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Mobile, AL, Cops Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed, More... (11/22/23)

Sarasota, Florida, is moving to recriminalize pot possession after it decriminalized it three years ago, a deadly SWAT raid in Alabama is raising alarms, and more.

President Biden met with his national security advisors to address ways to combat fentanyl trafficking. (
Marijuana Policy

Sarasota, Florida, Set to Move Resolutely Backward on Marijuana Policy. The city commission in 2020 voted to decriminalize the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, but now it wants to recriminalize it.

Under decriminalization, people busted with small amounts of weed had to pay a $100 fine or do 10 hours of community service. Police told commissioners that 90 percent of offenders have not paid the fines.

The commission then voted 4-1 Monday to ask the city attorney to draft an ordinance to repeal the decriminalization program.

Drug Policy

White House Statement on National Security Meeting to Address Fentanyl. The White House issued the following readout Tuesday after President Biden met with national security advisors on combatting fentanyl:

"Today, President Biden met with his national and homeland security leadership to ensure that his administration drives progress to address the deadly scourge of illicit fentanyl and to discuss efforts underway to tackle the global crisis posed by synthetic drugs.  The President and his team discussed how to build upon last week’s significant commitments from China and Mexico to crack down on the precursors, production, and trafficking of illicit fentanyl. 

"President Biden was briefed by Secretary Blinken, Secretary Mayorkas, Attorney General Garland, and DEA Administrator Milgram.  The President underscored how critical it is to our understanding of foreign drug trafficking organizations—and ability to fight illicit fentanyl — that Congress reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before it expires at the end of next month, and he reiterated his commitment to do everything he can to counter the illicit fentanyl crisis in the United States, which is the number one cause of death for people aged 18-44.

"President Biden has made beating the overdose epidemic a key priority in his Unity Agenda for the Nation, including a focus on cracking down on global illicit drug trafficking and disrupting the flow of illicit fentanyl and its precursors. To advance President Biden’s Unity Agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to address the overdose epidemic and save lives. President Biden is also calling on Congress for immediate action to help provide $1.55 billion to strengthen addiction treatment, overdose prevention measures, and recovery support services across the country, and more than $1.2 billion to crack down on drug trafficking to keep dangerous drugs like illicit fentanyl out of our communities. "

Law Enforcement

Mobile, Alabama, Police Kill Black Teen in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid That Netted 8 Grams of Weed. A Mobile SWAT team with a search warrant for drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession shot and killed 16-year-old Randall Adjessom after they broke into his home in pre-dawn raid and allegedly encountered him with a pistol in a hallway.

Police claimed they knocked on the home's door "multiple times" before breaking the door down, but it is unclear how forcefully they knocked or how long they can residents to respond to their knocks.

Randall Adjessom was not the target of the search warrant; his 18-year-old brother D'Angelo Adjessom was. D'Angelo was not at home at the time of the raid, but was arrested when he returned to the home shortly afterward.

This week, local media revealed the haul from the raid: 8 grams of marijuana and a scale.

"On a marijuana warrant?" Councilmember Carroll Williams asked incredulously. "You know all the states right now that are making marijuana legal? Legal! On a marijuana warrant! It wasn't like somebody killed somebody, but we entered that place like we were going to find a murderer."

After news of the killing broke, Mayor Sandy Simpson announced an immediate ban on most pre-dawn search warrants and called for comprehensive review of the Mobile Police Department's policies, but that was too late for Randall Adjessom. 

NY Governor Signs Trio of Reform Bills, SD Legal Weed Initiative Filed, More... (11/20/23)

New York's governor signs bill to seal criminal records, a second South Dakota marijuana legalization initiative is filed, and more.

Will marijuana ever be legal in the Badlands? Maybe next year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New York Governor Signs Bill to Provide Tax Relief to NYC Marijuana Businesses. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 7508, which provides tax relief to New York City cannabusinesses that are blocked from making federal tax deductions under a section of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) known as 280E. The signing came less than a week after the Senate and Assembly formally sent their identical bills to the governor's desk.

"This bill would allow a deduction for business expenses, incurred by taxpayers authorized by the Cannabis Law to engage in the sale, distribution, or production of adult-use cannabis products or medical cannabis, for purposes of the unincorporated business tax (UBT), the general corporation tax (GCT), and the corporate tax of 2015, commonly referred to as the business corporation tax (BCT)," a summary says.

The bill also amends the city's tax code to add sections allowing deductions "in an amount equal to any federal deduction disallowed by section 280E of the internal revenue code."

"This modification to income is appropriate because, while the expenses of cannabis-related business cannot be deducted for federal purposes, New York law permits and encourages these businesses akin to any other legitimate business occurring in the State," a memo attached to the bill says. "The City's business taxes should similarly encourage these business activities."

South Dakota Sees Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed. State Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has drafted a title and explanation for a marijuana legalization initiative from activist and medical marijuana operator Emmett Reistroffer. That is the second marijuana legalization initiative filed for next yer's elections.

The Reistroffer initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. It would also allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for dual-use licenses to sell their products to any adult.

An earlier initiative from Matthew Schweich has already been approved for circulation. Schwiech has been involved in the two previous marijuana legalization initiatives, one that won in 2020 only to be overturned by the state Supreme Court and one that was defeated last year.

Both initiatives will need 17,509 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. If both were to pass, the one with most votes would go into effect.

Harm Reduction

New York Governor Signs Bill to Expand Access to Fentanyl Testing Supplies. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law "Matthew's Law," Senate Bill 2099C, which will expand public access to fentanyl testing supplies. Such supplies will be distributed by pharmacists or health care professionals.

"Matthew's Law" is named for Matthew Horan, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in November 2020.

"For too long, pharmacies and other local health care providers have struggled to provide the resources proven to prevent overdose deaths. With our historic investments in testing expansion, along with this legislation, we are working to ensure that every New Yorker has access to life-saving testing kits," Gov. Hochul said.

"We are in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in history and expanding the availability and use of resources like test strips is vital to the ongoing efforts to prevent overdose deaths in New York State," said Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports. "These materials are lifesaving, and we need to continue to take steps to make sure that we are getting them in the hands of people that need them so that they can reduce their risk of overdose."

Law Enforcement

New York Governor Signs "Clean Slate Act" to Seal Criminal Records. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed into law the "Clean Slate Act," Senate Bill 7551A, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed years after an individual is sentenced or released from incarceration if that individual is not subsequently convicted of an additional criminal act.

"Following their release from any incarceration, records of individuals with eligible misdemeanor convictions will be sealed after three years and those with certain felony convictions, after eight years," said bill sponsor Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D). "The Clean Slate Act will not seal the records of individuals convicted of sex crimes, murder, or other non-drug Class A felonies; law enforcement, prosecutors, the New York State Education Department, the courts, and other groups will continue to have access to all criminal records under this law."

But it does include drug offenses.

US and China Reach Accord on Fentanyl, MD Now Accepting Cannabusiness Applications, More... (11/16/23)

A Massachusetts bill would prioritize treatment over jail for probationers who fail drug tests, a new study finds no increase in crime near New York City's safe injection sites, and more.

Seized fentanyl. (DHS)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Starts Accepting Adult-Use Marijuana Business Applications. The Maryland Cannabis Administration began accepting applications for business licenses on Monday. A total of 179 of them are up for grabs. Interested parties have until December 12 to apply.

In the first round of licensing, the state will issue 75 standard dispensary licenses, 16 standard grower permits, 32 standard processor licenses, 24 micro-grower permits, 24 micro-processor licenses, and eight micro-dispensary permits.

Successful applicants must have already completed a social equity verification process that's currently closed, though the state has yet to process all the submissions.

Successful applicants will need at least 65 percent ownership held by a verified social equity applicant. Applicants are limited to one application per license type and no more than two applications in this current round.

Drug Testing

Massachusetts Bill Would Prioritize Treatment Over Jail for Probationers Who Fail Drug Tests. A bill that says that a probationer's positive drug test result should not result in imprisonment, Senate Bill 982, got a hearing Wednesday in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Similar legislation has been filed in previous sessions but has never gone anywhere.

This time around, mental health and addiction experts, as well as attorneys, were there to urge lawmakers to get it right.

"I saw hundreds of individuals placed in custody for merely relapsing, a symptom of their substance use disorder," said Deborah Goldfarb, Director of Behavioral Health at Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction. "A correctional environment is not one that fosters recovery. And not only were folks not receiving appropriate treatment in custody, they are ripped away from any treatment connections they have."

The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Ruth Balser (D) and state Sen. Cindy Friedman (D), says that a positive drug or alcohol test or other signs of relapse would not be considered a probation violation if someone is following a treatment plan, trying to get care or has completed a program and is complying with other conditions of probation. The bill would also prohibit the courts from ordering more substance use testing than required by a treatment provider.

"There is growing concern about the increasing problem of drug use and public policymakers are becoming more educated," Balser said. "So I'm hopeful the legislature will be receptive to changing policies to better reflect the science about the best way to respond to those with substance use disorders."

No vote was taken.

Foreign Policy

Biden, Xi Announce Deal Cracking Down on Fentanyl Exports. President Joe Biden (D) and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping announced an agreement for China to crackdown on the manufacture and export of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid linked to about two-thirds of all US drug overdose deaths.

Under the agreement, China will crack down on chemical companies to halt the flow of fentanyl and the source material used to make it. That may be easier said than done, though, given that China has some 400,000 chemical companies.

The US, for its part, will lift longstanding restrictions on China's forensic police institute. China has long complained that the US should not expect cooperation on fentanyl when it has placed restrictions on the institute.

The agreement came as Biden and Xi met on the sidelines of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, their first encounter in more than a year as tensions between the two countries heightened.

Harm Reduction

New Study Finds No Outsized Increase in Crime Near New York City Safe Injection Sites. An important new study published in JAMA Open Network finds that violent and property crime near the city's two safe injection sites did not increase anymore than crime in similar neighborhoods across the city. The finding came even as police conducted 83 percent fewer drug arrests near the sites, presumably to avoid scaring drug users away from the sites).

The study should work to blunt some criticism of safe injection sites, which critics have claimed contribute to criminality in neighborhoods where they are located.

"We did not observe any increase in crime or disorder or any of the things that people worry about when they see an overdose prevention site opening," said a study co-author, Brandon Del Pozo, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and a former New York Police Department precinct commander and police chief of Burlington, Vermont.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the federal agency that funded the study, said the study was consistent with past research into safe injection sites, and that even though the new study is preliminary data, "what it does show is that having these safe injection sites is not associated with an increase in violence."

LA Poll Has Majority for Weed Legalization, White House Pushes for Opioid Funding, More... (11/14/23)

The mayor of Washington, DC, declares an opioid public health emergency, red state Louisiana now has a majority for marijuana legalization, and more.

Drug overdoses in DC are set to surpass last year's record high. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Slight Majority for Legalization. A new poll from the University of New Orleans Research Center has support for marijuana legalization at 52 percent in the deep red state. Prior to 2021, the majority of registered voters were firmly against legalization, but that has now shifted.

"What we're finding is that there has been this switch over the last couple of years for the majority opposition now to majority support so it seems to be this consistent majority out there that would like to see the recreational use of marijuana legalized," said UNO political science professor Ed Chernevak.

The survey was conducted from October 25 to November 2 and queried 429 respondents.

Opiates and Opioids

White House Pushes for Opioid Funding. The White House on Tuesday used the release of new data from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showing more than 48 million people experienced a substance use disorder in 2022 and that three-quarters of them did not get treatment to push for funding to deal with the opioid crisis.

"Overdose deaths have flattened in 2022 and 2023 after sharp increases from 2019 to 2021. That's progress. And it is important to recognize, but we still have a long way to go.And today's data underscores this point," said White House Drug Policy Director Rahul Gupta. "The bottom line is that we're dealing with a historic and unprecedented epidemic. And it requires historic and unprecedented funding to match the scale and President Biden's supplemental funding request will help us get there."

Last month, the administration asked for $1.2 billion for a law enforcement crackdown on fentanyl and related drugs and $1.55 billion to expand opioid treatment and harm reduction programs that are provided under State Opioid Response grants. No legislation to deal with opioid overdoses has had a floor vote in either chamber this year.

"Right now, the President's emergency supplemental budget request is before Congress with a request for additional, critical funds to take on the overdose crisis," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. "Now Congress must do its part."

Washington, DC, Mayor Declares Opioid Public Emergency. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Monday declared a public emergency over the opioid crisis as the number of fatal overdoses has doubled in the past five years, driven largely by fentanyl. Opioid deaths this are on track to surpass the record 461 deaths recorded last year.

The emergency order goes into effect immediately. It directs city agencies to use a shared overdose tracking system so outreach teams can identify and respond to hot spots more effectively and it suspends some contracting rules to more quickly provide services.

Bowser acted after the DC Council last week passed a nonbinding resolution urging her to declare the public health emergency.

"We have too many people dying in our city related to fentanyl overdoses most specifically," Bowser said. "We believe that the contracting vehicle will allow us to move -- we hope -- more quickly," she said.

But the emergency only lasts 15 days and has no funding or on the ground services, such as housing, transportation, or job services, and that is causing some advocates to warn that it is insufficient.

"The most important thing is these types of declarations need to come with funding and services that could be immediately stood up. If we say it's a crisis, we need to respond as if it's a crisis," said Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of state advocacy and criminal legal reform at the Drug Policy Alliance. "We need to think beyond the strategies that may have seemed realistic five years ago."

UN Says Afghan Opium Production Plummets, Raided Vancouver Magic Mushroom Shop Reopens, More... (11/6/23)

Sweden is moving to broaden access to the opiate overdose drug naloxone, one of three Vancouver magic mushoom shops raided by police last week has reopened and the other two will be reopening shortly, and more.

Afghanistan's opium poppy fields have largely vanished in the wake of a Taliban ban. (Creative Commons)

UN Says Afghan Opium Production Dropped 95 Percent After Taliban Ban. For decades, Afghanistan has been accurately described as the world's largest opium producer. Not anymore. Opium poppy production has dropped dramatically since the Taliban banned the cultivation of the plant last year.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that poppy cultivation dropped to just 26,700 acres this year, down from more than 500,000 acres in 2022, resulting in a 95 percent decrease in production and limiting supply to 333 tons.

Since opium production has provided a livelihood for millions of Afghans and two-thirds of the population is already in need of humanitarian aid, imposition of the ban is having severe economic consequences, the UNODC said.

"Over the coming months Afghanistan is in dire need of strong investment in sustainable livelihoods to provide Afghan farmers with opportunities away from opium," Ghada Waly, the executive director of UNODC. "This presents a real opportunity to build towards long-term results against the illicit opium market and the damage it causes both locally and globally."

The huge contraction in supply from Afghanistan -- estimated to supply around 80% of the world's illegal opium - could eventually lead to a drop in opium use internationally, but it also risked escalating the global use of alternatives such as fentanyl or synthetic opioids, the UNODC said.

Vancouver Magic Mushroom Shops Reopen After Being Busted Last Week. Long-time Vancouver, British Columbia, drug activist Dana Larsen spent seven hours in jail and saw his trio of magic mushroom shops shut down in a police raid last week, but he has already reopened one of them and says the other two are restocking and will be open soon.

Larsen has shops on East Hastings Street, West Broadway Avenue, and Granville Street. The East Hastings shop is the one that has already reopened.

Vancouver Police said they executed search warrants at the stores as part of an investigation into the illicit sale of psychedelic drugs and that officers seized "a variety of controlled substances." Larsen was not charged last week, but police said they would make charging recommendations to prosecutors once they finished their investigation.

"We have been clear that anyone who breaks the law by illegally trafficking controlled drugs and substances could be arrested and charged with a criminal offence," said Sgt. Steve Addison. "This includes people who traffic drugs for profit from unlicensed and illegal retail businesses."

Larsen said he "will try to be better prepared" if the police come back again. "People go through a lot worse things, but it's no fun sitting in a jail cell for seven hours. It's no fun that all of your products are taken," he said. "Our staff are very upset, some of them are quite worried about their future and their job and whether they want to keep working here."

Sweden to Expand Naloxone Access. Faced with a rising drug overdose toll -- more than 900 cases a year -- the national government is working to implement a new, knowledge-based drug policy aimed at reducing overdose deaths by 20 percent within the next five years.

A key part of the strategy will be expanding access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone. Under current law, only doctors and nurses can prescribe naloxone, but the new measure would make it accessible outside healthcare facilities and it would be distributed for free.

But legal obstacles remain and the government is still navigating the regulatory landscape to allow for broader access. Still, Sweden is now prioritizing pragmatism over prohibitionist ideology and moving to adopt harm reduction techniques.

OH Polls Say Pot Initiative Will Pass Next Week, White House Urges Naloxone in Schools, More... (11/1/23)

A Colorado safe injection site bill gets pulled in the face of a gubernatorial veto threat, the New York Senate attempts to address issues hampering the rollout of the legal marijuana industry, and more.

Naloxone. The White House wants the overdose reversal drug in all schools. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Late Polls Say Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Poised to Pass Next Week. The Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative is set to pass on Election Day next Tuesday if two recent polls are to be believed. A poll from Ohio Northern University has just under two-thirds support for legalization, while a Public Policy Polling survey has support at 59 percent.

The measure would allow adults to grow their own crop at home or resort to licensed market for the sale of marijuana products. But because it is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, the legislature could attempt to amend it after it passes.

Early voting has been going on since October 23, and voter turnout is already well above normal levels. That is because even though this is an off-year election, not only marijuana legalization but also abortion rights is on the ballot. Both issues are generating enthusiastic support.

New York Senate Seeks Solutions to Marijuana Industry Hurdles. The state Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis held its first public hearing Monday as it looks to address complaints over consumer accessibility and licensing hurdles in the struggling nascent legal industry.

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) said that many of his constituents have been frustrated by the challenges of trying to get licensed and say they are drowning in a sea of red tape. The first licenses were issued last year, but the legal industry remains challenged by unlicensed operators and the number of legal retail outlets remains relatively small.

The state Office of Cannabis Management acknowledged those frustrations. "While we see clearly what New York cannabis will be, we have a long way to go before we say that the supply chain is functioning as intended," said Chris Alexander, head of the agency. "Small farmers are struggling and we need more retail shelves for their product. We are working to make that a reality and are committed to providing stability to a more volatile industry."

Harm Reduction

White House Calls on All Schools to Carry Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug. The Department of Education has sent a letter to every state education agency, intergovernmental groups, and local, state, and national education associations urging schools to "focus on measures to prevent youth drug use and ensure that every school has naloxone and has prepared its students and faculty to use it."

"Our schools are on the frontlines of this epidemic, but our teachers and students can be equipped with tools to save lives," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) director Rahul Gupta wrote in the letter.

"Overdose deaths among adolescents doubled from 2019 to 2020 and continue to rise, even though youth rates of drug use have remained stagnant. That's because a teenager today can log onto social media with a smartphone and buy what they think is an opioid pain medicine or a prescription stimulant to help them study -- and instead die from one pill that actually has fentanyl in it. Just one pill," the letter said.

"And data show that two-thirds of adolescent drug poisoning deaths occurred with a potential bystander nearby, but naloxone was often not administered," it added, citing a recent study that found that among persons aged 14-18 years, overdose deaths increased 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021.

The study also found that the median monthly overdose deaths among persons between 10 and 19 years old increased 109% from July-December 2019 to July-December 2021.

Colorado Safe Injection Site Bill Pulled in Face of Governor's Veto Threat. The legislature's Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee on Monday approved a slew of drug policy reforms to be considered during next year's legislative session but dropped plans to include approving safe injection sites in the face of a veto threat from Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Committee Chair Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy said Polis' office issued the veto threat on the bill last week, three days before the committee was set to meet for a final time. Polis' office also called Sen. Kyle Mullica, a swing vote on the supervised use issue who had worked with deGruy Kennedy throughout the summer on a compromise.

The committee draft would have given the state oversight over safe injection sites and would have required local government approval before sites could open in any given jurisdiction. Mullica and one other Democrat joined with four Republicans on the committee to kill the measure.

"This isn't really a resource question with this bill," said deGruy Kennedy. "This is giving permission for an organization that's ready to do this, to go do it. And I'm incredibly disappointed that it's not going to be moving forward today… Here's to saving more lives next year."

But the committee approved four other drug reform measures aimed at preventing overdoses and improving drug treatment options statewide. The bills would ease access to opioid treatment medications, expand a proven meth treatment, increase fundings for health in prisons and jails, and broaden immunity for organizations that work with drug users. But they have to get through the legislature next year.

San Francisco Task Force to Charge Fentanyl ODs as Homicides, Peru Healer Stabbed, More... (10/30/23)

A Kansas poll has two-thirds support for marijuana legalization, a bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DEA to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Ancestral healer Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta (Xanen Weni in his native Shipibo) remains under medical attention. (
Marijuana Policy

31 Bipartisan House Lawmakers Push DEA To Consider 'Merits' of Marijuana Legalization as It Completes Scheduling Review. A coalition of 31 bipartisan House lawmakers has sent a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it carries out a review into cannabis scheduling. They also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The letter last Friday to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, with lead signatures from Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dave Joyce (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) says that the review represents a "necessary step in the work to end the federal government's failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis." As DEA completes its review, the lawmakers said that the law enforcement agency should consider that Congress has been working to comprehensive reform federal cannabis laws.

The letter says that "the administration and relevant agencies such as yours should recognize the merits of full descheduling and work with congressional leaders to ensure this happens," adding that prohibition "does not reflect the will of the broader American electorate" and "it is time that [DEA's] work fully reflects this reality as well."

Other signatories of the letter Reps. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Lou Correa (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Katie Porter (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD) and others.

Kansas Poll Has Two-Thirds Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Fort Hays State University has support for marijuana legalization in the state at 67%, even as Republican legislators continued to block any progress toward that goal or even toward allowing medical marijuana. Kansas does not have a citizens' initiative process that would allow the public to get around recalcitrant lawmakers.

Republican Sen. Rob Olson, who held Statehouse committee hearings for a medical marijuana bill last year, said Senate President Ty Masterson and Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley -- both Republicans -- don't want a bill to pass. "The majority of the state (does) want medical marijuana," Olson said, "and I don't see a reason why we don't pass a bill."

"We get support from quite a few legislators," said Cheryl Kumberg, President of the Kansas Cannabis Coalition Kumberg, "but the ones that are in power are not supportive for various reasons, and they don't let it go forward."

Drug Policy

California Governor Announces San Francisco Task Force Will Treat Overdoses as Homicides; Advocates Decry Move. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last Friday a joint law enforcement task force that will treat overdoses as homicide in the city, fulfilling a law enforcement promise made by San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins back in October 2022.

"Making sure that these dealers are admonished, that should they be connected to selling fentanyl to someone who overdoses, that they could be charged with murder because we have to hold these people accountable," Jenkins said in an October 2022 debate. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

"These people who are dealing these drugs need to be held accountable in a way they have not been before," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. "The objective is to make sure that we are looking into who is selling fentanyl to the individuals who are dying of overdoses on our streets every day that may allow my office to pursue murder charges against those sellers," said Jenkins.

But people directly involved on the ground are skeptical. "I think really what we're concerned about is how is this policy going to be implemented and recognizing that the law enforcement activities to date, including increases in law enforcement overall have not reduced the suffering that we're seeing on the streets," Michael Discepola, the Director of Health at the nonprofit GLIDE said. "One of the challenges I think that this type of policy creates is, I think drug dealers also prevent overdoses because we get Narcan in their hands, and will this prevent other individuals on the street from being willing to get involved to be able to reduce overdose on the street," he said.

The Gubbio Project is a another nonprofit helping people on the streets. "I understand people's desire for accountability but the question is what are they trying to achieve? Punishment does not reduce use," said Lydia Bransten, director of the Gubbio Project.

And the San Francisco Public Defender issued the following statement last Friday: "The task force's announcement today is another step in the wrong direction toward the continued revival of the failed War on Drugs in SF... Threatening to charge people with murder is unfortunately likely to result in more overdoses, as people will be afraid to call for help."


After Indigenous Healer Stabbed in Peru, Indigenous Medicine Conversation Fund Calls for Increased Protection of Ayahuasca, Other Traditional Medicines. A French tourist is being held in jail as he awaits trial for attacking Don Pedro Sinuiri Barta, a 76-year-old ancestral healer (Onanya), in his home village of Nueva Betania in northeastern Peru on the morning of October 11. Sinuiri, who was seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times, has provided healing for many decades to local and international people in his practice, which incorporates the use of plant medicines, including ayahuasca. This is the second such violent attack against Shipibo ancestral healers in the last five years, with the previous incident in 2018 resulting in the death of Olivia Arevalo.

The young French tourist who traveled with his mother was reportedly seeking cocaine from community members and had not used ayahuasca before the attack.

"This tragic episode, yet again, underscores the risks to Indigenous healers and the urgent need to support them in their efforts to protect and preserve traditional medicines," said Miriam Volat, director of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation (IMC) Fund, which stands in support of Sinuiri, his family, and his Shipibo community in this time of healing. Sinuiri's son, Jheison Romulo Sinuiri Ochavano, is president ofOrganización Intercultural Oni Xobo, an IMC Fund-supported project focused on the preservation and conservation of the Shipibo culture, including ancestral medicine practices.

This is not the first time a foreigner has harmed an Indigenous Shipibo healer. In 2018, a Canadian man shot and killed ancestral healer Olivia Arevalo at her home in an urban community near Coronel Portillo in northeastern Peru. Community members quickly retaliated and the man was killed by a mob that had formed. In this case, Indigenous community members chose to trust the judicial system and, after apprehending the assailant, turned him over to police. The family, local Indigenous Organizations, and the Shipibo people, more broadly, continue to demand justice for Sinuiri.

The Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund seeks to educate the public, including the psychedelics boom, about the need to protect five traditional medicines -- Ayahuasca, Toad, Iboga, Peyote, and Mushrooms -- and their related ecologies, which are threatened by the combined crises of climate change, commercialization, overharvesting, and cultural appropriation. In the year since its launch, IMC Fund has raised more than $10 million to support 22 Indigenous-led conservation projects in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. To learn more about the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund, go to:

NH Commission Holds Legalization Hearing, Vancouver Cops Raid Unsanctioned Drug Suppliers, More... (10/26/23)

A MAGA marijuana legalization bill gets refiled, German parliamentarians finally get around to debating marijuana legalization, and more.

Lab-tested meth and heroin packets sold at cost by Vancouver's Drug Users Libertation Front (DULF).
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Marijuana Legalization Bill Refiled in Congress. A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill first filed in 2021 by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) that served as an alternative to a Democratic-led marijuana legalization bill that has twice passed the House has now been refiled. The first time around, Mace's bill, the States Reform Act, had only GOP support, but this time, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have already signed on.

Mace said she had secured a commitment from then Speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to hold a committee markup on her bill in return for her vote to raise the debt ceiling and cut certain federal programs. But Mace then became one of eight House Republicans to vote against keeping McCarthy is the leadership, his departure in turn endangering the prospects for any further progress on marijuana legalization after McCarthy was eventually replaced by anti-weed Rep. Michael Johnson (R-LA) as House Speaker.

The text of the new version of the bill is not yet available and it is not clear what changes -- if any -- have been made, but the original bill would have ended federal pot prohibition and, in a bid to win bipartisan support, incorporated equity provisions such as expungements for people with non-violent pot convictions and the imposition of an excise tax that would have supported community reinvestment, law enforcement, and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.

The bill is primarily aimed at having the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. Cannabis would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), with retroactive effects for people previously punished.

Cosponsors of this year's bill include Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as well as Democrat Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Rep. David Trone (D-MD).

New Hampshire Legislative Panel Discusses Marijuana Legalization Recommendations. A bill signed into law in August established the Commission to Study With the Purpose of Proposing Legalization, State Controlled Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis Products with the intention of presenting draft state liquor store marijuana legalization bill recommendations by December 1. The commission has been busy, holding five meetings already, with one more set for early November.

"New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide," said Gov. John Sununu (R) as he signed the bill. "By establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales, this bill will bring stakeholders from across New Hampshire together to ensure that preventing negative impacts upon kids remains our number one priority."

"We're not here to discuss legalization, we're here to discuss how to put a bill forward that would do legalization, but do it in the matter that is most protective of our citizens and our regulations," said Sen. Timothy Lang. "The charge of the commission is to put the best bill forward possible if legalization were to happen in a state-controlled model."

Look for the state legislature and the governor to advance a state liquor store-model bill before the year's end and to try to get it passed next year.


Sen. Maggie Hassan Uses International Narcotics Control Hearing to Question Officials Over the Opioid Precursor Pipeline. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned officials from the Department of State, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security during a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing about how US agencies can use international partnerships to address the precursor chemical pipeline that cartels are using to produce fentanyl and other illicit synthetic drugs. Senator Hassan discussed her recent trip to China as part of a bipartisan Congressional Delegation, and how the U.S. can build on the conversations that they had in order to continue pushing Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese officials to limit the export of precursor chemicals.

First, Sen. questioned Maggie Nardi, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State: "I was on a recent bipartisan congressional delegation trip to China where we met with a number of senior leaders. I pressed Chinese President Xi to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl precursors that are made in China and as you all have outlined, sold to cartels in Mexico… President Xi indicated that he might be willing to take action on this, he said he would look into appointing senior leadership to start communication with us and we obviously now have to hold him to this. What steps will the State Department take, can it take to proactively engage with its Chinese counterparts to push China more to address the development and sale of fentanyl precursors, and what specific goals or benchmarks will the State Department set to track progress?" asked Hassan.

Nardi thanked Hassan for the message she delivered to Chinese leaders and discussed how the State Department has encouraged China to participate in the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats and that Chinese officials have attended some meetings.

Senator Hassan also asked William Kimbell, the Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice, and Ricardo Mayoral, the Deputy Assistant Director for International Operations for the Department of Homeland Security, "What role can US law enforcement play in disrupting the precursor pipeline if China agrees to work with us? For instance, could US law enforcement work with China to stop illegal money laundering that bankrolls the production of fentanyl precursors?" Mr. Kimbell pointed to recent meetings with Chinese officials about companies that they believe are selling precursors for the manufacturing of fentanyl and said that "the DEA is ready and willing at any given time to share information with them and to provide them with intelligence it needs to stop these companies from this behavior."


Vancouver Police Crack Down on Unsanctioned Safe Supply Program. Vancouver Police on Thursday raided the offices of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) on Hastings Street on the Downtown Eastside, as well as two nearby homes, in a crackdown on unsanctioned "safe supply" drug sales amidst the city's ongoing overdose crisis. Two people were arrested.

DULF initiated the program of sales of lab-tested drugs in an effort to reduce fatal overdoses by ensuring that consumers knew what they were getting, something police acknowledged in a press release on the raid.

Even while noting DULF's harm reduction efforts, police said the group has "publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

"We understand the magnitude of the ongoing overdose crisis and the impact drug toxicity deaths have in communities throughout the province," Insp. Phil Heard of the VPD's Organized Crime Section said in a statement. "While DULF's actions were intended to reduce the harms caused by toxic drugs, we have always warned that anyone who violates the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could face enforcement and criminal charges. This group has knowingly operated illegally in the Downtown Eastside and we have now taken action to stop it."

DULF has said it has been selling tested drugs at cost for more than a year, and that its efforts had resulted in fewer overdoses, reduced drug use among some clients, and zero associated overdose deaths.

British Columbia has responded to the overdose crisis by embracing the decriminalization of the possession of personal use amounts of drugs, but that is not nearly enough, according to DULF.

"Decriminalization as a response to overdoses is a drop in the bucket," said group cofounder Jeremy Kalicum.

Marijuana Legalization Debate in Germany's Bundestag Heats Up. The federal legislature, the Bundestag, has for the first time debated a draft marijuana legalization bill proposed by the federal government. The deTbate had originally been set for last week but was delayed by the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.

The bill would legalize the use and possession of marijuana by adults, but was "scaled back" from full-blown commercial legalization following consultations with the European Union.

A Social Democratic Party member made the case for legalization, cited profits to organized crime and the fact that illegal marijuana "is often contaminated."

Both the rightist Union Party and the rightist Alternative for Germany spoke against the bill, arguing that it would turn the country "in the wrong direction" and arguing instead for only the legalization of medical marijuana.

OR Lawmakers Discuss Measure 110 Rollback, Cartel Kills 13 Cops in Mexico, More... (10/24/23)

New York is rolling out a drug checking program, Seattle begins a crackdown on public drug use, and more.

Drug Policy

Mexico's bloody drug wars keep on generating new body counts. (Creative Commons)
Oregon Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Measure 110 Issues. Two years after voters approved Measure 110, which decriminalizes drug possession and allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenues to drug prevention and treatment, the measure is under concerted attack. With concerns over overdoses and public drug use rising, a legislative joint committee on addiction met last week with Measure 110 on its mind.

"The crisis that we are facing in our addiction system is not a big-city crisis or a rural-community crisis, it's not a Republican crisis, it's not a Democrat crisis or an Independent crisis, this is a crisis in all of Oregon," said Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Portland, who chairs the committee.

Lieber vowed that the committee would examine all aspects of the crisis and consult with a broad range of experts to come up with policy solutions that lawmakers could address in the 2024 legislative session. Democrats hold a majority in the legislature and have not committed to repealing Measure 110, but Lieber said it could use some adjustments.

"It is clear that the ballot measure that Oregonians passed in 2020 is not delivering what we need it to deliver, and we need to make systemwide change to try to address this issue," she said.

Her Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, was more inclined to attack Measure 110.

"I agree that Measure 110 is not delivering. In fact, I think it has been a massive failure. I think it was born to fail for a couple of reasons. One, is that there was not on-demand treatment that was ready to go when decriminalization happened, and I think that was a huge mistake," he said. "I also think that community harm reduction was not really contemplated with Measure 110 and making sure that those who are causing harm to the community through addiction get to treatment and recovery."

During the hearing, lawmakers heard from addiction prevention and recovery experts, none of whom would go so far as to recommend repealing Measure 110. Instead, they said that the state's addiction treatment and recovery systems are understaffed and underfunded.

Seattle Police Crack Down on Public Drug Use as New City Ordinance Goes into Effect. Last month, the city council passed an ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession under municipal law, and last Friday, police began emphatically enforcing it. Squads of police officers swept through two neighborhoods -- Little Saigon and downtown Pine Street -- and arrested about two dozen people.

Ten people were jailed, mostly on outstanding felony warrants, while another 15 people who were arrested were referred to case workers and released.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the department would conduct similar operations on a weekly basis.

"We are going to be compassionate in our approach to getting people connected with services while still making sure our city streets are safe," he said.

But opponents worry the law will punish people for addictions and called it a new version of the war on drugs, which subjected Black and brown people to disproportionate enforcement. And they noted that access to treatment remains severely limited.

"Data shows the minute you're arrested, there are cascading consequences for your stability," said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda , who opposed the new law. "People are more likely to die while in jail due to withdrawal or die upon release due to overdoses," she said. "We don't want public consumption throughout the streets, but we do not have the treatment resources necessary to implement this policy."

Harm Reduction

New York State Department of Health Announces Drug Checking Programs The New York State Department of Health's Office of Drug User Health (NYSDOH-ODUH) has implemented four drug checking programs operated by state funded Drug User Health Hubs (DUHH). Drug checking is used as a consumer safety tool -- either before or after consumption -- and a method to engage people who use drugs (PWUD) in other harm reduction services. This information can help inform the larger PWUD community about new or emerging adulterants in the local drug supply and how to decrease their risk of overdose from dangerous substances like fentanyl.

"As new or dangerous substances, including fentanyl, continue to appear in the drug supply, the risk of overdose for people who use drugs continues to rapidly increase," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Given this ever-changing landscape, these essential comprehensive drug checking services will help protect New Yorkers and help us to better understand the local drug supply and improve overall drug user health."

The technology used to test for drugs produces results within minutes and provides the technician the ability to determine the chemical composition of the sample. To ensure that technicians can interpret test results accurately, the NYSDOH-ODUH has contracted with an experienced drug checking consultant who provides training and ongoing technical assistance.

For further support, the drug checking program also includes the use of a confirmatory laboratory that allows DUHH to send residual amounts of inactivated drug samples to the lab and in compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration and postal regulations. Technicians will send the first 150 residual samples to the laboratory for additional testing to confirm the accuracy of initial analysis. The laboratory providing the additional analysis utilizes gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC/MS), which is regarded as a gold standard for drug testing.

"The unregulated drug supply is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Having comprehensive drug checking available is a strategy to decrease potential harms, including overdoses, and supports our ongoing work to expand and enhance harm reduction services across New York State," said Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham.

The drug checking programs are located in Central New York, the Southern Tier, the Mohawk Valley, the Capital Region and Long Island. The program involves staffing and training at each participating DUHH. Governor Kathy Hochul specifically mentioned in her 2023 State of the State Address the expansion of drug checking technology within DUHHs to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of substances before and after use. This enhanced technology will be available at Drug User Health Hubs so that individuals can test their drugs to mitigate drug-related harms and prevent overdose.


Irish Parliamentarians Call for "Radical Change" in Drug Policy After Citizens' Assembly Recommends Decriminalization. Over the weekend, the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use voted to recommend that the country move toward a "comprehensive health-led" approach to drug policy, including a form of drug decriminalization. In response, a cross-party group of parliamentarians is calling for a "radical change" in drug policy.

In a statement on Monday evening, a group parliamentarians, including politicians from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Labor, and People Before Profit, said that the decision by the Citizens' Assembly "reinforces the case for radical change in Irish drug policy".

"We urge the Oireachtas [the parliament] to assign the report, when published, to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice to allow them carry out detailed deliberation and to propose draft legislation," the statement reads. We emphasize the need for detailed analysis and recommendations on the decriminalization of the drug user and regulation of cannabis."

Mexican Cartel Guns Down 13 Cops in Guerrero. Supposed cartel gunmen ambushed police in Coyuca de Benitze, Guerrero, on Monday, leaving 13 dead, including the local police chief and municipal security secretary. This was only the latest in a growing number of deadly attacks against police in the region.

At least 34 police officers have been killed in Guerrero so far in 2023 -- one-tenth of the total number of police killed countrywide -- making it the second most dangerous state for law enforcement.

The state has been plagued by turf wars between various drug trafficking organizations, who seek to dominate both the opium and marijuana-growing mountainous interior and the consumer market in the tourist city of Acapulco and other coastal resort areas.

Rate of Black Men in Prison Has Dropped by Nearly Half, New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug, More... (10/13/23)

Ohio's Republican Senate leader is threatening to mess with a marijuana legalization initiative if it passes, the Israel-Hamas war has caused a pause in Germany's march toward marijuana legalization, and more.
A new opioid overdose reversal drug, OpVee, has hit the market.
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate President Vows to Mess with Marijuana Legalization Initiative If It Passes. The GOP-dominated state Senate has already passed a resolution opposing the Issue 2 marijuana legalization initiative (as well as the Issue 1 abortion rights amendment), and the Republican Senate leader now says that while the legislature would not try to repeal the initiative if it passes, it is likely to try to modify it.

In the Senate, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that passage of the initiative would cause a "mental health crisis," adding that "this initiated statute is coming right back before this body."

When pressed after the session about precisely what he meant, Huffman clarified. "I will advocate for reviewing it and repealing things or changing things that are in it," he said.

He said he was perturbed about a social equity provision that allocates some marijuana tax revenues for programs aiding people with marijuana convictions to get licenses and financial assistance.

Harm Reduction

New Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Opvee Comes to Market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new opioid overdose reversal drug, Opvee, back in June, and now, the manufacturer, Indivior, has begun shipping the drug to pharmacies and first responders.

Opvee is a nasal spray containing the opioid receptor-blocking drug nalmefene. It is approved for use in people 12 and over and requires a prescription.

While the market for overdose reversal drugs is growing crowded, with Narcan already widely available and now available without a prescription at major drug store chains a second naloxone nasal spray, RiVive from Harm Reduction Therapeutics aimed at community groups coming soon, Opvee aims to position itself as being better able to respond to fentanyl overdoses. The company says it is a better match against fentanyl because its formulation is more powerful than Narcan or other forms of naloxone.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams called Opvee a "fentanyl fighter" and another tool for public health officials to counter illicit fentanyl driving the nation's overdose deaths. "It's as if it was designed to combat fentanyl," Adams said. "It matches up well with the potency and the longevity of fentanyl, so it's a new valuable tool that is available."

But as with other opioid overdose reversal drugs, cost is an issue. Opvee will go for $75 per kit for public interest and government purchasers and $98 for others with no insurance. Narcan now goes for $44.99 for a two-dose kit, while RiVive will go for $36.


Rate of Imprisonment for Black Men Has Dropped by Nearly Half Since 2000, Report Finds. The Sentencing Project released a new report, "One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration," that presents an overview of trends in incarceration and community supervision. The report identifies the progress made in the 21st century in reducing the US prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities, while sounding the alarm about the future of reforms. One in five Black men born in 2001 is likely to experience imprisonment within their lifetime, a decline from one in three for those born in 1981. But rather than accelerate the pace of reforms, pushback from policymakers threatens further advancement.


According to the report, the imprisonment rate of Black men in 2021 declined substantially, falling by almost half (48%) since 2000, yet Black men were still imprisoned at 5.5 times the rate of white men. The imprisonment rate of Black women declined even more, by 70% since 2000, but Black women remained imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The report also found that the total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009; while all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most; and American Indian and Latinx people were imprisoned at 4.2 times and 2.4 times the rate of whites in 2021, respectively.

The momentum for continued progress is precarious. We've seen a backlash to the progress we've made on criminal justice reform. In fact,preliminary data from the Department of Justice shows that the prison population increased for the first time in almost a decade between 2021 and 2022.

In an effort to protect and expand the progress, The Sentencing Project is producing the "One in Five" series of four reports to examine both the narrowing and persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system, as well as to highlight promising reforms.


German Marijuana Legalization Debate Delayed Because of Israel-Hamas War. The Bundestag was set to take up debate on a government-backed bill to legalize marijuana Friday, but that debate is now delayed because of the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The "global political situation" is the reason for the delay, said lawmakers Carmen Wegge and Dirk Heidenblut of the Social Democratic Party, but lawmakers "will make sure that everything gets done somehow in the next week."

But Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christian Democratic Union -- not a member of the governing coalition -- said the debate cancellation was "surprising" and reflected internal concerns about the bill more than foreign wars.

Any delay could make it more difficult to get the bill passed by a December 15 deadline, and if that does not happen, further consideration would be pushed back to next February at the earliest. But a revised parliamentary schedule suggests that it could get done by mid-November.

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