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CT Legal Pot Sales Could Be Delayed, CA Hemp Bill Goes to Governor's Desk, More... (9/10/21)

There are signs South Dakota is moving away from harsh drug sentencing, GOP conservatives stick up for mandatory minimum fentanyl analog sentences, and more.

Marijuana Policy

hemp field (Creative Commons)
Connecticut Official Hints Launch of Legal Marijuana Sales Could Be Delayed. Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull said Wednesday that regulators working to implement legal marijuana sales still have details to work out before accepting applications and hinted that the roll-out of legal sales could be delayed. The state enacted marijuana legalization on July 1, and legal sales were originally set to begin in the summer of 2022. But Seagull said that likely will not happen: "We've been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we're still aspiring for that," Seagull said. "Obviously, we have to see how things play out in the next few months."

Hemp

California Hemp Regulation Bill Heads to Governor's Desk. Both the state Assembly and the state Senate this week approved a hemp regulation bill, Assembly Bill 45, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The bill would allow hemp extracts, including CBD, to be added to food, beverage, and cosmetic products; establish new rules for hemp farmers and businesses; require out-of-state hemp imports meet new state standards; and limit the sale of intoxicating THC isomers such as delta-8 THC to legal marijuana sales channels, among other provisions.

Drug Policy

South Dakota Attorney General Weighs In on Ballot Measures to Reduce Penalties for Drug Ingestion, Possession. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) is weighing in on potential ballot measures that would reduce the penalty for unlawful drug ingestion from a felony to a petty offense and the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. He sent separate statements to the secretary of state's office last week laying out language for altering the state's current harsh drug laws. The first proposed measure would reclassify the illegal possession of all controlled drugs or substances as class one misdemeanors, regardless of how their scheduled drug status in state law. That means instead of facing up to five years in prison, people caught with drugs would face a maximum of one year. The second ballot measure, focusing on the state's unique ingestion law, would drop the potential penalty from prison time to a $25 fine. No campaign has yet emerged to begin the process of qualifying such initiatives for the 2022 ballot.

Opioids

Congressional Republicans Attack Biden on Fentanyl Analog Scheduling, Claiming Plan is Soft on Drug Dealers. Ranking Republican members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees sent a letter to the White House Thursday criticizing the Biden administration's proposal to permanently schedule fentanyl analogs because, they said, it was too easy on drug dealers. "While we support permanent scheduling of fentanyl-related substances, other aspects of the administration's proposal would shield drug traffickers from pushing poisonous drugs into our communities rather than hold them accountable by imposing existing penalties," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). "We are particularly concerned that the provisions removing mandatory minimum penalties for fentanyl-related substance offenses would hinder prosecutorial efforts against serious drug traffickers and could even incentivize sophisticated criminal organizations to import and traffic fentanyl-related substances." Jordan and Grassley also asked for a list of stakeholders that influenced the administration's proposal, as well as "a list of examples in which federal law enforcement authorities have found that mandatory minimum penalties associated with fentanyl-related substances have supported criminal investigations to pursue high-level drug traffickers."

MD House Marijuana Legalization Working Group Meets, Italy Moves To Allow Home Pot Grows, More... (9/9/21)

A fire at an overcrowded Indonesian prison kills at least 41, mostly drug offenders; a Maryland House of Delegates working group is moving forward with plans for marijuana legalization, and more.

Coming soon to an Italian balcony? Italy is moving to allow home marijuana cultivation. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland House Marijuana Policy Working Group Meets, Lays Out Plans. A 10-member working group of House members that is studying how to legalize marijuana met for the first time Wednesday and laid out plans for the future. "The House of Delegates will pass a measure to put the question of legalizing on the ballot for the 2022 general election," said work group chair Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore). "This work group will continue meeting throughout the interim. This work group will establish the legal framework necessary to fully implement the legalization of marijuana and learn from the mistakes that other states have made before us," Clippinger said. The working group will meet next on October 9. Maryland's neighbors Virginia and Washington, DC, have already legalized marijuana.

International

Indonesia Prison Fire Kills 41, Mostly Drug Prisoners. A fire that erupted in the overcrowded Tangerang prison outside Jakarta on Wednesday killed at least 41 inmates, the majority of them serving time for drug offenses. At least two foreigners serving drug sentences were among the dead. The fire broke out in the middle of the night in the prison's C2 Block, where 19 cells built to hold 40 inmates were packed with more than triple that number. Under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has intensified its war on drugs, with extrajudicial executions, drug prosecutions, and death sentences all on the rise.

Italy Moves to Allow Personal Marijuana Grows. A measure to decriminalize the personal cultivation of up to four marijuana plants is advancing in the parliament after it was approved by the Lower House's Justice Committee on Wednesday. While the bill removes penalties for growing, it increases penalties for dealing and trafficking marijuana, increasing the possible maximum sentence from six to 10 years. The move comes almost two years after the Supreme Court ruled that small-time domestic marijuana cultivation is legal. In Europe, the only countries that currently allow for personal grows are Spain and the Czech Republic, which both allow up to five plants.

Marijuana Use at All-Time High Among Young Adults, Cartel Violence Sparks Protests in Mexico's Michoacan, More... (9/8/21)

The latest Monitoring the Future survey finds marijuana use is at an all-time high among young adults; Georgia's Tybee Island, home of the state's largest public beach, decriminalizes pot possession, and more.

Tybee Island, Georgia, where the city council just decriminalized pot possession. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Use at All-Time High Among College-Aged Adults in 2020. Marijuana use continued to rise among college students over the past five years and remained at historically high levels among same-aged peers who are not in college in 2020, according to survey results from the 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study. This represents the highest levels of marijuana use recorded since the 1980s. The survey also found that marijuana vaping and nicotine vaping leveled off in 2020 after sharp increases reported every year since 2017 for both college students and same-aged respondents who are not in college. Among college students specifically, there was also a significant increase in the annual use of hallucinogens, and a substantial and significant drop in current alcohol use between 2019 and 2020. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) study has been annually tracking substance use among college students and noncollege adults ages 19-22 since 1980. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, the survey is conducted annually by scientists at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor. Results are based on data from college students one to four years beyond high school graduation who are enrolled full-time in a two- or four-year college in March of the given year, compared with same-age high school graduates not enrolled full-time in college.

Georgia City, Home of State's Largest Public Beach, Decriminalizes Pot Possession. The city council in Tybee Island, home to the state's largest public beach, has approved an ordinance that imposes a maximum $150 fine for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, making pot possession no longer a criminal offense under the municipal code. Under state law, however, possession of up to an ounce remains a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. It is not clear how local police and prosecutors will handle such cases. Tybee Island is only the latest of more than a dozen other state cities and counties that have reduced penalties for marijuana possession.

International

Mexico's Michoacan Sees Protests Over Cartel Violence. Residents of the Tierra Caliente region of the central-western state of Michoacan, which has been the scene of ongoing clashes, blockades, and disruptions caused by competing criminal organizations, took to the streets over the weekend to demand military intervention to confront the cartels. "Hugs, not bullets doesn't work in Tepalcatepec, Aguililla and Coalcomán. The federal government is abandoning its people, massacred by the CJNG [Jalisco New Generation Cartel]," read one banner held up by protesters outside a military base in Apatzingán. "Hugs, not bullets" is a slogan of the policy of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of addressing the root causes of violence rather than confronting the cartels with force. The municipalities of Aguililla, Apatzingan, Buenavista, Coalcoman, and Tepalcatepec have been particularly hard-hit, where more than 3,000 fled the violence in August. In recent days, about 1,000 people have fled and taken shelter at a sports center in Tepalcatepec. "We're being displaced from our homes, we're afraid, they're throwing bombs and grenades at us," one woman told the newspaper Reforma at Sunday's protest." … [President] López Obrador must listen to us. We're hungry and cold, we're calling on the relevant authorities to support us, not just authorities of the state but also the United Nations and UNICEF… Children have no homes because [organized] crime has destroyed their homes with flamethrowers. We need help from… all the forces of Mexico…," she said.

NYC Marijuana Arrests Hit Single Digits, MI Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Filed, More... (9/7/21)

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds marijuana legalization has little impact on youth use rates, the number of marijuana arrests in New York City in the second quarter of 2021 totaled a whopping eight -- that's right, eight -- and more.

New York City pot smokers have good reason to smile these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

AMA Study Finds Marijuana Legalization Does Not Lead to Increased Youth Use. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that the impact of marijuana legalization on adolescent marijuana consumption is "statistically indistinguishable from zero." The study analyzed federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1993 through 2019 in 10 states that had legalized either medical marijuana or adult use. Marijuana legalization "was not associated with current marijuana use or frequent marijuana use," the researchers found. In fact, the researchers found youth use actually went down in medical marijuana states: "[M]edical marijuana law (MML) adoption was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of current marijuana use and a 7% decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use."

New York City Marijuana Arrests Hit Single Digits After Legalization. Marijuana arrests in New York City -- once the marijuana arrest capital of the world -- have dropped to single digits since marijuana legalization went into effect in the state on March 31. The city recorded only eight marijuana arrests in the second quarter of this year, down from 163 during the first quarter. That's a 95% decrease from what were already quite low arrest levels. All of the arrests were for possession of more than three ounces, and they reflected continuing racial disparities, but with such a small sample size, it is difficult to say anything definitive about that. Criminal court summonses for people who were given marijuana possession tickets but didn't pay them also decreased dramatically, from 3,700 in the first quarter to eight in the second quarter.

Psychedelics

Michigan Bill Filed to Legalize Possession, Cultivation of Psychedelics. Two Democratic state senators, Jeff Irwin and Adam Hollier, last Thursday filed a bill to legalize the possession, cultivation, and delivery of a variety of plant- and fungus-based psychedelics, such as mescaline and psilocybin, Senate Bill 631. The bill would amend state law so that people are exempted from prosecution for such activities as long as they are not "receiving money or other valuable consideration for the entheogenic plant or fungus." That means no commercial production and sales. But people can charge a "reasonable fee for counseling, spiritual guidance, or a related service that is provided in conjunction with the use of an entheogenic plant or fungus under the guidance and supervision of an individual providing the service." Michigan has become a locus of the psychedelic decriminalization movement, with Decriminalize Nature chapters pushing local city councils to adopt reforms. In Ann Arbor, the city council approved psychedelic decriminalization last year and have designated this month as Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Awareness Month. Similar moves are afoot in Grand Rapids, too.

Medical Marijuana Update

Another effort to force the federal government to reevaluate its stance on medical marijuana gets shot down, an expansion of Texas's medical marijuana program goes into effect today, and more.

National

US 9th Circuit Rejects Bid to Make Feds Rethink Stance on Medical Marijuana. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its decades-old position that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. The ruling came in a case brought by medical marijuana researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley and three veterans who claimed harm from marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. The plaintiffs asked the court to force the DEA to revisit its stance, with plaintiff's attorney calling the DEA's stance "a relic of a bygone era." In their 16-page opinion Monday, a three-judge panel rejected the petition, finding Sisley and her co-petitioners failed to exhaust other avenues of relief they could have pursued before going to court.

South Dakota

South Dakota Legislative Panel Recommends Overruling Voters and Banning Medical Marijuana Home Grows.The legislature's Medical Marijuana Subcommittee voted 6-4 Monday to recommend banning home grown medical marijuana cultivation, even though it is expressly allowed under the language of IM 26, the medical marijuana initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The issue now goes to the legislature's full Marijuana Study Committee, which consists of eight senators and 16 representatives. Lawmakers on the adult use committee also discussed banning home grown marijuana on Wednesday as the state awaits a Supreme Court ruling on whether the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative is unconstitutional.

Texas

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Goes into Effect This Week. A law approved by the legislature earlier this year that expands the use of medical marijuana in the state goes into effect on Wednesday. The expansion will now allow veterans who suffer from PTSD, cancer patients, and people suffering other specified medical conditions to join the list of qualifying conditions. The new law also raises the dosage limit of THC from .5% to 1%.

DEA to Increase Research Production Quotas for Marijuana & Psilocybin, SD MedMJ Home Grows Endangered, More... (9/1/21)

Panama legalizes medical marijuana, the DEA boosts quotas for production of marijuana and psilocbyin for research purposes, and more.

South Dakota lawmakers want to ban medical marijuana home grows even though the voters approved them. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

The DEA Seeks to Increase Federal Production Limits for Psilocybin and Marijuana Research. The DEA has published a new document in the Federal Register proposing a significant increase in federal quotas for the production of psilocybin, psilocin (the metabolized version of psilocybin), and marijuana for research purposes. Both psilocybin and psilocin had a ceiling of 50 grams, which has been increased to 1500 grams and 1000 grams, respectively. The DEA also wants to raise the production quota for marijuana from 1.5 million grams this year to 2 million grams next year, as well as doubling upscale marijuana extract production to 500,000 grams. "DEA firmly believes in supporting regulated research of schedule I controlled substances," wrote the agency. "Therefore, the [Aggregate Production Quota] increases reflect the need to fulfill research and development requirements in the production of new drug products, and the study of marijuana effects in particular, as necessary steps toward potential Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of new drug products."

Medical Marijuana

South Dakota Legislative Panel Recommends Overruling Voters and Banning Medical Marijuana Home Grows.The legislature's Medical Marijuana Subcommittee voted 6-4 Monday to recommend banning home grown medical marijuana cultivation, even though it is expressly allowed under the language of IM 26, the medical marijuana initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters last November. The issue now goes to the legislature's full Marijuana Study Committee, which consists of eight senators and 16 representatives. Lawmakers on the adult use committee also discussed banning home grown marijuana on Wednesday as the state awaits a Supreme Court ruling on whether the voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative is unconstitutional.

Psychedelics

Denver Activists Push to Expand Psilocybin Decriminalization to Allow Gifting and Communal Use. The activists who successful managed a campaign to make Denver the first city in the US to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin-containing magic mushrooms are now aimed to legalize the noncommercial gifting and communal use of the substance. Kevin Matthews, founder of Vote Nature and head of the city's Psilocybin Mushroom Review Panel, said the proposal would ensure that people "have the liberty to gather in private group settings to celebrate and commune with psilocybin mushrooms without worrying about law enforcement intervention." The proposal is included in the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel's 2021 Comprehensive Report, which has already been approved by the district attorney and is pending further sign-off by other officials.

International

Panama Legalizes Medical Marijuana. After five years of consideration, the national assembly on Monday unanimously approved Bill 153, which legalizes medical marijuana in the Central American nation. The bill allows for home grown medical marijuana but bars its sale. It also requires the government to import marijuana in pill and liquid drop form. That medicine will be distributed through pharmacies that have applied for a permit and pass a site inspection.

OH Marijuana Legalization Campaign Can Gather Signatures, Biden Considers Drug Sentence Commutations, More... (8/31/21)

An effort to force the DEA to reconsider the Schedule I status of marijuana has been shot down by the 9th Circuit, an Ohio marijuana legalization campaign gets the go-ahead to start signature gathering, and more.

Will the president commute some drug sentences to avoid sending people out on home confinement back to prison? (whitehouse.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Okay to Start Signature Gathering. A marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was approved for signature gathering Monday by the Ohio Ballot Board. The board determined that the initiative indeed addresses a single issue -- marijuana legalization -- and can proceed. Backers must now come up with 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the proposal before the legislature. If the legislature refuses to act, rejects the proposal, or amend it within four months, backers could then collect another 132,887 valid voter signatures to put the issue directly before the voters in 2022.

Medical Marijuana

US 9th Circuit Rejects Bid to Make Feds Rethink Stance on Medical Marijuana. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday refused to make the federal government reconsider its decades-old position that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. The ruling came in a case brought by medical marijuana researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley and three veterans who claim harm from marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. The plaintiffs asked the court to force the DEA to revisit its stance, with plaintiff's attorney calling the DEA's stance "a relic of a bygone era." In their 16-page opinion Monday, a three-judge panel rejected the petition, finding Sisley and her co-petitioners failed to exhaust other avenues of relief that they could have pursued before coming to court.

Criminal Justice

President Biden Considering Commuting Sentences of Some Drug Offenders. In a bid to avoid forcing drug offenders released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic back to prison after the emergency ends, President Biden is considering commuting their sentences by using his clemency powers. The proposal is aimed at nonviolent drug offenders with fewer than four years left on their sentences. Those with longer sentences or who committed other types of crimes would be out of luck. Normally, federal prisoners are only eligible for home confinement in the final six months of their sentences, and as many as 2,000 who were sent home are outside that limit and subject to being returned to prison when the COVID emergency ends (although thanks to recalcitrant Americans, that end date seems to be constantly receding). A Trump-era Justice Department memo concluded that once the emergency ends, legal authority to keep inmates in home confinement would "evaporate," but inmates advocates and some Democratic lawmakers are urging the administration to reject that memo and come up with a rationale to extend home confinements.

CA Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Held Over, TX MedMJ Expansion Goes into Effect Wednesday, More... (8/30/31)

A Philadelphia site injection site that was blocked by a federal appeals court is asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, a third marijuana legalization initiative campaign emerges in Missouri, and more.

California psychedelic decriminalization will have to wait until next year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Sees Third Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Emerge. And then there were three. A group calling itself Legal Missouri 2022 filed a marijuana legalization initiative proposal last week that would allow people 21 and over to purchase at least three ounces of marijuana, tax sales at 6% with an additional local option of up to 3%, and allow people to grow up to six mature and six immature plants, but only after registering with the state. Another group, Fair Access Missouri, is pushing a number of initiatives, including several that would set up a system of legalized marijuana sales, but none of those proposals have yet passed muster for the secretary of state's office. Yet another group, New Approach Missouri, is also working on a 2022 initiative after their 2020 effort was thwarted by coronavirus restrictions during signature gathering. To qualify for the 2022 ballot, initiatives will have to get 171,592 valid voter signatures by early July 2022.

Medical Marijuana

Texas Medical Marijuana Expansion Goes into Effect This Week. A law approved by the legislature earlier this year that expands the use of medical marijuana in the state goes into effect on Wednesday. The expansion will now allow veterans who suffer from PTSD, cancer patients, and people suffering other specified medical conditions to join the list of qualifying conditions. The new law also raises the dosage limit of THC from .5% to 1%.

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Held Over for Next Year. The bill to decriminalize the possession of a number of psychedelics in the state, Senate Bill 519, is being held over to next year after stalling in the Assembly. In a statement last Thursday, bill sponsor state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the bill will be shelved even though the "groundbreaking legislation moved significantly farther than anticipated." More time is needed to "lay educational groundwork with members and the public to ensure the bill’s success" and that the delay will allow supporters to "capitalize on the momentum from this year while building support in the Assembly for next year."

Harm Reduction

Philadelphia Safe Injection Site Proponents Appeal to Supreme Court After Lower Court Ruling Halted Their Project. Safehouse, the group that was set to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia before being blocked last year by a federal court ruling, has filed a petition with the US Supreme Court asking it to take up the case. In the earlier case, the Trump administration sided strongly with federal prosecutors to block the site from opening; now the question is what stance the Biden administration will take. The administration has broadly embraced harm reduction, but President Biden has yet to weigh in on safe injection sites.  In what could be a precedent-setting case that could steer policy for years, Safehouse is taking a significant risk by going before a very conservative Supreme court. Having the administration on its side could only help its prospects.

Medical Marijuana Update

Prospects for medical marijuana this year remain alive in Mississippi and North Carolina, and more.

Mississippi

Mississippi Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana Still Possible. Lawmakers are still working on reaching a consensus on a medical marijuana bill with the hope that Gov. Tate Reeves (R) will hew to his vow to call a special session to get medical marijuana approved in the state. The push for the special session comes after voters approved medical marijuana at the polls last year, only to see the state Supreme Court invalidate the initiative. The state constitution requires that initiative petitions contain signatures from each of the state's five congressional districts, but the state has only had four districts since redistricting in 2000, and the legislature has not acted in the two decades since to rectify the constitutional conundrum. “I think the parties are close enough at this point or will be in the foreseeable future, that if the governor so chose to call a special session," said Representative Trey Lamar. "I don’t believe that it would take too long to get the parties to put a measure together and get it passed," he said. "The ball is in the governor’s hands. If he wants to do it then we’ll respond and we’ll come to Jackson and we’ll get it done. If not, then I guess we’ll wait until January."

North Carolina

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Ready to Advance in Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday accepted revisions to the Compassionate Care Act, Senate Bill 711, laying the groundwork for formal approval at a later meeting. The bill had already passed Judiciary and one more committee last month but was referred back to Judiciary this month to deal with revisions. The proposal would allow patients with specified "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana, but with revisions now includes patients with terminal conditions who have less than six months to live, as well as those who qualify for hospice care. Under the legislation, patients could possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted. The measure would provide for up to 10 medical marijuana suppliers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries. Once the bill passes out of Judiciary, it must still be re-referred to the Health and Rules and Operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 711. The committee had already approved the bill but had to take it up again after it was revised in a separate committee. Now, it goes before one final committee, the Senate Health Care and Rules Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of a list of "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana. The bill will now also allow patients with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live and those in hospice care to use medical marijuana. Patients could possess up to an ounce and a half but would not be able to grow their own. Medical marijuana would be provided by up to 10 growers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

Wyoming

Wyoming Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Initiatives Signature Gathering to Begin Next Month. After the state attorney general's office last week approved the wording of proposed marijuana legalization and medical marijuana initiatives, supporters are gearing up to begin signature gathering next month. "We’ll be hitting events, going door to door. We intend to get it all wrapped up by February," Wyoming NORML Executive Director Bennett Sondeno said. Wyoming's signature requirements are tough: Proponents must gather valid signatures from 15% of voters in the previous general election from each of at least 16 of the state’s 23 counties. There have been nine different initiative efforts in the past 25 years; none qualified for the ballot. The last initiative to actually make the ballot and pass was a railroad safety initiative in 1992.

Thai Parliament Approves Drug Reform Bill, US Reform Groups Urge DOJ to End Fentanyl Analog Scheduling

Drug reform, civil rights, and other groups urge the Justice Department to end the punitive emergency scheduling of fentanyl and its analogs, a North Carolina medical marijuana bill advances, and more.

Fentanyl and its analogs are the subject of a battle over draconian emergency scheduling. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to approve a revised bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, Senate Bill 711. The committee had already approved the bill but had to take it up again after it was revised in a separate committee. Now, it goes before one final committee, the Senate Health Care and Rules Committee before heading for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow patients with one of a list of "debilitating medical conditions" to use medical marijuana. The bill will now also allow patients with terminal illnesses with less than six months to live and those in hospice care to use medical marijuana. Patients could possess up to an ounce and a half but would not be able to grow their own. Medical marijuana would be provided by up to 10 growers, each of which could operate up to four dispensaries.

Opioids

More Than 140 Groups Urge DOJ to End Over-Criminalization of Fentanyl-Related Substances. Some 142 drug reform, criminal justice, religious, civil liberties, and other groups have written to Attorney General Merrick Garland to urge the Biden administration to let the Trump administration's temporary "classwide" emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances expire on October 22. The groups also asked the administration to engage in more interactions with stakeholders before it finalizes its recommendations to Congress, complaining that the coalition had only been granted one half-hour "listening session" with the working group studying the topic. "The class wide scheduling policy must expire," the groups wrote. "Class wide scheduling would exacerbate pretrial detention, mass incarceration, and racial disparities in the prison system, doubling down on a fear-based, enforcement-first response to a public health challenge. The policy could also lead to over-criminalization and prosecutorial misconduct. Under the class wide control, any offense involving a 'fentanyl-related substance' is subject to federal criminal prosecution, even if the substance in question is helpful or has no potential for abuse. Failure to define with specificity through our laws what is or is not illegal will lead to miscarriages of justice."The groups also argued that class wide scheduling will not help curb overdose rates or curb the supply of fentanyl or its analogs.

International

Thai Parliament Approves New Drug Law Emphasizing Prevention and Treatment. The parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to a new drug law that emphasizes prevention and treatment rather than punishment for small-scale drug users while also introducing tougher measures against organized crime. The omnibus bill first approved by the cabinet in 2019, consolidates more than 20 existing laws relating to drugs, ranging from sentencing for drug possession and distribution to asset forfeiture. "The new law shifts away from the old concept that emphasises only suppression because more suppression has not resulted in drug eradication," said Chatchawan Suksumjit, a senator who chaired a joint parliamentary committee overseeing changes to the new narcotic laws. "Punishment will now be divided between low level, which means drug users, who will systematically receive treatment rather than prison, while high level offenders will face more severe punishment," he said. Drug offenders make up more than 80% of Thailand's 300,000 prisoners. The new law could result in reduced sentences for up to 50,000 of them once it becomes law after winning royal endorsement later this year.

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