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Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Slaps Down Asset Forfeiture, No More No-Knocks in Houston, More... (2/20/19)

The Supreme Court reins in civil asset forfeiture, Denver joins cities participating in LEAD, Houston ends undercover no-knock raids in the wake of a fatal encounter, and more.

The US Supreme Court (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland General Assembly Creates Legalization Working Group. In a sign that marijuana legalization isn’t going to happen this year, the General Assembly has created a working group to study the issue. The bipartisan group will make recommendations in December that could be used to help guide bills during the 2020 legislative session.

South Carolina Poll Has Half Supporting Medical Marijuana, Nearly a Quarter for Legalization. A new poll from political strategist Robert Cahaly has support for marijuana legalization at 22.8%, with another 49.7% saying they supported legalizing marijuana "for people suffering illness and with a doctor’s approval."

Hemp

Ohio Hemp Bill Filed. Lawmakers have filed a bill to legalize hemp production in the state, SB 77. The bill would align state law with the framework of the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp nationwide.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Senate Passes Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana in Schools. A bill that allows medical marijuana to be given to students at public schools passed the Senate on Monday. SB 204 now heads to the House Human Services Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Reins in Civil Asset Forfeiture. In a victory for proponents of civil asset forfeiture reform, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Timbs v. Indiana that the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause applies to states, thereby prohibiting state and local governments from collecting excessive fines, fees and forfeitures. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion. "The protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority," Ginsburg wrote. 

Law Enforcement

Denver Signs on to Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. City officials unveiled a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pilot program on Tuesday. The program is designed to connect people accused of low-level drug crimes with support services rather than arresting them. LEAD programs operate in a number of other cities, including Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle. The pilot program is funded through 2020 by a $561,000 grant paid for out of the state's marijuana tax cash fund.

Houston Ends No-Knock Raids in Wake of Fatal Encounter. With few exceptions, Houston undercover officers will no longer conduct no-knock raids. The move comes after four police officers were wounded and a Houston couple killed in a raid that was based on a police officer's lies. "The no-knock warrants are going to go away like leaded gasoline in this city," Chief Art Acevedo announced during a town hall meeting Monday. 

Chronicle AM: Good MD, NJ Pot Polls; Bad Houston Drug Raid; WV MedMJ Banking Bill, More... (2/19/19)

Good pot polls from the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey edges closer to passing a pot legalization bill, the West Virginia House passes a medical marijuana banking bill, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan, and more.

Maryland and New Jersey residents are ready to free the weed, new polls say. (ShantisFavorites/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Goucher College poll released Monday has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 57%. Only 37% were opposed.

New Jersey Poll Has Strong Support for Legalization. A new Monmouth University poll released Monday has support for marijuana legalization at 62%. The poll comes as the governor and legislative leaders are reportedly on the verge of agreement on legalization legislation.

New Jersey Governor and Senate Leader Reach Agreement on Legalization Framework. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have found a compromise that could see a legalization bill voted on this month. The compromise centers on a new means of taxing legal pot. Instead of just levying a sales tax on purchases, the state would impose a flat rate of $42 an ounce. The other agreement would strengthen the governor’s control over the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Wisconsin Governor Calls for Pot Decriminalization. Gov. Tony Evers (D) is proposing in his state budget to decriminalize the possession, cultivation, and distribution of up to 25 grams of marijuana, as well as creating a state-regulated medical marijuana program. The proposal would also expunge the convictions of people convicted of marijuana offenses involving 25 grams or less.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Expungement Bill for Medical Marijuana Patients Advances. The House Special Committee on Criminal Justice last Thursday approved HB341, which would provide for the expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions from the records of registered medical marijuana patients. The legislation comes after voters last November approved medical marijuana.

North Dakota House Approves Medical Marijuana Bill Package. The House on Monday approved a package of four bills amending the state’s medical marijuana law, including one that would add 13 new conditions to the state’s list of approved medical conditions. Another bill would allow physician assistants to recommend medical marijuana, while yet another would allow a patient or caregiver to purchase “an enhanced amount” of medical marijuana beyond the 2.5 ounces every 30 days limit. The last bill would add marijuana edibles to the list of medical marijuana products available for purchase. The package now heads for the Senate.

West Virginia House Passes Medical Marijuana Banking Bill. The House passed a medical marijuana banking bill with no debate and no floor speeches last Friday. The measure, HB 2538, creates two state funds, one to received license fees, penalties, and taxes associated with the medical marijuana program, and the other to receive all fees charged to the financial institution by the treasurer. The vote was 89-7. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Senate Passes Bill to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate last Friday approved a bill that would bar asset forfeiture in most cases unless there is also a criminal conviction. The bill, SB 0002, would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement could seize through forfeiture any amount of goods or money valued at less than $50,000. Similar asset forfeiture reform bills are still in committee in the House, but House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) supports civil asset forfeiture reform and introduced a bipartisan reform bill on the first day of the new session.

Drug Testing

Utah Bill to Criminalize Drug Test Cheating Passes House. The House voted 61-8 last Friday to approve HB 16, which would make it illegal to use synthetic urine to pass a drug test. Using either fake urine or someone else’s urine to pass a test would be an infraction. The state currently has no law against using such materials to pass drug tests.

Law Enforcement

Houston Narcotics Division Under Investigation After Officer’s Search Warrant Lies About Drug Dealing Got Two People Killed. The entire 175-person Houston Police Department Narcotics Division will be subjected to an “extensive audit” after a Houston couple and their pit bull were killed in a raid that was based on a fraudulent search warrant. A veteran narcotics officer, Detective Gerald Goines, is accused of lying about using two separate confidential informants to purchase heroin from the couple and will likely be charged with a crime, said Police Chief Art Acevedo. Another officer is accused of retrieving heroin from a police car and giving it to Goines, who claimed it matched heroin purchased during what turned out to be an imaginary drug buy. 

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Pot Sales Bill Advances, ID Gov. Signs Naloxone Access Bill, More... (2/15/19)

A marijuana sales bill is moving in Vermont, a bill to have state-run pot shops is filed in New Mexico, Idaho's governor signs a naloxone access expansion bill, the Sinaloa Cartel lives, and more.

Even in Idaho, there's a need for naloxone. Now, access to the opioid overdose reversal drug is expanded. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances. A bill that would set up a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce in the state has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote. SB 54  would establish a Cannabis Control Board to issue licenses for cannabis manufacturers, retailers and testing facilities. Sales would be taxed at 10 percent, and local municipalities would have the option of imposing an additional two percent tax. The bill now heads to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, which must approve it before it goes to the Senate floor.

New Mexico GOP Senator's Marijuana Legalization Bill Would Feature State-Run Pot Shops. Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) and three cosponsors filed SB 577 Thursday. Like another bill already filed, the measure would legalize marijuana in the state but would have the state operate retail marijuana shops. The measure is currently before the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Bill Would Let Dispensaries Sell CBD Cannabis Oil. A bill filed Thursday would fix the state's CBD cannabis oil law so that patients could actually obtain the drug. Under current state law, patients can use and possess it, but have no legal means of obtaining it. HB 324 would allow for the sale of CBD cannabis oil to patients through dispensaries.  

Missouri Expungement Bill for Patients Advances. A bill that would let registered medical marijuana patients have their misdemeanor marijuana offenses expunged has been approved by the House Committee on Criminal Justice in a 7-2 vote. The measure, HB 341, has support in both chambers of the legislature and it is believed Gov. Mike Parsons (R) would sign it.

Harm Reduction

Idaho Governor Signs Expansive Naloxone Access Bill into Law. Gov. Brad Little (R) has signed into law HB 12, which expands access to the opioid overdose reversal drug in the state. It will go into effect on July 1.

International

El Chapo May Be Gone, But the Sinaloa Cartel Carries On. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman may be buried deep in the federal prison system, but the Sinaloa Cartel is still in business—and business is booming. The cartel, now under the leadership of second-in-command Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, continues to make massive drug shipments to the US, as recent huge, multi-drug busts at the border attest. "It’s still a major, major force in the Mexican criminal underworld," Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said. It still controls worldwide contacts that can ship Colombian cocaine around the world and import precursor drugs into Mexico to be cooked up and exported north. Zambada has overcome a succession fight after El Chapo's arrest and is now firmly in control. 

Chronicle AM: William Barr Confirmed as US AG, Congressional Marijuana Banking Hearing, More... (2/14/19)

The Senate has confirmed old drug warrior William Barr as attorney general, Congress holds a hearing on marijuana and banking, Ted Cruz wants El Chapo to pay for the wall, and more.

CA Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is sending the National Guard after what are likely mythical cartel pot grows. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congress Urged to Open Banks to Marijuana Industry. At a House hearing Wednesday, bank officers and state officials urged Congress to fully open the US banking system to the legal marijuana industry. California Treasurer Fiona Ma said allowing access to banking was a critical step for the growth of the fledgling legal industry, while Gregory Deckard, speaking for the Independent Community Banks of America, said allowing financial access was a critical step.

California Governor Vows Crackdown on Illegal Pot Grows, Blames Cartels. In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed to crack down on cartel-grown black market marijuana, even though it's not clear how great a role the Mexican drug gangs have in the state's huge illicit pot market. Newsom said he would pull state National Guard troops from the Mexican border, and they will be "redeploying up north to go after all these illegal cannabis farms, many of which are run by the cartels that are devastating our pristine forests and increasingly themselves becoming fire hazards." Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, scoffed at the cartel claims. "I don’t know about this old 'cartels' thing," he said. "Frankly we’ve seen very little at all about illegal activity in the way of growing in the wilderness the way we used to. Cartel involvement is a bugaboo they like to throw around."

North Carolina Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) filed a marijuana legalization bill, SB 58, on Wednesday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to three ounces, with possession of more than three ounces charged as a misdemeanor. Lowe introduced a similar measure last year, but it never made it out of the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Medical Marijuana

House, Senate Bills to Give Vets Access to Medical Marijuana Filed. Legislators in both the House and Senate filed companion bills to make it legal under federal law for military veterans to "use, possess, or transport medical marijuana" in compliance with state laws. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the bill, known as The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, would block veterans who use medical marijuana under state laws from being harassed by federal officials and would clarify that VA doctors can recommend medical marijuana to their patients. The bill is not yet available on the congressional website, but the text is available here.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Dies. A bill that would have added 13 qualifying conditions to the state's medical marijuana law was killed Wednesday after state health officials maintained the drug causes harm. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of  HB 1150, to no avail.

Asset Forfeiture

Ted Cruz Wants El Chapo to Pay for the Border Wall. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is using the conviction of Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to flog a bill he introduced last month that would use assets seized from Mexican drug cartels to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. "America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts. U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder," Cruz wrote in a tweet. The bill is S. 25, cutely titled the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act or the EL CHAPO Act. Companion legislation has also been filed in the House.

Law Enforcement

Old Drug Warrior William Barr Confirmed as US Attorney General. The Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general Thursday on a 54-45 vote. Only three Democrats—Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Doug Jones (AL), and Joe Manchin (WV) voted in favor of Barr, while Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican to oppose his nomination. His nomination was opposed by drug reformers who cited his record as a drug war hardliner while serving as attorney general under President George HW Bush.

International

European Parliament Approves Resolution to Advance Medical Marijuana. The European Parliament voted Wednesday to approve a resolution aimed at advancing medical marijuana in countries that form the European Union. The non-binding resolution seeks to provide incentives to member states to increase access to medical marijuana and prioritize medical marijuana research and clinical studies.

Brazil Drug War "Shoot to Kill" Policy Bears First Fruit—13 Dead in Rio. Police engaged in drug raids under the aggressive policies of state Gov. Wilson Witzel, who campaigned on using "shoot to kill" tactics against armed drug gang members, killed at least 13 people in the Fallet/Fogueteiro favela in central Rio de Janeiro last Friday. But relatives of the dead and witnesses said some were gang members but had surrendered their weapons before being executed and two others were teenagers with no gang links who were tortured and executed in their own homes. The killings led to a heated public meeting to demand justice in the favela on Tuesday, but analysts said to expect more: "It’s a very symbolic operation," said Ignacio Cano, a professor of sociology at the State University of Rio, who said he expects police killings to rise: "Everything indicates there will be an increase because there is an open encouragement from both the federal and state government." Cano, compared the killings to the extrajudicial executions of drug users in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte and said there were indications of "summary executions."

In Bid to Blunt Black Market, California Eyes Marijuana Tax Cuts [FEATURE]

Steve D’Angelo was prescient. As the era of legal recreational marijuana in California began just over a year ago, the East Bay medical marijuana maven expressed concerned that taxes on the newly legal industry were too high.

“It’s going to mean that a significant number of people, less affluent consumers are going to turn to the lower prices of the underground market,” he told KPIX 5 on January 1, 2018, the day it became legal in the state.

A year later D’Angelo’s concerns have been borne out. The state had estimated that retail marijuana sales would exceed the $3 billion in 2017 sales, which came solely from medical marijuana outlets, but instead legal sales actually declined to $2.5 billion.

As a result, tax revenues for the state are significantly lower than projected. The FY 2018 state budget estimated $185 million in marijuana sales taxes, but actually gathered only about $84 million. And based on January sales, the FY 2019 budget, which estimated tax revenues at $630 million, now looks to be overly optimistic. The latest projections have tax revenues for the fiscal year at $471 million.

In California, legal pot sales are saddled with a $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax paid by growers, as well as a 15 percent retail excise tax and a 7.25 percent retail sales tax paid by consumers. When you add in local taxes, pot buyers in some counties could be paying as much as 45 percent in aggregate tax on legal weed.

To be clear, high taxes aren’t the only things strangling the state’s legal marijuana market. Industry figures and analysts point to two other factors as well: The state’s onerous and costly regulatory requirements are keeping many growers and retailers from leaving the black market, and the refusal by many localities to allow legal marijuana sales in their jurisdictions has left broad swaths of the state with no alternative but the black market. (In a bid to boost the legal market, the state last month okayed plans for statewide deliveries no matter what localities say.)

Still, cutting the tax rate is something that could begin to make a dent in the black market. Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced a pot tax cut bill last year that was defeated, but now, with a year’s worth of disappointing marijuana market news to provide momentum, he’s back again with another pot tax cut bill this year.

Late last month, with three cosponsors Bonta refiled Assembly Bill 286, which proposes eliminating the $148 per pound cultivation tax and reducing the 15 percent retail excise tax to 11 percent for three years. The bill also has the support of newly elected state Treasurer Fiona Ma.

 “The black market continues to undercut businesses that are complying with state regulations and doing things the right way,” Bonta said as he rolled out the bill. “AB 286 will temporarily reduce the tax burden on these licensed operators to keep customers at licensed businesses and help ensure the regulated market survives and thrives. This very strategy has been shown to actually increase overall tax revenue in other states.”

One of the cosponsors is Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), who authored an identical bill last year. That bill made it through two committees, only to die in Assembly Appropriations.

“Right now, the illicit market is dominating California’s cannabis industry,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale). “These are bad people who are making our communities unsafe.  We need to give the good guys a chance to succeed otherwise our one chance at creating a regulated industry will be compromised.”

Bonta and his colleagues pointed to the experience of legal marijuana states Oregon and Washington, which have successfully taken steps to reduce tax rates and encourage the growth of the legal market. Washington saw exponential growth in marijuana tax revenue after it simplified its tax structure and reduced its rates. Tax revenues there jumped from $13.4 million in the final month of the initial tax rate in June 2015 to more than $33 million in April 2017.

“By lowering the excise tax and postponing the cultivation tax it will lower the overall price for consumers at the register, which will also reduce the differential between illicit and legal prices. Reducing this gap is critical to making the legal market more competitive against the illicit market and more attractive for consumers,” said Beau Whitney, Senior Economist at New Frontier Data.

Fixing California’s pot taxes clearly won’t resolve all the issues the state faces as it makes the transition to the world’s largest legal marijuana market, but it’s a start. 

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Medical Marijuana Update

Moves are underway in the minority of states that have not yet okayed medical marijuana to get it done, Arkansas medical marijuana cards are coming soon, Florida's ban on smoking medical marijuana heads for oblivion, and more.

Arkansas

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Cards Valid Beginning Next Week. If you're a registered medical marijuana patient, the card is in the mail. The state Department of Health says more than 7,000 patient ID cards are being sent out now and will be active beginning next Friday.

Colorado

Colorado Bill to Protect Patients' Gun Rights Killed. A bill intended to protect the ability of medical marijuana patients to obtain and maintain concealed carry weapons permits died on a party-line vote Wednesday. SB 93, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), was killed in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Marble said the Democrats' decision to kill the bill was unfair to medical marijuana users, but not unexpected. "They don’t want to pass a gun bill," Marble said of the committee, on which she also sits. "Anything to do with guns they’re not going to vote on."

Florida

Florida Legislature Advances Plan to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana. Committees in both the House and the Senate approved bills that would allow patients to smoke their marijuana, although the House plan would limit it to pre-rolled joints with filters. A less restrictive Senate bill to allow smoking, SB 182, passed out of the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee Tuesday. Movement on the bills suggests lawmakers could pass the legislation before a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Kansas

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana Wednesday. The measure, HB 2163, would provide registration for patients and licenses for medical marijuana growers and distributors and medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill would also establish the cannabis regulatory commission and taxation of cannabis.

Kentucky

.Kentucky Senate Sees Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) has filed SB 170 to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Companion legislation, HB 136, was introduced last month.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Bills Filed. The legislature will grapple with at least four different medical marijuana bills this session. The state already allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for epilepsy, but these bills would all expand on that. Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) has filed HB 122, which would legalize medical marijuana. Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) and Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) have proposed HB 209/SB 90. The bills would allow Texans with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana plants for personal use and would also create a licensing process for dispensaries and testing facilities. And Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) has filed HB 551. It would allow Texans who can currently use low-THC medical cannabis under the state's Compassionate Use Act to possess marijuana concentrate.

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

Chronicle AM: Hemp Moving in Red States, NJ to Expand Needle Exchange Programs, More... (2/13/19)

Hemp is hopping in the heartland, the effort to undo Florida's ban on smokable medical marijuana advances, New York City ponders barring pre-employment drug tests for marijuana, and more.

It's starting to feel like it'll be hemp fields from sea to shining sea. (VoteHemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Bill Would Ban Pre-Employment Marijuana Drug Testing. Councilman Jumaane Williams filed a bill Wednesday that would bar employers from testing job applicants for marijuana as a condition of employment. The bill is part of a broader package of marijuana reform legislation before the city council. "As we’re jettisoning toward legalization, it doesn't make sense that this would be something that would prevent someone from getting gainful employment," Williams said. "If you ingest weed in whatever manner a month ago, I'm not sure how that prevents you from doing your job now," he added.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Legislature Advances Plan to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana. Committees in both the House and the Senate approved bills that would allow patients to smoke their marijuana, although the House plan would limit it to pre-rolled joints with filters. A less restrictive Senate bill to allow smoking, SB 182, passed out of the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee Tuesday. Movement on the bills suggests lawmakers could pass the legislation before a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Kentucky Senate Sees Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) has filed SB 170 to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Companion legislation, HB 136, was introduced last month.

Hemp

Mississippi Hemp Bill Advances. An effort to legalize industrial hemp cultivation in the state got a big boost Tuesday when Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch successfully offered an amendment to bill modifying the state's drug schedules, HB 1547, to include allowing hemp cultivation. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Nebraska Moving to Legalize Hemp Production. Lawmakers and state agency officials are working together to craft an industrial hemp bill. A hearing was held Tuesday on LB 657, which solons and farmers touted as a means of helping diversifying crops. The Agriculture Department testified that it supported legalizing hemp production but was concerned about proper regulations.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey to Expand Needle Exchange Programs. State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said this week that the state will enhance services at seven existing needle exchange programs and open new ones in the months to come. The plan is part of a broader effort to address opioid addiction and its side effects. 

Chronicle AM: El Chapo Convicted on All Counts, NY Legal Pot Politics Heats Up, More... (2/12/19)

The former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel has been found guilty on all counts at his trial in New York City, Sri Lanka advertises for hangmen as the president there vows to resume drug executions, South Dakota House members defy their governor and approve a hemp bill, and more.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman being arrested in Mexico. He's now been found guilty in a court in New York. (sedena.gov.mx)
Marijuana Policy

New York Pot Legalization Foes Lobby in Albany. Groups opposed to marijuana legalization gathered at the Capitol Monday to urge lawmakers to reject the idea. Led by Kevin Sabet of Smart About Marijuana, foes warned that legalization would lead to increased use among schoolchildren—even though that hasn’t been the case in early legalization states such as Colorado and Washington. Sabet was joined at the Capitol by representatives of the state PTA, the Police Conference of New York and representatives of groups that deal with drug and alcohol addiction, all of which oppose legalization.

New York Coalition Urges Governor Cuomo to Improve Marijuana Legalization Bill to Center Racial and Economic Justice. Members of the Start SMART NY coalition (Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade) Tuesday laid out their vision for a just marijuana industry and demanded that Governor Andrew Cuomo incorporate the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (A.1617) into his proposed recreational marijuana legalization plan. The act is model legislation to create a taxed and regulated adult-use marijuana market that not only creates economic opportunities for all New Yorkers but also addresses the harms of decades of prohibition. 

Hemp

South Dakota House Ignores Governor, Passes Hemp Bill. Rejecting advice from Gov. Kristi Noem (R) to leave hemp alone this year, the House on Monday voted 65-2 to pass HB 1191, which would give farmers and producers the green light on hemp production beginning July 1. The bill now heads to the Senate, where GOP leaders say it will likely pass.

Law Enforcement

El Chapo Convicted on All Counts. Joaquin Guzman Loera, known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York of being a principal operator of a continuing criminal enterprise – the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel – a charge that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy.  Guzman Loera was convicted of all 10 counts of a superseding indictment, including narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy.  The verdict followed a 12-week trial before U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan.  Guzman Loera faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. Sentencing has been set for June.

Pregnancy

Tennessee Bill Would Prosecute Mothers for Drug Use While Pregnant. A bill filed last week, SB 659, would authorize a woman to be prosecuted for assault based on the person using a narcotic drug illegally while pregnant if the child is born addicted to or harmed by the drug used. A woman could avoid prosecution under the bill if she was actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child was born if she remained in the program after delivery and successfully completed the program. An identical bill has been filed in the House.

International

Sri Lanka Advertises for Hangmen as President Pushes for Harsher Drug War. The government has begun advertising for hangmen after President Maithripala Sirisena said last week he wanted to resume capital punishment for drug traffickers within 60 days. Although drug trafficking is already a capital offense in the country, no one has been executed for any crime there since 1976. Last month, during a visit to the Philippines, Sirisena praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands.

Chronicle AM: Kamala Harris Endorses Marijuana Legalization, Israel OKs MDMA Trials, More... (2/11/19)

Kamala Harris endorses marijuana legalization, House Democrats reveal a marijuana banking bill, Israel okays clinical studies of MDMA to treat PTSD, and more.

The House is preparing to move on regularizing financial services for marijuana-related businesses. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Kamala Harris Endorses Marijuana Legalization Saying it Brings Joy. Saying marijuana “gives a lot of people joy,” Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed marijuana legalization Monday. She also said she had tried marijuana in college.

Congressional Democrats Circulate Text of Marijuana Banking Bill. The House Financial Services Committee has released the text of a bill allowing marijuana businesses to do business with the banking and financial sector. The bill goes further than previous bills, with provisions specifying that ancillary businesses  should be allowed to bank and adding protections for marijuana-related “retirement plans or exchange-traded funds.” Another new provision clarifies that “proceeds from a transaction conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business shall not be considered as proceeds from an unlawful activity solely because the transaction was conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business.” A memo released by the committee says the bill “would harmonize federal and state law by prohibiting federal banking regulators from engaging in certain actions against financial institutions, such as discouraging, prohibiting, or penalizing depository institutions that serve cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins House Vote. A bill to legalize marijuana, HB 356, passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in support. The vote came after more than three hours of testimony. To have a chance to become law, the bill will have to move quickly through a network of committees and win approval from both legislative chambers by mid-March.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. The House Agricultural Affairs Committee will back legislation that would legalize the cultivation and sale of hemp throughout the state. The measure, HB 122, would change state law to conform with the 2018 federal Farm Bill that legalized hemp nationwide.

South Dakota Governor Says State Not Ready for Hemp. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is encouraging lawmakers to “just say no” to measures that would legalize hemp this year. Noem said the state isn’t ready for hemp.

Collateral Sanctions

Mississippi Bill Would Make Those Convicted of Felony Drug Offenses Eligible for Public Assistance. A bill that would allow people convicted of felony drug offenses to be eligible for public assistance programs is on the move. Senate Bill 2791, also known as the Reentry and Employability Act, passed out of the Senate Judiciary A Committee last week, just ahead of the deadline for general bills to pass out of committee. The bill would waive the state’s participation in a federal law requiring that drug felons not be eligible for such programs. Most other states have already opted out.

International

Israeli Health Ministry Approves MDMA Clinical Trials. The Health Ministry has approved the “compassionate use” of MDMA in clinical trials of the drug’s utility in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The decision came after extensive investigative work by the ministry, which included sending a representative to the US to work with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

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

Chronicle AM: Brazil Call for Drug Decriminalization, HI Legalization Bill Advances, More... (2/8/19)

The first state-level bill to legalize some psychedelics has been filed in Iowa, a marijuana legalization bill advances in Hawaii, so does asset forfeiture reform in New Jersey, a Brazilian committee of experts recommends drug decriminalization, and more.

An Iowa Republican has become the first legislator in the country to file a bill for the legalization of some psychedelics/
Marijuana Policy

US Senate Marijuana Legalization Bill S.420 Filed. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, S.420. The bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, establish a federal excise tax on marijuana, and create a system for permitting legal marijuana commerce.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, SB 686. The bill would allow adults to grow, consume, and possess small amounts of marijuana, set up a regulated system of marijuana commerce, and enact a 15% excise tax. The bill will likely have to go through two more committees before heading for a Senate floor vote.

Oregon Bill to Allow Legal Marijuana Exports Gets Hearing. A bill that would open the way for Oregon to export surplus legal marijuana to adjoining states got a hearing in the in the legislature Thursday. The state is suffering from chronic legal marijuana surpluses, and SB 582 aims to address that by allowing for the export of surplus crops. There is little chance the bill will pass this year, but it should lay the groundwork for Oregon marijuana exports once the federal government ends pot prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Colorado Bill to Protect Patients' Gun Rights Killed. A bill intended to protect the ability of medical marijuana patients to obtain and maintain concealed carry weapons permits died on a party-line vote Wednesday. SB 93, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), was killed in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. Marble said the Democrats' decision to kill the bill was unfair to medical marijuana users, but not unexpected. "They don’t want to pass a gun bill," Marble said of the committee, on which she also sits. "Anything to do with guns they’re not going to vote on."

Kansas Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. A bipartisan group of legislators has proposed a new medical marijuana bill, HB 2163. The bill would limit access to medical marijuana to only veterans for the first 60 days after the bill passes, but then open it up to the public.

Psychedelics

Iowa Bills Would Legalize Magic Mushrooms, Some Psychedelics for Medical Purposes. Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) has filed a pair of bills to open the door to the use of some psychedelics for medical purposes. One bill, HF 249, would allow the state board of pharmacy to reclassify such drugs for medicinal use, while the other bill, HF 248, would remove psilocybin and psilocin, the chemicals that put the magic in magic mushrooms, from the state's schedule of controlled substances. The filings mark the first time any legislature will have taken up the issue of legalizing drugs other than marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

New Jersey Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Package Advances. A package of bills that aim to increase fairness and transparency in civil asset forfeiture proceedings were approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Thursday. AB 4969 would establish the “Fairness in Asset Forfeiture Proceedings Task Force” to study the nature, extent, and consequences of the lack of legal representation of certain New Jersey residents in asset forfeiture proceedings. AB 4970 would require a criminal conviction for forfeiture of certain seized property. AR 222 urges the New Jersey Supreme Court to study the reasonableness of lowering court fees in civil asset forfeiture cases, while AB 3442 establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements. The legislation now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.

Harm Reduction

Maine Governor Moves to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment in Jails and Prisons. Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued an executive order Wednesday to increase access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction among prisoners in the state's jails and prisons. Under Mills' predecessor, Tea Party Republican Paul LePage, the state Department of Corrections and most jails had policies explicitly prohibiting such treatment.

International

Brazil Committee Studying Country's Drug Laws Calls for Drug Decriminalization. A committee of legal scholars and health experts appointed last year by House Speaker Rodrigo Maia has presented its report, and the report calls for the decriminalization of up to 10 personal use doses of all illicit drugs. It also recommended what those amounts should be. The report is certain to stir controversy in what is now one of the most conservative legislatures in Brazilian history.

Drug War Issues

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