Marijuana Legalization

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Chronicle AM: MI Legalization Init Makes Ballot, MO House Okays MedMj Bill, More... (4/24/18)

Michigan could legalize marijuana come November, Mexico's leading presidential contender defends a proposal to use amnesty to fight drug violence, Maryland Democratic gubernatorial contender Ben Chavous says legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected a proposed marijuana legalization ballot initiative Tuesday. The initiative, the Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment, is similar to one rejected by Rutledge in 2016, and she crankily noted that the author, Robert Reed, had not really changed anything since then. "I rejected your proposed ballot title, and I instructed you to redesign the proposed measure and ballot title. For whatever reason, you have now submitted for my approval a popular name and ballot title for essentially the same proposal," she wrote.

Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Says Legalize It. Former president and CEO of the NAACP Ben Chavous is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, and he is calling for marijuana legalization and special preferences for people who live in areas most negatively affected by the war on drugs.

Michigan Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. Officials with the state Bureau of Elections announced Monday that a marijuana legalization initiative has qualified for the November ballot. Organizers needed 252,523 valid voter signatures to qualify; officials estimate they actually have 277,370. If voters approve the initiative, Michigan will become the first Midwestern state to free the weed.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri House Gives Initial Approval for Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Tuesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1554, which would allow people over 18 dying of terminal diseases or suffering from Alzheimer's, PTSD, and other enumerated conditions to use smokeless marijuana. The bill faces one more House vote before going to the Senate.

International

Mexico's Leading Presidential Candidate Defends Proposed Amnesty to Fight Drug Violence. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), under fire from his competitors over a suggestion that he could use amnesty to curb drug violence, defended himself in a Tuesday night debate. He said he was willing to "speak with everybody" about ending the violence, and would even invite the pope. One candidate accused AMLO of "being on the side of the criminals," but all the candidates had to acknowledge the weakness of the police in the face of the challenge from organized crime.

(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: 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: Opioid Prescriptions Drop, Trump Repeats False Border Wall Claims, More... (4/20/18)

A California marijuana banking bill advances, a Colorado marijuana deliveries bill dies, opioid prescriptions are declining, Trump repeats false claims about the border wall and drug smuggling, and more.

opioid prescriptions go down, down, down (IQVIA Institute)
Marijuana Policy

California Bill to Create Marijuana Banks Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would license special banks to handle billions of dollars from the legal marijuana market was approved by the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on a 7-0 vote Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 930, now heads to the Senate Government and Finance Committee. Companion legislation has been filed in the Assembly.

Colorado Marijuana Delivery Bill Killed. A bill that would have allowed pot shops to make deliveries got through the House only to die in a Senate committee Wednesday. House Bill 1092 was killed by a 3-2 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ohio Attorney General Rejects Legalization Amendment Petition. State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) rejected a petition for a proposed marijuana legalization amendment Thursday. DeWine wrote that he rejected the petition because its summary language did not match the actual amendment language. Campaign organizers can refile the petition if they wish.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Opioid Prescriptions Dropped In Every State Last Year. The number of opiod painkiller prescriptions dropped 10.2% in 2017, according to a new report from the ICVIA Institute, which collects data on pharmaceutical prescriptions from retail pharmacies. The number of high-potency opioid prescriptions declined even more, by 16.1% And using a measure called the morphine milligram equivalent saw a 12% decrease, the largest in a quarter century. "We're seeing declines across every state," said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IQVIA Institute. "The states that have the highest per capita consumption are also the states with the highest decline."

Drug Testing

Massachusetts High Court Rules Against State in PrisonVisitor Drug Dog Policy Fight. The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday that the Department of Corrections exceeded its authority when it started using drug dogs to search prison visitors without giving the public a chance to weigh in. The court held that the department should have followed a regulatory process that allows interested parties an opportunity to present their views. Still, the court is allowing the department to continue the drug dog searches while it follows the proper regulatory process.

Harm Reduction

Missouri Safe Injection Site Bill Filed. St. Louis state Rep. Karla May (D) has filed House Bill 2367, which "authorizes local health departments and community-based organizations to establish Safe Consumption Facilities." It is aimed at reducing overdoses and infectious diseases linked to injection drug use.

The Border

Trump Again Falsely Claims Border Wall Needed to Stop Drug Smuggling. The president is at it again: On Thursday, President Trump traveled to the Florida Keys to be briefed by the Joint Interagency Task Force South and said he received "a great education" about drugs flowing into the country, but then proceeded to make the errant claim that a border wall is needed to stop the flow of drugs. "Drugs are flowing into our country," Trump said. "We need border protection. We need the wall. We have to have the wall." But border experts, drug experts, and even the DEA all agree that the vast majority of drugs smuggled from Mexico go through ports of entry, not through the vast and barren unfenced expanses of the border.

International

Indonesia's New Anti-Drug Head Signals Softer Approach. New anti-drug chief Heru Winarko called Wednesday for an expansion of drug treatment centers in the country, signaling a new approach to the war on drugs there. Police would maintain their "stern" approach to drug traffickers and their "shoot to kill" policy toward armed suspects resisting arrest, he said, but added that Indonesia would not mimic the bloody drug policies of the neighboring Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

WATCH: Chuck Schumer is Ready to Legalize

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

The Senate's highest-ranking Democrat is letting his freak flag fly. In a Thursday night interview with VICE News, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced he is crafting legislation that would result in the effective end of federal marijuana prohibition.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to end federal pot prohibition. (Flickr/DonkeyHotey
Schumer has previously supported medical marijuana and allowing states the right to experiment with legalization, but this would be a radical shift in federal drug policy.

The New York senator isn't the first high-profile Democrat to embrace marijuana legalization -- 2020 presidential contenders Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are all on board -- but he is the Senate minority leader. He could be the Senate majority leader next year (somewhat of a longshot, but not as much as much as previously thought) or in 2021, and having a friendly majority leader means a legalization bill actually moves in the Senate.

"Ultimately, it's the right thing to do. Freedom," he told VICE News' Shawna Thomas. "If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?" Schumer said.

The legislation should be unveiled within the next week and has four main points:

  1. Remove (or deschedule) marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, ending federal marijuana prohibition and leaving pot laws up to the states.
  2. Provide assistance to encourage minority and woman-owned marijuana businesses.
  3. Provide funding for research on marijuana's effects, especially on driving impairment.
  4. Maintain federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising like alcohol and tobacco.

Not only does Schumer now support leaving it to the states, he supports legalizing it in his own state.

"My personal view is legalization is just fine," he said. "The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own."

Marijuana could be a winning issue for Democrats this November and in 2020. The latest Gallup poll had support for legalization at a record high 64%. But Schumer said legalizing pot wasn't about politics.

"I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization," he said. "If we benefit, so be it. But that’s not my motivation."

He even told Thomas that while he had never smoked weed before, he might give it a try. "Maybe, I'm a little old, but who knows?"

Here's the interview:

Chronicle AM: Good NJ & TX MJ Polls, Mexican Cartels Kill Political Candidates, More... (4/19/18)

Democratic presidential contenders hop on the legalization bandwagon, New Jersey and Texas polls have good news for marijuana legalizers, Mexico's election campaign season is getting very bloody, and more.

Marijuana Policy

House GOP Again Blocks Action on Marijuana Policy. The House Rules Committee on Monday blocked an amendment that would have allowed marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses from their federal taxes -- like all other businesses do. The amendment from Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) was defeated on a party line vote. It was just business as usual for the committee and its chair, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who has blocked any marijuana amendments from advancing since 2016.

Bernie Sanders Signs on to Marijuana Justice Act. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has signed on as a cosponsor of Sen. Cory Booker's (D-NJ) Marijuana Justice Act, Senate Bill 1689. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is also a cosponsor, meaning three leading 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are backing marijuana legalization.

New Jersey Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Monmouth University poll shows strong public support for freeing the weed, even as the legislature ponders the issue. The poll found 59% supported legalizing small amounts for personal use. That's up 11 points since 2014.

New Mexico Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Legalizing Pot. Democratic gubernatorial contender Jeff Apodaca is calling for an expansion of the state's medical marijuana program and the legalization of marijuana for adult use. Another Democratic contender, US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, has also said she would support legalization -- if it included adequate measures to prevent youth use and workplace problems.

Texas Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that more than six out of ten Texans are ready to free the weed. The poll had 61% in favor of allowing the possession of small amounts for personal use.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois House Approves Medical Marijuana for Students at School. The House voted Wednesday to approve House Bill 4870, which would allow parents to administer infused marijuana to their children in elementary and secondary schools. The bill passed by a margin of 99-1. It now goes to the Senate.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee voted 14-3 Thursday to approve House Bill 3521, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. The bill would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat their conditions with a recommendation from their doctors. The legislature's crossover deadline has already passed, but this vote, combined with approval by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on March 29, builds momentum for full passage next year.

International

Mexican Election Campaign Sparks Wave of Political Assassinations. Drug trafficking organizations are getting the blame for a record number of killings of candidates running for political office in Mexico. At least 82 candidates and office holders have been killed since the electoral season began last September. As Newsweek reported: "Drug lords are hoping to install lawmakers they know and trust to ensure that their lucrative trade is allowed to continue."

Antigua and Barbuda Move Toward Marijuana Legalization. Just a month after decriminalizing marijuana, the tiny Caribbean island nation is drafting legislation to legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales. The bill could be brought before parliament within the next six months.

(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: DOJ to Clamp Down on Pain Pills, Sanders Files Opioid Bill, More... (4/18/18)

Maine lawmakers pass another legal marijuana implementation bill, this time with veto-proof majorities; the Justice Department eyes a crackdown on pain pill production, Bernie Sanders takes aim at opioid makers and distributors, and more.

The Justice Department wants to crack down on pail pill production. And Congress is eyeing action, too. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Legislature Passes Legal Marijuana Implementation Bill, Governor Vows Veto. The state Senate on Tuesday approved the bill that would finally allow retail marijuana sales. The bill passed the House earlier and now goes to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, who has threatened to veto it because it doesn't combine the state's adult use marijuana and medical marijuana regimes. LePage vetoed a similar bill last year. But this time around, the bill passed with enough support to overcome a veto. LePage has 10 days to sign, veto, or let the bill become law without his signature.

Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Bill to Let VA Study Medical Marijuana Filed. A group of House Democrats and Republicans have filed HR 5520, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act. The bill would clarify that the Veterans Administration has the authority to study medical marijuana and encourages the agency to do so. The bill would require the VA to report regularly to Congress about its progress on medical marijuana research. The bill is being championed by leaders in the House Veterans Affairs Committee and has 34 cosponsors.

Massachusetts High Court Urges Lawmakers to Clarify Law on Home Cultivation. In an opinion in a case of a medical marijuana patient arrested for growing 22 pot plants, the state's Supreme Judicial Court has urged lawmakers to revisit the law around home grows by patients. The law allows patients to grow enough marijuana to create a 60-day supply, defined in the state as 10 ounces. But the justices found the current law problematic and suggested a plant-based limit would be clearer. "Statutory and regulatory clarification would be most beneficial," wrote Justice Scott Kafker in the opinion in the case, Commonwealth vs. Richardson.

Hemp

Oklahoma Hemp Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. The Senate on Tuesday approved House Bill 2913, which would legalize industrial hemp production. The measure has already passed the House, so it now goes to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Justice Department Proposes New Regulations to Limit Prescription Opioid Production. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday proposed new regulations for how the DEA sets opioid production quotas that could severely limit the amount of pain pills produced. "Under this proposed new rule, if DEA believes that a company's opioids are being diverted for misuse, then they will reduce the amount of opioids that company can make," Sessions said in prepared remarks. The proposed change must still go through the federal rule-making process before going into effect. It will be published in the Federal Register and opened to public comment in coming days.

Bernie Sanders Files Bill to Rein in Big Pharma on Opioids. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Tuesday filed Senate Bill 2961, which would ban drug companies from marketing opioids as non-addictive and fines them 25% of their profits if they violate the rule. The bill also seeks to stop pharmaceutical companies from distributing amounts of opioids "not medically reasonable," in a bid to stop distributors from flooding small towns with pills. "We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured," Sanders said in a statement. "They knew how dangerous these products were but refused to tell doctors and patients," he said. "Yet, while some of these companies have made billions each year in profits, not one of them has been held fully accountable for its role in an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year."

Harm Reduction

Maine Bill to End Age Restrictions on Naloxone Heads to Governor's Desk. Both houses of the legislature have approved Legislative Document 1892, which ends age restrictions on the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Gov. Paul LePage (R) wants to limit naloxone access without a prescription to people 21 and over and has vetoed other naloxone access bills, but this bill has passed with a veto-proof majority. LePage has 10 days to act.

International

The Bangladeshi Department of Narcotics Control has proposed new drug legislation for the country which includes the use of the death penalty for people caught selling more than 200 grams of methamphetamine. Under current law, the maximum punishment is 15 years in prison. Bangladeshi law already allows the death penalty for some other drug offenses, including heroin trafficking, but its use is actually very rare in the country. The last execution for a drug offense was in 2009.

Chronicle AM: Federal Hemp Bill Gets Fast-Tracked, Google to Vet Drug Rehab Ads, More... (4/17/18)

Google is restoring drug treatment advertising but with vetting, the federal hemp bill is moving fast, fighting over coca results in a state of emergency in a Colombian province, and more.

Sometimes it pays to be the Senate Majority leader. Mitch McConnell's hemp bill has been fast-tracked. (Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska House Votes to Limit Access to Old Marijuana Convictions. The House voted Monday to approve House Bill 316, which would not expunge old pot convictions, but would restrict access to those records. Bill sponsor Rep. Harriet Drummond (D) said she filed the bill to ensure that Alaskans are not passed over for jobs or promotions for possessing a substance that is now legal. Convictions that would be hidden would be those for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Approves Vaping Flowers and Buds. State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Monday she will approve the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board's recommendation to allow the sale of medical marijuana in in leaf or flower form. State law forbids patients from smoking it, but vaping would be okay.

Hemp

McConnell's Hemp Bill Gets Fast-Tracked. Sometimes it pays to be the Senate Majority leader. Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) hemp bill, Senate Bill 2667, is getting fast-tracked. Using a procedural move known as Rule 14, the bill introduced last week was placed on the Senate calendar on Monday. The move allows the bill to skip the committee process and head directly to the Senate floor. Companion legislation has been filed in the House.

Drug Treatment

Google to Vet Drug Rehab Ads. Nearly a year after it suspended advertising for drug treatment centers because of numerous deceptive and misleading ads, Google announced Monday that it would resume accepting such ads. But they will first have to be vetted by an outside firm, LegitScript of Portland, Oregon. The new rules apply to in-person treatment facilities, crisis hotlines, and support groups. They will have to pass scrutiny on numerous criteria, including criminal background checks and license and insurance verification, as well as providing written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery and continuous improvement."

International

The Hague Bans Pot Smoking in the City Center. For the first time, a Dutch city has banned public pot smoking. The Hague has banned pot smoking around its city center, central railway station, and major shopping areas. The move came about because of "many complaints" from residents and visitors, a spokesman for The Hague Mayor Pauline Krikke said. Amsterdam and Rotterdam ban pot smoking near schools, but do not have general bans.

Colombian Province in State of Emergency as Rebel Groups Fight Over Coca. William Vallamizar, governor of Norte de Santander province, has declared a state of emergency because fighting between two rebel groups over control of a coca-growing region. He said a thousand families had to flee the fighting, and 4,000 children were blocked from going to school. The dispute is between leftist guerrillas of the EPL (Popular Liberation Army) and ELN (Army of National Liberation), both of which hope to take over an area that had formerly been under control of the FARC. The FARC has transformed from a guerrilla army to a political party, but its demobilization has left power vacuums in the countryside.

Australian Federal Government Rejects Green Party Call for Marijuana Legalization. The federal government isn't interested in the Green Party's call for marijuana legalization, the health minister said Tuesday, resorting to discredited myths as he did so. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the party should withdraw its suggestion because it risks the health of Australians. "Marijuana is a gateway drug. The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real and documented," he said.

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.)

Trump Cuts the Legs Out from Under Sessions' War on Weed [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

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 prohibition.

Donald Trump goes all states' rights on Jeff Sessions when it comes to pot policy. (Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore)
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.

And Trump didn't even bother to tell Sessions he was about to cut the legs out from under him, an almost unprecedented slight from a president to his attorney general.

Gardner, a Republican up for reelection in a pot-friendly state, had placed a hold on Justice Department nominees since Sessions rescinded the Obama-era policy in January and announced the apparent policy shift with a Friday afternoon press release after a phone call with Trump earlier in the week.

"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states' rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said. "Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo [Obama-era guidance] will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all."

Gardner said Trump's comments had convinced him to remove his remaining holds on Justice Department nominees, and that he would continue to work on a bipartisan legislative solution to pass Congress so Trump can "deliver on his campaign position."

"The president did speak with Sen. Gardner yesterday and again today," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday. She said "the president is a firm believer" in states' rights and confirmed Gardner's account of the assurances he received from the president was accurate.

Once again, the attorney general finds himself out of step with his boss. (senate.gov)
While Trump is notorious for seat-of-the-pants policy shifts and for lack of follow-through on policy pronouncements, some activist groups were quick to laud the apparent shift.

"Sen. Gardner has done a great service for his constituents by standing up for federalism regarding marijuana policy," said Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Everyone who knew about President Trump's statements on this issue during the campaign was hoping he would uphold those values and support states' abilities to enact laws regulating marijuana for medical or adult use while in office. This news should make states more comfortable implementing their legalization programs. It should also serve as a rallying cry for lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation that leaves marijuana policy to the states permanently."

Congress renewed spending restrictions that prevent federal interference in state medical marijuana in March, but no such protections exist for states that have regulated marijuana for adults. Trump's statements suggest that the same policy will apply to both medical and adult use providers, but the Dept. of Justice could still legally pursue cases against state-legal adult use operations if federal prosecutors choose to do so.

"With the support of the president, the American public, and mounting evidence that regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol is much preferable to prohibition, there is no reason for Congress to delay any longer," continued Murphy. "There are several pieces of marijuana policy legislation being considered right now, and every one of them should get hearings immediately."

But Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson was more cautious. As the head law enforcement officer in a legal marijuana state, Ferguson is adopting a wait-and-see position.

"I understand President Trump has offered his support for states to have the right to regulate marijuana and for legislation to enshrine this right in law," he said in a Friday statement. "I am cautiously optimistic that the president appears to have heard the will of the people on this issue. But this president has demonstrated a willingness to go back on his word. Until there is a formal agreement protecting Washington's well-regulated marijuana industry, I will continue to stand ready to defend it."

Given this president, that is probably the prudent position.

Chronicle AM:Mitch McConnell Files Hemp Bill, Mexico Minister Says Legalize It, More... (4/13/18)

A pair of senators demand that Jeff Sessions quit blocking marijuana research, Mitch McConnell files a federal hemp bill, Mexico's tourism minister says his country should allow states to legalize weed, and more.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell files a bill to allow for domestic hemp cultivation. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Pair of Senators Call on Sessions to Stop Blocking Marijuana Research. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sent a letter Thursday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to demand that he stop blocking efforts to ramp up research on marijuana's medical benefits. "The benefits of research are unquestionable," Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrote, taking Sessions to task for blocking applications for new research grows. "Nineteen months have elapsed since the DEA announced its request for expanded marijuana research," they noted, demanding that Sessions respond by May 15 about the status of the research application reviews.

Louisiana House Approves Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program. The House on Thursday approved House Bill 579, which expands the list of qualifying conditions to include Parkinson's Disease, chronic pain, severe muscle spasms, and PTSD. That means the number of qualifying conditions would rise from 10 to 14. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Hemp

Mitch McConnell Files Federal Hemp Bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed Senate Bill 2667, which aims to allow for domestic hemp production by removing non-psychoactive marijuana varieties known as hemp from the Controlled Substance Act. Cosponsoring the bill are Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Companion legislation in the House was filed by McConnell's home state homeboy Rep. Jim Comer (R-KY).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Making Opioids Tougher to Abuse Led to Spike in Heroin Deaths, Study Finds. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that a 2010 effort to deter opioid abuse led to a jump in heroin overdoses. The paper studied what happened after OxyContin was reformulated to be more abuse-resistant and found that "each prevented opioid death was replaced with a heroin death."

Law Enforcement

DEA Gouged Taxpayers, Benefited Ex-Employees, Audit Finds. A report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has found that the DEA's Asset Forfeiture Program farmed out contracts to recently retired former employees, paying them more than half a million dollars more than they would have been paid if they had remained at the agency. The former employees worked for a private contractor called Maximus Inc., which was paid $85 million between 2013 and 2017 to handle asset forfeiture cases. Many of the ex-employees went to the same offices they had worked at as DEA employees, and former DEA employees accounted for 40% of Maximus's asset forfeiture workforce.

International

Mexico Tourism Minister Says Country Should Let States Begin to Legalize Weed. Tourism Minister Enrique de la Madrid said Wednesday that Mexico should allow states to begin legalizing marijuana, in part to address record cartel violence. "I think in Mexico we should move towards regulating it at state level," he said, calling it "illogical" to divert funds from fighting kidnapping, rape and murder to arrest people using marijuana.

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