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One of the World's Most Prestigious Medical Journals Just Called for Legalizing All Drugs

Embracing a harm reduction and public health perspective, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals has released a signed editorial calling for the legalization, taxation, and regulation of currently illegal drugs.

In a editorial last Thursday entitled Drugs Should Be Legalised, Regulated, and Taxed, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, notes that under drug prohibition, the global trade "fuels organized crime and human misery," and asks, "Why should it not instead fund public services?"

Citing an opinion piece in the same issue of the BMJ from British members of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) Jason Reed and Paul Whitehouse, Godlee notes that in the United Kingdom (as in the United States) "vast sums are spent prosecuting individuals and trying vainly to interrupt the flow of drugs into cities" while that money would be much better "spent on quality control, education, treatment for drug users, and child protection." Under legalization, "revenues could be diverted from criminal gangs into government coffers," she writes.

Godlee notes that the global drug prohibition consensus is fraying around the edges, and points to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized the possession of all drugs in 2001. There, drug use remains in line with levels in other European countries, but the harms associated with drug use under prohibition have decreased dramatically, particularly in terms of fatal drug overdoses and the spread of injection drug-related infectious disease.

Godlee also pointed to the Netherlands, the United States, and soon, Canada, where "regulated markets for the sale of cannabis generate substantial tax revenues."

Again returning to the opinion piece by Reed and Whitehouse, Godlee writes that "when law enforcement officers call for drugs to be legalized, we have to listen." Ditto for when doctors speak up, she adds, noting that just last month, the Royal College of Physicians came out in favor of drug decriminalization, joining the British Medical Association, the Faculty of Public Health, and the Royal Society of Public Health in supporting drug policy reform.

"This is not about whether you think drugs are good or bad," Godlee concludes. "It is an evidence based position entirely in line with the public health approach to violent crime… The BMJ is firmly behind efforts to legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of drugs for recreational and medicinal use. This is an issue on which doctors can and should make their voices heard."

Unfortunately for the BMJ and the other public health advocates, as in the United States, the political class in the United Kingdom isn't yet on board with evidence-based best practices on drug policy. But this editorial loosens another brick in the wall -- on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chronicle AM: Canada Liberals Endorse Drug Decrim, Gillibrand Says Legalize It, More... (4/23/18)

Canada's Liberal Party formally endorses drug decriminalization (although Justin Trudeau is keeping his distance), the State Department cites continuing human rights concerns in the Philippines drug war, a Utah medical marijuana initiative appears set to make the November ballot, and more.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says it is time to legalize marijuana. (Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Kirsten Gillibrand Says Time to Legalize Marijuana, Calls on Sessions to Meet With People Busted for Pot. The junior senator from New York and potential Democratic presidential contender said Sunday the time has come to legalize marijuana and that she had sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions inviting him to discuss the impact of the drug war with New Yorkers who have been denied jobs, housing, and college financial aid because of non-violent drug crimes. She also called on Sessions to reinstate the Cole memo, the Obama administration's policy of largely leaving state-legal marijuana alone.

Idaho Democratic Gubernatorial Contenders Split on Marijuana Policy. One Democrat running for governor wants to legalize marijuana; the other does not. In a Sunday night debate on Idaho Public Television, contender Paulette Jordan said she fully supports legalization and cited the tax benefits for the state. Boise businessman AJ Balukoff, who is also seeking the nomination, disagreed. He said he is opposed to the substance and believes medical marijuana needs to be properly tested. Idaho is one of four states in the country that has not passed any form of marijuana law reform, not even a CBD medical marijuana law.

Albuquerque Decriminalization Went into Effect on 4/20. New Mexico's largest city has now decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The change went into effect last Friday after a measure was passed by the city council and signed by Mayor Tim Keller. Possession remains a crime under state and federal law.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Initiative Appears Set to Qualify for November Ballot. A medical marijuana initiative from the Utah Patients Coalition looks very likely to qualify for the November ballot. While it won't be official until May 15, petitioners appear to have met the overall signature requirement, with 145,000 registered voter signatures in hand, well above the 113,000 required. But the initiative also must meet specific signature thresholds in each of the state's 29 state Senate districts. As of last Friday, they had done so in 26 of them.

Foreign Policy

State Department Says Drug War Killings Remain Top Philippines Human Rights Concern. In its global rights report for 2017, the State Department said drug war killings and rising police impunity remain the top human rights concerns in the Philippines. "Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017,"reads the report released Friday (Washington time). The report also expressed doubt and uncertainty over Filipino government reports on the killings. "Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings,"the report read in part. "Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings,"it added.

International

Canadian Liberals Formally Endorse Drug Decriminalization, Trudeau Demurs. Canada's governing Liberal Party endorsed the decriminalization of the possession of all drugs at its national convention Saturday. But party policy isn't necessarily government policy, and party leader Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has distanced himself from the decriminalization plank. Drug decriminalization, as well as the decriminalization of sex work and proposals to reform health care, which the party also approved, are seen as bolstering the Liberals' odds against the New Democrats, who traditionally attack them from the left.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: Trump Undercuts AG on Pot, Key GOP Pol Nixes Food Stamp Drug Tests, More... (4/16/18)

The president appears to leave his attorney general out to dry on marijuana policy, New York's governor is being pushed left on pot by a celebrity challenger, a key GOP lawmaker opposes the Trump push to drug test food stamp recipients, and more.

Donald Trump looks like he's hung Jeff Sessions out to dry when it comes to marijuana policy. (Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore)
Marijuana Policy

Trump Appears to Undercut Jeff Sessions' War on Weed. President Trump last week signaled a dramatic turnaround in administration marijuana policy, telling Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that the Justice Department would not go after state-legal marijuana in Colorado and that he would support moves to address the contradiction between legal marijuana states and federal pot prohibition. That puts Trump in line with his own campaign statements that marijuana should be a states' rights issue, but at odds with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization and who has explicitly told federal prosecutors they are free to go after the legal marijuana industry. Sessions, who is much abused by Trump for failing to protect him from the Mueller investigation, now finds himself on the outs on pot policy, too.

Maine Governor Says Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill Faces "Automatic" Veto. Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage is threatening an "automatic" veto of a compromise bill designed to get the state's legal marijuana commerce system up and running. He said he was unhappy with a provision that allows registered medical marijuana patients to avoid paying excise taxes, suggesting that people would register as patients just to avoid taxes. But the House has already passed the bill by a veto-proof majority and the Senate could do so this week.

Sex in the City Challenger Pushes New York Governor to the Left on Pot Policy. Actress Cynthia Nixon, best known for her role in Sex in the City, is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the left on marijuana policy. Nixon has announced her candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and she has made marijuana legalization a banner issue. Cuomo has opposed legalization, although he shifted slightly in January, when he announced he would form a panel to explore freeing the weed. But now, with Nixon getting lots of attention for her pot stance, Cuomo is hinting at more movement. "The situation has changed drastically with marijuana," he said at a news conference last Thursday. "It's no longer a question of legal or not legal. It's legal in Massachusetts. It may be legal in New Jersey, which means for all intents and purposes, it's going to be here anyway. The majority of the legislature is, I would say, against legalizing it," he continued. "I said it's a new day; let's look at the facts. I know people have opinions -- and it's hard to get people to change opinions -- but opinions should be based on facts. So let's talk to the experts, let's put together the facts."

Drug Testing

Key GOP Lawmaker Opposes Drug Testing for Food Stamps. Rep. Mike Conway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said last Friday that he "generally opposes" drug testing food stamp recipients. The remarks were in reaction to a plan floated last week by the Trump administration to allow states to do just that. The Agriculture Committee has authority over the food stamp program and is currently crafting a bill that includes an overhaul of the program, but contains no provision for drug testing. "I'm generally opposed to drug testing because I think it hurts the children," Conway said. "Most of these folks who are on the program, if they've got children involved, the children would still get their SNAP benefits but the parents wouldn't, and you're hurting the kid." Conway said he'd rather "figure out a way to help them."

International

Australian Greens Call for Marijuana Legalization. The Australian Green Party has called for the full legalization of marijuana, with a new government agency to act as the sole wholesaler of packaged pot. The Green proposal also includes a provision for growing up to six plants at home. The Greens aren't considered a major party in Australia, but they do have federal representation. The call for legalization differentiates the Greens from Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition, both of which support a 2016 plan to legalize only medical marijuana.

Irish Greens Call for Marijuana Decriminalization, Dutch-Style Coffee Shops. The Irish Green Party has called for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. The current law has "made criminals out of decent people," the party says. The Green proposal would decriminalize the possession of up to five grams, as well as contemplating a Dutch-style coffee shop system. The Irish Greens aren't considered a major political party, but they do have two people in the Dail, the Irish parliament.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Europe's Top Five Cities for Cocaine, Ecstasy, and Speed Use

Do you want to know Europe's true party capitals? The European Monitoring Commission on Drugs and Drug Abuse (EMCDDA) is here to help. Last month it released its latest annual report on drug use levels in 56 European cities in 19 countries.

Raving in Vienna (Wikimedia)
The report relied not on survey results or extrapolations from drug seizures, but a much more direct method: an analysis of daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of wastewater treatment plants over a one-week period. Researchers analyzed the wastewater from approximately 43 million people, looking for traces of four illicit drugs: amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy).

The epidemiological analysis of wastewater is "a rapidly developing scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring close to real-time, population-driven trends in illicit drug use," the EMCDDA points out. Their researchers can now use it to estimate levels of drug use by measuring the levels of drugs and their metabolites excreted into the sewers by urine.

So, which cities are doing the most drugs? We'll give you the top five for each drug, as well as a bit of discussion below:

Amphetamines (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

Eindhoven (Netherlands)     271.7

Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)      268.8

Saarbrucken (Germany)        242.0

Oostende (Belgium)               236.4

Mainz (Germany)                    226.9

The loads of amphetamine detected varied considerably across study locations, with cities in the north and east of Europe reporting much higher levels than in the south. Amphetamine, a working man's drug, was also found more evenly throughout the week than the party drugs, which tend to show up more in weekend samples. Of the top 15 cities, nine were in Germany, three each in Belgium and the Netherlands, and one in Iceland. Berlin came in 10th, Amsterdam 11th.

Cocaine (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

Barcelona (Spain)                  965.2

Zurich (Switzerland)             934.4

Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)      822.9

St. Gallen Hofen (Switzerland)      821.7

Geneva (Switzerland)           794.8

Cocaine use is highest in western and southern European cities, particularly in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK, but Switzerland, with three of the top five and five of the top 10 cokiest cities, certainly deserves mention. Year-to-year figures show that an upward trend first reported in 2016 continues.

MDMA (Ecstasy)(milligrams/1,000 people/day)

Amsterdam (Netherlands)    230.3

Eindhoven (Netherlands)     165.1

Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)      95.3

Zurich (Switzerland)             85.2

Utretcht (Netherlands)          59.8

The Dutch really love their E, taking three of the top five spots, and nearby Antwerp is really starting to look like an unsung drug hotspot, appearing in all three top fives so far. Berlin, Barcelona, Geneva, and Paris are all in the top 10, but at use levels only about one-fifth of Amsterdam.

Methamphetamine (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

Chemnitz (Germany)            240.6

Erfurt (Germany)                 211.2

Budweis (Czech Republic)      200.2

Brno (Czech Republic)            105.7

Dresden (Germany)              180.2

Like plain old amphetamine, meth use generally concentrated in northwest Europe, although the Czech Republic is certainly cranking, too, as it traditionally has. It is most popular in eastern Germany, Finland, and Norway.

One city worth mentioning is notable for its absence from these top fives: Lisbon. Portugal is the only country in Europe to have decriminalized the use and possession of all drugs, but its capital and largest city consistently ranked low-to-middling in drug use levels: The wastewater in Lisbon contained zero methamphetamine, came in 11th for Ecstasy use, 45th for amphetamine use, and 28th for cocaine use.

Those figures from Lisbon strongly suggest that other countries can decriminalize drug use and possession without seeing their populations turned into deranged party animals. In the meantime, the real party animals might want to head to Antwerp.

Culture Shock: American Activists Confront Compassionate Portuguese Drug Policy [FEATURE]

The American activists couldn't wrap their heads around it. Sitting in a dingy office in a nondescript building in central Lisbon, they were being provided a fine-grained explanation of what happens to people caught with small amounts of drugs in Portugal, which decriminalized the possession of personal use amounts of drugs 17 years ago.

partial view of Lisbon, looking toward the Tagus River (Wikimedia)
The activists, having lived the American experience, wanted desperately to know when and how the coercive power of the state kicked in, how the drug users were to be punished for their transgressions, even if they had only been hit with an administrative citation, which is what happens to people caught with small quantities of drugs there.

Nuno Capaz was trying to explain. He is Vice Chairman of the Lisbon Dissuasion Commission, the three-member tribunal set up to handle people caught with drugs. He had to struggle mightily to convince the Americans that it wasn't about punishment, but about personal and public health.

"The first question," he explained, "is whether this person is a recreational user or an addict."

If the person is deemed only a recreational user, he may face a fine or a call to community service. If he is deemed an addict, treatment is recommended -- but not required.

"But what if they don't comply?" one of the activists demanded. "Don't they go to jail then?"

No, they do not. Instead, Capaz patiently explained, they may face sanctions for non-compliance, but those sanctions may be little more than a demand that they regularly present themselves to a hospital or health center for monitoring.

In a later hallway conversation, I asked Capaz about drug users who simply refused to go along or to participate at all. What happens then? I wanted to know.

Capaz shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing," he said. "I tell them to try not to get caught again."

Welcome to Portugal. The country's low-key, non-headline-generating drug policy, based on compassion, public health, and public safety, is a stark contrast with the US, as the mind-boggled response of the activists suggests.

Organized by the Drug Policy Alliance and consisting of members of local and national groups that work with the organization, as well as a handful of journalists, the group spent three days in-country last month seeing what an enlightened drug policy looks like. They met with high government officials directly involved in creating and implementing drug decriminalization, toured drug treatment, harm reduction, and mobile methadone maintenance facilities, and heard from Portuguese drug users and harm reduction workers as well.

The Portuguese Model and Its Accomplishments

They had good reason to go to Portugal. After nearly two decades of drug decriminalization, there is ample evidence that the Portuguese model is working well. Treating drug users like citizens who could possibly use some help instead of like criminals to be locked up is paying off by all the standard metrics -- as well as by not replicating the thuggish and brutal American-style war on drugs, with all the deleterious and corrosive impacts that has on the communities particularly targeted for American drug law enforcement.

Here, according to independent academic researchers, as well as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the European Monitoring Center of Drugs and Drug Abuse, is what the Portuguese have accomplished:

Drug use has not dramatically increased. Rates of past year and past month drug use have not changed significantly or have actually declined since 2001. And Portugal's drug use rates remain among the lowest in Europe, and well below those in the United States.

Both teen drug use and "problematic" drug use (people who are dependent or who inject drugs) have declined.

Drug arrests and incarceration are way down. Drug arrests have dropped by 60% (selling drugs remains illegal) and the percentage of prisoners doing time for drug offenses has dropped from 44% to 24%. Meanwhile, the number of people referred to the Dissuasion Commission has remained steady, indicating that no "net-widening" has taken place. And the vast majority of cases that go before the commission are found to be non-problematic drug users and are dismissed without sanction.

More people are receiving drug treatment -- and on demand, not by court order. The number of people receiving drug treatment increased by 60% by 2011, with most of them receiving opiate-substitution therapy (methadone). Treatment is voluntary and largely paid for by the national health system.

Drug overdose deaths are greatly reduced. Some 80 people died of drug overdoses in 2001; that number shrunk to just 16 by 2012. That's an 80% reduction in drug overdose deaths.

Drug injection-related HIV/AIDS infections are greatly reduced. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of new HIV cases shrank from nearly 1,600 to only 78. The number of new AIDS cases declined from 626 to 74.

"We came to the conclusion that the criminal system was not the best suited to deal with this situation," explained Capaz. "The best option should be referring them to treatment, but we do not force or coerce anyone. If they are willing to go, it's because they actually want to, so the success rate is really high. We can surely say that decriminalization does not increase drug usage, and that it does not mean legalizing drugs. It's still illegal to use drugs in Portugal, it's just not considered a crime. It's possible to deal with these users outside the criminal system."

Dr. Joao Goulao, who largely authored the decriminalization law and who is still General Director for Intervention on Addictive Behaviors -- the Portuguese "drug czar" -- pointed to unquantifiable positives resulting from the move: "The biggest effect," he said, "has been to allow the stigma of drug addiction to fall, to let people speak clearly and to pursue professional help without fear."

They Take the Kids! (with them to treatment)

The American activists know all about fear and stigma. And the cultural disconnect -- between a country that treats drug users with compassion and one that seeks to punish them -- was on display again when a smaller group of the activists met with Dr. Miguel Vasconcelos, the head psychologist at the Centro Taipa, a former mental hospital that now serves as the country's largest drug treatment center.

As Dr.Vasconcelos explained the history and practice of drug treatment in Portugal, one of his listeners asked what happened to drug users who were pregnant or had children.

"They take the kids," Vasconcelos said, smiling. But his smile turned to puzzlement as he saw his listeners react with resignation and dismay.

For the Americans, "they take the kids" meant child protective services swooping in to seize custody of the children of drug-using parents while the parents go to jail.

But that's not what Vasconcelos meant. After some back and forth, came clarity: "No, I mean they take the kids with them to treatment."

Once again, the Americans, caught firmly in the mind set of their own punishing society, expected only the worst of the state. But once again, light bulbs came on as they realized it doesn't have to be like that.

Now that cadre of activists is back home, and they are going to begin to try to apply the lessons they learned in their own states and communities. And although they had some abstract understanding of Portuguese drug decriminalization before they came, their experiences with the concrete reality of it should only serve to strengthen their desire to make our own country a little less like a punitive authoritarian state and bit more like Portugal.

Chronicle AM: Decrim Vote in Albuquerque, Bad "Fake Weed" in Illinois, More... (4/3/18)

A legalization bill fails in Arizona, another one sputters in Connecticut, a bad batch of synthetic cannabinoids is wreaking havoc in Illinois, and more.

Apparently contaminated synthetic cannabinoids in Illinois have left two dead, dozens injured. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Fails Dies in Statehouse. There will be no legalization via the legislature in Phoenix this year after lawmakers refused to act on a measure that would have put the issue before the voters. HCR 2037 had been assigned to three different committees, but never got any action in any of them. Sponsors Reps. Todd Clodfelter (R-Phoenix) and Mark Cardenas (D-Phoenix) vow to try again next year.

Connecticut Legalization Bill Gets Committee Hearing. The House Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee held a hearing on a legalization bill, House Bill 5582, on Monday, making it the fourth committee to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization this session. But the bill is unlikely to pass this year since one committee has already rejected it and another will not be voting on whether to advance it. At the hearing, the Office of Fiscal Analysis reported that the state could expect tax revenues from pot at between $30 million and $63 million, depending on the tax model used.

Albuquerque City Council Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. City council members voted Monday night on a party line vote to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Offenders would be hit with a $25 fine on a first offense. A similar measure passed in 2015, only to be vetoed by the mayor. But now there's a new mayor, so stay tuned.

New Psychoactive Substances

Illinois Sees Bad Synthetic Cannabinoids Kill Two, Leave Dozens Bleeding. Synthetic cannabinoids apparently cut with rat poison have killed two people in Illinois and left 56 others experiencing severe bleeding. The bad dope has shown up in Chicago and the central part of the state, the Department of Public Health said Monday.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Governor Signs Minor Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) has signed into law House Bill 2459, which would make small reforms in the state's civil asset forfeiture law. Under the bill, police who seize property will have to report on what they took and how they used the seized property.

Chronicle AM: Trump Looking at Drug Dealer Death Penalty, Vancouver Wants Drug Decrim, More... (3/12/18)

Sessions admits feds can't effectively enforce pot laws, Trump admin studies the death penalty for some drug dealers, Mexico murders hit a high, Vancouver wants drug decriminalization, and more.

Trump isn't just talking about the death penalty; his administration is working on it. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Sessions Concedes Feds Lack Resources to Prosecute Small-Time Pot Busts. The attorney general admitted the obvious Saturday, saying that federal prosecutors will not take on small-time marijuana cases because federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take on "routine cases." In response to a question, Sessions said, "I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States law," but then added that federal prosecutors "haven’t been working small marijuana cases before, they are not going to be working them now."

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Has 200,000 Signatures, Still Wants More. It's looking increasingly likely that Shoe Me state residents will have a chance to vote to legalize medical marijuana in November. New Approach Missouri, the group behind a medical marijuana initiative, announced Sunday it had collected more than 200,000 raw signatures. It only needs 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but because some raw signatures may be disqualified, the group said its goal is 300,000 raw signatures.

Utah Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bills, But Initiative Campaign Will Continue. Faced with an ongoing initiative campaign, legislators in Salt Lake passed four medical marijuana bills this session, but none of them actually sets up a workable, dispensary-based program, and the Utah Patients Coalition, the folks behind the initiative campaign say they are tired of lawmakers beating around the bush and will continue to gather signatures so the issue will appear on the November ballot. Of the bills passed, one would allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana, one would ease medical marijuana research, one seeks a federal waiver for doctors to recommend CBD, and one modifies a task force charged with reviewing existing medical marijuana research.

West Virginia Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Dies. The legislature adjourned Saturday without taking final action on a medical marijuana expansion bill, just days after State Treasurer John Perdue warned that because of federal pot prohibition the state could not support the program with its financial services. House Bill 4345 would have increased the number of growers, processors, and dispensaries that can operate in the state.

Drug Policy

Trump Administration Studying Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. It's not just off-the-cuff rhetoric: The administration is studying a new policy that could allow federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for some drug dealers, particularly those dealing in fentanyl and its analogs. The Department of Justice and the Domestic Policy Council are studying potential changes, and a final announcement could come within weeks.

New Report Finds War on Drugs a Key Factor in Colorado’s Growing Prison Population — and Its Prison Budget, Which Is Nearing $1 Billion for First Time in History. The war on drugs is a key factor in Colorado's growing prison population and, in turn, its growing budget, according to a report released Monday by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC). It also appears to be having a disproportionate impact on women. The analysis of state court and prison data found there were more than twice as many drug felony case filings in Colorado in 2017 (15,323) compared to 2012 (7,424), and the vast majority of drug felony filings (75%) are for simple possession. As a result, there are more people being sentenced to prison for drug possession, especially women. The report, which also includes a breakdown for each of Colorado's 22 judicial districts, shows that five districts saw drug felony filings increase by 165% or more in 2017 compared to 2012.

International

European Union Calls on Member States to Find Alternatives to Punishing Drug Users. The EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council last week adopted recommendations on alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug users. These recommendations were approved within the frame of the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2017-2020 which requests member states to provide alternatives to coercive sanctions for drug using offenders "where appropriate, and in accordance with their legal frameworks."

Dutch Will Decide on Marijuana Cultivation Pilot Programs By Summer. Justice Minister Ferninand Grapperhaus told parliament last Friday that ministers will publish their proposals for the planned experiment with legal marijuana cultivation this summer. The move is an effort to address the country's "back door problem," where possession and legal sales are allowed, but there is no legal provision for supply.

Vancouver Calls for Canada to Decriminalize Drugs. The city is officially calling on the Liberal federal government to immediately decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs. "What we've learned from countries, for example like Portugal, is that when you decriminalize then people are feeling like they're actually safe enough to ask for treatment," said managing director of social policy, Mary Clare Zak. "People who are dying are more likely to be indoors and struggle with accessing help or assistance because of their illicit drug use." The move comes as the city saw 33 overdose deaths in January, the highest number since last May.

Jamaica's First Marijuana Retailer is Now Open for Business. Kaya Farms in St. Ann Parish opened its doors last Saturday. It's a wellness-focused, tourist-friendly café, lounge, juice bar, and "herb house" on the island nation's north coast. Bob Marley must be smiling.

Mexico Saw More Than 29,000 Murders Last Year. The Interior Ministry has reported that there were 29,168 murders in the country last year, more than at the previous peak of prohibition-related violence in 2011 and 2012. While fighting among cartels and between various cartels and law enforcement and the military accounts for the vast majority of these killings, it's not the only cause. Still, the homicide rate is now the highest in years.

Chronicle AM: No Legal Pot Sales Init for DC, DPA Drug Decrim Portugal Trip Coming, More... (3/8/18)

DC can't have pot shops, California pot shops better get a license, Democratic contenders for statewide office in the Midwest are hopping on the marijuana bandwagon, a Brazilian prosecutor's attempt to go after a prominent marijuana scientist for "inciting drug crime" is creating a backlash, and more.

A move to let DC residents vote on allowing legal marijuana sales just hit a major roadblock. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

California Regulator Warns 900 Unlicensed Pot Shops to Get Licenses. Lori Ajax, head of the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, has sent warning letters to some 900 pot shops suspected of operating without state licenses. Violations of state law could result in criminal, civil, or administrative penalties. She also sent a cease-and-desist notice to the marijuana-location service Weedmaps telling it to stop accepting advertising from sellers that lack a permit. "Your website contains advertisements from persons offering cannabis and cannabis products for sale that are not licensed to conduct commercial cannabis activity; therefore, you are aiding and abetting in violations of state cannabis laws," Ajax wrote.

District of Columbia Blocks Local Legal Marijuana Sales Initiative. The DC Board of Elections on Wednesday disallowed a proposed voter initiative that would have legalized marijuana sales and directed 40% of resulting tax revenues to black residents. The board said allowing the initiative on the ballot would violate city law, as well as a congressional ban on taking any additional steps to lower marijuana penalties. DC law does not allow initiatives to appropriate funds, and Congress acted in 2014 to bar the city from taking any additional steps to legalize or regulate marijuana. Voters approved the legalization of possession and personal cultivation in 2014. 

Michigan's Democratic Attorney General Contenders Both Say Legalize It. Pat Miles, a former federal prosecutor seeking the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general, has announced he now supports marijuana legalization: "After careful consideration, and dialogue with activists and voters across the state, I've decided to take a stronger stance on marijuana legalization," he said. "While I've said so far that this issue is up to the voters of Michigan, which it most certainly is, I've reviewed the language of the ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and find it to be very thoughtful and well-written, and I support it." His main rival for the Democratic nomination, lawyer and former Wayne County assistant prosecutor Dana Nessel, already supported the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Ohio Democratic Gubernatorial Contender Kucinich Says Legalize It. Former Cleveland mayor and US representative Dennis Kucinich, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, unveiled a sweeping plan to legalize marijuana on Wednesday. He called for full legalization for adults, as well as allowing medical marijuana patients to grow their own, and legalizing the production of industrial hemp. Kucinich's main contender in the race, Richard Cordray, has said legalization should be left up to the voters, while two other leading candidates, former state Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill and State Sen. Joe Schiavioni, both also support legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Dies. Hopes for medical marijuana this legislative session were dashed Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee voted 14-4 to "pass over" House Bill 166. That means the bill will not be voted on until some unspecified later date, but is typically a maneuver to bury bills for the rest of the session.

Maryland House Approves Adding More Grower, Processor Licenses. The House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill that would increase the number of licenses for medical marijuana growers from 15 to 20 and the number of licenses for processors from 15 to 25—largely in a bid to increase minority business ownership in the industry. None of the companies licensed so far has a black owner. House Bill 0002 now heads to the Senate.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

West Virginia Legislature Kills Plan to Make Firms Report Opioid Sales. The House on Wednesday killed an amendment to an opioid bill that would have required pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to report the number of prescription pain relievers they shipped into the state. The amendment was offered to Senate Bill 273, which aims to curb the number of opioids prescribed in the state. That bill now awaits a final House floor vote.

Drug Testing

Rasmussen Poll Has Majority Support for Pre-Employment Drug Tests. A new Rasmussen Reports poll has 61% of respondents agreeing that drug testing should be required for applicants for all or most jobs. The poll was in response to recent news reports of a decline in pre-employment drug testing in some states due to marijuana legalization and a tighter job market. Rasmussen is often described as leaning conservative, so this number may be higher than other pollsters would report, but other pollsters haven't been asking this question.

International

Brazil's Most Prominent Marijuana Researcher Gets Targeted By Police, Protests Erupt. Veteran marijuana researcher Elisaldo Carlini, a retired professor of psychopharmacology, is under investigation for "suspicion of inciting drug crime" after a prosecutor in Sao Paulo said she saw "in theory, strong hints of incitement" in a symposium on marijuana he organized last year. He has not yet been arrested, but the investigation led to a March 1 demonstration by university students and staff to support Carlini and academic freedom. More than 50 scientific societies worldwide have signed a petition supporting him, as have 28,000 who signed on to a petition organized by the Brazilian Academy for the Advancement of Science. "In more than 60 years of an academic career, I had never been questioned by law agents — until last month," said Carlini. He said that last year’s meeting was scientific in nature and had nothing to do with inciting people to take drugs. "It’s a Kafkian situation. I wonder what they think an old man can do with marijuana."

US Delegation Heads to Portugal to Learn From Country’s Groundbreaking Drug Decriminalization Policy. A delegation of people organized by the Drug Policy Alliance who have been hit hardest by the U.S. war on drugs – from those who have been incarcerated for drug offenses to those who have lost loved ones to an overdose – are heading to Portugal March 19 – 21 to investigate the results of Portugal's nearly two-decade long experience with drug decriminalization and how those lessons might be applied here. Over 70 participants will be arriving from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, North Carolina and other cities across the country, including representatives of more than 35 organizations and several media outlets that have been dedicated to covering the drug war and mass incarceration. Along for the ride will be yours truly and Stopthedrugwar.org executive director David Borden.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's 501(c)(4) lobbying nonprofit, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: MA Legal Pot Rules Set, New Effort to Delete HEA Drug Question, More... (3/7/18)

Bay State regulators have finalized their rules for the legal pot industry, red states are in CBD fights, the Israeli decriminalization bill advances, a new move to get rid of the HEA's drug question is set, and more.

The outline of Massaachusetts' marijuana industry has been set. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Legal Pot Regulations Are Set. The state's Cannabis Control Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to finalize the rules that will govern its newly legal industry. Among the highlights: No social consumption or home delivery for now, medical marijuana dispensaries transitioning to adult sales must set aside 35% of their product for the next six months for registered patients, cultivators are capped at 100,000 square feet, and people convicted of trafficking hard drugs are essentially barred from the industry.

Wyoming Edibles Bill Advances. The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a bill clarifying state law that possession of marijuana edibles may be charged as a felony. Senate File 0023 was amended to make possession of more than 36 ounces of edibles a felony. The version approved earlier by the Senate set that amount at only three ounces. The bill now heads for the House floor, but will have to go back to the Senate if approved as amended. 

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Senate Vacates Controversial Vote That Killed CBD Bill. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday vacated Monday's vote killing a CBD cannabis oil bill, House Bill 577. The move to vacate come from committee Chair Lee Heider (R), who admitted that the vote in his office Monday violated the state's open meeting law. But it's not clear if Heider will allow another vote on the bill.

Indiana Senate Passes CBD Bill. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve House Bill 1214, which would allow for the legal purchase and sale of CBD cannabis oil. Another CBD bill, Senate Bill 52, has already passed the Senate. The two bills will likely be consolidated and debated again in conference committee.

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Law Enforcement Opposition. In a second day of hearings on a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 166, law enforcement stepped up to speak out against the bill. The local prosecutors' association warned allowing medical marijuana would worsen the state's drug problems; the state Narcotics Officers' Association also opposed it, citing a provision that would allow patients to grow up to 12 plants. No vote was taken.

Higher Education

New Push to End HEA Drug Provision to Get Underway. At least one Democrat on the Senate Education Committee will move to end the inclusion of a question about prior drug convictions when the Higher Education Act is reauthorized this year. About a thousand students a year lose access to financial aid because of the question, and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says he will reintroduce legislation to kill it this year.

International

Israeli Knesset Gives First Approval to Pot Decriminalization Bill. A bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed unanimously in its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday. Legalization supporter MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said passing the bill marks "another important step on the road to our victory," adding that it is "far from perfect, but it is a foot in the door on the way to a policy of full legalization."

Chronicle AM: Good IL, MI Pot Polls, Denver Psilocybin Initiative, ACLU Targets DAs, More... (3/6/18)

Pot polls in a pair of key Midwest states are looking good, the ACLU seeks to influence district attorney races around the nation,  a Denver magic mushroom initiative is getting underway, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Illinois Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll has support for marijuana legalization at 66%, with only 32% opposed. The poll comes as a measure to hold a non-binding public referendum on legalization moves through the legislature.

Michigan Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new EPIC-MRA poll has support for a pending marijuana legalization initiative at 61%. The initiative campaign has already handed in some 365,000 signatures; it only needs 252,253 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. State officials have been counting signatures since November, but it remains unclear when they will decide the measure has qualified for the ballot or not.

Nevada Gambling Regulators Reject Ties to Marijuana Businesses. The state's Gaming Policy Committee has recommended that the gambling industry not have any business relationship wit marijuana distributors. That recommendation reflects existing policy, but the issue came up again after the state legalized weed in 2016.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Hearing Reveals Deep Splits. The Assembly Oversight, Refom and Federal Relations Committee heard from dozens of witnesses for and against marijuana legalization during a day-long hearing Monday. The hearing was the legislature's first step toward addressing legalization this session. Even though Gov. Phil Murphy (D) supports legalization, there was no consensus emerging from the hearing and no vote taken.

Rhode Island Report on Marijuana Legalization Released. Advocacy groups the Marijuana Policy Project and Regulate Rhode Island have released a report on legalization in the state: "How should Rhode Island legalize marijuana: Asking the right questions." The 42-page document features detailed discussion of different models for regulating marijuana for adults based on other states’ experiences and urges policymakers to consider the benefits and costs of various approaches.

Albuquerque City Council Files Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Albuquerque City Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton have filed a new bill to remove criminal sanctions pertaining to possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia from the city’s municipal codes. The proposed ordinance makes one ounce or less of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia a civil infraction with a fine of $25. A civil infraction is not considered a criminal conviction. The ordinance also takes away the potential for jail time. Currently, a person can spend more than two weeks in jail for a first offense and 90 days for a subsequent offense.

Medical Marijuana

<Idaho Senate Panel Kills Bill Allowing Use of CBD. A last-ditch effort to pass a CBD medical marijuana bill, House Bill 577, was derailed Monday amidst legislative turmoil. Sen. Tony Potts (R) accused the Republican legislative leadership of blocking action on the bill and asked Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Lee Heider (R) to allow a vote. That didn't happen; instead the committee approved a motion to keep the bill in committee, killing it for the year.Pennsylvania Dispensaries Facing Product Shortages. Medical marijuana dispensaries are already running out of supply less than two weeks after sales began in the state. The main reason is that only one of the state's 12 licensed growers is actually shipping product. The other reason is unexpected demand.

Psychedelics

Denver Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Getting Underway. A group calling itself Coloradans for Psilocybin has met with Denver officials about putting an initiative on the municipal ballot that would decriminalize psilocybin possession and make it law enforcement's lowest priority. Anyone caught with less than two pounds of magic mushrooms would face only a $99 ticket. The group says it will have an initiative cleared for signature gathering soon.

Drug Testing

Faced With Legal Weed, Full Employment, Employee Drug Testing is Declining Pre-employment drug testing is in decline in the face of spreading marijuana legalization and a tightening job market. The change is most evident in pot-legal states, such as Colorado, where the number of companies doing the tests declined from 77% last year to 66% now. "The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high," said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. "A blanket prohibition can't possibly be the most economically efficient policy" he told McClatchy.

Law Enforcement

ACLU Using Soros Money to Target District Attorney Races. Backed by millions of dollars from financier George Soros's Open Society Foundations, the ACLU is making a major play to influence local prosecutor races around the country. The group is planning voter education and outreach campaigns in district attorney races in California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and possibly North Carolina and Missouri. The ACLU says it will focus on big cities with large jail populations in what it's calling its Campaign for Smart Justice. The ACLU doesn't endorse candidates, but says its goal is to raise awareness of criminal justice issues.

Drug War Issues

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