Asset Forfeiture

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Chronicle AM: CO Hits $1 Billion in Cannabis Taxes, Pompeo Doubles Down on Colombia Crop Spraying, More... (6/13/18)

Colorado has raked in a billion dollars in cannabis tax revenues, Cincinnati decriminalizes, Bonaroo harm reduction protest, Pompeo pushes Colombia coca crop spraying, and more.

Is this truck driver "an illicit drug user"? A trucking group says hundreds of thousands are. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Hits $1 Billion in Marijuana Tax Revenues. The state Department of Revenue reported this week that tax revenues from marijuana sales since legalization in 2014 have now topped the one-billion-dollar mark. The department reported tax, license, and fee revenues of $1.02 billion on sales of $6.5 billion. It also reported that the state now has 2,900 licensed marijuana businesses employing 41,000 people.

Nevada Becomes First State to Bar Employers from Refusing to Hire Marijuana Users. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last week signed into law AB 132, which bans employers from refusing to hire people who test positive for marijuana on a drug test, making Nevada the first state to do so. "It is unlawful for any employer in this State to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a screening test and the results of the screening test indicate the presence of marijuana," the law says. There are exceptions for some public safety-related positions. The law goes into effect on January 1.

Cincinnati Decriminalizes. The Cincinnati city council voted 5-3 Wednesday to decriminalize the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana -- as long as it is not being used in public. There will be no fines, either.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Idaho Governor Signs Executive Order on Opioids and Substance Abuse. Gov. Brad Little (R) on Thursday signed into law an executive order aimed at combatting opioid and substance misuse in the state. The order creates an advisory group to study diversion policies for first-time drug offenders, prescription monitoring programs, treatment options, educating the medical community, and a public awareness campaign around opioids.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law SB 191, which does not end civil asset forfeiture in the state but requires that law enforcement report on its asset forfeiture activities.

Foreign Policy

Secretary of State Pompeo Doubles Down on Backing Aerial Coca Spraying in Colombia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Tuesday that the US still strongly supports the resumption of the aerial spraying of the pesticide glyphosate on coca fields in Colombia. He neither acknowledged global criticism of the use of glyphosate -- the Colombian constitutional court banned it in 2015 -- nor any other strategy for reducing coca cultivation. Instead, he said spraying is "an important tool they need" to reduce coca production.

Harm Reduction

Harm Reductionists Protest at Bonaroo Over Harassment of Drug Checking Kit Providers. Tennessee's Bonaroo music festival has been plagued by drug overdoses in recent years even though authorities had allowed harm reduction groups such as DanceSafe and the Bunk Police to hand out drug checking kits. But for the past couple of years, police have forced the groups out of the festival, so the Bunk Police have organized a protest Thursday and Friday afternoons to raise awareness of the issue. "We're trying to bring attention to the issue and have them join us and showing that there's a problem and that Bonnaroo could, you know, take action and allow this harm reduction effort, which could allow for a safe environment for the patrons," the Bunk Police said.

Transportation Policy

Trucking Group Demands Purge of 300,000 Truck Drivers as "Illicit Drug Users." Addressing Congress on Thursday, a trucking group composed of some of the industry's largest carriers said it had data indicating as many as 300,000 truck drivers are "manipulating" urine drug testing protocols and should be removed from the nation's highways. The Trucking Alliance told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that "thousands of commercial truck drivers are illicit drug users" and that they have the drug testing data to back up their claims. They based their data on the number of drivers who passed urine drug tests but either failed or refused to undergo hair drug tests, which can detect the presence of substances for months -- long after they would have any influence on drivers. There is a chronic shortage of drivers in the industry, which other groups testifying attributed in part to the spread of marijuana legalization.

Chronicle AM: IL Set to Legalize Marijuana, Honduran President Targeted in US Drug Probe, More... (5/31/19)

Illinois is set to be the next legal marijuana state, a federal appeal court has ordered the DEA to move promptly on marijuana rescheduling, the Honduran president is the target of a federal drug and money laundering probe, and more.

Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Marijuana Policy

Federal Court Orders DEA to 'Promptly' Consider Marijuana Rescheduling. The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled a district court that threw out a case brought by medical marijuana patients and drug reformers seeking to overturn marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug. While the appeals court agreed with the lower court that plaintiffs had not exhausted all administrative remedies, it held that the circumstances of the case were unique. "[W]e are troubled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)'s history of dilatory proceedings," US Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for the majority. "Accordingly, while we concur with the District Court's ruling, we do not dismiss the case, but rather hold it in abeyance and retain jurisdiction in this panel to take whatever action might become appropriate if the DEA does not act with adequate dispatch."

Illinois Will Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana. The House today approved the legalization bill, Amendment 2 to HB 1438, Friday afternoon. The Senate approved it on Wednesday. Gov. JB Pritzker pushed the bill and said he will sign it into law. "The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation," he said in a Twitter post. "This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance."

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate on Thursday passed a medical marijuana expansion bill that increases the number of cultivators, sets up a regulatory commission, and gets rid of taxes on medicinal marijuana by 2025. Although the bill has already passed the House, it was amended in the Senate, so the House will have to approve those changes.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Legislature Passes Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. With a final vote in the House on Thursday, the legislature has approved SB 191, which would impose mandatory reporting requirements on civil asset forfeitures in the state. The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R).

Drug Testing

Louisiana Traffic Wreck Drug Testing Law Advances. The House on Thursday approved HB 138, which would allow police officers to seek drug tests in crashes involving serious bodily injury. Current law only allows drug testing in wrecks that result in fatalities. The bill now heads to the Senate for final approval.

Law Enforcement

Honduran President Targeted by US Prosecutors in Drug Trafficking Probe. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have targeted Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in an investigation into large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering, according to court documents. The president's brother, Juan Antonio Hernandez, has been charged in the case, and the court documents show prosecutors won email search warrants against the president and several people close to him.

Chronicle AM: Illinois Legalization Bill Moving, Alabama Forfeiture Reform Bill Moving, More... (5/29/19)

The Alabama legislature is busy, an Illinois marijuana legalization bill could get a Senate floor vote today, Louisiana Republicans kill a legalization bill there, and more.

Coming soon to Illinois? Watch the legislature today. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Legalization Bill Could Get Senate Vote Today. The state Senate will recess for an Executive Committee hearing this afternoon to take up the marijuana legalization bill, Senate Amendment 2 to HB 1438. The Senate will then reconvene this evening to take the bill to a floor vote. The bill has picked up some Republican support by altering expungement language from automatic to giving the governor the ability to pardon "with permission to expunge."

Louisiana Legalization Bills Killed. Two marijuana legalization bills, HB 509 and HB 564, were killed Wednesday in the House Criminal Justice Committee on a party line vote with Democrats voting for and Republicans against. "The committee voted as we expected," Kevin Caldwell, founder and president of Commonsense NOLA, which supported the bill, said after the vote. "It is way too much to ask a Republican lawmaker to dare question the Sheriffs and District Attorneys, who financially benefit from prohibition, our state's current policy. Even though the recent LSU poll shows a majority of citizens approve of adult use of cannabis, we have not reached a point where elected officials can challenge the power of the criminal injustice industry in Louisiana."

North Dakota Lawmakers to Study Legalization. The legislature's Legislative Management Committee, which oversees lawmakers' work between sessions, agreed Tuesday to study the implications of legalizing marijuana, ahead of another expected initiative campaign. Voters in North Dakota rejected recreational marijuana last year, but two proposed ballot measures are being proposed for next year.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Medical Marijuana Patients Push for Bill Approval. With the House set to vote on a medical marijuana bill today, medical marijuana patients rallied at the state capitol to urge its passage. The bill, SB 236, allows for medical marijuana use for specified conditions if other treatments are not working. At least two physicians must sign off on the recommendation, and patients must submit to random drug testing. Republicans were threatening Tuesday to change the bill to create a commission to study the issue for the next session.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Senate Votes to Require Civil Asset Forfeiture Tracking. The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday for a bill making it mandatory for law enforcement to report how often they use civil actions to seize a person's property when the person hasn't been convicted of a crime. The bill now goes to the House.

Philadelphia's Maverick Prosecutor Takes Aim at the War on Drugs [FEATURE]

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner made waves last week by reportedly saying he is "very close" to implementing a policy that would decriminalize the possession of all drugs, but that was just the latest salvo in the former criminal defense and civil rights lawyer's war on the war on drugs.

Philadelphia's progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner (KrasnerforDA.com)
Since taking office in January 2018, Krasner has made a number of policy moves that are helping to cement his reputation as one of the country's most radical prosecutors, and he's doing it in one of America's largest cities. His progressive approach didn't come out of nowhere, though.

Krasner's decades of experience in the defense bar -- as opposed to rising through the ranks of prosecutors -- have provided him with a unique perspective on the social and racial impacts of the drug war, one deeply at odds with the law-and-order views of most DAs. For 30 years, Krasner represented the poor, the oppressed, and the brutalized, filing civil rights and police brutality lawsuits.

He often represented protestors and activists, including 400 people arrested at the 2000 Republican National Convention, AIDS activists, and members of the Black Lives Matter movement. He helped hundreds of imprisoned on false charges by a notoriously corrupt drug squad. And he sued the Philadelphia police dozens of times in civil rights and police brutality cases. This is not the career path of your average DA.

In an early sign that a new era is at hand, one of Krasner's first acts was to demand the resignations of 31l ine prosecutors and supervisors he saw as obstructionist and to see them escorted from the building to ensure they didn't take anything with them other than personal effects. Krasner said he made the quick move on the advice of Houston's reformist DA, Kim Ogg, who told him that when she gave inherited personnel two weeks' notice she would be asking for resignations, recalcitrant employees deleted massive amounts of emails, wiped hard drives, and took other steps to sabotage her efforts.

Critics called his move a purge, but for Krasner, it was lessons learned: "We had some awareness from working as attorneys in this city -- and interacting with people [in the office] -- of who was really never going to get with this program," he says. "I felt we couldn't take the risk that there might be some effort at sabotage here."

Krasner got national attention the following month when he issued a revolutionary memo on prosecuting policies designed to "end mass incarceration and restore balance to sentencing." The memo said prosecutors must decline certain charges, namely marijuana possession and prostitution. The ban on pot prosecutions held regardless of weight, and included not charging for paraphernalia or for getting caught buying weed. The ban on prostitution prosecutions applied to anyone who had fewer than three previous prostitution convictions; those with three or more convictions could be charged and sent to a special problem-solving court set up to get prostitutes out of the life.

Philadelphia had already decriminalized small time marijuana possession in 2014, but police continued to arrest people for larger amounts and under a rarely used state law making it a crime to purchase the drug. Krasner's memo brought a further decline to already dramatically shrinking marijuana arrests numbers, mainly by ending the prosecutions for buying it.

Arrests for that offense haven't completely vanished, as police continue to make them despite knowing they won't be prosecuted, but 2018 saw a 30 percent decline in such busts. Still, racial disparities persist: Blacks made up 85 percent of all arrested pot buyers.

The memo more broadly called for plea bargains to have the lightest sentences possible under state guidelines and, most dramatically, mandated that prosecutors assess how much the defendant's incarceration would cost and why it was worth spending public money on it.

He has worked assiduously to ensure that city residents who unlawfully had cash or property seized under a city asset forfeiture program deemed unconstitutional by the court are made whole. His office is administering a $3 million fund for victims of the city's lawless practices, which saw thousands of people lose their homes, cars, cash, and other property to profit-driven policing and prosecutions.

"What happened was that there was a 'keep what you kill' approach," Krasner said. "And all that it did was incentivize prosecutors to always try to take grandma's house, always try to take a working person's car, and often to do it simply because someone's nephew did something illegal out of the basement. And the owner, who may have been at church, didn't know."

Most recently, a May 1 interview that Krasner did for Axios on HBO that will air next month was teased by with the headline "Scoop: Philly prosecutor may stop charging drug users as criminals" and this lede: "Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, one of the most progressive district attorneys in the country, told 'Axios on HBO' that he is 'very close' to implementing a policy that would relax the penalties for drug possession laws."

"One of the things we're looking at is essentially diverting all possession of drugs cases," he said in the interview. "Possession is different than dealing. It's different than carrying a bunch of drugs that you intend to sell or deliver later… We are talking about people who are using drugs, the vast majority of them suffering from addiction. I do not see value in convicting people like that, thereby making it harder for them to get a job."

The Axios interview garnered lots of attention, but Axios -- and many of the outlets that ran with the story -- oversold it as Krasner endorsing drug decriminalization. Even Krasner isn't quite ready to go that far, although it's an approach that has worked in Portugal for nearly 20 years.

Instead, Krasner spokesman Ben Waxman said late last week that Axios got the story wrong. Krasner was talking diversion, not decriminalization, Waxman said. Diversion means people charged with drug possession could enter a treatment program and, if they successfully completed it, end up with no prison time and no criminal record. Decriminalization means they wouldn't be arrested and charged in the first place. "The Axios piece really conflated a bunch of different stuff," Waxman said. "I don't think they understood the difference between diversion and decriminalization."

Axios is sticking to its guns, though. "Axios went to extraordinary lengths to clarify the specifics of this story with Krasner's team, as well as other experts, to ensure the article's accuracy given the complexity and nuances of the topic," a spokesperson wrote in a statement. "This interview was recorded on video. We stand by our reporting."

Meanwhile, drug diversion is already going on in Philadelphia -- last year almost half of the 5,458 arrests for drug possession ending up in already existing diversions programs -- so Krasner was actually talking about expanding existing programs. That's a good thing, but not nearly as sexy or sensational as drug decriminalization.Still, Larry Krasner has been a model of what a progressive prosecutor can do, and he's got time to do more. But maybe he should take a couple weeks off and visit Portugal.

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

Chronicle AM: IL Governor Unveils Marijuana Legalization Bill, Mexico Ponders Drug Decrim, Legal Sales, More... (5/6/19)

Reform measures are piling up on the Colorado governor's desk, the Illinois governor rolls out a marijuana legalization bill, Denver votes on decriminalizing magic mushrooms tomorrow, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador pushes forward with drug reform plans. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Governor, Legislators Announce Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. JB Pritzker (D) and key legislators on Saturday announced a long-awaited marijuana legalization bill and were set Monday to introduce the measure as an amendment to an already filed Senate bill. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 30 grams for state residents (15 grams for non-residents) and allow up to five plants to be grown for personal use. Taxes would be 10% on pot with less than 35% THC, 20% on all infused products, and 25% on pot with more than 35% THC. The bill contains social equity provisions, including restrictions on ownership to prevent consolidation by a small number of businesses. It also has an expungement provision.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas's First Dispensary Approved, Will Open Shortly. The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which regulates medical marijuana, has issued its first approval for a dispensary, Doctor's Orders RX in Hot Springs. The shop underwent final inspection last Friday and could be open for business as soon as the end of this week.

Colorado Medical Marijuana Bills Head to Governor's Desk. The legislature last week approved two medical marijuana bills and sent them to the governor. SB 19-013 would give physicians the option of recommending medical marijuana for any condition that is being treated by opioids, while SB 19-218 would allow dentists and advanced practice practitioners to recommend medical marijuana.

Hemp

Florida Legislature Approves Hemp Bill. A bill to legalize hemp production has unanimously passed both the House and Senate. SB 1020 now heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Psychedelics

Denver Votes on Decriminalizing Magic Mushrooms Tomorrow. Voters in the Mile High City go to the polls Tuesday to vote on Ordinance 301, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative. If approved, the measure would make adult psilocybin possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority" and bar the city from criminally penalizing adults found in possession of the drug.

Asset Forfeiture

Alabama Asset Forfeiture Practices Challenged in Federal Court. Attorneys in Birmingham have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court challenging the state's asset forfeiture laws and practices. The lawsuit seeks to have the laws declared unconstitutional because it allows civil courts to determine whether the law enforcement agency involved can keep the property. It also alleges that the state fails to provide notice of a hearing, fails to hold prompt hearings, allows excessive fines, and allows police to have a direct financial interest in proceedings that could profit them.

Sentencing

Colorado Drug Defelonization Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. A bill that would turn drug possession felonies into misdemeanors won final approval in the legislature last Thursday and now heads for the desk of Gov. Jared Polis (D). HB 19-1263 would, if signed into law, make the state the sixth to defelonize drug possession since 2014.

International

Mexico President Proposes Drug Decriminalization, Legal Drug Supply Via Prescription. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has submitted to the Congress a plan to remove criminal penalties for drug possession and divert drug addicts into drug treatment programs. The plan also suggests providing drug users with a "supply of doses with prescription," indicating a form of legalization.

Chronicle AM: TX House Approves No Jail for Pot, HI Bill to End Civil Forfeiture Goes to Governor, More... (4/30/19)

There's too much pot in Oregon and the Senate is doing something about it, the Texas House passes a quasi-decrim bill, a study of an underground American safe injection site finds good things, and more.

The InSite safe injection site in Vancouver. An underground American SIJ is producing good results, a study finds. (vch.ca)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Senate Approves Temporary Freeze on Marijuana Production. Faced with chronic oversupply of marijuana from licensed growers, the Senate on Monday approved SB 218, which would freeze marijuana production at current levels for the next two years. While the state will not issue new licenses to growers, current growers will be able to renew their licenses. The bill now heads to the House.

Texas House Approves Quasi-Decriminalization Bill. The House on Monday voted 98-43 to approve HB 63, which would remove the threat of jail time for people caught with an ounce of marijuana or less. Under the bill, such people would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor but face a fine of $500 instead of arrest and jail time. Bill sponsor Joe Moody (D) had originally had small-time possession as an infraction but restored it to misdemeanor status in a bid to win votes. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Baltimore Judges Deny State's Attorney's Request to Dismiss Thousands of Marijuana Convictions. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced in January plans to throw out nearly 5,000 marijuana possession convictions, but has been thwarted by rulings last Friday by two city judges. The jurists held that Mosby's order failed to show how those convicted faced significant collateral consequences and that the request amounted to a "blatant conflict" because Mosby represents the state. The judges also criticized Mosby for having earlier asked police to crack down on drug dealers and users in West Baltimore. Mosby said she is planning her next moves.

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Legislature Approves Ban on Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bill that would end civil asset forfeiture in the state won final approval last Friday and has been sent to the desk of Gov. David Ige (D). HB 748 would allow asset forfeiture only in felony cases where the owner has already been convicted of a criminal charge.

Harm Reduction

Secret American Safe Injection Site Saved Lives, Study Says. There are no officially permitted legal safe injection sites operating in the US, but one underground site has seen some 9,000 injections and 26 overdose events reversed by naloxone, according to research presented at the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal. There were no fatal overdoses at the site. "My hope as a scientist is that we can really try them in the US, that we could perhaps pilot a larger scale operation that we can pilot and evaluate," said Dr. Barrot Lambdin, who presented the results. "We're seeing data from the site that is very positive."

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Sales Compromise Broached, MI Forfeiture Reform Passes, More... (4/26/19)

Vermont could yet end up with a regulated marijuana market, Iowa gets ready to grow some hemp, asset forfeiture reform advances in Michigan and North Dakota, and more.

Iowa is about to become the next state to legalize industrial hemp. Only seven states have failed to do so. (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Democrats Could Compromise on Driver Saliva Testing to Get Legal Sales Bill Passed. Gov. Phil Scott (R) said last week that he would not sign a bill to create a regulated legal marijuana market unless it included saliva testing of drivers, and now Democratic legislative leaders are signaling that they may support the testing, but only if police officers are required to obtain a search warrant before doing the testing. "I don't see any way the Senate would support saliva testing without a search warrant," said Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and cosponsor of the bill, SB 54.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Committee Advances Home Grow Option. A bill that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to grow some of their own medicine has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. HB 364 now heads for a Senate floor vote. The House passed a similar bill last month. The Senate bill allows up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Implementation Bill Advances. A key piece of legislation that sets the framework for municipal enforcement of the state's medical marijuana laws has passed the House on the final day for non-appropriations bills to pass. Senate Bill 1030, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) instructs police on how to handle drivers in possession of marijuana without their medical marijuana licenses and sets limits on local zoning laws. The bill also cuts the state excise tax from 7% to 6% and lowers the state sales tax from 4.5% to 1% to give room for local governments to add their own taxes.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pushed to Next Year After Flurry of Late Amendments. The Compassionate Care Act, SB 366, is being pushed to next year, the second year of the legislative session, after the Senate Medical Affairs Committee was swamped with a deluge of last-minute amendments, including one that would that would drop herbal marijuana from the bill, instead allowing only oils and creams. "We're in the first year of a two-year process," said bill sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort). "We have a comprehensive amendment that addresses a lot of concerns that people have expressed. Time is on our side here."

Hemp

Iowa Hemp Bill Passes, Heads for Governor's Desk. The House on Thursday gave final approval for a bill to legalize industrial hemp farming, HF 781. A companion measure has already passed the Senate. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Poll Examines Public Attitudes Over Opioid Epidemic. A new NPR/Ipsos poll examining American attitudes toward the opioid crisis has a slight majority (56%) saying pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible for making the opioid crisis worse, and nearly three-quarters said drug companies should help fund opioid addiction treatment (73%) and distribute naloxone kits (72%). A strong majority (71%) said they were willing to have the government intervene to restrict opioid redistribution, while 66% said they supported more widespread distribution of naloxone. More than one in three (35%) said they had been personally affected, while nearly a quarter (23%) said they knew someone who had overdosed. The survey is not reported to have asked about pain patients' problems with accessing opioid medications.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Bills to End Most Civil Asset Forfeiture Pass Legislature. A trio of bills that would end most civil asset forfeiture in the state has passed both houses of the legislature and is now headed for the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has signaled she will sign the bills into law. The bills require a criminal conviction before police can keep assets worth less than $50,000 seized in connection with a crime.

North Dakota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House Over Sponsor's Objections. The House on Friday approved HB 1286, which reforms the state's asset forfeiture laws, but only after diluting it to such a degree that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), ended up voting against it. The bill would require a higher evidentiary standard of clear and convincing evidence for forfeiture, and it includes a provision to not forfeit property worth more than the associated criminal penalty. But it also allows seizure of property if there is evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" of the property's criminal involvement. "It's very, very confusing. It's a very odd loophole," Becker said of the latter exception. "It's putting a criminal proceeding standard into a civil proceeding with no trial."He also criticized the bill's reporting requirements as too weak. "I'm looking at the words in front of me," Becker said. "We had such good opportunity for real reform, and I'm happy to come back in two years and try again."

Chronicle AM: Bill to Cut CA Marijuana Tax Advances, Prison Population Continues to Decline, More... (4/24/19)

A bill to cut California marijuana taxes is moving, a New Hampshire legalization bill gets a hearing, the US prison population continues a decade-long decline, and more.

The Golden State is looking to cut marijuana taxes in a bid to boost the legal market. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Federal Bill Would Seal Records of Old Marijuana Convictions. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) have filed the Clean Slate Act, which would automatically seal federal criminal records for marijuana convictions. It also contains a provision that would allow people to ask federal courts to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that aren't automatically sealed, such as those involving other drugs. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

California Bill to Cut Marijuana Tax Advances. A bill that would temporarily suspend the marijuana cultivation tax in a bid to boost the legal market has been approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, but only after a provision that would have reduced excise taxes was removed to satisfy the committee chair. AB 286 now heads for the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the last stop before an Assembly floor vote.

Maine Releases New Draft Rules For Recreational Marijuana Market. State regulators have released new draft rules for the legal marijuana program approved by voters two years ago. The draft contains proposals for how the market will be monitored, regulated, and launched by the Office of Marijuana Policy.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A legalization bill, HB 481, got a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. The bill would legalize possession and cultivation by adults as well as set up a commission to develop regulations for a legal marijuana market. The bill has already passed the House, but faces a veto threat by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Tuesday to approve HB 243, the CARE Act, which would create the Alabama Cannabis Commission, establish a patient registry system, and extend an earlier law that allowed the University of Alabama-Birmingham to study the effects of CBD on epileptic patients. This bill would allow for the use of medical marijuana, not just CBD.

Arkansas to Reissue Medical Marijuana Cards. The state Department of Health said it will automatically reissue its year-long medical marijuana cards to qualifying patients who have received them in the months before the drug could be sold. The cards will be sent to patients and caregivers when the first dispensary opens so they can be used for the full year term.

Hemp

Texas House Approves Hemp Bill. The House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to HB 1325, which would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Sentencing

Number of Federal, State Prisoners Continue to Decrease. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released prisoner numbers for the end of 2017 and finds that the number of inmates under state and federal jurisdiction dropped 2.1% from 2016 to 2017. That continues a decade-long trend that has seen prison populations decrease 13% since 2007. Drug offenders constitute 48% of federal inmates, but only about 20% of state inmates.

Missouri Omnibus Sentencing and Criminal Justice Reform Bill Advances. A bill that would reform mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, reform civil asset forfeiture, reform racial profiling statutes, and more has passed the House Fiscal Review Committee. HCB 2 now heads for a House floor vote.

New York And Pennsylvania Will No Longer Suspend Driver's Licenses Over Drug Crimes. With new laws going into effect this month, Pennsylvania and New York will no longer suspend drivers licenses of people convicted of drug crimes. Before this, any drug conviction, even if it had nothing to do with driving, triggered a mandatory license suspension of at least six months.

International

British Columbia's Top Doctor Calls for Drug Decriminalization. In a report released Wednesday, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has proposed decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use in a bid to reduce the harms caused by the province's ongoing overdose crisis. "As the Provincial Health Officer of BC, I recommend that the Province of BC urgently move to decriminalize people who possess controlled substances for personal use," Henry said. "This is a fundamental underpinning and necessary next step for the continued provincial response to the overdose crisis in BC." The report is Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in BC.

Chronicle AM: CO Drug Defelonization Bill Advances, ND Moves to End Civil Forfeiture, More... (4/3/19)

Drug defelonization is advancing in Colorado, asset forfeiture reform heads to the governor in North Dakota, New Jersey bail reforms are having a dramatic impact, and more.

North Dakota legislators are making it harder for cops to get their hands on cash and property. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Colorado Governor Signs Medical Marijuana for Autism Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Tuesday signed into law HB 19-1028, which adds autism to the list of disabling medical conditions that qualify a person to use medical marijuana. A similar bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), who cited concerns from medical professionals.

Hemp

Idaho Senate Approves Modified Hemp Bill, House Unhappy. The Senate on Monday approved a hemp bill, HB 122, but amended it to address law enforcement concerns, leaving House backers withdrawing their support from the bill. Rep. Dorothy Moon (R) withdrew as a sponsor, saying the amended bill effectively "makes hemp illegal to grow, possess and transport in Idaho."

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Senate Approves Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. The Senate voted 46-1 Monday to approve a bill requiring a criminal conviction before authorities can seize cash or valuables.  The House passed HB 1286 in February. The bill now goes to the governor.

Bail Reform

New Jersey Judiciary Releases Annual Bail Reform Report, with Additional Key Statistics. The New Jersey Judiciary released its second Annual Report to the Legislature and Governor on the state’s historic bail reform law. Key findings include that the state's pretrial jail population has declined 43.9 percent since December 31, 2015, and that last year, only 102 people had cash bail set for them out of more than 44,000 criminal defendants.

Sentencing

Colorado Proposal to Defelonize Drug Possession Offenses Advances. The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill 8-3 Tuesday that would reduce the penalties for drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. HB19-1263 will now advance to the House Finance Committee.

Chronicle AM: Fed Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed, MT Legal Pot Bill Killed, More... (3/29/19)

A Michigan commission wisely recommends no de jure limit on THC in driver's blood, a Montana marijuana legalization bill gets killed in committee, a federal bill to end civil asset forfeiture is filed, and more.

Various states and the Congress are taking up asset forfeiture reform. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Regulators Recommend No Legal Limit on THC in Drivers. The state's Impaired Driving Safety Commission has recommended that the state set no limit for the amount of THC in a driver's blood. Instead of setting a limit similar to that for blood alcohol, the commission recommending using roadside sobriety tests to measure impaired driving. "The only reasonable way to do this right now is to demonstrate that people are impaired," Norbert Kaminski, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University and commission member, said. 

Montana Legalization Bill Killed. A bill to legalize marijuana died in committee on Thursday. HB 770 was killed in the House Taxation Committee after law enforcement representatives called legalization "a nightmare" for state citizens.

Asset Forfeiture

Federal Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) filed the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act on Wednesday. The bill, HR 1895, would bring sweeping reforms to the federal use of civil asset forfeiture, most critically, it would end the equitable sharing program, which local and state law enforcement uses to evade restrictions on seizures under state laws.

Minnesota Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Advances. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee voted Tuesday to advance Senate File 2155, which would replace a number of state asset forfeiture laws with a single statewide law and repeal administrative forfeiture, an archaic process that allows assets to be seized without a court order.

South Carolina Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House. The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would require the State Law Enforcement Division to keep a database of seizures and disbursements. HB 590 faces one more routine vote before it is sent to the Senate.

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