties, as well as the cities of Racine and Waukesha.

Harm Reduction

New York Activists March from City Morgue to Governor's Office to Call for Action on Overdose Crisis. Activists and family members who have lost loved ones to overdose marched through Manhattan on International Overdose Awareness Day to demand Gov. Cuomo (D) take action on the overdose crisis. Amid the seventh straight year of increased overdose deaths in NYC -- 2017 being the deadliest year on record -- the community brought pictures and stories of their loved ones to Governor Cuomo's Manhattan office and demanded he takes action with evidence-based public health interventions to end the crisis.

Sentencing

Sentencing Commission Finalizes 2018-2019 Priorities. In a notice printed in the Federal Register Thursday, the US Sentencing Commission laid out is policy priorities for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019. The priorities include reexamining sentencing guidelines in the wake of the Booker decision, implementing its 2016 recommendations on sentencing enhancements to focus on actual violent offenders, and continuing its efforts to implement reforms in mandatory minimum sentencing, among others.

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