Breaking News:CONGRESS: Pass S. 1055 for Philippines Human Rights Accountability

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Update and Action Alert: Trump, Duterte, Congress, and the Philippine Drug War Killings

Dear Reformer:

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte met for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in Manila which Duterte hosted. As predicted, Trump did not raise human rights during their meeting, although a White House spokesperson claimed it came up "briefly" during a private discussion.

The top human rights issue Trump might have brought up with Duterte is the campaign of drug war killings that Duterte promised during his presidential campaign, and which he has followed through on since taking office in June last year. Human rights organizations and media have given estimates ranging from 7,000 to 14,000 killed already.

In a sign-on statement I organized, which has been endorsed by nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals and which we released this week in advance of the Trump-Duterte meeting, we note that the Philippine National Police (PNP) acknowledge over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations under the Duterte administration, plus nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still "unexplained." Our statement also notes the Philippines saw a roughly 50% increase in its official homicide rate, starting immediately when Duterte took office – hard to explain in the absence of an official policy of extrajudicial killing.

The statement was covered in articles on four important Philippines news outlets, including the Inquirer, Rappler (8th and 12th most read web sites in the Philippines respectively), the Philippine Star and InterAksyon. The Interaksyon article credited our coalition with renewing global calls for a UN-led probe into the drug war killings. Leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American groups, top NGOs like NOW and Doctors of the World, and many others supported the statement. More than 50 of the NGOs endorsing it are based in Asia, including groups from a majority of the ASEAN states.

Should Trump have met individually with Duterte, and should he have pressed Duterte on human rights when he did? World leaders need to communicate with each other, and there's room for debate as to how best a US president should juggle competing interests. Unfortunately, Trump's silence on human rights during ASEAN leaves standing some incredibly harmful statements he has made on the matter in the past:

We will never know for sure if Trump's implicit greenlighting of Duterte's mass killing campaign led to more such killings, but it's possible. Clearly the president of Indonesia, who launched his own drug war mass murder campaign as part of a reelection strategy in August, must have taken note.

If the president won't lead on human rights, or even arguably helps to make things worse, then Congress should step in. That's why we are supporting S. 1055, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Although not perfect, S. 1055 would impose important human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, and would fund positive health programs as well as the work of Philippine human rights defenders. Among the bill's supporters are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the iDEFEND human rights coalition in the Philippines, the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, US Filipinos for Good Governance, and our close partners the Drug Policy Alliance.

Along with sending you this update, I also have the following three requests:

  1. If you are a US voter, please write to Congress in support of S. 1055, using the online write-to-Congress form we've set up. Please follow up on your email by calling your state's two Senators and your Representative. (But please do use the form too – this will enable us to contact you if you live in a key state or district.) The time to do this is now, because we are trying to influence the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, over the next few weeks.
  2. Please help to publicize our statement and S. 1055. You can use the set of sample social posts we've prepared for Facebook and Twitter, copied below my signature. You can also go straight to our Twitter page, @stopthedrugwar, where we have already retweeted some of these as posted by others. We'll be posting more to Twitter and to our Facebook group later as well.
  3. We need your financial support for this effort, and for other work like publishing the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, a key tool for advocates and many others in the issue. Tax-deductible donations to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, will support work like the Philippines statement and the newsletter. Non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, will support our legislative work directly supporting S. 1055, and other legislative matters in the US. If you would like to designate a gift for a specific program, please leave a note in the comment box on our donation form, or with your check if donating by mail. Links to both nonprofits' donation forms can be found at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and our mailing address is P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016.

Thank you for helping and for your time reading this update. As we noted in the closing paragraphs of our Philippines statement, "Support for the global system of responsibilities and rights has become uncertain… lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now."

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853 / Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org
"U.S. and U.N. Drug Policy Reform"

Here are the sample social media posts:

Please help us by spreading the statement and news coverage on social media. Following are sample posts for Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter samples:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines @OfficialDuterte to stop drug war killings, if @realDonaldTrump won't: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wibl5h2YZdM #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@SenBobCorker @RepEdRoyce Please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Thank you @TLHumanRights Lantos Commission co-chairs @RepHultgren @RepMcGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings. https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines

@SenatorCardin @marcorubio Thank you for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act – civil society supports! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@RepSpeier Thank you for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings at @TLHumanRights – civil society supports! http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @UNHumanRights

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @IntlCrimCourt

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGsJsfgvj_w @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit @MMcFarlandSM @DrugPolicyOrg @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

@amnesty @hrw reports show government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @JustinTrudeau for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @jacindaardern for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Facebook sample posts:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines to stop the extrajudicial drug war killings, if President Trump won't – enact S. 1055 to put human rights conditions on aid: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ Read the NGO statement at https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/asean-philippines-sign-on-statement-november-2017.pdf. #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Sen. Corker, Rep. Royce, please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Hultgren and McGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings in your July hearing. Civil society supports you: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings #StopTheKilling #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Sens. Cardin and Rubio for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act -- civil society supports you: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Thank you Rep. Speier for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines – civil society supports you: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Other:

Amnesty International Report report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Human Rights Watch report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Thank you Prime Minister Trudeau for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

Thank you Prime Minister Ardern for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

Chronicle AM: Las Vegas MJ Lounges Hit Snag, Utah MedMJ Init Polling Well, More... (9/20/17)

The Bay State's highest court just made it harder for cops to charge people with marijuana-impaired driving, Las Vegas-area county commissioners put a stop to talk of pot lounges anytime soon, Colombia's president speaks out against the drug war (again) at the United Nations, and more.

Don't hold your breathing waiting for marijuana lounges in Vegas. It could be awhile. (Wikipedia)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Court Rules Drivers' Field Sobriety Tests Not Valid for Marijuana. The state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that the field sobriety tests used in drunk driving cases cannot be used as conclusive evidence that a driver was driving high. Police officers could testify as non-expert witnesses about how drivers performed in the field sobriety tests, but cannot tell juries if a driver passed or failed the test, nor provide their own opinions about whether a driver was too high to drive, the court held. The court noted that there is no reliable scientific measure for marijuana impairment, as there is with blood alcohol content.

Nevada's Clark County Says Not So Fast to Las Vegas Pot Lounges. Clark County commissioners are in no hurry to give an okay for marijuana social consumption clubs in Las Vegas. In a Tuesday meeting, they voted 6-1 to hold off on moving to allow and regulate such clubs. The move comes after attorneys for the state legislature issued an opinion saying there is no state law prohibiting the establishment of pot social clubs. Commissioners said they had regulatory concerns, as well as fears of "inviting the feds" to intervene.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Poll has Very Strong Support for Medical Marijuana Initiative. A proposed medical marijuana initiative from the Utah Patients Coalition has supermajority levels of support, according to a new UtahPolicy.com poll. The poll has support for the initiative at 74%, with only 22% opposed. More strikingly, it also has support among Mormon Church members at 63%, even the Mormon leadership has announced its opposition. The initiative push comes after the legislature has repeatedly refused to pass a medical marijuana bill.

Detroit Initiatives Qualify for November Ballot. Two local ballot measures that would open up business opportunities for medical marijuana in the city will go before voters in November. One measure would formally have the city join the state medical marijuana regulatory system and the other would amend the city's cannabis business zoning laws. The two measures overcame a challenge from the Detroit Elections Commission and have now been approved by the county election commission.

International

Colombian President Uses UN Speech to Call for New Approach to Drugs. President Juan Manuel Santos used the occasion of his final speech before the United Nations to repeat his call for a change in the way the world wages the war on drugs. Saying that under drug prohibition, "the remedy has been worse than the disease," he argued that the drug war "has not been won, nor is being won and we require new approaches and new strategies." Santos' remarks came just days after President Trump criticized Colombia for an increase in coca and cocaine production and threatened to decertify the country as cooperating with US drug war aims.

Chronicle AM: Democratic Senators Call Out Trump on Opioid Inaction, More... (9/12/17)

Democratic senators want Trump to do more than say pretty words about the opioid epidemic, California's second largest city gets on board with marijuana legalization, Canadian cops seek a delay in rolling out legalization north of the border, and more.

Last month, President Trump said the opioid epidemic was a national emergency. Since then...nothing. (Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)
Marijuana Policy

San Diego City Council Votes to Legalize Marijuana Cultivation, Manufacturing. California's second most populous city has gotten on board with legalization. The city council voted 6-3 Monday night to approve a regulatory framework for the looming legal recreational pot industry instead of trying to ban it.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Dispensaries Given Three Months to Shut Doors. Existing unlicensed dispensaries must shut their doors by December 15, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said Monday. On that date, the department begins accepting applications to operate under new medical marijuana regulations approved this year. While closing up shop and then applying for a license isn't exactly a thrill for existing dispensary owners, it's better than an alternative proposal that called for the dispensaries to be shut down immediately.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program Roll-Out Imperiled by Lawsuit. A would-be medical marijuana operator who failed to win a permit to operate in an initial round of permit-issuing filed a lawsuit last Friday challenging the process and seeking an injunction that would require the state to rescind all awarded permits and start over. That's raising concerns about medical marijuana supporters that it could cause needless suffering.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Democratic Senators Demand Trump Take Action on Opioid Epidemic. On Monday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and nine Democratic senatorial colleagues sent a letter to President Trump asking the administration what it is doing about the recommendation that it declare an emergency around the opioid epidemic. Trump called it a national emergency more than a month ago, but nothing has happened since. "Regardless of whether you choose to declare a state of emergency, continued inaction on this issue is deeply concerning," the senators wrote. "Your lack of action -- coupled with your support of policies that would make access to substance use disorder care more difficult for millions of Americans -- causes us to question your commitment to ending the opioid use disorder and overdose crisis," the letter said.

International

Canadian Cops Want Delay in Marijuana Legalization Rollout. Representatives of various Canadian police forces testifying before the House of Commons said they would not be ready for the roll-out of marijuana legalization next summer and urged a delay. They also urged lawmakers to think again about allowing personal home cultivation, because it would be hard to police.

Colombia Clashes Leave One Coca Grower Dead, Two Wounded. The casualties occurred as coca growers in Morales, Cauca, clashed with soldiers taking part in forced eradication of coca crops. Farmers began throwing rocks at the soldiers, who apparently opened fire on the protestors. This is the second clash between angry coca growers and government forces in the past month, and reflects growing tensions over forced eradication.

UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Slams Philippines Drug War. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called out President Rodrigo Duterte for his "lack of respect for due process rights for all Filipinos" and his "open support for a shoot-to-kill policy." Al Hussein added that he was "gravely concerned" not only about the killings, but also about the lack of credible investigations into them.

Chronicle AM: FDA Opens Public Comment on International Scheduling of New Drugs, More... (8/15/17)

It's the mid-August doldrums, but the FDA has opened public comment on whether and where to schedule a bunch of new drugs -- and CBD! -- under the international drug control treaties, the NBA's commissioner hints he's softening his stance on marijuana, and more.

A bunch of fentanyl analogs are among the new drugs -- and CBD! -- being considered for global scheduling. (Wikimedia)
Medical Marijuana

NBA Head Hints Openness to Examining Medical Marijuana. National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver, who has been a staunch foe of relaxing the league's marijuana policy, hinted on a recent trip to Israel that he may be changing his mind. When asked by a reporter about whether the NBA would follow the more pot-friendly NFL's lead, Silver responded thusly in remarks quoted by Uproxx: "I would say it's something we will look at," Silver said. "I'm very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana. My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it's something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we'll be open to it. Hopefully there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it."

Maryland Regulators Approve Eight More Cultivation Licenses. The state's medical marijuana regulators on Monday gave final approval for licenses for eight medical marijuana cultivation companies. Previously, only one grower had received a license. More growers are needed to provide product for the state's anticipated 102 dispensaries.

Drug Policy

FDA Opens Public Comment on New Drugs Considered for International Scheduling. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a 30-day public comment period for persons or organizations wishing to weigh in on whether and where a number of unscheduled drugs should be included in the restrictive drug schedules of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The substances under consideration include several fentanyl analogs, some new psychoactive substances (AB-PINACA, AB-CHMINACA), pregabalin, tramadol, ketamine, and cannabidiol. You have until September 13 to file comments.

Chronicle AM: US Lawmakers Rip Duterte, Harris/Paul Senate Bail Reform Bill, More... (7/21/17):

A congressional panel ripped into Philippines President Duterte and his bloody drug war Thursday, Kamala Harris and Rand Paul file a bail reform bill, a South Carolina Republican congressman files a bill to allow drug testing of unemployment applicants, and more.

US Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) at hearing of congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Thursday. (TLHRC)
Marijuana Policy

Maine House Approves Bill Requiring Marijuana Be Tested for Safety. The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require the state Agriculture Department to set up testing facilities for marijuana before it could be sold. This is the first bill from a special select committee of legislators charged with creating a regulatory regime for legal pot. It goes against the wishes of Gov. Paul LePage (R), who wants the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations to be in charge of all legal marijuana regulations.

Criminal Justice

US Sens. Kamala Harris, Rand Paul File Federal Bail Reform Bill. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017 on Thursday. The purpose of the bill is "to encourage states to reform or replace the practice of money bail, the requirement that individuals awaiting trial remain in jail unless they pay for their release." Without being able to make bail, people charged -- but not convicted -- with a crime can spend weeks or months behind bars, with devastating consequences for employment, finances, and families. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Drug Testing

South Carolina Rep Files Federal Unemployment Drug Testing Bill. US Rep. Buddy Carter (R-SC) filed a bill on Thursday that would let states screen unemployment applications for drug use and force them to undergo drug testing in some circumstances. The bill would deny unemployment benefits for 30 days to anyone testing positive for drug use, and a second positive drug test would result in a year-long ban. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

International

US Lawmakers Rip Philippines Drug War Abuses. At a hearing of the Congress's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Thursday, American lawmakers ripped into Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte over drug war abuses, including the killing of thousands of drug suspects, and called on President Trump to condemn Duterte -- and to rescind an invitation to visit the White House. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said she was "troubled" by the invite, while Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said he would "lead the protest" if Duterte shows up. "President Duterte, by all accounts, seems to not have a high regard for human rights," McGovern said. "The United States government cannot afford any degree of complicity with the kinds of human rights violations that are occurring," he said. "No other country -- I repeat that, 'no other country' -- comes to mind where people are assassinated on the streets in the name of fighting drugs, and leaders brag about it as a good thing," he added.

UN Says Bolivia Coca Cultivation on the Rise. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has expressed concern about what it says is a 14% increase in land under coca cultivation. "This increase is a concern for us," said UN Drugs and Crime Representative of Bolivia, Antonio De Leo. Bolivian President Evo Morales expressed regret at the report, but noted that much more illicit coca is being grown in Colombia and Peru.

Chronicle AM: WHO Calls for Drug Decrim, NV Legal MJ Sales Start Saturday, More... (6/29/17)

Massachusetts pols continue to work on a legalization implementation compromise, Nevada legal marijuana sales begin Saturday, a pair of federal sentencing reform bills get introduced, the World Health Organization calls for global drug decriminalization, and more.

Legal marijuana sales begin a minute after midnight Saturday -- but don't light up on the Strip! (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Possible Tax Compromise in Massachusetts. House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) has said he may be willing to move away from the House's position that retail marijuana sales be taxed at 28%, more than twice the 12% envisioned in the legalization initiative and the competing Senate bill. "I suppose there could be some negotiation," he said, referring to a legislative conference committee trying to reach agreement. "I found they are having fruitful conversations, so to speak, so I am hopeful," DeLeo said.

Nevada Legal Sales Begin at 12:01 a.m,Saturday. Nevadans and visitors will be able to legally purchase marijuana as of a minute after midnight Saturday. A few dozen medical marijuana dispensaries have been licensed to sell their products to anyone 21 and over with a proper ID as a stopgap measure before the recreational marijuana sales system goes online next year, and at least some of them will be open Saturday night to take advantage of the commencement of early legal sales. But tourists in particular will have to figure out where to smoke it -- there's no smoking on the strip, in casinos, or hotel rooms.

Medical Marijuana

Nevada Dispensaries Get Tougher Regulations on Edibles as Legal Sales Loom. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) Monday signed a Taxation Department emergency regulation that will impose tougher regulations beginning Saturday, the same day legal recreational pot sales through dispensaries begins. Under the new regulations, edibles can't contain more than 10 milligrams of THC per dose or 100 per package, they can't resemble lollipops or other products marketed to children, they can't look like real or fictional characters or cartoons, and they can't have images of cartoon characters, action figures, toys, balloons or mascots on the packaging.

Sentencing

Cory Booker Files Bill to Encourage States to Reduce Prison Populations. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has filed Senate Bill 1458, "to establish a grant program to incentivize states to reduce prison populations, and for other purposes." The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Keith Ellison Files Bill to Defelonize Drug Possession, End Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has filed House Resolution 3074, "to reclassify certain low-level felonies as misdemeanors, to eliminate the increased penalties for cocaine offenses where the cocaine involved is cocaine base, to reinvest in our communities, and for other purposes. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website.

International

UN World Health Organization Calls for Global Drug Decriminalization. The call came in a joint United Nations statement on ending discrimination in health care. One way that nations can do that, WHO said, is by: "Reviewing and repealing punitive laws that have been proven to have negative health outcomes and that counter established public health evidence. These include laws that criminalize or otherwise prohibit gender expression, same sex conduct, adultery and other sexual behaviors between consenting adults; adult consensual sex work; drug use or possession of drugs for personal use; sexual and reproductive health care services, including information; and overly broad criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission."

Human Rights Watch Calls Duterte's First Year a Human Rights Calamity. The New York-based human rights watchdog said Wednesday Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's first year in office was "a human rights calamity" with thousands of people killed in Duterter's war on drugs. "President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights, but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign," Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "Duterte has supported and incited 'drug war' killings while retaliating against those fearless enough to challenge his assault on human rights," he added. Human Rights Watch also slammed Duterte for subjecting critics of his anti-drug campaign to harassment, intimidation, and even arrest. "A UN-led international investigation is desperately needed to help stop the slaughter and press for accountability for Duterte's human rights catastrophe," the group said.

Chronicle AM: Afghan Opium is Booming, American Legion Wants MedMJ Research, More... (5/22/17)

We're starting to see 2018 marijuana legalization initiative action getting underway, an Ohio Supreme Court justice calls for freeing the weed, the American Legion wants the feds to get out of the way of medical marijuana research, Afghanistan has a bumper opium crop, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Attorney General Sends Marijuana Legalization Initiaitve Back to Be Reworked. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) has rejected a proposed marijuana legalization initiative from Larry Morris of West Fork, saying that it is "ambiguous" and nearly identical to a later proposal from Mary Berry of Summit. Rutledge suggested that Morris and Berry work together.

Minnesota Lawmaker Files Bill for Legalization Constitutional Amendment. State Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) introduced House File 2714 on Saturday. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment to allow people 21 and over to buy and grow marijuana for personal use. The bill was filed with just a couple of days left in the session, and Liebling doesn't expect it to pass this year, but "it's time to get the conversation going," she said. Liebling is also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year, and marijuana legalization is one of her campaign planks.

Nevada Marijuana Edibles Regulation Bill Advances. The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 344 last Friday. The bill has already passed the Senate. It would require edibles to be sold in single servings in nondescript packaging and be child-proofed. The legislature is rushing to get the bill passed before retail marijuana sales are set to begin on July 1.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Calls for Marijuana Legalization. Justice William O'Neill, the only Democrat to hold statewide office in the state, says it is time for the Ohio to legalize marijuana. The potential gubernatorial contender said in a speech that he not only wants to free the weed, but also to free nonviolent marijuana offenders from prison. "The time has come for new thinking," O'Neill said in his prepared remarks. "We regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco and imprison people for smoking grass."

South Dakota Legalization Initiative Signature Gathering Gets Underway. Supporters of a marijuana legalization initiative began signature gathering over the weekend after the attorney general's office okayed petitions for circulation. This initiative would legalize the possession of any quantity of marijuana by adults. Organizers have until November 6 to come up with approximately 14,000 valid voter signatures.

Medical Marijuana

American Legion Asks Trump to Allow Research for Vets. In a recent letter to the White House, the conservative veterans' group asked for a meeting with Trump son-in-law and key advisor Jared Kushner, "as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research," the letter said. "We are not asking for it to be legalized," said Louis Celli, the national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion. "There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets. The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal."

Utah Republicans Reject Resolution Supporting Medical Marijuana. At its annual convention over the weekend, the Utah Republican Party overwhelmingly rejected a resolution in support of medical marijuana, defeating it by a margin of 70% to 29%. The Republican-controlled legislature has refused to enact a full-fledged medical marijuana law, and now the state GOP has made it clear it intends to stick to its guns. Advocates could undertake an initiative campaign next year in the face of legislative indifference or hostility.

International

Bermuda House Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill. The House of Assembly has approved an opposition bill that would decriminalize up to a quarter-ounce (7 grams) of marijuana. The bill still needs approval by the Senate and the governor's signature. If that happens, it will go into effect on June 30.

UN Says Afghanistan Opium Cultivation Up 10%. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that illicit opium poppy plantings had increased by 10% last year, with potential opium production up 43%, to 4,800 metric tons. UNODC estimated that opiates accounted for 16% of the country's GDP and more than two-thirds of the agricultural sector. Opium production also provided labor for 235,100 full-time workers and accounted for more than half of the family income of poppy growers. The illicit economy is fueling insecurity, violence and insurgency among other problems to discourage private and public investment in Afghanistan, UNODC said.

Chronicle AM: LatAm Drug Prisoner Numbers Up, UNODC Sends Adviser to Philippines, More... (4/18/17)

They don't even want to think about legalization in Montana, Rhode Island's governor would rather think about it next year, two GOP governors sign CBD cannabis oil bills, Latin American drug incarceration is on the increase, the UNODC sends an advisor to the Philippines, and more.

Two more states edge toward medical marijuana by passing CBD cannabis oil bills. (marijuanagames.org)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Decriminalization Bill Gets Hearing, Gets Killed. The state Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a marijuana decriminalization bill Monday, then voted to "temporarily postpone" the bill, effectively killing it for the year. The bill, which would have made small-time pot possession a civil infraction, was Senate Bill 1682.

Montana Bill to Study Legalization Dies in House. A bill that would have created an interim legislative committee to study marijuana legalization died Monday in the House. House Joint Resolution 35 failed on a vote of 45-55. Nine Republicans voted to approve the bill, but five Democrats voted against it.

Rhode Island Governor Wants to Study Legalization, Not Pass it This Year. The administration of Gov. Gina Raimundo (D) has sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee saying it has "concerns" with legalization bills under consideration and would instead support creating a commission to study the issue. "The Governor's primary concerns are safety and proper regulation, and she will give strong consideration to legalization legislation that adequately addresses these concerns, whether a bill reaches her desk this year or in the future," she said, leaving the door just slightly open for this year.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 1559, which exempts CBD cannabis oil products from the state's definition of marijuana if they are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. No such medicines have been approved by the FDA. The move is the latest baby step toward actually approving the use of CBD cannabis oil; last year, Fallin signed a bill that allowed clinical trials by researchers to take place.

Wisconsin Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 10, which would make it easier to acquire CBD cannabis oil. Two years ago, Walker signed a bill to allow the use of CBD in extremely limited cases, but the limits it contains are so restrictive that families and patients haven't been able to actually use CBD. This bill will ease those limits, allowing patients to possess CBD for any medical condition with an annual physician's approval.

Sentencing

US Sentencing Commission Hearing Today on Ecstasy, New Psychoactives. The US Sentencing Commission will take up reconsideration of the federal sentencing guidelines for ecstasy (MDMA) and a handful of new psychoactive substances. This is the first step in a two-year review process that could result in sentencing reductions for people caught with those drugs. One factor driving the Sentencing Commission to take up the issue is two major federal court cases where judges ruled that they did not have to follow the current MDMA sentencing guidelines, since they were so out of touch with science and public health.

International

Canada Marijuana Legalization Won't Include Pardons, Amnesty, Liberals Say. The Trudeau government is not considering a blanket pardon for people who have criminal records for marijuana possession as part of its marijuana legalization plan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Monday. "That's not an item that's on the agenda at the moment," he said. The government is facing pressure both from people who want to move immediately to some sort of decriminalization and from people who want some sort of pardon scheme, but the Liberals are holding firm. "It is important to note that as the bill moves through the legislative process, existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected," Goodale said. "This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all."

Study Reveals a Disproportionate Increase in Number of People Jailed for Low-Level Drug Offenses in Latin America. The Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (CEDD), a network of drug policy experts from 10 countries in the Americas, has published a new report which reveals that despite the debate surrounding drug policy reform, the rate of incarceration for low-level, non-violent drug offenses continues to increase across Latin America. The CEDD Report, Irrational Punishment: Drug Laws and Incarceration in the Americas, includes research on ten countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. In all of the Latin American countries studied, with the exception of Bolivia, the population imprisoned for drug offenses increased at a rate of 8 to 33 times faster than that of the general prison population over the last 15 years, with some variation depending on the country. In Brazil, while the prison population increased 55% between 2006 and 2014, the population incarcerated for drug offenses rose by 267%, a rate about five times greater. In Colombia, between 2000 and 2015, the prison population rose by 141%, but the population incarcerated for drug offenses increased by 289%.

UNODC to Send Adviser to Philippines, Promote Alternatives. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime announced Monday that it will soon send a drug policy advisor to the Philippines to work with the government there on alternatives to its bloody-handed crackdown on drug users. The UNODC adviser will press both the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Health to adopt treatment-based approaches to combat substance abuse in the country. Those programs are likely to take the form of community-based models that will more effectively encourage users to minimize their substance dependencies. The advisor is expected to arrive in June and serve for two years.

Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War

On Thursday March 16th our international drug policy work took a new turn, when we presented "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," a side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. The event addressed the situation in the Philippines, in which the new president of the country, former Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, entered office last summer promising to slaughter large numbers of purported drug suspects. More than 7,000 people have been killed in the Philippines at the time of this writing, by police or vigilantes.

Speakers Chito Gascon, Alison Smith and Marco Perduca (photo by Joey Tranchina)
Our session unexpectedly drew high-level political interest, and Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines, opposition leader and a critic of the killings, recorded a video to be presented there. The video and event were covered by TIME as part of being made public (one article featuring the video then another interviewing Robredo), and the news wire services Reuters and Agence France Press published articles, as did numerous outlets in the Philippines. At the time of this writing the video has garnered over 167,000 views.

Other speakers at the event included the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Chito Gascon; former prime minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva (also by video), the Chair of our partner group the Council of Asian Liberals & Democrats; and experts on international criminal justice.

Unfortunately, allies of Pres. Duterte as well as other rivals of Vice President Robredo seized on the video to attack her politically, claiming that the video constituted a "betrayal of the public trust" that she should be impeached for. Political figures including the Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and the president's spokesperson claimed falsely the video's release was timed to coincide with the filing by a member of Congress of an impeachment complaint against the president.

On the same day as the session, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an end to the killings and for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima, another prominent critic of the killings who has been jailed on charges that are widely viewed as unsupported. The critics of the vice president, which include Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator who lost by a narrow margin to Robredo in the vice-presidential election and is challenging it in court, have charged that Robredo was behind all three events and is engaged in a "destabilization campaign" against the Duterte government to make herself president.

By the time the actual session took place, it was already controversial, and the heated political conflict the video prompted has raged in the Philippine media during weeks since then, only now possibly slowing down. A Google News search on "Robredo" turns up dozens of articles about it, most of them mentioning the video and our UN event. We've been able to play a helpful role at times -- the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article this week which primarily featured an interview with our executive director (Group Say Duterte, Not Robredo, Upsetting Int'l Community), shared over 7,600 times according to the newspaper's web site, and several outlets including CNN Philippines published a statement we issued clarifying that the video's release was not related to the impeachment complaint against the president.

We have full footage from the event prepared, which we are shopping around to major media outlets before posting, but which we hope to make public by next week. We hope that seeing footage from the actual event will help to turn the discussion in the Philippines back to what's important: the extrajudicial killings and other abuses in the president's drug war, and the failure of the drug in the Philippines, US and elsewhere.

In the meanwhile, you can help by circulating the vice president's powerful video message on your networks. If you have a web site, you can post an embedded copy of the YouTube video, or you can post it to your social media pages. (When posting to Facebook, we recommend you use this Facebook copy, as we've heard that Facebook deprioritizes YouTube videos.)

Here is the event flyer:

And here is Vice President Robredo's video.

Vienna International Centre
Vienna
Austria

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