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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

Foreign Policy

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

Harm Reduction

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

Transportation Policy

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

Chronicle AM: NJ Lawmakers Pass Pot Expungement Bill, Psychedelic Research Proposal Advances, More... (6/11/19)

Nevada is going to pilot a digital banking program for cannabusinesses, Alabama's governor signs a medical marijuana study bill, chain pharmacies make recommendations on opioids, and more.

MDMA and other Schedule I substances could be opened for more research under a successful amendment to an appropriations bill.
Marijuana Policy

Nevada to Test Limited Marijuana Banking System. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has signed into law a bill that creates a three-year pilot program where marijuana businesses can use an online system to send and receive digital currency. State Treasurer Zach Conine said he hopes to have the system up and running by July 2020.

New Jersey Legislature Approves Expungement Bill. Most state residents convicted of marijuana possession offenses would be able to get their records expunged under a bill approved Monday by both the House and Senate. If signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy (D), the bill would open even more marijuana offenses up for expungement, including possession of up to five pounds.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Study Bill. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill creating a commission to study medical marijuana. The commission must report back with recommendations for future legislation by December. The bill, SB 236, also allows the University of Alabama Birmingham to continue its research on the use of CBD cannabis oil as a treatment for debilitating epileptic conditions.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

National Chain Pharmacies Issue Recommendations to Fight Opioid Abuse. The National Association of Chain Drugstores (NACSD) has issued four policy recommendations for opioid abuse prevention. They include increased access to naloxone, working toward a national prescription drug monitoring program, pursuing non-opioid remedies for chronic pain management, and requiring coverage of pain management services.

Psychedelics

Congressional Committee Advances Schedule I Amendment. The House Rules Committee voted Tuesday to approve an amendment by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would remove a longstanding rider on an appropriations bill that bars federal agencies from using tax dollars for "any activity that promotes the legalization of any drugs or substance in Schedule I" of the Controlled Substances Act. Ocasio-Cortez successfully argued that the provision impedes research into substances that have therapeutic potential, such as psilocybin or MDMA. or marijuana. The amendment and the larger appropriations bill now head for a House floor vote.

Chronicle AM: Oakland Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms, San Francisco Forced Drug Treatment Plan, More... (6/5/19)

Two big stories from the San Francisco Bay area, governors call for federal marijuana reform, and more.

magic mushrooms (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan Governors Team Up to Demand Federal Marijuana Reform. Twelve state governors from both parties have signed onto a letter to congressional leaders urging them to pass bipartisan legislation to let states set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal interference. They called for passage of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, H.R. 2093. "The STATES Act is a logical step for Congress because it honors state action by codifying protection at the federal level for those businesses and consumers operating in accordance with state law," they wrote. "The STATES Act is not about whether marijuana should be legal or illegal; it is about respecting the authority of states to act, lead and respond to the evolving needs and attitudes of their citizens."

Oregon Legislature Approves Expungement Bill. The House has approved a bill, SB 420, easing bureaucratic hurdles for people wanting to expunge old marijuana convictions. The Senate had already approved the measure, so it now heads to the governor's desk. Once the bill is signed, those seeking expungement will no longer have to pay a fee nor will they have to provide fingerprints or undergo a background check.

Delaware Legalization Bill Gets Initial Committee Hearing. The House Revenue and Finance Committee is taking up a marijuana legalization bill, HB 110, today. The bill would establish a state-licensed industry but would bar home cultivation. The bill calls for the state to collect a 15% tax on retail sales price of marijuana, as well as licensing fees.

Hemp

Ohio Hemp, CBD Bill Heading for House Floor Vote. A bill that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp and stores to sell CBD products passed the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Tuesday. SB 57 has already passed the Senate and now heads for a final House floor vote. The bill distinguishes hemp from marijuana and specified that CBD from hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

Psychedelics

Oakland Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms, Other Natural Psychedelics. The city council voted Tuesday to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelics. The ordinance approved makes arresting people for possessing or using such substances the lowest law enforcement priority. Oakland now joins Denver in having made such a move.

Drug Treatment

San Francisco to Try Forced Drug Treatment for Problematic Mentally Ill Drug Users. The city Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 Tuesday to force some people with serious mental illness and addiction issues into drug treatment. Mayor London Breed (D) and other supporters said the move was necessary to help such people, who are a danger to themselves, they said. "Allowing people to continue to suffer on our streets is not acceptable or humane, and I am glad the Board of Supervisors supported our approach to finally make a change," Breed said in a statement after the vote. The measure would apply to a handful of people, the city's department of public health estimated, although the number would grow under legislation pending at the state level.

The Five States with the Most Drug Arrests Per Capita (and the Five with the Fewest) [FEATURE]

Thanks to a new report on state-by-state drug issues, courtesy of WalletHub, we now have a good idea which are the most perilous for people who use drugs, whether its marijuana, mushrooms, or methamphetamines. (The report doesn't break down which drugs people were arrested for.)

The Five States with the Highest Rates of Drug Arrests

  1. South Dakota (tie)
  2. Wyoming (tie)
  3. South Carolina (tie)
  4. North Dakota
  5. Mississippi

We have a three-way tie for worst place and, notably, a clear regional pattern. Three of the top drug arrest states are neighbors in the thinly populated region where the northern plains eventually run into the Rocky Mountains. All are deep red states. The other two are in the heart of Dixie, and are also deep red.

There are more than a million drug arrests in the US each year. Some places are more into it than others, though. (Cr. Commons)
None of these states has legalized or even decriminalized marijuana (North Dakota just decriminalized this month, but it's not in effect yet), which accounts for roughly half of all drug arrests. So there's that, too.

An oft-heard lament of bikers attending the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota's Black Hills is that "you come for a stroll, but leave on parole" (or, in a more optimistic variant, "you come on vacation, but leave on probation"). One reason for that and for the state's number one ranking here is South Dakota"s unlawful ingestion or "internal possession" law, a uniquely regressive andst repressive addition to the drug war armory.

Under that law, anyone who tests positive for drugs is subject to a criminal penalty -- a misdemeanor in the case of marijuana, a felony for other illicit drugs. And state law enforcement routinely seeks drug tests from arrestees. If they refuse to consent, state judges routinely rubber stamp search warrant requests, and law enforcement threatens to forcibly catheterize uncooperative arrestees. Something to keep in mind on your way to Mt. Rushmore this summer.

The law applies even if the drug were ingested elsewhere. Consider that. Someone who lawfully used medical marijuana in neighboring Montana, North Dakota, or Minnesota could come to South Dakota, get hit by a car crossing the street, get drug tested in the hospital, and be arrested for unlawful ingestion under state law. Likewise, someone who smoked marijuana in neighboring Nebraska, where it is decriminalized, could face a stiffer punishment for having pot in his urine in South Dakota than if he had been caught with actual marijuana in Nebraska, where he would just pay a fine.

A bill that would remove unlawful ingestion charges for marijuana died in the legislature earlier this year. A bill to study the unlawful ingestion law, SB 167 has been signed into law this year, but only after it was amended to remove any specific mention of unlawful ingestion. Instead, it sets up a commission to study alternatives to imprisonment for drug offenses.

The Five States with the Lowest Rates of Drug Arrests

  1. Alaska
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Washington
  4. Vermont
  5. Rhode Island

Again, a clear regional pattern emerges. Three of these states are in New England, while the other two are in the Pacific Northwest (stretching it a bit for Alaska). All of them except Alaska are deep blue states.

And all of them except Rhode Island are legal marijuana states. Rhode Island is a decriminalization state. No wonder these states have the lowest drug arrest rates; half of all drug arrests go up in smoke with legalization, or even decrim.

Two of these states -- Massachusetts and Washington -- have Law Enforcement-Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs, which shunt potential drug arrestees into the public health and drug treatment systems instead of the criminal justice system. That shrinks drug arrest numbers, too.

And it shrinks arrest numbers not only by detouring drug offenders into treatment or social services instead of the courts, but also by producing a much lower future arrest rate among people who have been diverted. In Seattle, where LEAD was first introduced, people in the program were 58% less likely to be rearrested.

So… if you're headed for Mt. Rushmore or Ft. Sumter, you've been warned. Maybe visiting Plymouth Rock or Mt. Denali might be a safer choice.

Chronicle AM: Biden for Decrim Not Fed Legalization, Heroin ER Visits Decline, More... (5/17/19)

Joe Biden comes out for marijuana decriminalization, a legalization bill gets introduced in Delaware, heroin-related emergency room visits are declining, Brazil's Congress just approved a retrograde drug law, and more.

Joe Biden moves his marijuana policy partially into the 21st Century. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Joe Biden Supports Decriminalization, But Not an End to Federal Prohibition. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden supports decriminalizing pot, telling a crowd in New Hampshire Tuesday that "Nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana." When pressed on whether Biden supports legalizing marijuana, campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN: "As he said [Tuesday], Vice President Biden does not believe anyone should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana. He supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don't have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer," Bates said. "He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana's positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug," he added. Most other Democratic presidential candidates have come out in favor of legalization.

California Pot Tax Relief Bill Fails in Committee. A bill designed to jumpstart the state's legal marijuana industry by temporarily reducing some taxes appears dead for this session. AB 286, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, couldn't get past the Assembly Appropriations Committee by a legislative deadline Thursday, even after Bonta had amended the bill to attract more votes. The bill now will not get a floor vote, even though it is possible it could be revived using legislative maneuvers later in the year.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced. State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) and cosponsors have filed HB 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed by adults, but which would not allow for home cultivation. The bill envisions a taxed and regulated legal marketplace, with a 15% retail tax. "There is a market for safe and legal marijuana in Delaware, which will have numerous benefits for our state," Osienski said. "We would be establishing a new industry that would create good-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the marijuana black market."

Massachusetts Moves Toward Allowing Social Consumption Spaces. The state's Cannabis Control Commission adopted a policy Thursday to launch a pilot program for cannabis cafes. In something of a retreat from a December 2017 plan, licenses will not be available for existing non-marijuana businesses that want to incorporate marijuana, but only for full-fledged cannabis cafes and special events.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Legislature Kills Medical Marijuana Bill. Rather than voting on a medical marijuana bill, LB 110, after hours of debate, the unicameral legislature voted to table the bill, effectively killing it. The move came even after the bill's sponsor agreed to suggested amendments limiting available products and delivery methods.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Emergency Visits for Heroin Overdoses Decline in Some States. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that heroin overdose-related emergency room visits declined by 21.5% between April 2017 and June 2018, and that a number of states have also posted declines. Nine mostly eastern states and the District of Columbia reported "significant decreases," the CDC said. CDC speculates that the decline may be tied to less fentanyl-laced heroin and increased availability of overdose-reversing drugs.

Psychedelics

Oakland City Council Hearing on Psychedelic Decriminalization Set for Later This Month. The city council's Public Safety Committee is set to consider a resolution that would bar the use of city funds to "assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession" of psychedelic substances. The resolution would also make psychedelics the "lowest law enforcement priority." The hearing is set for May 28. If approved in committee, the resolution would head to the full council for a final vote.

International

Brazil Congress Approves Forced Rehab for Drug Users. The Senate has approved a measure that will require drug users to undergo treatment at private or religious centers, as well as toughening penalties for drug trafficking. The Chamber of Deputies had approved the bill earlier this year, and the Senate approved it Wednesday. Drug policy specialists criticized the bill for moving away from a public health approach: "It is a perfect example of how this government seeks to resolve complex issues with simple and wrong solutions," said Leon Ribeiro, a public health psychiatrist and former member of Brazil's National Secretariat for Drug Policy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicle AM: Urge NC Gov to Veto Overdose Homicide Bill, Mexico Wants Out of Plan Merida, More... (5/9/19)

Congressmembers call on DEA to permit more research marijuana grows, the Denver magic mushroom initiative comes up short (or so we thought at publishing time), Mexico's president wants an end to Plan Merida and economic development help instead, and more.

Mexico wants less drug war aid, more economic development. (Borderland Beat)
Marijuana Policy

Majority of State Attorneys General Tell Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Bill. Attorneys General from 38 states and territories have called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to gain access to the financial system. "Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. The resulting grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation and regulatory compliance purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash-intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of billions in finances across the nation," the attorneys general wrote in a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday.

Medical Marijuana

Congress Members Call on DEA to Approve More Marijuana Growers. Some 30 members of Congress have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the DEA Tuesday asking the agencies to speed the process of approving new federally authorized marijuana growers. There is currently only one authorized cultivation facility, at the University of Mississippi. Although new applications are supposed to be approved, the representatives called the process "arduous and long."

House Committee Votes on Veterans Medical Marijuana Bills Canceled. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, cancelled votes on two bills concerning medical marijuana and veterans that were set for Wednesday. He said he now plans to hold a later hearing on the legislation but gave no reason for canceling the votes or the delay.

Texas House Passes Second CBD Medical Marijuana Bill. The House on Tuesday gave final approval to HB 3703, which would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. It passed a similar bill, HB 1365, on Monday. Both now head to the Senate.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

ONDCP Releases Report on the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released a report on the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The report "outlines the progress the Trump Administration has made to curb addiction and tackle drug demand and the opioid crisis through prevention, interdiction, and treatment." It cites an ad campaign, decreases in opioid prescribing, prosecutions of fentanyl traffickers, and an increase in access to buprenorphine, among other highlights.

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Opioid Package. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rolled out the CARE Act on Wednesday, a $100 billion plan to fight the opioid crisis. "The ongoing opioid crisis is about health care. But it's about more than that. It's about money and power in America -- who has it, and who doesn't. And it's about who faces accountability in America -- and who doesn't," Warren wrote. "If the CARE Act becomes law, every single person would get the care they need… We should pass it -- not in two years, not after the 2020 elections -- but immediately." The measure would provide $100 billion in federal funding over the next decade, with $2.7 billion annually for what Warren described as the "hardest hit" counties and cities, including those with the highest rates of overdoses. It would also give $500 million each year to expand access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) filed a companion bill in the House.

Andrew Yang Calls for Opioid Decriminalization. Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang is calling for the decriminalization of opioids as part of his platform. "We need to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of opioids," Yang says. "Other countries, such as Portugal, have done so, and have seen treatment go up and drug deaths and addiction go down. When caught with a small quantity of any opioid, our justice system should err on the side of providing treatment."

Psychedelics

Denver Magic Mushroom Initiative Narrowly Defeated. [Update: Last-minute mail-in ballots put the initiatve over the top by the following morning.] An initiative that would have effectively decriminalized the possession of magic mushrooms and psilocybin was defeated at the polls Tuesday. The initiative would have made the drugs law enforcement's lowest priority. It lost by a preliminary margin of 52% to 48%.

Sentencing

North Carolina Overdose Homicide Bill Goes to Governor. A bill that would make people who provide drugs to others who later overdose on them subject to murder charges has passed the legislature and is now on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (R). Harm reductionists are calling for the measure, HB 474, to be vetoed and urging folks to let the governor know their opposition.

International

Mexico President Wants End to Plan Merida, Economic Development Aid Instead. Mexican President Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador said Tuesday he wants the US to end the anti-drug Merida Initiative and instead invest in economic development in southern Mexico and Central America. "We want the Merida Initiative to be completely reoriented, because it hasn't worked. We don't want cooperation on the use of force, we want cooperation on economic development. We don't want the so-called Merida Initiative," Lopez Obrador told a press conference. "The proposal we're making is a development plan for southeastern Mexico and Central America. We want investment dedicated to productive activities and job creation. We don't want attack helicopters."

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

Hemp

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

Psychedelics

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

Sentencing

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

International

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

Chronicle AM: VA Governor Vetoes Overdose Homicide Bill, VT Legal MJ Sales Bill Advances, More... (5/3/19)

A Vermont bill to legalize recreational cannabis sales takes another step forward, a New Hampshire bill to let patients grow their own goes to the governor's desk, Virginia's governor vetoes an overdose homicide bill, and more.

Twenty states have passed overdose homicide laws. Virginia won't be next, but North Carolina might. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Lawmakers Demand End to Policy Punishing Immigrants Working in Marijuana Industry. Four Colorado US representatives have sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to end a policy that bars immigrants who work in the state-legal marijuana industry from gaining US citizenship. The US Customs and Immigration Service has ruled that working in the industry means immigrants lack the "good moral character" required for citizenship.

Vermont Recreational Sales Bill Wins First House Committee Vote. The House Committee on Government Operations voted 10-1 Thursday to approve a bill that would legalize marijuana sales in the state, SB 54. The bill would tax marijuana sales at 16% and give localities the option of adding another 2%. The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees before getting a House floor vote. The bill has already passed the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation. The Senate on Thursday approved HB 364, which would allow patients to grow up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. The House has already passed the bill but will have to vote again to approve amendments made in the Senate. If it does so, the bill will then head to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA, Drug Distributors Team Up to Block Release of Opioid Delivery Information. The DEA and the nation's largest drug distributors worked together Thursday to block the public release of information that would show the number of opioid pain pills the companies delivered to pharmacies across the country. Lawyers for the Washington Post and two West Virginia newspapers had sued for release of the information, arguing that distributors and DEA only sought to withhold the information because it would be embarrassing for companies that shipped massive amounts of opioids to states and towns that were arguably unjustifiable, and the DEA doesn't want to explain its actions. In oral arguments in the US 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, judges hearing the case expressed skepticism about DEA and distributor claims, but issued no ruling.

Pharmaceutical Company Founder, Executives Found Guilty of Bribing Doctors to Prescribe Opioids. Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor and four colleagues were found guilty by a federal jury in Boston Thursday of participating in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe its fentanyl spray, Subsys. The bribery scheme involved retaining doctors to act as speakers at sham events that were supposedly meant to educate other doctors about the drug. They're looking at 20 years in federal prison. but maintain their innocence and plan to appeal.

Asset Forfeiture

North Dakota Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill into Law. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill reforming civil asset forfeiture, HB 1286. The bill doesn't end civil forfeiture but raises the evidentiary standard for seizures from "a preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." It also includes a proportionality test to block seizing property worth more than the criminal penalty for the offense. And it adds reporting requirements for courts, prosecutors and the attorney general.

Drug Policy

Amy Klobuchar Releases $100 Billion Proposal to Fight Drug Addiction. Democratic presidential contender and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday released a $100 billion policy proposal for tackling drug addiction. While short on specifics, the proposal focuses on funding prevention programs and treatment centers across the country. She also calls for bringing down the price of naloxone and curbing "doctor shopping." Klobuchar's father was an alcoholic, and that makes the issue personal for her. "The one thing I hear over and over again across the country is people’s stories of battling with mental health and addiction," she said in a statement. "People need help, but they just can't get it. I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need." [Ed: Sometimes what's called "doctor shopping" is really pain patients whose doctors they went to are afraid to provide the prescriptions they need.]

Sentencing

North Carolina Senate Approves Homicide by Overdose Bill. The Senate voted on Thursday to approve SB 375, which would allow people who distribute a drug that results in an overdose death to be charged with murder. That means that drug users who share with friends, partners who use from the same supply of drugs, and people who sell to support a drug habit could face murder charges even when the death is an accident. The bill now heads to the House.

Virginia Governor Vetoes Homicide by Overdose Bill. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday vetoed HB 2528, which would have made it easier for state prosecutors to go after drug dealers with a felony homicide charge when users die of an overdose. "The disease of addiction has long devastated our communities," Northam said in his veto message. "While I share the goal of addressing the opioid crisis and ensuring drug dealers are punished for supplying dangerous drugs, this bill goes beyond drug dealers and would punish individuals who are themselves struggling with addiction. The way to help individuals struggling with addiction is to ensure they receive proper treatment."

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Hemp

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

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

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

Asset Forfeiture

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

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

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