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Chronicle AM: Louisiana Cannabis Poll, Feds Raid Appalachian Opioid Prescribers, More... (4/18/19)

A new poll finds Louisianans are ready to free the weed, Georgia medical marijuana patients will soon be able to access CBD cannabis oils, a Peruvian clash that left two coca-growers dead raises international concern, and more.

A new Louisiana poll suggests the Bayou State is ready to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization. A new Louisiana State University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 55%. Four out of five (80%) of 18-29-year-olds were down with it, as well as two-thirds (67%) of people aged 30 through 49. Only people over 65 were opposed, with 69% rejecting legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Improving Access to CBD Cannabis Oil. Gov. Brian Kemp has signed into law HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

Pennsylvania Patient Loses Bid to Gain Section 8 Housing. An Indiana County medical marijuana patient whose Section 8 housing voucher was previously denied because of her medical marijuana use lost again in Common Pleas Court Wednesday, even though the judge in the case expressed sympathy for her plight. He acknowledged that medical marijuana is legal under state law, but said federal law doesn't allow the use of federally illegal drugs in federal housing programs. The patient will now appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Conducts Massive Raids Against Appalachian Opioid Prescribers. Federal agents led by the DEA raided doctors' offices and pharmacies across five Appalachian states Wednesday, arresting 60 people, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals. They are accused of writing or fulfilling more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions to 24,000 people in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia.

The DEA press release says that resources are available to help patients caught up in the situation, but for most of the states included in the listings, only addiction services are listed, not physicians or clinics with expertise in pain control, much less who are willing to provide it to patients so close to an alleged criminal situation.

Reporting notes that the indictments allege physician misconduct including performing unnecessary dental work to justify prescribing opioids, and exchanging prescriptions for sex. But there is no detail yet available for assessing whether the charges are justified, whether conduct of that type has been alleged for all the professionals targeted in the indictments, or how many people receiving prescriptions may be actual pain patients.

International

Human Rights, Policy Groups Call for Transparent Investigation of Peru Coca Farmer Killings. In a letter to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and anti-drug agency leader Ismael Ruben Vargas, dozens of human rights groups, drug policy groups, and individual academics and researchers have demanded a "transparent investigation" into the killings last week of two protesting coca-growing peasants in a confrontation with police and coca eradication forces. The letter cites a local witness who says police fired "indiscriminately" during the confrontation between growers and newly-arrived eradicators. The letter also called on the government to create a new coca registry in the region to allow farmers to participate in the country's legal coca industry.

Chronicle AM: Trump AG Open to States Setting Pot Policy, Federal Reentry Bill Filed, More... (4/10/19)

Trump's attorney general is down with letting states decide their own pot policies, New York City bans most pre-employment drug testing for marijuana, a federal bill to increase educational opportunities for prisoners gets filed, and more.

Hashish. At least one Arizona prosecutor claims this doesn't qualify as medical marijuana. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Barr Says States Rights Marijuana Bill Better Than Status Quo. In remarks before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said he would rather Congress pass a bill allowing states to legalize marijuana than continue with the status quo, where federal law conflicts with legalization in a number of states. Asked about the STATES Act, which would protect legal marijuana states from federal interference, Barr said he preferred marijuana prohibition, but acknowledged that was a losing proposition. "The situation that I think is intolerable and which I'm opposed to is the current situation we're in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are," Barr said. "Personally, I would still favor one uniform federal rule against marijuana but, if there is not sufficient consensus to obtain that, then I think the way to go is to permit a more federal approach so states can make their own decisions within the framework of the federal law and so we're not just ignoring the enforcement of federal law."

New York City Council Bans Employers from Drug Testing for Marijuana. The city council on Tuesday passed a bill that would ban most public and private employers from requiring job candidates to undergo a pre-employment test for the presence of THC. There are exceptions for workers in construction, caregiving professions, and law enforcement. "We need to be creating more access points for employment, not fewer," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in a release. "It makes absolutely no sense that we're keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use."

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Prosecutor Still Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Patients, ACLU Charges. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office under ardent marijuana foe Bill Montgomery is continuing to prosecute medical marijuana patients for extracts even as the legality of that move is being litigated before the state Supreme Court. The state law is unclear on whether extracts and hashish are covered, but such products are widely available in the state, and the ACLU wrote to Montgomery that he needs to quit prosecuting patients "for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries."

Florida House Committee Approves Limits on THC Levels in Smokable Marijuana After Contentious Hearing. Despite the angry complaints of veterans, patients, and activists, the House Appropriations Committee voted 19-7 Tuesday to approve HB 7117, which would cap the amount of THC in smokable marijuana at 10%, far under the levels normally found in commercially available marijuana. The bill now heads for a House floor vote, but prospects for passage aren't good because the Senate has yet to see a companion bill and the session ends in less than two months.

Michigan's Unlicensed Dispensaries Can Stay Open for Now. Unlicensed dispensaries that were set to be shut down by March 31 can continue to operate as attorneys for the businesses meet with state regulators seek to reach an agreement that will allow the 50 shops to stay open. Regulators had planned to send out cease and desist letters at the beginning of this month, but a Court of Claims judge has blocked that action -- at least until another court hearing set for next Thursday.

Sentencing Reform

Bipartisan Federal Bill Would Boost Prisoner Reentry. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and two Democratic colleagues, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Dick Durbin of Illinois, unveiled a bill Tuesday aimed at boosting reentry prospects for newly released federal prisoners. The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act would provide more educational opportunities for federal inmates, including access to college Pell Grants. "The REAL Act removes some federal impediments to allowing prisoners to participate in federal higher education funding, including the Pell Grants. This would allow for more federal inmates to have the opportunity to participate in these programs," Lee said. The REAL Act is endorsed by a number of stakeholder organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Correctional Association and the Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug Policy Alliance is a financial supporter of Drug War Chronicle.

Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl? No, Just Cluelessness by White House Drug Policy Advisor Kellyanne Conway [FEATURE]

Among other roles in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway is the White House's opioid crisis czar. But a comment she made last week demonstrates how totally clueless and unqualified for the job she is.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump drug policy advisor (somehow). (Twitter)
At a news conference before briefing Trump on the latest developments in the opioid crisis, Conway took on fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid linked to an ever-increasing number of overdose deaths in the country. The presidential advisor warned that fentanyl was turning up in other drugs, which is true. The illicit drug is showing up not only in heroin, where it might be expected to add to the opioid's kick but also in other powder drugs whose users are not even looking for an opioid high, such as the stimulants cocaine and methamphetamine.

The concern about drugs being adulterated with fentanyl is warranted. But Conway went a step further in her remarks, making a claim that would require only a moment's thought (or some actual familiarity with illicit drugs) for her to realize was not only false but ludicrous.

"People are unwittingly ingesting it," she said of fentanyl. "It's laced into heroin, marijuana, meth, cocaine, and it's also being distributed by itself."

Okay, one of those drugs is not like the others, and that should have been a signal to Conway that she was spouting horse manure. Fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth are all drugs that come in powder form, making it easy to cut one with the other. Marijuana, on the other hand, consists of the flowering buds of a plant. Marijuana buds spotted with powdery white speckles would be obvious (and would probably have consumers wondering if that white stuff was mold).

There is also no evidence of marijuana adulterated with fentanyl despite some urban mythologizing by a handful of law enforcement officials, which was repeated by people who should know better, including Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

When questioned about Conway's fentanyl and marijuana claim, the White House press office pointed to a speech last year by Volkow. "Fentanyl is being used to lace a wide variety of drugs, including marijuana," she claimed.

When questioned about Volkow's claim, the NIDA press office cited "anecdotal reports" from law enforcement. But those "reports" were actually a single report from police in Vancouver, B.C., in 2015 that "fentanyl-laced marijuana" was killing area drug users. And despite the panic over the claim, Vancouver cops admitted a year later that they hadn't actually seen "fentanyl-laced marijuana".

Again in 2017, some Canadian officials claimed there had been fentanyl-laced marijuana deaths. The only problem with that claim is that Canadian coroners reported no such cases.

There are a couple of ways the fentanyl-laced marijuana myth could have come about. The first is that extremely sensitive fentanyl test strips, which detect concentrations as tiny as one-billionth of a gram, could have detected minuscule amounts of the drug on pot handled by people using fentanyl, much the same way $20-dollar bills are found to be widely contaminated with traces of cocaine. Just as you're not going to get high by licking a $20, you're not going to die by smoking weed contaminated by vanishingly-small traces of fentanyl.

The second link is the presence of marijuana in the bodies of some who have died of fentanyl overdoses. But that reveals only that some people use multiple drugs, not that the lethal fentanyl was in the weed.

The DEA, for its part, has not reported encountering "fentanyl-laced marijuana," but none of this has stopped Conway from making her bogus claim. She made the same claim to right activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March.

That Conway continues to spout such nonsense is disturbing for a number of reasons, drug policy experts told Buzzfeed News last week.

"It's crazy that this story is coming out from our leaders," said epidemiologist Dan Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco. "It shows that concerns about fentanyl have reached the level of moral panic. Fear outweighs rational evidence. There is scant evidence for cannabis laced with fentanyl."

"This is part of a wider fentanyl panic that goes beyond having alternative facts and leads to bad decisions," added Northeastern University drug policy expert Leo Beletsky. "There's this mistaken belief that law enforcement are experts on the drugs they are seizing. That's just not the case, and that's part of the problem."

That's an important and under-emphasized point. Police are no more experts on drugs because they arrest drug users and sellers than they are experts on marital relations because they arrest people for domestic violence.

"The danger in a moral panic is that we see this overreaction that leads to a replay of the mistakes of the crack cocaine crisis," Beletsky said. "We need to move beyond the universe of alternative facts."

Unfortunately, this is an administration that swims in a sea of alternative facts. The least we can do is push back hard.

Chronicle AM: Trump Delays Border Shutdown Over Drugs, Migrants; NH House Approves Legal Pot, More... (4/5/19)

Trump pushes his threat to close down the border into the future, migrant workers in the state-legal marijuana industry are being denied citizenship, New Hampshire is one step closer to marijuana legalization, and more.

The US-Mexico border. No shutdown this year, Trump now says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Legal Marijuana Industry Workers Are Being Denied Citizenship. At least two immigrant workers in Colorado's state-legal marijuana industry have been denied citizenship under a US Citizenship and Immigration Services policy that automatically denies citizenship to immigrants working in a business that involves a Schedule I drug. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) has sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr (R) advocating for a change in the policy.

Arkansas Decriminalization Bill Stalled. A bill to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana an administrative infraction instead of a misdemeanor failed to advance out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. Instead, bill sponsor Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) pulled HB 1972 after the committee requested more research instead of passing it.

New Hampshire House Approves Legalization Bill. The House voted 200-163 Thursday to approve HB 481, which would legalize marijuana in the Granite State. The bill's tax structure was amended in the House. Instead of a $30 an ounce tax as originally proposed, the bill now contains a 5% tax at the wholesale/cultivation level and a 9% tax at the retail level. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats hold a 14-10 majority. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) remains opposed to legalizing marijuana.

Washington Bill Would Change Penalty for Sales to Minors from Felony to Misdemeanor. A bill to drastically reduce the penalty for sales to minors has passed the House and is now before the Senate Rules Committee. Under current law, any sales to minors is a felony, but HB 1792 would take that penalty from a felony down to a misdemeanor—unless the seller knew the buyer was a minor.

The Border

Trump Gives Mexico a Year to Stop the Flow of Drugs, Migrants. Retreating from his vow to shut down the US-Mexico border this week President Trump now says he will give Mexico a year to end the flow of migrants and illicit drugs across the border. If the problem persists, he said, he will impose auto tariffs, and if that doesn't work, he will then shut the border. "You know I will do it. I don’t play games. ... so we’re doing it to stop people. We’re gonna give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop, or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, in particular cars. The whole ballgame is cars. ... and if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border," Trump told reporters at the White House. That is a significant retreat from his vow on March 29 to close the border "next week."

Chronicle AM: NJ Legal Pot Bill Moving, Trump Administration Backs Needle Exchange, More... (3/19/19)

Pot legalization bills advanced in the New Jersey legislature, an Oregon initiative would allow for social consumption spaces and protect workers, smokable medical marijuaan comes to Florida, Arkansas passes a civil asset forfeiture reform bill, and more.

The Trump administration doesn't like safe injection sites, but it's down with needle exchanges. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Legalization Bills Advance. Marijuana legalization bills advanced in the legislature Monday. The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved A 4497, while the Senate Judiciary Committee approved its companion measure, S 2703. The victories come a week after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders reached an agreement on what legalization should look like. Final floor votes could come as early as next Monday.

Oregon Initiative Would Allow Indoor Pot Smoking, Protect Workers. Marijuana industry leaders have filed an initiative, the Legalization Justice Act of 2020, which would, among other things, allow for social consumption spaces, provide protections for workers who use marijuana off the job, and urge the state to protect its homegrown marijuana industry. Now, organizers must collect 1,000 signatures before the secretary of state's office drafts a ballot title. Once that step is completed, organizers will then have to gather 112,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Pennsylvania Legalization Bill Details Announced. State Sens. Daylin Leach (D) and Sharif Street (D) have released details of their pending legalization bill. The measure would allow for social consumption sites and the home cultivation of up to six plants. A tax rate has not been set, but the goal is a rate that "balances the need to undermine any illegal market and the needs to both pay for regulation of the industry and invest in those harmed by prohibition." There would be no cap on marijuana business licenses and their would be a tiered licensing system to help communities adversely affected by the war on drugs.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Governor Signs Smokable Medical Marijuana Bill into Law. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed into law SB 182, which ends a legislatively-mandated ban on smoking medical marijuana. The ban had been thrown out in the courts, but former Gov. Rick Scott (R) had appealed to reinstate it. DeSantis had threatened to drop the appeal if the legislature didn't act, but the legislature has acted and now the ban is dead.

Asset Forfeiture

Arkansas Legislature Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform. The House last week unanimously approved SB 308, which will require police and prosecutors to win a criminal conviction in most cases before they can seize someone's property. The Senate approved it last month. It now is on the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R).

Harm Reduction

Trump Administration Backs Needle Exchange. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday the Trump administration is backing needle exchange programs as part of its effort to end HIV transmission but will continue to oppose safe injection sites. The move represents a policy shift among Republicans, who have traditionally opposed needle exchanges, but Azar said they were necessary: "Syringe services programs aren’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a Republican health secretary, but we’re in a battle between sickness and health, between life and death," Azar said.

Chronicle AM: AK Okays Pot Social Consumption, Trump Slashes Drug Czar Budget, More... (3/13/19)

Alaska gives final approval for on-site consumption at pot shops, San Francisco approves pot smoking at events where people like to smoke pot, President Trump ponders designating Mexican cartels as terrorists, South Dakota legislators come up short in a bid to override the veto of a hemp bill, and more.

The drug czar's office is on the budgetary cutting block again.
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Social Consumption Gets Final Approval. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) Tuesday signed off on new regulations allowing on-site marijuana use in retail pot shops, the final step in approving social consumption in the state. This makes Alaska the first state to approve such use statewide. Consumers can’t bring their own but will have to purchase the pot on-site and consumption areas will have to be ventilated and separated from other parts of the store. The first on-site consumption should come by mid-July, state officials said.

New York Black Lawmakers Won’t Vote for Legalization Without Racial Equity. Black lawmakers are demanding that racial equity provisions be written into any legalization bill or they won’t vote for it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mentioned racial injustice in pot law enforcement in calling for legalization, but lawmakers representing minority communities say his proposal doesn’t go far enough in addressing how racial inequities would be repaired.

San Francisco to Allow Pot Smoking at Events Where People Like to Smoke Pot. Seems like common sense. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a special permit to allow people to sell and smoke marijuana at public events that have traditionally seen a lot of pot smoking, such as the 4/20 celebration on Hippie Hill and the Outside Lands music festival, both in Golden Gate Park. The ordinance gives the Office of Cannabis the authority to grant temporary waivers to the city’s tough no-smoking laws.

Hemp

South Dakota Lawmakers Fall Short on Bid to Override Hemp Bill Veto. After Gov. Kristi Noem (R) vetoed a bill to legalize industrial hemp production over the weekend, lawmakers sought to override the veto. In votes Tuesday, the House supported the override on a 55-11 vote, but the Senate came up short, voting 20-13 to override when it needed 24 votes to be successful.

Drug Policy

Trump’s Drug Budget Again Slashes Funding for Drug Czar’s Office. For the second year in a row, the White House’s proposed drug budget for Fiscal Year 2020 virtually zeroes out funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar’s office). Congress restored the funding for ONDCP last year, allotting it slightly more than $120 million, about the same as the previous year. But this year’s proposed budget allocates only $14.9 million.

Foreign Policy

Trump Thinking “Very Seriously” About Designating Mexican Drug Cartels as Terrorists. In an interview published Tuesday in Breitbart News, President Trump is thinking “very seriously” about designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorists. "We are. We are," Trump said. "We're thinking about doing it very seriously. In fact, we've been thinking about it for a long time. . . . As terrorists - as terrorist organizations, the answer is yes. They are."

Harm Reduction

North Carolina Senate Approves Good Samaritan Expansion Bill. The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill, SB 106, that would clarify the state’s 2013 Good Samaritan law to specify that the people who actually suffer drug overdoses have the same legal immunity from criminal charges as the people who call for help. The bill now heads to the House.

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.)

Chronicle AM: William Barr Confirmed as US AG, Congressional Marijuana Banking Hearing, More... (2/14/19)

The Senate has confirmed old drug warrior William Barr as attorney general, Congress holds a hearing on marijuana and banking, Ted Cruz wants El Chapo to pay for the wall, and more.

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is sending the National Guard after what are likely mythical cartel pot grows. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Urged to Open Banks to Marijuana Industry. At a House hearing Wednesday, bank officers and state officials urged Congress to fully open the US banking system to the legal marijuana industry. California Treasurer Fiona Ma said allowing access to banking was a critical step for the growth of the fledgling legal industry, while Gregory Deckard, speaking for the Independent Community Banks of America, said allowing financial access was a critical step.

California Governor Vows Crackdown on Illegal Pot Grows, Blames Cartels. In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed to crack down on cartel-grown black market marijuana, even though it's not clear how great a role the Mexican drug gangs have in the state's huge illicit pot market. Newsom said he would pull state National Guard troops from the Mexican border, and they will be "redeploying up north to go after all these illegal cannabis farms, many of which are run by the cartels that are devastating our pristine forests and increasingly themselves becoming fire hazards." Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, scoffed at the cartel claims. "I don’t know about this old 'cartels' thing," he said. "Frankly we’ve seen very little at all about illegal activity in the way of growing in the wilderness the way we used to. Cartel involvement is a bugaboo they like to throw around."

North Carolina Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) filed a marijuana legalization bill, SB 58, on Wednesday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to three ounces, with possession of more than three ounces charged as a misdemeanor. Lowe introduced a similar measure last year, but it never made it out of the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Medical Marijuana

House, Senate Bills to Give Vets Access to Medical Marijuana Filed. Legislators in both the House and Senate filed companion bills to make it legal under federal law for military veterans to "use, possess, or transport medical marijuana" in compliance with state laws. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the bill, known as The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would block veterans who use medical marijuana under state laws from being harassed by federal officials and would clarify that VA doctors can recommend medical marijuana to their patients. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website, but the text is available here.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Dies. A bill that would have added 13 qualifying conditions to the state's medical marijuana law was killed Wednesday after state health officials maintained the drug causes harm. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of  HB 1150, to no avail.

Asset Forfeiture

Ted Cruz Wants El Chapo to Pay for the Border Wall. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is using the conviction of Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to flog a bill he introduced last month that would use assets seized from Mexican drug cartels to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. "America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts. U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder," Cruz wrote in a tweet. The bill is S. 25, cutely titled the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act or the EL CHAPO Act. Companion legislation has also been filed in the House.

Law Enforcement

Old Drug Warrior William Barr Confirmed as US Attorney General. The Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general Thursday on a 54-45 vote. Only three Democrats—Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Doug Jones (AL), and Joe Manchin (WV) voted in favor of Barr, while Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican to oppose his nomination. His nomination was opposed by drug reformers who cited his record as a drug war hardliner while serving as attorney general under President George HW Bush.

International

European Parliament Approves Resolution to Advance Medical Marijuana. The European Parliament voted Wednesday to approve a resolution aimed at advancing medical marijuana in countries that form the European Union. The non-binding resolution seeks to provide incentives to member states to increase access to medical marijuana and prioritize medical marijuana research and clinical studies.

Brazil Drug War "Shoot to Kill" Policy Bears First Fruit—13 Dead in Rio. Police engaged in drug raids under the aggressive policies of state Gov. Wilson Witzel, who campaigned on using "shoot to kill" tactics against armed drug gang members, killed at least 13 people in the Fallet/Fogueteiro favela in central Rio de Janeiro last Friday. But relatives of the dead and witnesses said some were gang members but had surrendered their weapons before being executed and two others were teenagers with no gang links who were tortured and executed in their own homes. The killings led to a heated public meeting to demand justice in the favela on Tuesday, but analysts said to expect more: "It’s a very symbolic operation," said Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio, who said he expects police killings to rise: "Everything indicates there will be an increase because there is an open encouragement from both the federal and state government." Cano, compared the killings to the extrajudicial executions of drug users in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte and said there were indications of "summary executions."

Chronicle AM: Feds Move Against Philly Safe Injection Site, MA Heroin OD Death Case, More.... (2/6/19)

Pushback against marijuana legalization emerges in Illinois and New York, the federal prosecutor in Philadelphia has moved to block a supervised injection site, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will decide on whether an involuntary manslaughter charge is appropriate in a heroin overdose death case, and more.

Massachusett's highest court will decide if sharing heroin with someone who ODs is involuntary manslaughter. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Catholic Bishops Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The bishops in charge of all six of the state’s Catholic dioceses have unsurprisingly come out against efforts in the state legislature to legalize marijuana. "As lawmakers consider this issue, it is important to remember they are not only debating the legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from," the bishops said in a statement. "In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens."

New York PTA Opposes Marijuana Legalization. The New York State Parent Teacher Association has Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) and the legislature's push to legalize marijuana.  is urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers to rethink their push to legalize adult-use marijuana. "In 2017 the American Medical Association stated that marijuana is a dangerous drug, a serious public health concern and that the sale of marijuana for recreational use should not be legalized," State PTA Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky said in a statement. "We need to listen to experts on this and must do more to protect our children from substance use disorders. This is the wrong move for New York state, our children and their families." The bill the governor has proposed requires New Yorkers to be at least 21 years of age to consume marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers File Proposed Language. A group calling itself Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted its proposed language for a medical marijuana ballot initiative Tuesday. If approved for signature gathering, the initiative will need about 130,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. The move comes after the state legislature has refused for years to pass legislation, but initiative organizers say they would prefer to achieve their goals by passing Legislative Bill 110, which is pending this session.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 1467, which would end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote. 

Harm Reduction

Eastern Pennsylvania US Attorney Files Lawsuit to Block Philadelphia Supervised Injection Site. US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain announced at a Wednesday morning news conference that he had filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking Philadelphia from becoming the first city in the nation to host a supervised injection site. His lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare such a facility illegal under federal law. McSwain said that by seeking a civil ruling before the site became operational, his office could avoid having to resort to making criminal arrests and prosecutions and/or forfeiture proceedings. McSwain's move comes after city officials have spent more than a year preparing to get a site up and running.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Decide on Appropriate Penalty for Supplying Heroin in Overdose Cases. The state's highest court will decide whether a UMass-Amherst student who jointly procured heroin with a friend who subsequently overdosed and died from the drug can be charged with involuntary manslaughter based on wanton or reckless conduct and drug distribution. In oral arguments Monday, the student's attorneys noted that while other had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in overdose deaths, their client had not injected the victim with heroin, supplied him with other drugs, or knew of any prior overdoses. The court is not expected to rule on the case for four or five months.

Chronicle AM: Denver Psilocbyin Init Will Go to Voters, White House Issues Drug Strategy, More... (2/4/19)

The White House belatedly released the National Drug Control Strategy, a Denver magic mushroom initiative has qualified for the May ballot, Northeastern marijuana legalizers are busy, and more.

Denver will vote on removing criminal penalties for psychedelic mushrooms. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

World Health Organization Urges Removal of Marijuana from Drug Treaties. The World Health Organization (WHO) last Friday published a letter to the United Nations advising that marijuana and cannabis resin should no longer be considered controlled substances under international drug treaties. WHO specifically asked that the substances be moved out of Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which includes drugs thought to have no therapeutic value.

Cory Booker Enters Presidential Race With Call for Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) formally entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination last Friday and called for marijuana legalization and broader criminal justice reforms. There is a need for "changing our drug laws," including "ending the prohibition against marijuana," he said. "We do not have equal justice under the law," Booker said of the disproportionate rate at which black people are incarcerated under the country's drug laws. I believe in redemption."

New York Governor Wants Marijuana Legalized by April 1. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said last Friday he wanted to see marijuana legalized by the state budget deadline of April 1. His remarks came after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that lawmakers might have to wait until after the budget to take up legalization. But Cuomo said Friday he isn't giving up on his timetable and that a lot can happen in the legislature in six weeks.

Pennsylvania Legalization Bill Coming. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny County) will file a legalization bill that expunges criminal records for past pot convictions, releases inmates currently serving time for such offenses, and allows people 21 and over to use, buy, and grow marijuana.

Vermont Attorney General Supports Legalizing Pot Sales. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana legislatively last year but did not legalize marijuana commerce. Now, there's an effort underway to do so with SB 54, and Attorney General TJ Donovan supports it. "We have to have a regulated market," he said last Thursday. "This is common sense." The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Barlow has filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, HB 278. The bill would create a strictly regulated system for the use and distribution of medical marijuana in the state.

Psychedelics

Denver Will Vote on Magic Mushroom Initiative in May. City officials announced last Friday that the Decriminalize Denver initiative to make adult use and possession the lowest law enforcement priority and bar the city from using its resources to arrest and prosecute people for the hallucinogenic fungi has qualified for the ballot and will go before voters in the May municipal election. This marks the first time any jurisdiction in the US will have voted on decriminalizing psychedelics.

Drug Policy

Trump Administration Unveils National Drug Control Strategy. The White House last Thursday released its long-awaited National Drug Control Strategy, which typically is released annually, but which the Trump administration failed to do last year. The document contains little new policy but instead emphasizes existing Trump priorities: reducing drug supply through stricter law enforcement, lowering first-time opioid prescription rates, and expanding access to addiction treatment. Despite its emphasis on supply reduction, it acknowledges the risk of reducing access for chronic pain patients. Although it talks about drugs coming across the Mexican border, the strategy does not contain the words "border wall."

Drug Testing

North Dakota School Board and Employee Drug Testing Bills Die. A pair of bills that would have mandated random, suspicionless drug tests for school employees and school board members have been killed in the Senate. SB 2310 was aimed at school employees, while SB 2337 was aimed at board members.

Sentencing

Mississippi Bill Targets People Who Provide Drugs in Fatal Overdoses. After a conviction for "depraved heart" murder in the case of a fatal overdose was overturned on appeal, state legislators have filed HB 867, which would allow sentences of 20 years to life without parole for people charged with selling drugs that result in the deaths of others. The bill would also increase penalties for the sale of heroin or fentanyl. The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last week and is now headed for the House floor.

(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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