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Chronicle AM: Fed Judge Tired of Jailing Pot People, AI to Vote on New Drug Policy, More... (7/6/18)

There will be no marijuana legalization measure on the Arizona ballot this year, a federal judge is sick of sending probationers to jail for marijuana, Amnesty International is set to vote on a new drug policy stance, and more.

Is Philippines President Duterte using the war on drugs to assassinate political foes? Human rights watchers say yes.
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Says Enough Already on Punishing Marijuana Users. Brooklyn, New York, US District Court Judge Jack Weinstein said Thursday he has been too hard on marijuana users, and that's going to end. He criticized federal probation officers for demanding sentences of supervised release for people caught with small amounts of marijuana. His comments came in his ruling in a case where a 22-year-old on probation got caught with marijuana. Instead of sending him to jail, Weinstein cut short his probation sentence.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Comes Up Way Short on Signatures. A legalization initiative from Safer Arizona will not be on the November ballot after organizers missed the Thursday deadline to hand in signatures. The group needed 150,000 valid voter signatures to qualify and had planned to gather 225,000 to provide a cushion, but admitted it had only come up with 75,000 raw signatures so far.

International

Amnesty International to Vote on New Positions on Drug Policy. One of the world's leading human rights groups will be debating proposals to tackle the devastating human rights consequences of "misguided attempts" by countries to criminalize and punish people for using drugs. The proposed new policy "would call for a shift away from the current 'scorched-earth' approach of heavy-handed criminalization, to an approach where protection of people's health and rights are at the center." The question will be taken up during the group's Global Assembly later this year.

Report Calls for Coca Leaf to Be Legalized in Colombia. A new report from Open Society Foundations, "Coca Industrialization: A Path To Innovation, Development and Peace In Colombia," calls for coca to be legalized and calls on the Colombian government to guarantee small farmers protection from prosecution, support research into coca's nutritional properties, and promote the use of coca among indigenous communities.

Philippines Rights Group Say Duterte Is Assassinating Political Opponents Under Cover of Drug War. At least ten Filipino mayors have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, including two in the past week. Human rights groups said Duterte is using the drug war to crack down on political opponents. The deaths of the mayors strikes fear into the hearts of "politicians, especially in the provinces, who are then forced to toe Duterte's line," said Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch.

In Drug Case, Supreme Court Holds That Unauthorized Rental Car Drivers Have Rights, Too

Criminal Court & Legal Affair Investigative Journalist Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected].

The US Supreme Court recently annulled a major search and seizure case around a rental car filled with heroin with a ruling that could impact the legal rights of Americans who may get stopped by police while driving a vehicle rented by another person. That case is U.S. v. Terence Byrd (#16-1371).

The Fourth Amendment applies even to unauthorized rental car drivers, the Supreme Court rules.
On May 14, Supreme Court Justices released their decision in Byrd's case, announcing when the Fourth Amendment was applied to the evidence in the case that Terence Byrd had "reasonable expectation of privacy while driving a car rented by another party."

Pennsylvania state troopers had arrested Byrd with a large cache of heroin in a car rented by his girlfriend. Police told Byrd he had no right to refuse to consent to a search because Byrd's name was not on the rental agreement. Byrd copped to ten years in federal prison when a district court ruled earlier that Byrd had no expectations of privacy while driving an unauthorized rental car.

The thorny issues the justices had to untangle was whether a second party driver of a rental car like Byrd could legally refuse a police request to search the rental vehicle unless police had a warrant or probable cause, and further whether Byrd was still entitled to protection the under Fourth Amendment. In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected the government's argument that Byrd had no expectation of privacy because he wasn't listed as a second party driver.

"People who borrow rental cars from friends or family are legally entitled to the same protection against police searches as the authorized driver," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. "There may be countless innocuous reasons why an authorized driver might get behind the wheel of a rental car and drive it."

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. (USSC)
White House Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco had urged the justices to hold Mr. Byrd to the terms of the rental agreement. "It is common knowledge that car rentals are a personal transaction that does not make the car available for general enjoyment and that the straw man car rentals disserve society by frustrating law enforcement efforts to prevent smuggling and other crimes," he argued.

What is unusual about the Supreme Court ruling in this case is the fact the high court affirmed the defendant's conviction but the justices sent back to the lower appellate court to address important issues as it relates to whether the defendant was entitled to expectation of privacy and not be subjected to "unreasonable search and seizures."

Here are the remanded issues the appeals court, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, must now consider

(1) Whether an individual "who intentionally uses a third party to obtain a rental car by a fraudulent scheme for the purpose of committing a crime lacks a reasonable expectation of privacy in the rental car driven by the defendant."

(2) Whether the officers had probable cause to search the rental car, and whether these or other issues warrant further remand to the District Court or such issues should be addressed by the court in the first instance.

(3) And if police had any other probable cause to stop Byrd other than the original traffic stop.

New York criminal defense attorney Robert M. Loeb, who argued Byrd's case before the high court, told Drug War Chronicle, "Now we must revisit the same issues that the District Court and the Third Circuit have already decided in favor of the government," he explained. "If the lower court reiterates that officers had probable cause to stop and search the car and seize the drugs under their probable cause theory," Byrd stays in prison," because then the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect him," Loeb explained.

David Rudovsky, a Penn State Professor and search and seizure expert, told the Chronicle, "As the court stated, there is no bright-line rule for second drivers; my view is that long as the driver is not a thief or carjacker, there is a good claim to an expectation of privacy."

The ACLU and the National Criminal Defense Lawyer Association filed a friend brief in Byrd's case, claiming the Supreme court's ruling would likely have an outsized effect on black and Hispanic drivers. "There is a commonly held misconception that car rental is a luxury reserved for the wealthiest individuals," the ACLU filing said. To prove their facts, the ACLU noted that a 2010 tax study found "that more car rentals occur at neighborhood locations than at airport locations."

Studies have shown that black drivers are more likely than white ones to be pulled over by the police and more likely to be searched during the stop.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Byrd's attorneys had argued: "Whether he was on the car rental agreement was actually irrelevant to whether he had a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment."

Byrd's attorney had also previously argued before the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court that "millions of car rentals take place annually in the United States." They insisted that if the government won, "Police would have an incentive to pull over a rental car driver who commits a traffic violation because police would know they could search the car if the driver wasn't listed on the rental agreement."

Suspicious Traffic Stop

Terence Byrd's journey to the nation's Supreme Court began on September 17, 2014, at a Budget car rental in Wayne, New Jersey. While Byrd waited outside, Latasha Reed, his girlfriend with whom he sired five children, went into Budget and signed an agreement to rent a new Ford Fusion. Reed's car rental agreement explicitly stated that additional drivers would only be allowed with "prior written consent." Reed did not add Byrd or any other drivers onto the rental agreement.

Driving a rental doesn't mean you give up your rights (Creative Commons)
Once a Budget employee finalized the paperwork, Reed gave the keys to Byrd, who began his trek toward Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. While driving near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Byrd came upon State Trooper David Long who later claimed he stopped Byrd for either driving too long in an illegal left lane or while Byrd gripped the steering wheel at the "10 and 2" position, which is known as a "hand play" that many drivers use while holding a vehicle's steering wheel in an unsafe manner, notwithstanding an additional fact that Byrd's driver's seat was too far back reclined!

After running Byrd's driver's license the trooper discovered Byrd had given an alias name of James Carter, and also under Byrd's real name, he had a New Jersey arrest warrant. Ignoring Byrd's right to refuse to consent to a search--officers later claimed Byrd consented to the search--the officers searched the vehicle's trunk and hit the jackpot: 49 bricks of heroin and a police vest. Officers arrested Byrd and subsequently charged him with possession/intent to sell heroin and possession of body armor by a felon.

At a suppression hearing on June 16, 2015, held before Judge Caldwell, State Trooper David Long reiterated the suspicious events that led him to pull Byrd over, which included the officer saying he was unable to see Byrd due to the reclined seat, the "10 and 2" driving position, and the traffic violation.

Byrd's attorney was incredulous: "So the only reason you pulled out to stop my client was the fact he was at "10 and 2" -- and you couldn't see him in the car because his driver's seat reclined too far back?" the lawyer asked. Trooper Long nodded affirmatively.

Byrd's lawyer also drilled the officer about the notion that Byrd's race may have played a role for the officer to stop him. Then, surprisingly, Trooper Long mentioned a third factor that triggered the stop. "In a rental vehicle, he said. "That's what drew my attention to it, yes."

This is when the vehicle rental contract collided with the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure. Trooper Long said he explained to Byrd that he was free to search the car without Byrd's consent because Byrd's name wasn't on the car rental agreement.

After a federal judge refused to throw out the evidence, Byrd accepted a plea bargain for a 10-year prison sentence in exchange for the right to appeal the conviction based on the argument the search violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Whether Byrd prevails at the lower court during a hearing scheduled either later in June or July remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Byrd and his attorneys await the outcome with bated breath. Hopefully, the Fourth Amendment wins again. Stay tuned -- we will keep you informed of the outcome.

Chronicle AM: Canada Legalizes Marijuana! (6/20/18)

Canada has become the second country to legalize marijuana after final votes in parliament Tuesday, the Supreme Court agrees to hear an Indiana asset forfeiture case, Eleanor Holmes Norton files a bill to allow marijuana in public housing in states where it's legal, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Eleanor Holmes Norton Files Bill to Allow Marijuana Use in Public Housing Where It's Legal. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has filed a bill that would allow residents of public housing in states and localities where marijuana is legal to use it at home without fear of being evicted. Under Norton's bill, a person may not be denied federally-assisted housing for the use of marijuana in jurisdictions where medical or recreational marijuana has been legalized. Under Norton's bill, smoking marijuana would be treated the same as smoking tobacco in federally-assisted housing. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

Asset Forfeiture

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Indiana Civil Asset Forfeiture Case. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an Indiana man who used the proceeds of his father's life insurance policy to buy a $42,000 Land Rover only to have the vehicle seized after he was caught selling heroin with it. When authorities moved to forfeit the vehicle, Tyson Timbs challenged the action and won in the Grant Superior Court, with the judge finding the vehicle was purchased legally and that its forfeiture would be "grossly disproportionate" to Timb's offense. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, noting that the maximum fine for Timbs' offenses was only $10,000 and suggested the seizure amounted to an "excessive fine." The state Supreme Court then reversed, Timbs appealed, and here we are.

Reproductive Rights

Federal Appeals Court Panel Rejects Wisconsin Woman's "Cocaine Mom" Lawsuit. A three-judge panel on the US 7th Circuit of Appeals on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's "cocaine mom" law, which permits the detention of pregnant women who are suspected of abusing drugs. The panel dismissed the case because the woman, Tammy Loetscher, had moved out of the state. A US district court judge last year found the law unconstitutional and issued an injunction barring it from being enforced, but the law has remained in force while the state appealed. The appeals court panel's ruling leaves the law in force for now. "Today's decision means that all women in Wisconsin have to worry that when they seek health care, if there's even a chance they might be pregnant, the state can take them into custody, lock them up in a drug treatment program, a mental hospital or a jail -- whether or not drug treatment is really needed," said Nancy Rosenbloom, director of legal advocacy for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which represented Loertscher.

International

Canada Legalizes Marijuana. With final votes in the House of Commons and Senate on Tuesday, the Canadian parliament has approved the marijuana legalization bill, C-45. The bill legalizes the possession of up to 30 grams in public and allows the cultivation of up to four plants per household. It will also allow for regulated and taxed marijuana businesses, with regulations of sales left to the provinces. Provincial and territorial governments need s few weeks to prepare for retail sales, so the actual rollout of legalization is expected to happen in mid-September.

Australia Festival Pill Testing a Success, Should Be Emulated, Report Finds. A study released Wednesday by the Safety and Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events finds that pill testing at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in April was "an overwhelming success" and the federal government should take a leadership role in introducing a plan for broader pill testing. "The pilot demonstrated that such an intervention is possible and that people are willing to use the service, despite the limitations arising from the tight timelines, inauspicious physical infrastructure and the lack of dissemination strategies on-site during the festival," the report said. Less than half the drugs tested at the festival were relatively pure.

Medical Marijuana Update

A pair of Missouri medical marijuana initiative campaigns have handed in lots and lots of signatures, a federal appeals court upheld a DEA rule that CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance, the Utah initiative campaign gets organized opposition, and more.

National

Last Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld a DEA rule on marijuana extracts. A three-judge panel on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a DEA rule stating that marijuana extracts, including non-psychoactive CBD, are Schedule I substances. The Hemp Industries Association and others had challenged the rule, arguing that DEA overstepped its bounds by scheduling substances, such as cannabinoids, that were not classified as illicit under the Controlled Substances Act.

On Tuesday, House committee advanced a Veterans Affairs medical marijuana research bill. The House Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday unanimously approved a measure that aims to increase VA research on medical marijuana. The bill would specify that the agency has the ability to research the herb for conditions including PTSD. The measure is part of a package of bills lawmakers hope to pass this month.

Arkansas

On Monday, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on the licensing imbroglio. The state Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear oral arguments on a judge's decision to prevent the state from licensing medical marijuana cultivation operators. The judge had ruled that the licensing program violated the voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana after a complaint from a business that failed to get a license.

Georgia

On Monday, the governor signed a bill allowing CBD cannabis oil for PTSD, intractable pain. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 65, which adds PTSD and intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by CBD cannabis oil.

Louisiana

Last Thursday, the House killed a medical marijuana expansion bill. The House on Thursday voted down House Bill 826, which would have allowed any pharmacist in the state to open a medical marijuana dispensary. Instead, the state will maintain the status quo, which allows only nine pharmacies in the state to dispense medical marijuana.

On Monday, a medical marijuana for autistic children bill advanced. A bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for children with severe autism has passed the House and, now, a vote in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. House Bill 627 now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Michigan

On Monday, state regulators recommended approving 10 new qualifying conditions. The state's Medical Marihuana Review Panel has recommended the approval of 10 new conditions that could qualify people to use medical marijuana. That's out of a list of 22 conditions people had asked the panel to review. The conditions include obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson's, Tourettes, spinal cord injury, autism, and chronic pain. The recommendations now go to Shelly Edgerton, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who has until July 10 to make a final decision.

Missouri

On Tuesday, the Senate gave initial approval to a medical marijuana bill. The Senate Tuesday gave initial approval to House Bill 1554, which would allow people suffering from specified serious illnesses to use non-smokeable medical marijuana. The bill has already passed the House and now goes to the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions for a second reading. If it survives that, it then goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Last Friday, two initiative campaigns handed in lots and lots of signatures. New Approach Missouri and Find the Cure, the folks behind a pair of medical marijuana initiatives (they differ only on how regulations would work and where tax dollars would go), announced last Friday that they had handed in roughly double the number of signatures they need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures. Find the Cure said it had handed in more than 300,000 signatures, while New Approach Missouri said it had handed in more than 370,000. Although initiative petitions occasionally see half of their signatures get disqualified, it's far more typical for them to lose a third. If both initiatives make the ballot, the one with the most votes on election day wins.

New Hampshire

Last Thursday, the Senate effectively killed a bill to allow patients to grow their own. The Senate on Thursday refused to pass a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Instead, the body voted to send House Bill 1476 to interim study, effectively killing it for the session.

Utah

On Monday, organized opposition to the medical marijuana initiative emerged, including the DEA. Organized opposition to the Utah Patients Coalition's medical marijuana initiative has emerged, and it includes a local DEA task force, raising questions about a federal agency interfering in a state-level ballot question. Drug Safe Utah is recruiting paid canvassers to try to get voters who signed initiative campaigns to retract their signatures. Its members include the Utah Medical Association and the DEA's Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force.

On Tuesday, the "Right To Try" CBD medical marijuana law is now in effect. A limited medical marijuana law is now in effect. Under House Bill 195, which passed in March, terminally ill patients will be able to access CBD cannabis oil under a provision that expands the state's 2015 Right to Try Act. Also now in effect is House Bill 197, which establishes a medical marijuana cultivation program in the state. Both of these laws could soon be irrelevant, though: A much broader medical marijuana initiative will be on the ballot in November.

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

Chronicle AM: MO MMJ Inits Hand in Beaucoup Signatures, OH Racial Profiling Drug Dogs, More... (5/7/18)

Two separate Missouri medical marijuana initiatives appear set to qualify for the November ballot, the Utah medical marijuana initiative is generating organized opposition -- including the DEA -- Canada's prime minister says it's full steam ahead for marijuana legalization, and more.

Black drivers in Ohio are more likely to get drug dogs sicced on them than white ones, official data shows. (Wikimedia)
Medical Marijuana

Missouri Initiative Campaigns Hand in Many Signatures. New Approach Missouri and Find the Cure, the folks behind a pair of medical marijuana initiatives (they differ only on how regulations would work and where tax dollars would go), announced last Friday that they had handed in roughly double the number of signatures they need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures. Find the Cure said it had handed in more than 300,000 signatures, while New Approach Missouri said it had handed in more than 370,000. Although initiative petitions occasionally see half of their signatures get disqualified, it's far more typical for them to lose a third. If both initiatives make the ballot, the one with the most votes on election day wins.

Michigan Regulators Recommend Approving 10 New Qualifying Conditions. The state's Medical Marihuana Review Panel has recommended the approval of 10 new conditions that could qualify people to use medical marijuana. That's out of a list of 22 conditions people had asked the panel to review. The conditions include obsessive compulsive disorder, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Parkinson's, Tourettes, spinal cord injury, autism, and chronic pain. The recommendations now go to Shelly Edgerton, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who has until July 10 to make a final decision.

Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Organized Opposition, Including the DEA. Organized opposition to the Utah Patients Coalition's medical marijuana initiative has emerged, and it includes a local DEA task force, raising questions about a federal agency interfering in a state-level ballot question. Drug Safe Utah is recruiting paid canvassers to try to get voters who signed initiative campaigns to retract their signatures. Its members include the Utah Medical Association and the DEA's Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Three Democratic Senators Urge FDA to Pull High-Dose Opioids from Market. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove ultra-high dose opioids from the market because of concerns about "accidental ingestion, borrowed medication, and recreational use." The senators said patients who need high dose opioids could just take more pills, patches, or other formulations. "We believe these ultra-high dose opioids can be removed from the market without imposing hardship on those with legitimate pain needs," the senators wrote. But the Academy of Integrative Pain Management disagreed, saying the pulling the high dose opioids would "in some situations, create a greater danger because patients would be required to have several times more pills available to meet their needs. The burden of this would fall on the sickest patients, including those with cancer and/or receiving palliative/hospice/end-of-life care, whose quality of life would be diminished."

Racial Profiling

Ohio Highway Patrol More Likely to Use Drug Dogs on Black Drivers. The Associated Press has examined records on highway stops that show the state Highway Patrol uses drug-sniffing dogs on black drivers at a disproportionate rate. Blacks account for about 13% of the state population and 14% of drivers stopped by troopers, but 28% of stops where drug dogs were used. The AP made the records request after a federal appeals court criticized the arrest of a black driver on the Ohio Turnpike in 2014 and threw out the evidence used to convict him.

International

Canadian PM Says Marijuana Legalization Plan Will Proceed Without Delay. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last Thursday that his plan to legalize marijuana this summer will proceed without delay, despite misgivings being voiced in the Senate. "We're going to continue to move forward. We're going to bring in legalization as we've committed to this summer on schedule," Trudeau said.

Nigeria Bans Codeine. Responding to the rising recreational use of codeine-based cough syrups, the Nigerian federal government last week banned further imports of codeine into the country. The move comes as the country attempts to rewrite its drug and mental health policies.

Chronicle AM: Workplace Drug Testing for Marijuana Begins to Fade, NYC Safer Injection Site Rally, More... (5/3/18)

Pre-employment workplace drug testing for marijuana appears to be going out of style, a federal appeals court disappoints on scheduling cannabinoids, a Vermont saliva drug testing bill is killed, and more.

NYC protesters demand Mayor De Blasio move on a long-delayed safe injection site report. (Drug Policy Alliance)
Marijuana Policy

Clock Ticking on Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Study Bill. With the state's legislative session set to end next Wednesday, time is running out for House Bill 5394, which directs state agencies to develop a plan to legalize and regulate marijuana sales. The bill has passed out of the Appropriations Committee and awaits a House floor vote. Activists are urging state residents to contact their legislators this week to prod them.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Upholds DEA Rule on Marijuana Extracts. A three-judge panel on the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a DEA rule stating that marijuana extracts, including non-psychoactive CBD, are Schedule I substances. The Hemp Industries Association and others had challenged the rule, arguing that DEA overstepped its bounds by scheduling substances, such as cannabinoids, that were not classified as illicit under the Controlled Substances Act.

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Advances. A bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for children with severe autism has passed the House and, now, a vote in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. House Bill 627 now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Iowa Legislature Approves Prescription Monitoring Bill. The House on Wednesday gave final approval to the legislature's policy response to the opioid crisis, passing a bill that will require doctors to register prescriptions with the state's drug monitoring program within 24 hours. The bill now goes to the governor's desk.

Drug Testing

Employment Drug Testing for Marijuana Going Out of Favor. The Associated Press is reporting that numerous employers are "dropping marijuana from the drug tests they require of prospective employees." Testing for pot excludes too many potential workers, employers told the AP. Companies in labor-intensive industries -- hoteliers and home health care providers and employers with many warehouse and assembly jobs -- are most likely to drop marijuana testing. By contrast, businesses that contract with the government or that are in regulated industries, like air travel, or that have safety concerns involving machinery, are continuing marijuana tests, employment lawyers said.

Vermont Saliva Drug Testing Bill Dies. A bill that would have allowed police to obtain saliva for testing from motorists suspected of drugged driving is dead for the year. House Bill 237 had passed the House with law enforcement support, but was killed on a 4-1 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Both the Vermont ACLU and the state's Defender General Office had threatened legal action if it became law.

Harm Reduction

NYC Council Member Arrested in Protest Calling for Action on Safer Injection Sites. Dozens of community activists, social advocates, and elected political figures rallied outside New York City's City Hall Wednesday to demand the long-delayed release of a feasibility study on safe injection sites in the city. As many as a dozen people were arrested for obstructing traffic, including NYC Council Member Stephen Levine.

Chronicle AM: Another Record Pot Poll, Brit Docs Call for Drug Legalization, More... (4/30/18)

A new Quinnipiac poll has the highest support yet for marijuana legaization, Maine's Tea Party governor again vetoes a legalization implementation bill, cartel murders spark a mass demonstration in Mexico, the British Royal College of Physicians calls for drug legalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Quinnipiac Poll Has Support for Legalization Surging. Support for marijuana legalization has hit a new high in the latest Quinnipiac poll, released last Thursday. Pollsters found that 63% support federally legalizing marijuana, the highest number yet for this poll and in line with other recent polls showing support above 60%. "Voters are more favorable to legalizing marijuana than in any previous Quinnipiac survey," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the poll.

California Marijuana Banking Bill Advances. A bill that would make it easier for state marijuana businesses to use financial services has been approved by a second Senate committee. Senate Bill 930 would create a special class of state-chartered banks and credit unions that could process transactions from legal marijuana businesses. The bill won the approval of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee last week and now heads for an Appropriations Committee vote. A favorable vote there would take the bill to the Senate floor.

Illinois Bill to Expunge Old Possession Convictions Advances. A bill that would allow people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana or paraphernalia to expunge their criminal records has been approved by the House Restorative Justice Committee. House Bill 2367 now heads to the House Rules Committee.

Maine Governor Vetoes Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bill. Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage has for the second time vetoed a measure aimed at implementing the state's voter-approved law allowing for legal marijuana commerce. The veto came last Friday, with LePage complaining that he didn't want separate medical marijuana and recreational marijuana programs and worrying about highway safety. The bill passed both houses by veto-proof margins, but LePage's veto could erode GOP support, allowing the veto to stand. Stay tuned.

Vermont Effort to Revive Marijuana Legalization Bill Fails. A last-minute push to resurrect the state's marijuana legalization bill emerged last Thursday, but fizzled out on Friday. The end came when the House's Democratic leadership decided it had other, more important, priorities for the last days of the legislative session.

Seattle Moves to Vacate Past Misdemeanor Marijuana Convictions. The city of Seattle has filed a motion in municipal court to vacate all past misdemeanor marijuana convictions in the city. The motion would affect some 542 people. The city is also requesting the dismissal of all outstanding misdemeanor marijuana charges.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Justices to Expedite Medical-Marijuana Case. The state Supreme Court has agreed to speed up its review of a ruling that has blocked the issuance of the state's first medical marijuana grow licenses. Some 220 medical marijuana dispensary applications are also on hold, and the state argued before the court that getting the licenses rolled out is a matter of significant public interest.

California Bill to Protect Patients' Employment Rights Advances. The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee voted last Wednesday to approve Assembly Bill 2069,which aims to end employment discrimination against medical marijuana patients by treating medical marijuana the same way current law treats prescription opioids and other drugs, by granting it "reasonable accommodation" under the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Idaho Medical Marijuana Petitioners Give Up. There will be no medical marijuana initiative in Idaho this year. The head of the Idaho Medical Marijuana Association says she has stopped collecting signatures and dissolved the group to care for her ailing son. The group needed 36,000 signatures by Monday and wasn't close.Utah Democrats Make Support for Medical Marijuana a Platform Plank. At the state party convention Saturday, the Democratic Party added medical marijuana to the party platform. A ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana is likely to be on the ballot in November.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Charleston, West Virginia, Gives Up on Needle Exchanges. Even though West Virginia is the epicenter of the American opioid crisis, Charleston has shut down the city's needle exchange program, at least for now. City officials called the program a "mini-mall for junkies and drug dealers," and the chief of police imposed onerous restrictions on it, prompting Health Department officials to suspend the program rather than comply with them. The city's move is suggestive of the problems needle exchanges have in winning public acceptance, particularly in the smaller cities of the interior, where they are a relatively new phenomenon.

Drug Testing

Federal Judge Throws Out DC Random Drug Screening of Teachers. A federal district court judge ruled last Thursday that the District of Columbia's random drug screening policy violates the Fourth Amendment rights of teachers. The language mandating drug testing was rooted in a 2004 law that was largely neglected until 2013, when DC school officials issued a memorandum saying the facilities would be subject to the rule. A private school, two teachers, and a private school advocacy group sued the city. Now, they've won.

International

Zimbabwe Legalizes Medical Marijuana. The African country has approved the production and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and research purposes. The health ministry issued an order saying individuals and companies can apply for licenses.

Mexico Cartel Murder of Three Students Results in Massive Peace Demonstration. More than 10,000 people took to the streets of Mexico's second largest city, Guadalajara, last Thursday to call for peace and demand justice for three film students who were kidnapped and murdered by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. "The absurd war on drugs is taking our classmates and we will not allow it anymore,"said Jesus Medina, a student leader from the University of Guadalajara.

British Royal College of Physicians Calls for Drug Legalization. The Royal College of Physicians, representing some 26,000 British doctors, has called for the legalization of both soft and hard drugs, saying the criminal justice system fails to serve the interests of addicts. Instead of arresting drug users, they should be given "timely" care and support, the group said. "The criminal justice system is not the place to address the often complex needs of people addicted to drugs," said Jane Dacre, president of the RCP. "We are committed to ensuring that all people who need to do so are able to access timely and appropriate prevention and care services." The RCP adopted the policy at meeting of its general council.

Chronicle AM: DOJ Targets Big Pharma Opioids, Denver Cannabis Social Club Is a First, More... (2/27/18)

Another federal marijuana rescheduling effort has bit the dust, the US attorney general announces a new front in the war on opioids, a Denver cafe will become the nation's first licensed marijuana social club, and more.

Attorney General Sessions announces a task force that will target opioid manufacturers and distributors. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Throws Out Marijuana Rescheduling Case. A US district court judge in Manhattan has thrown out the latest lawsuit challenging marijuana's scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled Monday that plaintiffs should use administrative remedies to reschedule the substance. If they want pot's status changed, the judge held, they need to get the administration to reschedule it or get Congress to rewrite the drug law. This is at least the fifth effort to reschedule marijuana, going back to the 1970s.

Denver Approves First Social Use Club License. The Coffee Joint in Denver has become the nation's first business licensed to allow marijuana use on premises by people 21 or older. Customers will be able to vape or consume edibles that they bring to the café. The club will not allow any smoking, which, under state law, can only be permitted outdoors, and it will not sell marijuana products.

Medical Marijuana

Indiana CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve House Bill 1214, which would legalize the use of CBD cannabis oil with less than 0.3% THC. The bill would also loosen registration provisions on an existing CBD law that has so far failed to get the medicine to patients.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-5 Monday to approve Senate Bill 1120, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), has implied that he filed the bill as an alternative to a medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, that is already set for the June ballot.

Industrial Hemp

Kansas Senate Passes Hemp Bill. The state Senate voted 36-3 last Thursday to approval Senate Bill 263, which would allow the state Department of Agriculture to grow and promote the research and development of industrial hemp. The department would be able to grow its own hemp or partner with a state university, and individual farmers would be able to grow it under state license. The bill now goes to the House.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

US Attorney General Announces Plan to Go After Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that he has created a Justice Department task force to that will target opioid manufacturers and distributors and hold them accountable for unlawful practices. "Opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history," said Sessions at a news conference with several US attorneys. "It has strained our public health and law enforcement resources and bankrupted countless families across this country."

Chronicle AM: Senate Sentencing Reform Bill Under Attack, DEA Threatens SIJs, More... (2/15/18)

The Marijuana Justice Act gets a third cosponsor, the DEA threatens to go after safe injection sites, the attorney general and leading law enforcement groups target the Senate sentencing reform bill, and much, much more.

Jeff Sessions and major law enforcement groups are trying to kill the Senate sentencing reform bill. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Judge Suggests He Will Defer to DEA, Congress on Rescheduling Lawsuit. At a hearing Wednesday over a lawsuit seeking to have marijuana de- or rescheduled from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein suggested he would rule in the government's favor. He dismissed plaintiffs' claims that marijuana prohibition was motivated by racism and political concerns when it was passed 80 years ago and he said he didn't think he had the authority to reschedule the drug. "The law is the law," the judge said. "I'm sworn to enforce the law."

Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act Gets Third Sponsor. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced Wednesday that she had signed on as a cosponsor of Sen. Cory Booker's (D-NJ) Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689). The bill is also cosponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Federal Bill Filed to Protect Legal Marijuana States and Businesses. Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) has filed the Sensible Enforcement Of Cannabis Act (no bill number yet), which would essentially codify the protections for state-legal marijuana embodied in the now-rescinded Cole memo. "To date, eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, and twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing more than half of the American population, have enacted legislation to permit the use of cannabis," Correa said. "Attorney General Sessions' decision to rescind the 'Cole Memo' created great uncertainty for these states and legal cannabis businesses, and put citizens in jeopardy for following their state laws."

Connecticut Legalization Bills Filed. Twenty-two lawmakers filed a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday. The bill, House Bill 5112, would authorize the retail sale and taxation of the herb. Separately, House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. James Albis (D-East Haven) filed another legalization bill, House Bill 5111. Similar bills last year failed to get a floor vote in either chamber. Both bills were referred to the Joint Committee on General Law.

Massachusetts Legalization Advocates Protest "Intimidation Campaign" Aimed at Forcing Restrictive Regulations. Legalization advocates are criticizing Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and other officials, saying they have conducted a "coordinated intimidation campaign" against the state body charged with crafting rules and regulations, the Cannabis Control Commission. In a series of letters to the commission, officials from the governor's office have raised public health and safety concerns and recommended it scale back its framework of rules. Advocates took their concerns to the State House Thursday, where they held a press conference.

New Jersey Lawmakers, Wary of Legalization, File Decriminalization Bill Instead. A bipartisan group of legislators urging caution on pot legalization has filed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 472 would make the possession of up to 15 grams a civil offense. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) campaigned on legalizing marijuana, and legalization bills have already been filed in the Assembly and Senate.

Jackson, Mississippi, City Council Votes to Decriminalize Weed. The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to decriminalize the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. Violators would face no more than a $100 fine. Under current Mississippi state law, marijuana possession is illegal, so effective implementation will depend on local law enforcement discretion. The possession of any amount of marijuana can result in up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $250, and a litany of collateral consequences that impacts employment, housing, family and life opportunities.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Senate Committee Votes to End Civil Forfeiture by Police. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would end civil asset forfeiture in the state. Senate Bill 213 would require a criminal conviction before cash or property could be seized. Senators said they expected the bill to face additional negotiations before it goes to a Senate floor vote.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Bill to Block Employers from Testing for Marijuana to Be Filed. Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) said he plans to introduce a bill that would block employers from drug testing for THC or disqualifying people from jobs because of a drug test with positive results for marijuana. The bill would apply to both public and private sector workers, but not those operating heavy equipment. "Consuming THC weeks or months out from a job interview should not disqualify someone from finding employment any more than someone who drank a few beers on another date should be kept out of work" Bowen told the Isthmus in an email. "While I am in favor of the safe legalization and regulation of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use, until that happens, people should not be stigmatized for using a substance whose effect on society is less negative than society's reaction to it."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Congressional Republicans Try to Blame Sanctuary Cities for Opioid Crisis. GOP lawmakers used a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security to try to scapegoat sanctuary cities for the country's opioid crisis. "We have heard countless stories of sanctuary practices and the havoc they wreck on public safety, national security, and the sanctity of the rule of law," said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), the committee chair. "Our public safety and our public health are tied to eradicating opioids, which can never be accomplished when the force multiplier that is ICE is sidelined." But committee Democrats and analysts rejected the link. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said There was no "factual basis in connecting so called sanctuary city policies with the opioid crisis," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). "It would be laughable if it weren't so serious," she said. "If it weren't so hurtful to the characterization of immigrants across this country." Last month, Republicans tried to blame Obama's expansion of Medicaid for worsening the epidemic.

Harm Reduction

Trump Administration Threatens to Go After Safe Injection Sites. Several US cities are moving forward with plans to open safe injection sites, but the DEA has just fired a shot across the bow. In an interview with Buzzfeed, DEA spokeswoman Katherine Pfaff said the agency may take action against the facilities because they are federally prohibited. "Supervised injection facilities, or so-called safe injection sites, violate federal law," Pfaff said. "Any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and, therefore, subject to legal action." She cited a 1980s crack house law that could be used. But in Seattle, at least, local prosecutors say they welcome a legal challenge and think they can convince the courts that public health powers are superior to criminal laws against drug dens run for profit.

New Mexico Passes Legislation to Examine Administering Pharmaceutical-grade Heroin or Other Opioids by Medical Practitioners to People Struggling with Long-term Addiction. The state House Tuesday approved House Memorial 56, which charges the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to take testimony on supervised injectable opioid treatment as a feasible, effective and cost-effective strategy for reducing drug use and drug-related harm among long-term heroin users who have not been responsive to other types of treatment. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D-Albuquerque), chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. This memorial does not need to pass the Senate or be signed by the governor.

Sentencing Reform

Attorney General Sessions Slam Senate Sentencing Reform Bill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came out against a painstakingly cobbled-together Senate sentencing reform bill Wednesday, sparking a public food fight with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the very face of dour Corn Belt conservatism.In a letter reported by Reuters, Sessions warned the committee not to approve the sentencing reform bill, S. 1917, claiming it would reduce sentences for "a highly dangerous cohort of criminals." Passage of the bill would be "a grave error," Sessions said. The measure is actually a mixed bag, a product of lengthy discussions among senators seeking a compromise that could actually pass the Senate. While it has a number of progressive sentencing reform provisions, mainly aimed at nonviolent drug offenders, it also includes new mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, including some drug offenses. Those provisions provide political cover to conservatives fearful of being tagged "soft on crime," but tired of perpetuating failed drug war policies.

Police Groups Slam Senate Sentencing Reform Bill. The National Sheriffs' Association and the Fraternal Order of Police have both come out against the Senate sentencing reform bill, calling on President Trump to reject the bill and saying it will put violent drug dealers back out on the street. "Sheriffs will have to arrest most of them again at the county level and that will shift the cost and responsibility to us without fixing the underlying problems of violent crime and drug and human trafficking in the country," said a letter to Trump from the National Sheriffs' Association. "At a time when our nation is being ravaged by an epidemic of overdoses from the use of heroin and opioids, it seems at variance with common sense and sound policy to drastically reduce sentences for drug traffickers and then apply these reduced sentences retroactively," said the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Medical Marijuana Update

The VA rejects pleas to study marijuana for PTSD, Illinois gets a couple of court rulings, a full-fledged medical marijuana bill is filed in Kentucky, and more.

National

On Tuesday, news came that the VA won't study marijuana's effects on PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs will not begin a study into marijuana's effects on PTSD despite pleas from congressman, veterans, and the nation's largest veterans' service organization. The news came in a letter to House Democrats from VA Secretary David Shulkin. The letter was actually written in late December, but only released Tuesday. "VA is committed to research and developing effective ways to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions," Shulkin wrote. "However, federal law restricts VA's ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such research projects." The letter said a review of existing research found a link between marijuana use and increased risk of suicide, as well as mania and psychotic symptoms, a response Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), a signer of the letter, called "disappointing" and "unacceptable."

Illinois

Last Wednesday, the parents of a sick child sued over medical marijuana access at school. The parents of an 11-year-old suffering from leukemia have sued the state and a suburban Chicago school district over a state law that bars her from taking her medicine at school. The medical marijuana law the state passed in 2014 prohibits the possession or use of marijuana on public school property. The family argues that provision of the law denies their child due process and violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school district involved is School District 54 in Schaumburg.

Last Friday, a federal judge okayed medical marijuana use at school for the sick girl. Two days after her parents filed a lawsuit against a school district and the state of Illinois over her school's refusal to allow her to use her medicine on school grounds, a federal judge ruled in her favor. The quick move came after the judge heard from the school district, which had concerns its employees could be subject to legal penalties for helping the 11-year-old. Lawyers for the state and the school district will meet with the judge next week to come up with a long-term solution.

On Tuesday, a state judge ordered the state to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition. Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell has ordered the Department of Public Health to add intractable pain as qualifying condition for medical marijuana use. The decision comes after the department declined to add it, and the department says it will appeal the ruling. The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had recommended added the condition in January 2016, but the health department demurred, saying there was "a lack of high quality data" from clinical trials to establish that the benefits outweighed the risks.

Indiana

As of last Friday, the state saw a bevy of CBD bills, but only a restrictive one was set for a hearing. Responding to an attorney general's opinion last November that restricted the use of CBD to epileptics on a state registry, lawmakers have filed a number of bills to ease access to the substance, but the only one yet set for a hearing, Senate Bill 294, would actually make access even more restrictive. That bill, filed by Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis), would mandate bar-coded cards for people on the registry and limit sales to card holders.

Kentucky

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana bill was filed. Secretary of State Allison Grimes announced that a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, House Bill 166, has been filed. The bill would allow people suffering from a qualifying list of conditions to use medical marijuana. It would also allow patients to grow up to 12 plants in a locked and closed facility.

Maryland

On Monday, the General Assembly took up racial justice in the marijuana industry. The General Assembly ran into controversy Monday as it took up the contentious issue of including marijuana companies led by African-Americans in the state's nascent medical marijuana industry. Under a compromise negotiated by legislative and industry leaders since last spring, the state would create five new growing licenses but also put a moratorium on further industry expansion for up to 10 years. But lawmakers worried that regulators could move fast enough to get minority firms off the ground and competitive with current growers. Another issue of concern was whether the 10-year moratorium gave too much protection to current growers. The Senate will hold a hearing on the proposal next week.

North Dakota

Last Thursday, the state set medical marijuana dispensary regions. The state Department of Health has established eight regions for where dispensaries can be located. State law allows for up to eight dispensaries, with more to be added if necessary. As of now, the eight regions include the state's largest cities and a 50-mile radius around them.

Pennsylvania

Last Friday, the state backed away from going after medical marijuana patients' guns. The state Health Department announced it will no longer provide the names of medical marijuana patients to law enforcement agencies. The move came after newspapers in the state reported that patients would not be able to buy firearms. Under state regulations, the department was required to post a database of patient names to an online portal accessed by law enforcement, but providing that information would have stopped a patient from buying a gun under federal gun control laws.

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

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