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Chronicle AM: CT Legalization Could Get Vote Soon, Chinese Fentanyl Will Keep Coming, More... (5/16/19)

A federal bill to protect immigrants working in the marijuana industry gets filed, the Oregon Senate approves a marijuana interstate commerce bill, the San Antonio DA is no longer prosecuting picayune drug possession cases, RAND says China will have a hard time stopping fentanyl, and more.

A deadly dose of fentanyl. China won't be able to stop exports, a RAND report says. (DEA.gov)
Marijuana Policy

New Congressional Bill Aims to Resolve Marijuana Industry Border Issues. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday filed a bill which would clarify that using marijuana in compliance with state or foreign law, or working in the legal industry, wouldn't disqualify people from entering the US. The legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections for Legal Entry (MAPLE) Act, updates a bill Blumenauer filed in December to protect Canadians working in the marijuana industry from being denied entry to the US. The bill is not yet available on the congressional web site.

Connecticut Could See Marijuana Legalization Vote in Next Three Weeks. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Wednesday that the legislature could vote on legalizing marijuana in the next three weeks instead of pushing it into a special session. The regular session ends on June 5. Aresimowicz said the General Law Committee is making progress is melding together multiple bills into a single measure. "It looks as though we may have a bill that could be ready for action," Aresimowicz said. "We have the entire next week to do all these major bills and get them up to the Senate in a time that would be appropriate for action."

Oregon Senate Approves Marijuana Interstate Commerce Bill. The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow the governor to negotiate agreements with other states to export and import marijuana products across state lines. SB 582 now goes to the House.

Hemp

Texas Senate Unanimously Approves Hemp Bill. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved HB 1325, which would legalize the farming of industrial hemp in the state. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Higher Education

Senate Democrats File Bill to Protect Students with Drug Convictions from Losing Federal College Aid. Four Senate Democrats, including presidential contenders Cory Booker (NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) have filed a bill to streamline the federal student financial aid application process, which would also remove the question about prior drug convictions. The drug conviction question has cost thousands of students access to loans and grants since it was added to the form in a 1998 reform of the Higher Education Act.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Investigation into Fatal Botched Drug Raid Now Goes to Prosecutors. The Houston Police Department has ended its investigation into a January drug raid that left a middle-aged couple dead after a Houston narcotics officer apparently lied on a search warrant that a heroin buy had taken place at their home. Police found no heroin, and only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Two of the officers involved have already resigned. "The Houston Police Department has completed the criminal investigation and the officer-involved shooting investigation regarding the incident at 7815 Harding Street on January 28, 2019," Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Today, each of these separate investigations have been turned in to the Harris County District Attorney's Office."

San Antonio DA Has Quit Prosecuting Miniscule Drug Possession Cases. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzalez has confirmed that his office is no longer prosecuting drug possession cases where the amount involved is less than a quarter gram. The policy has been in place since early this year. "I've got to make the decision as the top law enforcement officer in this county to make the best uses of the manpower that I have and the limited resources that I have," said Gonzales.

International

China Unlikely to Curb Fentanyl Exports in Short-Term. A new RAND Corporation report that examines China's pharmaceutical industry warns that it is unlikely to be able to curb fentanyl exports in the near future. "China's leaders recognize that they have a problem and appear committed to seeking solutions," report coauthor and Rand analyst Bryce Pardo said. "But it is unlikely that they can contain the illicit production and distribution of fentanyl in the short term because enforcement mechanisms are lacking. Producers are quick to adapt, impeding Chinese law enforcement's ability to stem the flow to global markets."

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Make Their Own Cocaine, Colombia Says. Colombian police report that drug traffickers are now exporting not just refined cocaine but also cocaine base, which they say means Mexican drug cartels must be operating their own laboratories to refine the drug themselves. The move comes after the Colombian government imposed tighter restrictions on precursor chemicals for refining raw coca into cocaine. Mexican authorities say they have seen no evidence of cocaine labs, though.

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

Chronicle AM: TX CBD Expansion Bill Advances, New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Legalization, More... (5/7/19)

A man who has done 39 years in federal prison for pot gets out tomorrow and faces an uncertain future, Arizona activists lay plans for a 2020 legalization initiative, so does the New Zealand government, and more.

A CBD expansion bill advances in the Texas House.
Marijuana Policy

Nation's Longest-Serving Marijuana Prisoner to Be Freed Tomorrow. A Cuban national who has served more than 39 years in federal prison on marijuana trafficking charges is set to be freed Wednesday -- but then faces possible deportation. Antonio "Tony" Bascaro had been trained in aviation by the CIA as it worked with rightist Cuban exiles to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro and later turned his skills to marijuana smuggling. He's hoping his time aiding the CIA will help him avoid deportation.

Arizona 2020 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gearing Up. Marijuana activists are gearing up with another initiative effort after one in 2016 narrowly failed. Strategies 360, which is running the campaign, says it plans to launch signature-gathering in July. The group has a 12-month window to gather 237,645 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Texas House Passes CBD Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The House voted Monday to advance HB 1365, which would add Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism and a bevy of other illnesses to an existing state program that currently applies only to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements. The bill would also increase the number of dispensaries the state can authorize from three to 12, as well as authorizing marijuana testing facilities. The state's medical marijuana law allows only for the use of CBD. The bill still needs one final House housekeeping vote before heading to the Senate.

Sentencing

Justice Department Fights Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill Inmate Because He's Not Dying Fast Enough. A federal drug prisoner with terminal brain cancer has won early compassionate release under a provision of the First Step Act, but only after the Bureau of Prisons twice denied it and federal prosecutors argued against it. Steve Brittner, 55, who is wheelchair-bound, was diagnosed with the cancer in January 2018 and his oncologist described his prognosis as "poor," recommending he begin hospice care in November 2018. But prosecutors argued he wasn't dying fast enough to qualify for early release. "This is a very telling case," said Families Against Mandatory Minimums president Kevin Ring. "On one hand, the First Step Act's reforms to compassionate release worked as intended and this family prevailed. On the other hand, it blows my mind that the Justice Department and BOP still fought tooth and nail to keep a low-level drug offender who is dying of brain cancer and bound to a wheelchair away from his family for the final weeks of his life. They'll say they were just doing their jobs, but their job is to do justice."

International

Brazil Police Kill Eight in Rio Drug Raid as Police Killings Jump Dramatically Under Bolsonaro. At least eight people were killed Monday in a police raid aimed at drug trafficker in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. The raid triggered a massive shootout between police and suspected gang members. Police said all the dead were gang members. It's only the latest of hundreds of killings by police since Rio Governor Wilson Witzel, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, took over on January 1. Since then 434 people have been killed by Rio police, an 18% increase from last year and the highest figure recorded since state records began in 1998.

New Zealand to Vote on Marijuana Legalization Next Year. The three political parties that make up the country's governing coalition announced Tuesday that they had agreed on the basic elements of a binding referendum on marijuana legalization to be held during the 2020 elections. "Officials are now empowered to draft the legislation with stakeholder input, and the Electoral Commission will draft the referendum question to appear on the ballot," Justice Minister Andrew Little said.. "The voters' choice will be binding because all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome. We hope and expect the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters' decision," he said, referring to the leading opposition party that is not part of the governing coalition.

Chronicle AM: Houston Drug Cases Dismissed as Scandal Grows, WA Hemp Bill Becomes Law, More... (4/29/19)

A fatal botched drug raid continues to reverberate in Houston, hemp bills advance in Louisiana and Washington, North Dakota legislators vote to lower penalties for marijuana possession, and more.

Small amounts of marijuana would be effectively decriminalized under a bill that passed the North Dakota legislature. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Regulators Approve Home Deliveries. The state Cannabis Control Commission voted 4-1 last Friday to give preliminary approval for home delivery of marijuana. Under the plan, for the first two years, delivery businesses would be limited to social equity and economic empowerment applicants -- those who are from areas of the state that were disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement and criminalization.

North Dakota Legislature Lowers Penalties for Possession. On the last day of the legislative session last Friday, lawmakers approved HB 1050, which would make possession of up to a half ounce an infraction, which requires a court appearance but no jail time. Possession of up to 500 grams would be a Class B misdemeanor, while possession of more than 500 grams would be a Class A misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. As the legislative session ended Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to a medical marijuana expansion bill, HF 732. The bill removes the 3% cap on THC and replaces it with a 25-gram limit per patient every 90 days. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

Utah Will Limit Number of Growers to Ten. Regulators announced last Friday that they will only allow 10 growers to be licensed to produce medical marijuana. Each grower will be limited to growing no more than four acres outside or 100,000 square feet indoors. Dispensaries are set to open in the state next year.

Hemp

Louisiana Hemp Bill Advances. A bill that would let farmers in the state grow industrial hemp was unanimously approved last Thursday by the House Agriculture Committee. HB 491 now heads for a House floor vote.

Washington Hemp Bill Signed into Law. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) last Friday signed into law SB 5276, which will establish a licensing and regulatory program to allow hemp production in the state.

Law Enforcement

Houston Drug Cases Linked to Officers in Botched Fatal Drug Raid Dismissed. The Harris County DA is dismissing dozens of drug cases involving former Houston Police narcotics officers Steven Bryant and Gerald Goines. The pair are under investigation for lying about the circumstances of a January drug raid that left a Houston couple dead and five officers injured. Last Friday, prosecutors sought dismissal of more than two dozen criminal cases in addition to another five dismissed earlier. Goines is accused of lying about an informant buying heroin at the house raided. After homeowner Dennis Tuttle and his wife, Rhogena Nicholas, were killed, police found only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

Chronicle AM: Louisiana Cannabis Poll, Feds Raid Appalachian Opioid Prescribers, More... (4/18/19)

A new poll finds Louisianans are ready to free the weed, Georgia medical marijuana patients will soon be able to access CBD cannabis oils, a Peruvian clash that left two coca-growers dead raises international concern, and more.

A new Louisiana poll suggests the Bayou State is ready to legalize marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Has Majority Support for Legalization. A new Louisiana State University poll has support for marijuana legalization at 55%. Four out of five (80%) of 18-29-year-olds were down with it, as well as two-thirds (67%) of people aged 30 through 49. Only people over 65 were opposed, with 69% rejecting legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Governor Signs Bill Improving Access to CBD Cannabis Oil. Gov. Brian Kemp has signed into law HB 324, which makes it legal to possess CBD cannabis oil and bring it across state lines. The bill also sets up a framework for the growth and sale of CBD cannabis oil in the state. Currently, state law allows the use of CBD oil, but there is no way for patients to obtain it.

Pennsylvania Patient Loses Bid to Gain Section 8 Housing. An Indiana County medical marijuana patient whose Section 8 housing voucher was previously denied because of her medical marijuana use lost again in Common Pleas Court Wednesday, even though the judge in the case expressed sympathy for her plight. He acknowledged that medical marijuana is legal under state law, but said federal law doesn't allow the use of federally illegal drugs in federal housing programs. The patient will now appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Conducts Massive Raids Against Appalachian Opioid Prescribers. Federal agents led by the DEA raided doctors' offices and pharmacies across five Appalachian states Wednesday, arresting 60 people, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals. They are accused of writing or fulfilling more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions to 24,000 people in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia.

The DEA press release says that resources are available to help patients caught up in the situation, but for most of the states included in the listings, only addiction services are listed, not physicians or clinics with expertise in pain control, much less who are willing to provide it to patients so close to an alleged criminal situation.

Reporting notes that the indictments allege physician misconduct including performing unnecessary dental work to justify prescribing opioids, and exchanging prescriptions for sex. But there is no detail yet available for assessing whether the charges are justified, whether conduct of that type has been alleged for all the professionals targeted in the indictments, or how many people receiving prescriptions may be actual pain patients.

International

Human Rights, Policy Groups Call for Transparent Investigation of Peru Coca Farmer Killings. In a letter to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and anti-drug agency leader Ismael Ruben Vargas, dozens of human rights groups, drug policy groups, and individual academics and researchers have demanded a "transparent investigation" into the killings last week of two protesting coca-growing peasants in a confrontation with police and coca eradication forces. The letter cites a local witness who says police fired "indiscriminately" during the confrontation between growers and newly-arrived eradicators. The letter also called on the government to create a new coca registry in the region to allow farmers to participate in the country's legal coca industry.

Chronicle AM: NJ Legal Pot Vote on Monday, Houston Police Tighten No-Knock Warrants, More... (3/22/19)

New Jersey legislators will vote on pot legalization on Monday, but the votes aren't quite there yet; Illinois legislators want to slow down on pot legalization, Houston cops restrict no-knock search warrants, and more.

In the wake of a deadly drug raid, Houston police are restricting the use of no-knock search warrants. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Majority Wants to Slow Down on Legalization. A majority of House members have signed on as cosponsors of a resolution to slow down the process of legalizing marijuana in the state. Sixty of 118 House members signed on to the resolution, which calls for more time to study the social impact of legalization and results from other states. A legalization bill will likely be introduced next month and could be voted on as early as May.

Montana Poll Has Narrow Majority for Legalization.  A University of Montana big Sky poll has support for marijuana legalization at 51%. About 80% of Democrats supported it, but only 33% of Republicans did.

New Jersey Legalization Vote Count Goes Down to Wire. The legislature is set to vote on a legalization bill, A 4497/S 2703, on Monday, and it's not clear yet whether it will pass. As of today, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and legislative leaders say they are still a handful of votes short, but expect heavy lobbying to be going on between now and Monday morning.

Law Enforcement

Houston Police Announce Restrictions on No-Knock Search Warrants. In the wake of a February drug raid that left two civilians dead, the Houston Police have announced that any no-knock drug warrants must be signed off on by a district court judge. That would be after the request for the warrant is approved by the police chief or his designated representative, and only SWAT team members will execute those warrants.

Chronicle AM: FBI to Investigate Fatal Houston Drug Raid, NH Legal Pot Bill Advances, More... (2/21/19)

The fallout from that fatal January Houston drug raid continues, a New Hampshire pot legalization bill advances, so does a Florida bill to allow smokable medical marijuana, and more.

This could be legal soon in New Hampshire if that marijuana legalization bill keeps moving. (IRIN)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Governor Uses Budget Address to Call for Legalization. As he unveiled his first annual budget Wednesday, Gov. J,B. Pritzker called for marijuana legalization and taxation to help pay for $1.1 billion in new spending. He also called for the legalization and taxation of sports betting, as well as raising money with new taxes on plastic bags, e-cigs, and raising the cigarette tax.

New Hampshire Legalization Bill Narrowly Wins House Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-9 to recommend passage of HB 481, which would legalize up to an ounce for adults and create a system of taxed and regulated sales. Adults could also grow up to six plants. The narrow margin of victory in committee suggests a tough fight to pass it on the House floor.

North Dakota Decriminalization Bill Narrowly Defeated. A bill that would have decriminalized the possession of up to ounce was defeated on a 47-43 vote in the House Wednesday. HB 1155’s defeat means legalization proponents in the state will gear up for a legalization initiative next year.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona House Committee Approves Bill to Protect Edibles, Extracts. The House Committee on Public Safety voted 5-2 Wednesday to approve HB 2149. The measure would specify that the 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law also includes any products made from its resins. In a case pending before state courts, the state has argued that edibles and hashish are not included in the law.

Florida Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Heads for Senate Floor Vote. The Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday to approve SB 182, which would end the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. That means the measure will head for a Senate floor vote weeks ahead of a March 15 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has threatened litigation if the legislature doesn’t act.

Michigan Appeals Court Rules Against Worker Not Hired for Medical Marijuana Use. The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday against a woman who had a job offer rescinded because she tested positive for marijuana—even though she had a medical marijuana card. The ruling is a boon for employers who apply zero-tolerance substance abuse policies.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota House Approves Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill. The House on Wednesday approved a civil asset forfeiture reform bill on a 57-33 vote. HB 1286 would not end civil asset forfeiture, but would raise the standard of proof from "a preponderance" of the evidence to "clear and compelling evidence." It would also require a criminal conviction before civil asset forfeiture could proceed. The bill now goes to the Senate, which defeated similar legislation in 2017.

Law Enforcement

Two House Republicans Urge State Department to Label Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. A pair of conservative House Republicans, Reps. Mark Green (TN) and Chip Roy (TX), sent a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking the State Department to label drug cartels as terrorist organizations. The proposal would "further stigmatize these groups both at home and abroad," the pair wrote. "These cartels have utilized barbaric tactics including those adopted by [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] ISIS and al Qaeda – murdering and torturing innocents, destabilizing countries and assassinating members of law enforcement," Green added in a statement. Drug cartels differ from terrorist organizations, though, in that they have no political agenda (other than being left alone to go about their business), a key component of the definition of terrorism.

FBI Opens Civil Rights Investigation into Deadly Houston Drug Raid. The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into a January drug raid in Houston that left two people dead and five police officers wounded. The raid was based on falsified search warrant affidavits claiming informants had bought heroin at the house, but the homeowners, who were killed, possessed no heroin at all—only small, personal use amounts of marijuana and possibly cocaine. The fallout from the case has already resulted in one officer being suspended, an end to no-knock raids in the city, and the review of more than 1,400 cases linked to the lying officer. 

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

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

The US Supreme Court (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

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

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

Hemp

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

Law Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

Drug Testing

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

Law Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

Law Enforcement

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

International

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

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

Chronicle AM: FL MedMJ Moves, CA Safe Injection Site Bill Filed, More... (2/5/19)

Florida courts and the legislature are both dealing with the legislature's previous efforts to mess with the voter-approved medical marijuana amendment, a pot legalization bill gets a hearing in New Hampshire, a Virginia trooper and a drug suspect are killed in the drug war, and more.

There's a battle over smokable medical marijuana in Florida. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Guam's Governor Supports Marijuana Legalization Bill. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has come out in support of a marijuana legalization measure, Bill 32-35, the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019. Her move came after meeting with bill author Sen. Clynt Ridgell last Friday, but her support is not surprising; she’s been in favor of legalization for some time. The bill would allow adults to possess and grow their own marijuana, as well as create a system of legal marijuana commerce.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Hearing. A bill to legalize marijuana, HB 481, got a public hearing Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), is opposed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to End Ban on Smoking Gets Twisted. A bill from Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) that would end the ban on smoking medical marijuana, SB 182, was so altered in the Senate Health Policy Committee Monday that Brandes now says it would be worse for patients that doing nothing at all. At the behest of Chairwoman Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie), the committee voted to require that patients seeking to use smokable marijuana get a second opinion from a physician and to mandate that doctors would only be able to order smokable marijuana if it were the only route of administration that would benefit the patient. Brandes says the bill “will have to be significantly amended” before he would send it to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Florida Judge Again Strikes Down Cap on Dispensaries. For the second time in a month, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers has struck down a state law capping the number of dispensaries a medical marijuana business can operate. The limit on the number of storefronts was not contained in the state’s successful medical marijuana amendment but imposed by the legislature in 2017. In her opinion, Gievers harshly criticized the legislature and state health officials for failing to comply with the amendment. "The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that conveniently located medical marijuana dispensaries (as opposed to vehicle delivery, the only allowed alternative means of dispensing) promote authorized users’ improved access to medical marijuana products and related information and services, at lower cost, and promote public safety (the stated goals for regulation in the amendment)," Gievers wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Hemp

Mississippi Lawmakers Reject Move to Let Farmers Grow Hemp. The House Drug Policy Committee on Monday rejected on a tie vote an amendment that would have changed state law to allow farmers to grow hemp in the state. Congress last year approved the production of hemp in pilot programs.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Gets Hearing. The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Monday on HB 1286, which seeks to end civil asset forfeiture in the state. Law enforcement officials testified against ending civil forfeiture but appeared open to transparency and reporting requirements in the bill.

Harm Reduction

California Legislature to Consider Allowing Pilot Overdose Prevention ProjectsState Assemblymember Susan Talamantes-Eggman (D-Stockton) and State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) on Monday filed a bill to allow the City of San Francisco to pilot and evaluate an “overdose prevention site” program. These sites would allow drug users could consume illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, under the supervision of staff trained to prevent and treat drug overdose and to help steer people who use drugs into drug treatment, housing, and other medical and social services. The bill is AB 362.

Law Enforcement

Virginia Trooper, Suspect Killed in Drug Raid. State Trooper Lucas Powell was shot and killed Monday night as he participated in a drug raid by the Piedmont Regional Gang and Drug Task Force in Cumberland County. The person whose home was being raided and who killed Powell, Corey Johnson, was then shot and killed by police.

International

Mexico to Try New Tactics in Search for Those Missing in Drug War. Mexican officials said Monday they have a new plan to search for the more than 40,000 people who have gone missing amidst the country’s drug wars. The government will create a new forensic institute and work more closely with families and international groups, interior ministry undersecretary for human rights Alejandro Encinas said at a press conference. In addition to the 40,000 missing, there are some 26,000 unidentified bodies in the forensic system, he said.

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