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Supreme Court Hearing on Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Deal, OH Senate GOP's Marijuana Moves, More... (12/4/23)

A new Florida poll suggests that if the marijuana legalization initiative can get past the Supreme Court it can get past the finish line, a bipartisan Wisconsin bill would decriminalize pot possession, and more.

Oxycontin's legacy continues to be litigagted. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative at Two-Thirds. A new poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) found that 67 percent of respondents planned to vote yes on the Smart & Safe Florida marijuana legalization initiative. The initiative is currently awaiting approval from the state Supreme Court as the final step before appearing on the November 2024 ballot.

Earlier PORL polls has slightly higher support for marijuana legalization—76 percent last year and 70 percent in the spring—but those polls asked only a generic question about marijuana legalization, while this one asked respondents about the specifics of this proposed amendment.

"Yet again, it looks like it has a good chance of passing, if the measure makes it through the courts, and that's a very big if," said POL faculty director Michael Binder.

The proposal had the support of 78 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Republicans.

Ohio Senate GOP Unveils Changes to Voter-Approved Marijuana Law, Includes Eliminating Home Cultivation, Creating New Taxes. With marijuana legalization set to go into effect on Thursday, Senate Republicans are moving quickly to try to make changes to the new law approved by voters just last month. On Monday, they moved to bar home grows, lower THC limits, lower possession limits, create new taxes, and ban some advertising, among other changes.

They did so by adding that language to an unrelated bill that was approved by the House in June. If approved by the Senate, the bill would then have to go back to the house for a concurrence vote on the changes. It would then have to be signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine (R). This is unlikely to happen by Thursday.

The Republican proposal would lift the 10 percent tax on marijuana sales to 15 percent, decrease THC limits from 35 percent for plant material to 25 percent, slash the number of plants people could grow at home from 12 to zero, and reduce the personal possession limit from 2.5 ounces to one ounce.

.People will testify for or against the bill on Tuesday in the Senate General Government Committee. But the committee chair only gave the public about 2.5 hours to notify him if they want to testify.

Wisconsin Bipartisan Marijuana Decriminalization Bill to Be Filed Soon. With marijuana legalization seemingly unobtainable in the GOP-dominated state legislature, Reps. Shae Sortwell (R) and Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D), along with Sen. Lena Taylor (D), are sponsoring a bill that would simply decriminalize pot possession. The bill would decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana and prevent courts from counting possession convictions of up to an ounce so people could not be charged as repeat offenders and face more serious penalties.

"For small, simple possessions of marijuana, Wisconsin should not be throwing people in prison," the sponsors said in a co-sponsorship memo. "North Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Nebraska have passed legislation that removes jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana (not including full legalization states)," they said. "It is time for Wisconsin to join the national discussion."

More than 15,000 people are arrested each year for small-time pot possession. They currently face up to six months in jail. Under the decriminalization bill, they would face a maximum $100 fine.

Opiates and Opioids

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments over Bankruptcy Deal for Purdue Pharma. The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments over a bankruptcy deal for Purdue Pharma, the company that brought oxycontin to the market in the late 1990s, that balances giving billions of dollars to those harmed by the subsequent opioid epidemic against giving members of the wealthy Sackler family, who owned Purdue Pharma, a shield against any additional opioid-related lawsuits.

In taking the case, the Supreme Court put the deal on temporary hold until it issues a ruling. The question at hand is whether a bankruptcy plan can give legal immunity to a third party—the Sackler family—even though they have not themselves declared bankruptcy. That mechanism is known as a nonconsensual third-party release.

If the Supreme Court were to block that stratagem, the Sacklers would no longer be shielded from civil lawsuits and the whole bankruptcy settlement, which was years in the making, would be in jeopardy. The US government is arguing that the deal gives the Sacklers the benefit of bankruptcy without its costs, but the Justice Department is largely alone in pressing this argument. Tribes, states, local governments, and people suffering from the opioid crisis have, for the most part, settled for the billions involved in this deal, and want to get their money.

NY Prisons Punished Inmates for False Positive Drug Tests, OH GOP Pols Plot Pot Changes, More... (12/1/23)

The feds want to add fentanyl to the current drug screening panel for truck drivers and safety-sensitive federal workers, Ohio Republicans are in a hurry to modify voter-approved marijuana legalization, and more.

Truck drivers could soon be subject to testing for fentanyl if a SAMSHA advisory board has its way. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Senate President Outlines Plan to Amend Voter-Approved Marijuana Law Before Legalization Takes Effect Next Week. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) says the Senate will take the first step toward amending the Issue 2 legalization initiative approved by voters last month, with just days left before some of its provisions go into effect. Huffman said he plans for the Senate to take up unrelated House-passed legislation in the Senate General Government Committee on Monday and attach yet-to-be-seen marijuana amendments to it as a means of moving forward. He would use an emergency clause to attach the amendments to the bill, meaning it would need a two-thirds vote to approve it before going back to the House.

Ever since voters approved the measure nearly a month ago, GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) have been trying to figure out ways to revise it. Most of the discussion has been around impaired driving, the prevention of use by youth, and the allocation of marijuana tax revenues. At least two separate GOP bills to modify the measure have already been filed.

"It would be better for people going forward to know what the law is than people begin spending money or taking actions and then the law changes six months from now or 90 days, you know, a year from now," Huffman said.

But House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) doesn’t see the need for speed. He noted that changes to provisions on taxes and advertising, among others, will not be necessary for months because regulators still have to craft a system of taxed and regulated sales before pot shops can open.

"We are being very thoughtful about the legislation that was passed by the voters," he said. "We want to be respectful of that. We also want to have the guardrails in place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s marijuana or soybeans or oil, there are certain rules for alcohol, tobacco that these industries have established over decades," Stephens said. "And trying to start from scratch is not the easiest thing to do."

"One of the things I want to avoid, and a lot of people want to avoid is having marijuana stores everywhere," Huffman, the Senate president, said. "You can’t open a liquor store anywhere you want. You have to have a permit and the size of your population of your local community determines the number of local liquor permits you have, so I think it has to be somewhat limited."

Drug Testing

Federal Drug Testing Panel Will Consider Adding Fentanyl to Truck Driver Drug Tests. The advisory board for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will begin discussions this month about possibly adding a fentanyl testing panel to the drug screens used to test truck drivers and safety-sensitive federal employees.

The advisory board said it plans to meet in an open session on December 5 to follow up on requirements in the Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act, which called on the Department of Health and Human Services to determine whether adding fentanyl to the screen is justified based on the reliability and effectiveness of mandatory testing.

"Fentanyl accounts for a large proportion of overdose deaths in the United States and is therefore an important public safety concern," said the SAMHSA announcement. "Furthermore, fentanyl is increasingly used as a stand-alone substance of abuse, not in conjunction with heroin and other substances."

The advisory board in December 2019 recommended to then HHS Secretary Alex Azar that fentanyl be added. Azar had 180 days to approve that recommendation, but nothing happened.

New York Punished More Than 2,000 Prisoners Over False Positive Drug Tests, Report Finds. The state prison system unfairly punished more than 2,000 prisoners after tests of suspected contraband returned false positive test results for drugs, according to a report released Thursday by the state inspector general's office. In hundreds of cases, prisoners who had committed no offense were placed in solitary confinement, lost family visits, or had parole hearings canceled because of the false positive.

State prison staff were using a drug test from Sirchie Finger Print Laboratories, which warns in its instructions that its results found using its NARK II tests should be considered preliminary and unconfirmed. The report also found that staff failed to use protocols designed to prevent misidentifying contraband or cross-contaminating samples. The NARK II test is known to cross-react with common over-the-counter medications, tea, and protein powders, which are sold in some state prisons.

The report called for additional training for testing officers and requiring them to notify supervisors when discrepancies arise.

"This investigation and the subsequent policy changes and record expungements represent one step closer to ensuring the level of integrity we should all expect and demand from the State," said Inspector General Lucy  Lang.

The state prison system has a history of lax drug testing protocols. A 2022 inspector general's report found that the prisons had ignored test instructions and punished inmates based on inaccurate test results from a different drug screening test, this one manufactured by Microgenics Corp. That report came after inmates filed a class-action lawsuit alleging numerous false positives.

NY Regulators Clear Way to Breaking Pot Licensing Logjam, WA Cities Could See Psychedelic Reform Efforts, More... (11/29/23)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) says he is open to home grows but not just yet, Arizona regulators take the first steps toward clinical trials for psilocybin, and more.

Psilocybin is going to get som clinical trials in Arizona. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Jersey Governor Open to Marijuana Home Grows, Just Not Yet. Responding to a questioner, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he was "very much open-minded" about allowing people to grow their own weed but added that he wants to give the legal industry more time to mature before okaying home cultivation.

"I’m very much open-minded to this. I would bet—if I were a betting man—that down the road that that’s exactly where this would land," he said. "I understand, having said that, why wasn’t in our initial regs, because I think there’s a rightful objective to get this industry up on its feet and make sure that the folks who are in this as a matter of commerce are successful and, again, with a huge amount of focus on equity."

While Murphy has repeatedly said he is open to future home grows, he has not offered a concrete ideas of what exactly he wants to see in terms of industry maturation before he would be willing to move on allowing home grows.

"Social justice is how I got here to begin with, to support it. What we’ve done, by the way, has gone really well. We just haven’t done enough. We’ve just got to do more—get this more proliferated," he added. "But I think once the industry is up on its feet, and it is getting there…I think at some point [home grow is] a consideration we’ll get back on the table."

Murphy has been repeatedly pressed on the state’s lack of a home cultivation option, and he’s maintained his openness to the policy before and after New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis market launched last year.

What he hasn’t offered, however, is a concrete sense of what exactly he’d want to see in terms of industry maturation before he’d be willing to seriously engage on the issue administratively or legislatively.

New York Cannabis Board Votes to Settle Lawsuits That Have Blocked Rollout of Legal Pot Shops. The state's Cannabis Control Board on Monday approved a deal to settle lawsuits that have blocked licensed marijuana retail shops from opening, leaving the legal market struggling as a grey market flourishes.

New York cannabis regulators approved a deal on Monday to settle lawsuits that have blocked recreational marijuana dispensaries from opening, as officials move to restart the state’s troubled legal market. The settlement must still be approved by a judge before it can take effect.

The proposed deal would lift a court order that blocked the state from issuing or processing retail marijuana licenses. That court order came in response to lawsuits filed by groups that were edged out of competition because the state rules promised the first licenses to people with drug convictions.

If the deal is approved, the board more than 400 provisional retail licenses will be able to advance and more than a thousand new licenses to grow process, distribute, or sell marijuana will be issued to jumpstart the market.

Because of the lawsuits, the court order, and bureaucratic issues, only about two dozen legal marijuana retailers have opened while hundreds of unlicensed pot shops are doing business.


Arizona Takes First Step Toward Legalizing Use of Psilocybin Mushrooms—At Least for Some People. The state Department of Health Services has published a notice that it is set to begin accepting applications for clinical trials of psilocybin's efficacy in treating various conditions, disorders, and diseases. The move comes after the legislature earlier this year approved a bill specifically mandating studies to see whether magic mushrooms can help those suffering from PTSD.

But the studies won't be limited to PTSD. Health officials also want to see whether psilocybin can be effective in treating eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, and long COVID, among other conditions

The enabling legislation allocated $5 million for the research.

The enabling legislation also specifies that the use of psilocybin would not be allowed unless the federal government approves it as a prescription drug. Still, the state is getting a head start with its own clinical trials and research, setting the state up to move quickly if and when the federal government acts.

Washington State Activists Eye Six Cities for Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiatives, With Eye to Laying Groundwork for Statewide Reform. A group calling itself the Psychedelic Medicine Alliance WA is setting some intermediate goals even as it eyes state-level psychedelics reform. On the way to the statehouse, the group says it is currently trying to put psychedelic decriminalization measures on the ballot in six cities or counties: Olympia, Bellingham, Spokane and Tacoma as well as King and San Juan counties.

Three years ago, Seattle and Port Townsend passed psychedelic decriminalization measures.

Washington organizers pointed to the success of a similar strategy around psychedelic reform in Massachusetts, where local activists carefully built a string of local psychedelic reform successes as part of an ongoing effort to force the legislature to deal with the issue before possibly putting the issue on the 2024 ballot.

"You need that grassroots support. You need to show that there’s public appetite for this change somewhere," said group spokesperson Cody Zalewski adding that often state lawmakers look to local matters as an indicator of public sentiment. "It’s really building up that grassroots support and showing that, you know, there’s an appetite for this and it’s not going to jeopardize your career in politics."

Activists are currently in the process of drafting the proposed measures.  

NH Governor Blows Up Legal Pot Plans, IN Committee Calls for Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Pilot Project, More... (11/28/23)

The Ohio GOP is hard at work on coming up with ways to mess with the voter approved marijuana legalizaion initiative before it goes into effect next month, New Hampshire's GOP governor comes up with some last-minute must-haves that derail a move toward marijuana legalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Commission Ends Work Making No Recommendations. A commission charged with coming up with a way to legalize marijuana has ended its work without coming up with a solution. That means New Hampshire is likely to be the only New England state where marijuana is still illegal well into the future.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who had earlier opposed legalization, endorsed a state-control model earlier this year, like how the state sells liquor. "The governor is open to discussing a franchisee-based system, but the success of such a model is in the details," his office said "The governor has been clear that any system meets his outlined framework – or be met with a veto."

While the commission worked to get close to that goal, coming up with a state-selected franchise plan for retail sales, Sununu threw a wrench into the work on Monday. His office told the commission that he would only accept 15 storefronts under a franchise model and demanded a ban on lobbying and political contributions by cannabis licensees. "At the very last meeting, the last half-hour, now, all of the sudden, we're considering things that flew in from the governor's office last-minute?" said state Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton. "This is not how we legislate."

Some commission members were especially taken aback by the governor's proposes lobbying ban. "It's definitely something of concern, something we haven't seen before in other aspects of New Hampshire law," said Frank Knaack, of the ACLU New Hampshire.

Ohio Republican Bill Would Let Cities Ban Marijuana Use, Home Grows. Just weeks after Buckeye State voters approved marijuana legalization, including the right to home cultivation and a ban on municipalities blocking marijuana businesses, Rep. Gary Click (R) has filed a measure, House Bill 341, that removes the home grow and no municipal control provisions, giving cities the power to regulate or even ban marijuana businesses and even marijuana use.

Click's bill also messes with the initiative's plans for distributing marijuana tax and fee revenues, which currently allows for them to be evenly divided between social equity, community funds, administrative costs, and drug treatment. Click's bill would keep the four pots, but add funding for law enforcement, primarily by reducing the share going to administrative costs from 25 percent to 3 percent.

The bill comes as the state's Republican political establishment, led by Gov. Mke DeWine, seeks to impose changes on the new law before it takes effect on December 7.

"This is a discussion starter rather than the binary choice that was on the ballot," Click said. "It starts the conversation. Obviously, people want recreational marijuana. But they didn't get to dialogue in details. This is the opportunity for citizens to express their voices in the committee process. I am open to amendments that reflect the will of the people."


Indiana Legislative Committee Recommends Launch of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Pilot Program. The legislature's interim study committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services is recommending that lawmakers authorize a psilocybin pilot program to research psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health in the 2024 session.

A committee report noted that while psilocybin remains on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the "prevailing view is that psilocybin should not be a Schedule I drug and has proven meical benefits."

The committee recommended that "the Indiana General Assembly take an approach that strikes a balance between access, research, and prudence.” Specifically, the body advised authorizing state research institutions “to conduct a pilot clinical study utilizing established therapeutic protocols as a starting point to explore the efficacy, safety, and feasibility of psilocybin assisted therapy in Indiana."

Federal Judge Blocks "Kansas Two-Step" Traffic Stops, Ecuador President Ends De Facto Drug Decriminalization, More... (11/27/23)

German marijuana legalization is headed for a final parliamentary vote this week, the Ukrainian medical marijuana bill is being blocked by hundreds of "spam" amendments, and more.

Honduran troops seize a coca field. (HPM)
Law Enforcement

Federal Judge Blocks Kansas Highway Patrol from Detaining Motorists Without Reasonable Suspicion. A federal judge last week entered a permanent injunction against the Kansas Highway Patrol, warning troopers to stop detaining motorists without reasonable suspicion.

The Highway Patrol had become notorious for its "Kansas Two-Step," where officers would use delaying tactics to keep motorists on the side of the road long enough for them to engage in unwarranted drug investigations. The tactic was aimed especially at cars with out-of-state license plates heading to or from Colorado, where marijuana is legal.

The judge in the case had already ruled that the Highway Patrol was violating the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures.

"Defendant was responsible for a policy or practice which unlawfully detains motorists in Kansas (especially out-of-state motorists) without reasonable suspicion or consent, based on out-of-state residency and — to more than a minimal extent — based on travel plans that are not implausible or inherently contradictory," Judge Kathryn Vratil said.  "Defendant was responsible for a policy or practice of using the Kansas Two-Step to extend traffic stops of motorists in Kansas without reasonable suspicion and without the motorists' knowing, intelligent and voluntary consent."

"The Kansas Highway Patrol is not above the law," said Sharon Brett, the state ACLU legal director. "While KHP made various attempts to side-step accountability for its practices and put off this injunction, the Constitution has prevailed."


Ecuador's New President Repeals Guidelines that Effectively Decriminalilzed Small-Time Drug Possession. Less than 48 hours after being sworn into office, incoming President Daniel Noboa has repealed criminal justice guidelines that eliminated penalties for people found carrying personal use amounts of illicit drugs.

Noboa had campaigned with a promise to fight drug trafficking, and he characterized the move as working toward that goal. In a statement, his office said the guidelines "encouraged micro-trafficking"and characterized them as a "harmful element for Ecuadorian society."Noboa also directed the ministries of interior and public health to develop "coordinated information, prevention and control programs on the consumption of narcotic and psychotropic substances"and to offer treatment and rehabilitation to "habitual and problematic occasional users."

The guidelines had effectively decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, 2 grams of cocaine paste, 1 gram of cocaine, 0.10 grams of heroin and 0.04 grams of amphetamine. They were adopted in 2013 under the presidency of Rafael Correa, who argued that drug use was a public health problem and that prisons should not be filled with drug users.

German Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Revised Marijuana Legalization Bill, Final Vote Expected This Week. Lawmakers have reached an agreement to revise a marijuana legalization bill to address concerns from reform supporters, setting the stage for a final vote in the Bundestag later this week.

A Green Party lawmaker, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, said on Monday that following "intensive negotiations," the bill is being changed in several key ways that will "make the law even better. In the negotiations, we managed to find practical regulations that guarantee the protection of young people and health and make the decriminalization of adult consumers a reality," she said.

One change is that possessing slightly more marijuana than the amount allowed will not automatically be treated as a criminal offense, with possession of between 25 and 30 grams treated as an administrative violation. Likewise, the possession limit for marijuana at home is doubled from 25 to 50 grams, with possession of up to 60 grams treated administratively.

Lawmakers also agreed to legalize marijuana in stages, with possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs that could distribute marijuana to members could now start to open in July.

After the legalization bill passes the Bundestag, lawmakers will work on creating a system for legal, regulated sales. That will happen while they wait for a concurring vote in the Bundesrat, a separate body that represents the states.

Honduran Security Forces Seize 68,000 Coca Bushes. Honduran Military Police reported over the weekend that they had seized 68,000 coca leaf bushes in Las Brisas de Olancho, in the department of Yoro. They also discovered a wooden hut they said was used as a drug processing center. It contained several barrels of gasoline and other substances, scales, sacks used to transport coca leaves, and paddles used to press the coca leaf mixture.

Coca has traditionally been grown in the Andes in South America, but in recent years, sporadic busts of coca plantations in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico have been recorded. More rare are seizures of processing lab, even crude ones.

Ukrainian Medical Marijuana Bill Blocked by Hundreds of Spam Amendments. A long-awaited bill to legalize medical marijuana that was supposed to see a final vote last week has been held up as members of one party filed hundreds of "spam" amendments to delay passage.

The bill has the support of President Volodymr Zelensky and was expected to easily pass in a final reading—until the big stall emerged. It is the fault of the Motherland Party, whose members filed 226 amendments designed to "exhaust" the process and "deprive the law of votes," said MP Olga Stefanyshina.

"The bill on medical cannabis is blocked in the Council."

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. 

Hawaii AG Unveils Pot Legalization Draft, Boston Settles Hair Drug Test Lawsuit with Black Cops, More... (11/21/23)

Ohio's GOP Senate leader is plotting changes to the marijuana legalization law approved by voters just weeks ago, the city of Boston pays out for using discriminatory hair drug tests on police officers, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Hawaii Attorney General Unveils Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) last Friday unveiled a comprehensive 294-page proposal to legalize adult use marijuana and pledged to work with the legislature to get it enacted. The proposal would create a regulatory framework for people 21 and over to grow, possess, and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers.

Although recent years have seen several marijuana legalization bills, none of them have become law, although the Senate passed such a bill in March. Lawmakers have generally welcomed the attorney general's effort, although some advocates and activists have some issues with it.

Lopez did "a really good job pulling together all of the different input and providing a comprehensive bill," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Tarnas (D), while the attorney general's proposal is "the best version to date," said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D).

But while advocates cheered the inclusion of home grows, they want to see some changes, including relief for people who have been arrested under pot prohibition.

"The attorney general’s draft bill falls short when it comes to fostering equity and reparative justice," Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. "It should be revised. We were pleased to see home cultivation included. But the draft ramps up criminalization in other areas and fails to include provisions newer legalization states have adopted to stop ruining cannabis consumers’ lives.

"The draft bill does not include expungement or resentencing, nor does it protect responsible cannabis consumers from losing their children, jobs, benefits, or professional licenses," she said. "It imposes an unscientific per se DUI standard that ensnares sober drivers, and imposes up to a year in jail under a broad open container law. The draft also pours millions of dollars into cannabis law enforcement—an amount equal to the entire allocation for social equity and community reinvestment."

Ohio Senate President Vows Changes to Voter Approved Marijuana Law, Says Voters Did Not Understand Some Provisions. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) says he is working with lawmakers to develop and pass legislation to revise the marijuana legalization law approved by voters last month. He said "that's what the public generally wants" because voters did not focus on details and simply decided "are we going to legalize marijuana or not."

"Now did the voters, for example, know that there was going to be a preference for licenses to people that have formerly been convicted for selling drugs illegally? Probably not very many people thought of that," he said. "It’s important for the folks to go through here and look to see what changes are going to be made, which we think the public generally wants."

While Americans don't want government to infringe on their civil liberties, they "also want the protections of government, and that’s really the fine line that governments have to find. That’s why generally it’s better to have these things sorted out in the legislature… There needs to be some protection for the public, just like we regulate alcohol," Huffman argued.

He also said lawmakers would fast-track the changes by not filing a new bill, but by incorporating marijuana amendments into an unrelated House-passed bill, pass that in the Senate, then send the revised measure back to the House for a concurrence vote.

Lawmakers have announced various proposed changes, including around public consumption and the allocation of tax revenues.

Drug Testing

Boston Settles Police Drug Testing Lawsuit, Will Pay $2.6 Million to Black Cops. The city of Boston has agreed to pay $2.6 to Black police officers to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit over a drug test that used hair samples to identify drug use.

The four plaintiffs will receive $650,000 each.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that has represented the officers, shared his excitement that the lawsuit is finally settled and how the long-lasting litigation impacted his clients.

"This settlement puts an end to a long, ugly chapter in Boston’s history," Orren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, who litigated the case. "As a result of this flawed test, our clients’ lives and careers were completely derailed. The city has finally compensated them for this grave injustice," he said.

"You can imagine what effect that would have to be falsely labeled in this way, and a number of officers were terminated as a result. Many had to leave the field entirely, and their dreams of being a law enforcement officer were shattered," Sellstrom added. "It totally upended our client's lives and in the process also deprived the residents of Boston from having exemplary police officers on the force.

The Black police officers filed suit against the city in 2005, claiming that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives. The city and the company administering the test denied any bias, but the city eliminated the test in 2021.


Japan Amends Marijuana Law, for Better and Worse. Last month, the Japanese government approved a bill amending the country's nearly 75-years-old Cannabis Control Act, renaming it the Law Concerning Regulation of the Cultivation of Cannabis Plants. The act opens the door for the creation of a medical marijuana and industrial hemp industry in the country, but also goes backward on recreational marijuana use.

The new law will allow for pharmaceutical products that are extracted from marijuana plants. Until now, such cannabis-based drugs could only be used in clinical trials.

But the new law also categorizes THC as a narcotic under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Control Act, closing a loophole in the Cannabis Control Act that criminalizes the import, export, cultivation, transferal, or possession of marijuana plants, but does not criminalize use.

"What previously had no penalties will now be harshly punished, with a maximum of seven years in prison. I opposed the bill because there is a serious problem here," said Rep. Taro Yamamoto of the left-leaning Reiwa Shinsengumi Party.

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.

PA Bill Allowing MedMJ Growers to Sell Direct to Patients Advances, Cartel Gun Bill Filed, More... (11/17/23)

The South African National Assembly has approved a marijuana legalization bill, a bipartisan federal bill to disarm cartels by blocking the flow of American guns south is filed, and more.

Peso Pluma. The popular Mexican artist has been threatened by cartels over his narcocorridos. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania House Approves Bill to Let Medical Marijuana Growers Sell Directly to Patients. The House on Wednesday approved a measure, Senate Bill 773, that would allow licensed medical marijuana growers in the state to sell their products directly to patients. The bill has already passed the Senate, but will have to go back for a concurrence vote after changes were made in the House.

Under the measure, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gebhard (R), the state Department of Health would create a process to allow the state's 10 independent marijuana grower-processors to apply to obtain a dispensary permit to engage in direct commerce with patients. The House amended the bill to allow the state's four independent dispensaries to grow their own medical marijuana as well.

Under the state's current medical marijuana law, only 25 businesses can be licensed for growing and processing, and only five of those can sell directly to patients through vertically integrated dispensaries. That has created a near monopoly on medical marijuana in the state, one dominated by out-of-state operators.

If the Senate approves the changes in a final vote, the bill will then go to the desk of Gov. Josh Shapiro (D).

Drug Policy

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Disarm Cartels by Stopping Trafficking of American Guns Across Southern Border. On Tuesday, House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Thompson (R-CA) joined Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) to introduce the "Disarming Cartels Act" to curtail the trafficking of US-made firearms and ammunition southbound over the US-Mexico border. The measure is also cosponsored by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Guns originating in the United States power human- and drug-trafficking efforts and other illicit activities by cartels and other transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and beyond. "Firearms purchased in the United States are being illegally trafficked to Mexico, arming the cartels and fueling the fentanyl epidemic," said Thompson. "Going after the bad actors that facilitate the exchange of guns for fentanyl will help us crack down on illegal drug trade while preventing firearms from getting into the hands of cartels and other criminal organizations. The Disarming Cartels Act will help us secure our border, reduce the flow of fentanyl in our country, and disrupt the illegal flow of firearms into Mexico. As Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I'm proud to support this important bill with Reps. Goldman, Castro, Titus, Danny Davis, and Eleanor Holmes Norton."

"Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the devastating threat posed by the fentanyl trade and human smuggling and trafficking, all of which are predominantly controlled by Mexican drug cartels at our southern border," Goldman said. "But Republicans simply ignore that the source of the cartels' power is the hundreds of thousands of American-manufactured weapons of war that flow out of the United States and into the hands of the cartels. If we want to address crime across our southern border, then we must address the exportation of American guns across the border. The Disarming Cartels Act will do just that."

Mexico has one gun store in the entire country and restrictive firearm regulations. Yet, on an annual basis, there are nearly 30,000 annual firearm deaths in Mexico.

More than 500,000 American-made guns are trafficked to Mexico every year, and seventy percent of firearms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico can be traced to the United States. Criminal organizations operating in Mexico purchase firearms and ammunition from U.S.-based retailers to target law enforcement and military personnel, harm citizens, and enforce cartel control of territory.

To disrupt the trafficking of U.S.-sourced firearms into Mexico, the Disarming Cartels Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Increase interagency collaboration to identify, target, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations responsible for exporting firearms and related munitions from the United States to Mexico.
  • Instruct Homeland Security Investigations within U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement to establish a mechanism for sharing aggregated information about interdictions of southbound firearms and U.S.-sourced firearms in Mexico with Federal partners.
  • Expand the collection and analysis of information concerning firearms recovered at crime scenes in Mexico to identify US-based gun traffickers.
  • Enhance coordination with Mexican agencies to increase outbound inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the southwest land border.
  • Establish performance measures for efforts to disrupt the smuggling of U.S.-sourced firearms to Mexico.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide annual reports on the Department's actions to disrupt the smuggling of US-sourced firearms and munition to Mexico.


Mexico's Tijuana Bans Narcocorridos. Last week, the Tijuana city council approved an ordinance banning the performance or even playing in public spaces of narcocorridos, popular ballads that glorify drug kingpins and their exploits. The move comes after threats last month against popular singer Peso Pluma and popular band Fuerza Regida, who have performed narcocorridos. The threats are presumably coming from rivals of the people honored in their songs.

Under the ordinance, any artist who "transmits, exhibits, sings or reproduces music, videos, images or any other similar thing that promotes the culture of violence or makes apologies for crime or for the authors of illegal acts in a live performance" can be subject to fines of up to $72,000. That money would be directed to municipal programs for the prevention, treatment and control of drug abuse.

"What cannot be part of Mexican folklore, nor represent us, is the narcocorrido and the apology of crime," Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said in announcing the law.

But Peso Pluma said that narcocorridos are a reflection of real life. "It's bad to say that it's normal -- we all know that," Peso Pluma said. "But it's the reality. What we say and what we sing and what's lived and what's heard isn't a lie."

Still, they have long been a target for authorities in the Mexican version of culture wars. Tijuana banned narcocorrido hitmakers Los Tucanes de Tijuana from playing in the city in 2010, and the following year, the state of Sinaloa banned the songs from being played in bars and nightclubs. In 2015, the state of Chihuahua threatened 36 hours of jail time and a $20,000 fine for anyone performing narcocorridos, and in 2017, another narcocorrido hitmaking band, Los Tigres del Norte, were fined for playing "Contrabando y Traicion" ("Contraband and Betrayal") in Chihuahua City.

South African Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill. The National Assembly on Tuesday approved a long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana, It now goes to the other chamber in the parliament, the National Council of Provinces, for a concurrence vote.

The Supreme Court had ruled in 2018 that the prohibition of possession and personal cultivation was unlawful and gave parliament two years to come up with a remedy. It took longer than two years, but now it is finally happening.

The bill to codify legalization was finally introduced in 2020, but action has been delayed, even as South Africa's government has included marijuana in a list of sectors to prioritize in the interest of economic expansion.

The bill does not include specific possession or cultivation limits, which are likely to be addressed in rulemaking from Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamo.

"People should bear in mind what this bill is about. It is about cannabis for private use by adults," MP Janho Engelbrecht said. "You are not allowed to buy or sell cannabis, because this still remains a criminal activity with severe consequences. If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it, don't buy it."

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has said that it's the government's hope that the non-commercial legalization bill will serve as a jumping off point for lawmakers to enact more robust regulations to support the establishment of a marijuana market in the country.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation address last year that he wants to his the country enter the global medical hemp and cannabis industry, arguing that it could generate more than 100,000 jobs.

For now, however, the simple legalization bill that's moving through the Parliament is focused on removing criminal penalties in accordance with the Constitutional Court's unanimous 2018 ruling, which followed a lower court decision in the Western Cape province covering Cape Town to end prohibition.

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."

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