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Chronicle AM: VA Governor Vetoes Overdose Homicide Bill, VT Legal MJ Sales Bill Advances, More... (5/3/19)

A Vermont bill to legalize recreational cannabis sales takes another step forward, a New Hampshire bill to let patients grow their own goes to the governor's desk, Virginia's governor vetoes an overdose homicide bill, and more.

Twenty states have passed overdose homicide laws. Virginia won't be next, but North Carolina might. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Lawmakers Demand End to Policy Punishing Immigrants Working in Marijuana Industry. Four Colorado US representatives have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to end a policy that bars immigrants who work in the state-legal marijuana industry from gaining US citizenship. The US Customs and Immigration Service has ruled that working in the industry means immigrants lack the "good moral character" required for citizenship.

Vermont Recreational Sales Bill Wins First House Committee Vote. The House Committee on Government Operations voted 10-1 Thursday to approve a bill that would legalize marijuana sales in the state, SB 54. The bill would tax marijuana sales at 16% and give localities the option of adding another 2%. The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees before getting a House floor vote. The bill has already passed the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The Senate on Thursday approved HB 364, which would allow patients to grow up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. The House has already passed the bill but will have to vote again to approve amendments made in the Senate. If it does so, the bill will then head to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA, Drug Distributors Team Up to Block Release of Opioid Delivery Information. The DEA and the nation's largest drug distributors worked together Thursday to block the public release of information that would show the number of opioid pain pills the companies delivered to pharmacies across the country. Lawyers for the Washington Post and two West Virginia newspapers had sued for release of the information, arguing that distributors and DEA only sought to withhold the information because it would be embarrassing for companies that shipped massive amounts of opioids to states and towns that were arguably unjustifiable, and the DEA doesn't want to explain its actions. In oral arguments in the US 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, judges hearing the case expressed skepticism about DEA and distributor claims, but issued no ruling.

Pharmaceutical Company Founder, Executives Found Guilty of Bribing Doctors to Prescribe Opioids. Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor and four colleagues were found guilty by a federal jury in Boston Thursday of participating in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe its fentanyl spray, Subsys. The bribery scheme involved retaining doctors to act as speakers at sham events that were supposedly meant to educate other doctors about the drug. They're looking at 20 years in federal prison. but maintain their innocence and plan to appeal.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill into Law. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill reforming civil asset forfeiture, HB 1286. The bill doesn't end civil forfeiture but raises the evidentiary standard for seizures from "a preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." It also includes a proportionality test to block seizing property worth more than the criminal penalty for the offense. And it adds reporting requirements for courts, prosecutors and the attorney general.

Drug Policy

Amy Klobuchar Releases $100 Billion Proposal to Fight Drug Addiction. Democratic presidential contender and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday released a $100 billion policy proposal for tackling drug addiction. While short on specifics, the proposal focuses on funding prevention programs and treatment centers across the country. She also calls for bringing down the price of naloxone and curbing "doctor shopping." Klobuchar's father was an alcoholic, and that makes the issue personal for her. "The one thing I hear over and over again across the country is people’s stories of battling with mental health and addiction," she said in a statement. "People need help, but they just can't get it. I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need." [Ed: Sometimes what's called "doctor shopping" is really pain patients whose doctors they went to are afraid to provide the prescriptions they need.]

Sentencing

North Carolina Senate Approves Homicide by Overdose Bill. The Senate voted on Thursday to approve SB 375, which would allow people who distribute a drug that results in an overdose death to be charged with murder. That means that drug users who share with friends, partners who use from the same supply of drugs, and people who sell to support a drug habit could face murder charges even when the death is an accident. The bill now heads to the House.

Virginia Governor Vetoes Homicide by Overdose Bill. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday vetoed HB 2528, which would have made it easier for state prosecutors to go after drug dealers with a felony homicide charge when users die of an overdose. "The disease of addiction has long devastated our communities," Northam said in his veto message. "While I share the goal of addressing the opioid crisis and ensuring drug dealers are punished for supplying dangerous drugs, this bill goes beyond drug dealers and would punish individuals who are themselves struggling with addiction. The way to help individuals struggling with addiction is to ensure they receive proper treatment."

(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: Trump VA Rejects Vets' MedMJ Bills, Philippines Drug War Called Out, More... (5/2/19)

The Trump VA rejects medical marijuana bills for veterans, DC's mayor unveils a bill to allow for taxed and regulated marijuana sales, the Louisiana legislature is moving on medical marijuana issues, the Philippines is in the hotseat as global harm reductionists gather, and more.

sending a message to Duterte (Steve Forrest/HRI/Workers' Photos)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Regulators Approve Draft Changes for Onsite Consumption. The Marijuana Control Board has given initial approval to draft changes in the state's recently-approved onsite consumption regulations. The new draft would allow stores to seek an edibles-only endorsement, which would allow for onsite consumption without the business having to build a separate building for smoking marijuana.

Colorado Marijuana Delivery Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The legislature gave final approval Wednesday to HB 19-1234, which would allow deliveries for medical marijuana patients beginning in 2020 and for recreational users beginning in 2021. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Connecticut Legislative Panel Advances Marijuana Tax Proposal. The Finance Committee voted Wednesday to approve a measure setting taxes for a system of legal, regulated marijuana commerce. The tax proposal will be merged in coming weeks with an overall bill to legalize and regulate marijuana. The General Law and Judiciary committees have previously approved legalization in bills that focused on regulatory and legal aspects.

DC Mayor Unveils Legal Marijuana Sales Bill. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Thursday announced legislation that would legalize and regulate marijuana sales in the District, potentially setting up a confrontation with the federal government. The city approved the legalization of possession and cultivation in 2014, but has been blocked from full-on legalization by a federal budget provision that bars the city from enacting or enforcing full legalization. The mayor doesn't want to wait for Congress to remove that anti-marijuana language. The bill is the Safe Cannabis Sales Act and would impose a 17% sales tax on marijuana products, allow for expanded marijuana production in the city, and would allow regulators to okay onsite consumption at pot shops and hookah lounges.

Seattle Mayor Calls for Nationwide Evaluation of Marijuana Legalization. Mayor Jenny Durkin (D) wants a nationwide review of marijuana legalization and prohibition, she said Wednesday. "We need to have a real evaluation nationwide," she said. "We need to make sure we do it in a way that decriminalizes people, doesn't have a criminal justice intervention when its not appropriate, and focus those criminal justice resources on those things that are real threats to communities," she continued. She added that states need a "unifying force" to ensure consistency in state laws.

Medical Marijuana

Trump Administration Opposes Bills Easing Medical Marijuana Access for Veterans. In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs said the agency opposes three bills aimed at easing medical marijuana access for vets. The bills are the Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1647), the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act (HR 712) and the Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act (HR 2191).

Louisiana Bill Allowing Vaped Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to vape their medicine was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. HB 368 would also do away with the list of qualifying conditions and allow physicians to recommend it for any debilitating medical condition. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Louisiana Bill to Ease Access to CBD Advances. A bill that would ease access to CBD products by removing low-THC hemp from the state criminal code passed the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice Wednesday. HB 138 now heads for a House floor vote.

Kratom

Arizona Governor Signs Kratom Regulation Bill. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday signed into law the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, HB 2550. The bill prohibits the sale of kratom to minors and creates requirements for product labels. Selling kratom products in violation of this law would be a class two misdemeanor.

International

Human Rights Advocates, Harm Reductionists Rally Against Philippine Drug War. Attendees at the 26th Harm Reduction International Conference in Porto, Portugal, gathered to send a message to the government of the Philippines: Stop the killings carried out in the country'' bloody anti-drug campaign. "The Philippine government's barbaric campaign against the drug trade is severely harming the health and security of its communities. The evidence that punitive drug policies don't work is irrefutable. People around the world have sent a clear message to the government today -- stop the killings and invest in the health and human rights of your people," Naomi Burke-Shyne, Harm Reduction International executive director, said.

Philippines Rejects Call from Ex-New Zealand Prime Minister to Decriminalize Drug Possession. The Malacanang palace on Thursday rejected a call from former New Zealand prime minister, former UN Development Program administrator, and current member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Helen Clark for the country to decriminalize drug possession. "The suggestion of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to decriminalize the use of drugs as an alternative to the drug war, similar to the proposal by the European Union made two years ago, had already been thumbed down by the President," said a presidential spokesman. "The other countries' experiences in addressing illegal substances while educational relative to their method of solving their own drug menace, decriminalizing the use of drugs in the Philippines will not only aggravate but multiply the problem. Take out the criminal liability of those involved and you induce and encourage others to be a part of the dreaded evil," he added.

Medical Marijuana Update

No medical marijuana for South Carolina this year, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative signature-gathering campaign is rolling along, New Hampshire could see a home grow option, and more.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Instead of Opioids Passes House. A bill that would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana in lieu of opioid pain medications passed the House Tuesday. SB 13 was approved by the Senate in February but needs to go back to the upper chamber for approval of changes made in the House before going to the office of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Iowa

Iowa Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. As the legislative session ended Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF 732. The bill removes the 3% cap on THC and replaces it with a 25-gram limit per patient every 90 days. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Mississippi

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering in Good Shape. Medical Marijuana 2020, the group behind a state medical marijuana initiative campaign, has already collected 96,000 raw signatures with months to go. The campaign needs 86,000 verified voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign will likely need to collect several tens of thousands more signatures, in order to have that many left after the inevitable disqualifications. But things appear to be on track.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

North Dakota

North Dakota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Package. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed into law four bills related to the state's medical marijuana program: HB 1417 will allow greater amounts of marijuana for cancer patients; HB 1519 expands qualifying conditions to include (among others) anorexia, bulimia, and brain injury; HB 1119 provides for the removal of social security numbers from program documents and declares an emergency to do so; and HB 1283 amends parts of the written certification requirements.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. SB 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Utah

Utah Will Limit Number of Growers at Ten. Regulators announced last Friday that they will only allow ten growers to be licensed to produce medical marijuana. Each grower will be limited to growing no more than four acres outside or 100,000 square feet indoors. Dispensaries are set to open in the state nest year.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: TX GOPers Pronounce Pot Decrim Bill Dead, Oakland Psychedelic Resolution Coming, More... (5/1/19)

Texas Republican leaders move to squash a cannabis decriminalization bill, the Oakland city council will consider a resolution to effectively decriminalize the use and possession of psychedelics, global NGOs use the International Harm Reduction Conference to launch a call for human rights, health, and drug decriminalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Key Senator Won't Commit to Considering Marijuana Banking Bill. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, said Tuesday he would not commit to the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide protections for banks and other financial institutions doing business with state-legal marijuana businesses. The bill is moving in the House, where a floor vote is expected by next month.

Texas Republicans Announce They Are Killing Decriminalization Bill. A day after the House passed HB 63, which would end the possibility of jail time for the possession of small amounts of marijuana but keep possession as a misdemeanor, key Republicans pronounced the bill dead. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire (R) told reporters there was not "an appetite" for reform in the Senate, and Senate President and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) flatly declared the bill was dead.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Instead of Opioids Passes House. A bill that would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana in lieu of opioid pain medications passed the House Tuesday. SB 13 was approved by the Senate in February but needs to go back to the upper chamber for approval of changes made in the House before going to the office of Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Psychedelics

Oakland Could See City Council Take up Resolution of Psychedelics This Summer. Activists with the Decriminalize Nature campaign say they have found a city council sponsor for a resolution that would bar city police and other officials from participating "in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the personal use and personal possession of "psychedelic drugs. The group says it has already met with the offices of four of the eight council members, with more meetings scheduled for coming weeks. Councilmember Noel Gallo (D) has agreed to sponsor the resolution.

International

NGOs Call for Harm Reduction, Drug Decriminalization. More than 300 non-governmental organizations have used the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal to call on the international community to address the ongoing global health and human rights crisis among drug users. In a sign-on letter released Wednesday, the groups called for reconsideration of the role of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), given its law enforcement approach and its lagging behind other UN agencies in embracing harm reduction. They also called for national governments to embrace increased harm reduction interventions, the inclusion of communities and civil society in drug policy decisions, "proportionate" sentencing for all drug offenses, and the decriminalization of drug use and possession of personal use amounts of drugs.

Chronicle AM: Houston Drug Cases Dismissed as Scandal Grows, WA Hemp Bill Becomes Law, More... (4/29/19)

A fatal botched drug raid continues to reverberate in Houston, hemp bills advance in Louisiana and Washington, North Dakota legislators vote to lower penalties for marijuana possession, and more.

Small amounts of marijuana would be effectively decriminalized under a bill that passed the North Dakota legislature. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Home Deliveries. The state Cannabis Control Commission voted 4-1 last Friday to give preliminary approval for home delivery of marijuana. Under the plan, for the first two years, delivery businesses would be limited to social equity and economic empowerment applicants -- those who are from areas of the state that were disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement and criminalization.

North Dakota Legislature Lowers Penalties for Possession. On the last day of the legislative session last Friday, lawmakers approved HB 1050, which would make possession of up to a half ounce an infraction, which requires a court appearance but no jail time. Possession of up to 500 grams would be a Class B misdemeanor, while possession of more than 500 grams would be a Class A misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. As the legislative session ended Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF 732. The bill removes the 3% cap on THC and replaces it with a 25-gram limit per patient every 90 days. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Utah Will Limit Number of Growers to Ten. Regulators announced last Friday that they will only allow 10 growers to be licensed to produce medical marijuana. Each grower will be limited to growing no more than four acres outside or 100,000 square feet indoors. Dispensaries are set to open in the state next year.

Hemp

Louisiana Hemp Bill Advances. A bill that would let farmers in the state grow industrial hemp was unanimously approved last Thursday by the House Agriculture Committee. HB 491 now heads for a House floor vote.

Washington Hemp Bill Signed into Law. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) last Friday signed into law SB 5276, which will establish a licensing and regulatory program to allow hemp production in the state.

Law Enforcement

Houston Drug Cases Linked to Officers in Botched Fatal Drug Raid Dismissed. The Harris County DA is dismissing dozens of drug cases involving former Houston Police narcotics officers Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines. The pair are under investigation for lying about the circumstances of a January drug raid that left a Houston couple dead and five officers injured. Last Friday, prosecutors sought dismissal of more than two dozen criminal cases in addition to another five dismissed earlier. Goines is accused of lying about an informant buying heroin at the house raided. After homeowner Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, were killed, police found only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Sales Compromise Broached, MI Forfeiture Reform Passes, More... (4/26/19)

Vermont could yet end up with a regulated marijuana market, Iowa gets ready to grow some hemp, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan and North Dakota, and more.

Iowa is about to become the next state to legalize industrial hemp. Only seven states have failed to do so. (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Democrats Could Compromise on Driver Saliva Testing to Get Legal Sales Bill Passed. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said last week that he would not sign a bill to create a regulated legal marijuana market unless it included saliva testing of drivers, and now Democratic legislative leaders are signaling that they may support the testing, but only if police officers are required to obtain a search warrant before doing the testing. "I don't see any way the Senate would support saliva testing without a search warrant," said Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and cosponsor of the bill, SB 54.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. Senate Bill 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Hemp

Iowa Hemp Bill Passes, Heads for Governor's Desk. The House on Thursday gave final approval for a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming, HF 781. A companion measure has already passed the Senate. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Poll Examines Public Attitudes Over Opioid Epidemic. A new NPR/Ipsos poll examining American attitudes toward the opioid crisis has a slight majority (56%) saying pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse, and nearly three-quarters said drug companies should help fund opioid addiction treatment (73%) and distribute naloxone kits (72%). A strong majority (71%) said they were willing to have the government intervene to restrict opioid redistribution, while 66% said they supported more widespread distribution of naloxone. More than one in three (35%) said they had been personally affected, while nearly a quarter (23%) said they knew someone who had overdosed. The survey is not reported to have asked about pain patients' problems with accessing opioid medications.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Bills to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture Pass Legislature. A trio of bills that would end most civil asset forfeiture in the state has passed both houses of the legislature and is now headed for the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has signaled she will sign the bills into law. The bills require a criminal conviction before police can keep assets worth less than $50,000 seized in connection with a crime.

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House Over Sponsor's Objections. The House on Friday approved HB 1286, which reforms the state's asset forfeiture laws, but only after diluting it to such a degree that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), ended up voting against it. The bill would require a higher evidentiary standard of clear and convincing evidence for forfeiture, and it includes a provision to not forfeit property worth more than the associated criminal penalty. But it also allows seizure of property if there is evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" of the property's criminal involvement. "It's very, very confusing. It's a very odd loophole," Becker said of the latter exception. "It's putting a criminal proceeding standard into a civil proceeding with no trial."He also criticized the bill's reporting requirements as too weak. "I'm looking at the words in front of me," Becker said. "We had such good opportunity for real reform, and I'm happy to come back in two years and try again."

Chronicle AM: MS MedMJ Petitioning On Track, Kamala Harris on Pardons for Drug Prisoners, More... (4/25/19)

Texas decriminalization gets walked back a step, a Mississippi medical marijuana initiative already has lots and lots of signatures, Kamala Harris talks pardons for drug war prisoners, and more.

The Texas decriminalization bill just became a misdemeanor and expungment bill.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Modified to Not Quite Decriminalization. Ahead of House floor debate set for today, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), the author of the decriminalization bill, HB 63, has rewritten the measure so that possession of an ounce or less remains a misdemeanor, but with a near automatic expungement of any criminal record if the person completes probation. "Without leaving some criminal component in it, I probably couldn't get the bill through the process and across the governor's desk," Moody said. "I didn't want to come this far and make perfect the enemy of good."

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering in Good Shape. Medical Marijuana 2020, the group behind a state medical marijuana initiative campaign, has already collected 96,000 raw signatures with months to go. The campaign needs 86,000 verified voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign will likely need to collect several tens of thousands more signatures, in order to have that many left after the inevitable disqualifications. But things appear to be on track.

North Dakota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Package. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed into law four bills related to the state's medical marijuana program: HB 1417 will allow greater amounts of marijuana for cancer patients; HB 1519 expands qualifying conditions to include (among others) anorexia, bulimia, and brain injury; HB 1119 provides for the removal of social security numbers from program documents and declares an emergency to do so; and HB 1283 amends parts of the written certification requirements.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Defends Administration Opioid Policy. Addressing the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta Wednesday, President Trump said his administration had made "tremendous progress" on the issue in the face of critics who argue that the drug czar's office (ONDCP) has done little to combat the crisis and that a law passed last year did not adequately fund drug treatment.

Pardons and Commutations

Kamala Harris Says She Will Pardon Low-Level Drug Prisoners If Elected. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said Wednesday she would pardon low-level drug prisoners if she becomes president. "Absolutely," she said when asked about using the power of commutation. "We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them… for what is essentially a public health issue." Her remarks came at a She the People town hall in Houston.

(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.)

Medical Marijuana Update

The action is all down South this week as Arkansas vows to reissue medical marijuana cards, a Texas medical marijuana bill heads to the House floor, and more.

Alabama

Alabama Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve 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.

Arkansas

Arkansas to Reissue Medical Marijuana Cards. The state Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold. The cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.

Texas

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.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Bill to Cut CA Marijuana Tax Advances, Prison Population Continues to Decline, More... (4/24/19)

A bill to cut California marijuana taxes is moving, a New Hampshire legalization bill gets a hearing, the US prison population continues a decade-long decline, and more.

The Golden State is looking to cut marijuana taxes in a bid to boost the legal market. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Federal Bill Would Seal Records of Old Marijuana Convictions. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) have filed the Clean Slate Act, which would automatically seal federal criminal records for marijuana convictions. It also contains a provision that would allow people to ask federal courts to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that aren't automatically sealed, such as those involving other drugs. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

California Bill to Cut Marijuana Tax Advances. A bill that would temporarily suspend the marijuana cultivation tax in a bid to boost the legal market has been approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, but only after a provision that would have reduced excise taxes was removed to satisfy the committee chair. AB 286 now heads for the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the last stop before an Assembly floor vote.

Maine Releases New Draft Rules For Recreational Marijuana Market. State regulators have released new draft rules for the legal marijuana program approved by voters two years ago. The draft contains proposals for how the market will be monitored, regulated, and launched by the Office of Marijuana Policy.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A legalization bill, HB 481, got a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. The bill would legalize possession and cultivation by adults as well as set up a commission to develop regulations for a legal marijuana market. The bill has already passed the House, but faces a veto threat by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve 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.

Arkansas to Reissue Medical Marijuana Cards. The state Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold. The cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.

Hemp

Texas House Approves Hemp Bill. The House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to HB 1325, which would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Sentencing

Number of Federal, State Prisoners Continue to Decrease. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released prisoner numbers for the end of 2017 and finds that the number of inmates under state and federal jurisdiction dropped 2.1% from 2016 to 2017. That continues a decade-long trend that has seen prison populations decrease 13% since 2007. Drug offenders constitute 48% of federal inmates, but only about 20% of state inmates.

Missouri Omnibus Sentencing and Criminal Justice Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would reform mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, reform civil asset forfeiture, reform racial profiling statutes, and more has passed the House Fiscal Review Committee. HCB 2 now heads for a House floor vote.

New York And Pennsylvania Will No Longer Suspend Driver's Licenses Over Drug Crimes. With new laws going into effect this month, Pennsylvania and New York will no longer suspend drivers licenses of people convicted of drug crimes. Before this, any drug conviction, even if it had nothing to do with driving, triggered a mandatory license suspension of at least six months.

International

British Columbia's Top Doctor Calls for Drug Decriminalization. In a report released Wednesday, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has proposed decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use in a bid to reduce the harms caused by the province's ongoing overdose crisis. "As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use," Henry said. "This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC." The report is Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in BC.

Chronicle AM: NC Overdose=Murder Bill Hearing Set, Malay MedMJ Provider Escapes Death Penalty, More... (4/22/19)

It's a step back for harm reduction in one Michigan county, a potential step back in North Carolina, a Malay medical marijuana provider escapes the death penalty but stil faces hard time, and more.

People who share drugs that result in a fatal overdose could be charged with murder under a North Carolina proposal. (CC)
Harm Reduction

Michigan County Blocks Needle Exchanges. Commissioners in Grand Traverse County voted last week to block needle exchanges in the county. In a 3-2-1 vote, the commission voted against allowing the county health department to contract with a private provider to implement a needle exchange program and to stop Harm Reduction Michigan from expanding its existing program. Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley opposed the initiative, saying: "The majority of these users are probably illegal drug users. This only serves to promote safe illegal drug use. The sheriff's office is in the business of stopping illegal drug use whether it's safe or not… By approving this, you are endorsing safe, illegal drug use."

North Carolina Overdose Equals Murder Bill Gets Hearing Friday. A bill that would allow people who distribute a drug that results in an overdose death to be charged with murder gets a hearing this Friday, and harm reductionists are gearing up to fight it. HB 474 would make even drug users buy jointly or share with friends liable for murder. The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is calling on people to attend the hearing to tell legislators to vote no.

International

US Arrests Guatemalan Presidential Candidate for Seeking Help from Sinaloa Cartel. Guatemalan presidential candidate Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana was arrested with one other man at the Miami airport last Friday and charged with soliciting campaign funds from the Sinaloa cartel. Estrada Orellana was allegedly seeking between $10 and $12 million in exchange for providing "state-sponsored support" for the group's trafficking activities. Estrada also pledged "unfettered access" to the country's ports and airports. Estrada is running as a candidate for the center-right National Change Union.

Malaysian Medical Marijuana Provider Escapes Death Sentence, But… A man who once headed a medical marijuana group has gotten something of a reprieve. Mohd Zireen Zainal was caught with two pounds of medical marijuana and originally faced the death penalty after being charged with drug trafficking. But he has now been allowed to plead guilty to possession only and will have to serve 15 years in prison and absorb 10 strokes of the cane. He's already been in prison for more than five years.

Drug War Issues

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