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Colombia President's Drug War Heterodoxy Draws Critics, Belgian Drug Trafficker Threats, More... (9/27/22)

Singapore arrests its citizens for doing drugs outside the country, Colombian President Petro's frank talk about the need for a new model drug policy is exciting critics, and more.

Cocaine prohibiion is getting some renewed attention these days. (Pixabay)
Foreign Policy

Pair of GOP Senators Question Colombian President's Commitment to Cooperating with US on Drugs. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have sent a letter to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP—the drug czar's office), expressing their concerns with Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s drug policy changes and intentions to modify extradition policy with the United States. They are upset that Petro has initiated peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which they specify is "a left-wing Foreign Terrorist Organization" and that he has resumed diplomatic relations with neighboring Venezuela, or "the Maduro narco-regime," as they put it. "Petro’s favorable actions toward actors working closely with drug traffickers in our hemisphere call into question the Colombian president’s commitment to cooperating with the United States to prevent the flow of drugs crossing our border," they charged. They also took issue with Petro's proposal to limit extradition to people who refused to cooperate with the Colombian state, saying it "incentivizes criminals to avoid extradition by bribing or coercing the sitting political regime." The Colombian president has vocally called for an end to the US's current drug policy in Colombia and his government is considering—but has not yet enacted—significant drug policy reforms, such as decriminalizing small-scale coca production.

Colombia Ex-President Warns Petro's Call to Change Course in Drug War Could Make Country a "Narco-State." Ivan Duque, the rightist predecessor to current Colombian President Gustavo Petro, has warned that Petro's call to make a radical change in the war on drugs could turn the country into a "narco-state" that could threaten the security of the US and other countries in the region. "Now, what worries me is that there is now the possibility of getting into the permission, or the legalization of cocaine and consumption," said Duque. "I think that it will be very bad for Colombia and that will be very bad for the countries in the hemisphere, and I think that could generate also a major security threat to the United States. So by no means I'm in favor of the legalization of the cocaine trade … But I also have to say it, Colombia cannot turn into a narco state. I think the world now has unified in the concept of prohibition, and I think if just one country, let's say Colombia, decides to legalize cocaine, it'll turn itself into a narco state." The Petro government has so far rejected cocaine legalization, but it is considering the decriminalization of small-scale peasant coca cultivation.  

International

Belgian Prime Minister Condemns Threats Against Justice Minister from Drug Traffickers. Prime Minister Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday condemned serious threats against the country’s justice minister as “totally unacceptable” after a car containing firearms was found near his home. Belgian media says the threats could involve kidnapping by drug traffickers, who have been angered by a recent ramping up of Belgian enforcement activity after an unprecedented flare-up of violence among drug traffickers this summer. Belgium and the neighboring Netherlands are the main European hubs for cocaine trafficking, with 90 tons of the drug being seized in the Belgian port of Antwerp last year.

Singapore Arrests Citizens for Using Drugs in Other Countries. The city-state's Central Narcotics Bureau announced Saturday that authorities had arrested 41 citizens so far this year for using drugs outside the country. Under Singaporean law, citizens who use drugs outside the country face the same punishment as those caught using drugs inside the country. A first offense can garner up to 10 years in prison, but most people charged with the crime are sent to rehabilitation if there are no other charges against them. The policy is in lie with the city-state's draconian drug policies, which include the death penalty for trafficking as little as 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of marijuana. 

Arkansas Pot Initiative Cleared for November, CO Psilocybin Initiative Trailing, More... (9/23/22)

Republicans seek political advantage by calling Mexican cartels "terrorist organizations," the FDA eases rules for groups distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug nalxone, and more.

Colorado magic mushroom proponents have an uphill fight ahead of them, a new poll suggests. (Greenoid/Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Supreme Court Okays Marijuana Legalization Initiative for November Ballot. The state Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted after all. The move comes after the Board of Election Commissioners ruled that the measure's ballot title was misleading, but the high court disagreed, holding that "initiative power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions" and that the board and prohibitionist groups who had intervened in the case "have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient."

Psychedelics

Colorado Poll Has Psilocybin Initiative Trailing. A new poll has the magic mushroom decriminalization initiative, Proposition 122, well south of the 50 percent plus one votes needed to pass in November. The Fox 31/Chennel2/Emerson College/The Hill poll had only 36 percent supporting the measure, with 41 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided. While the large number of undecideds leaves room for hope, they would have to break pretty decisively in favor of the initiative for it to get over the top. Only Democrats favored the initiative (53 percent), while 61 percent of Republicans opposed it. Two racial/ethnic groups emerge as opponents: 64 percent of Blacks oppose it, as do 63 percent of multiracial voters.

Harm Reduction

Opioid Reversal Drug Access to Ease Under Relaxed FDA Rules. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that harm reduction programs distributing the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone will not have to comply with certain federal product tracing requirements. The agency said it would not enforce certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements on programs that are distributing the drug to at-risk communities while an opioid public health emergency exists. "Combating the opioid overdose epidemic is an urgent public health priority for FDA," the agency wrote in the guidance. The FDA "is committed to advancing solutions to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the United States, including by supporting efforts to increase public availability of and access to naloxone."

Foreign Policy

GOP Senators File Bill Designating Drug Cartels as Terrorist Organization. Sens. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rick Scott (R-FL) filed a bill Tuesday to formally designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. The Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act. "The illicit drugs and other deadly activities being carried out by cartels are killing Americans at record rates. Since Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to turn a blind eye, we are going to do something about it by designating the drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations," said Sen. Marshall. "As these cartels continue to invade our porous southern border in an increasingly militarized approach, this designation is needed to ramp up our efforts to combat them. We will not rest in our fight to stop fentanyl’s terrible scourge wreaking havoc in Kansas and across the US." Nonetheless, Mexican cartels are not foreign terrorist organizations; they are drug trafficking organizations.

GOP Texas Governor Designates Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Organizations. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that designated specified Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, although since Texas does not set US foreign policy it is not clear just exactly what that means. The order instructs the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) "to take immediate action to keep Texans safe amid the growing national fentanyl crisis." Abbott also directed DPS to identify Texas gangs that support the cartels and seize their assets. 

Colombia President Tells UN Drug War Must End; Good MA, MO Pot Polls, More... (9/20/22)

The Missouri Democratic Party can't bring itself to endorse the marijuana legalization initiative, clashes between coca grower union factions in Bolivia continued for another week, and more.

Colombian President Petro remains on message about ending the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Maryland Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Ballot Question. A new Goucher College poll consisting mostly of likely voters has support for the Question 4 marijuana legalization ballot question at 59 percent, with 34 percent opposed and seven percent undecided. The ballot question is a legislatively-initiated measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. If it passes, a bill already passed by the House that would allow for the possession of up to 1,5 ounces of marijuana would be legalized and between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would be decriminalized.

Missouri Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Initiative. A new SurveyUSA poll of registered voters has support for the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative at 62 percent, with 22 percent opposed, and 16 percent undecided. If these numbers hold true, even if all undecideds decided to vote against the initiative, it would still win.

Missouri Democratic Party Declines to Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The state Democratic Party has decided to maintain a stance of neutrality on the  Amendment 3 marijuana legalization initiative. The party said that while it supports marijuana legalization, it is concerned that the measure "may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,"in a news release Monday. "Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,"the party said. The initiative gives existing medical marijuana businesses a head start on recreational licensing, and that, too, is causing concerns among Democrats.

International

Colombia President Tells UN Democracy Will Die in World Doesn't End Drug War, Pursue Different Strategy. Colombian President Gustavo Petro told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that "democracy will die" if world leaders don't come together to end the current war on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed," he said. "The war on drugs has lasted 40 years. If we do not correct the course, and this continues another 40 years, the United States will see 2.8 million die of overdoses [from fentanyl], which is not produced in our Latin America,"he said. "You will see millions of African Americans be imprisoned in their private prisons. The [Black] prisoner will become a business of prison companies." Petro has previously said the war on drugs has left a million people dead in Latin America, and at the UN on Tuesday, he warned that if current policies continue, another million would die and "they will fill our lives with blood."

Another Week, Another Coca Clash in Bolivia. The two competing factions of coca growers seeking control of the Adepcoca coca growers' union clashed with stones in central La Paz Monday after separate marches into the city. On one side is a faction led by Arnold Alanes, which is close to the government and operated an officially unsanctioned "parallel" coca market in La Paz until it was burned down two weeks ago by member of a faction led Freddy Machicado, who is currently in jail after being arrested for the destruction of the "parallel" market. 

Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers, Peru Coca Crop Up, More... (9/19/22)

California's governor signs another batch of marijuana bills, a Pennsylvania doctor and medical marijuana patient sues over the ban on medical marijuana patients buying handguns, and more.

Peyote buttons. The Native American Church is asking Congress for help to preserve the psychoactive cactus. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Governor Signs Another Batch of Marijuana Bills. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sunday signed into law 10 marijuana bills, including a bill to allow interstate marijuana commerce, a bill to provide employment protections for marijuana users, a bill to make it easier to seal records of prior marijuana convictions, and a bill barring localities from banning medical marijuana deliveries. For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains out of reach," Newsom said. "These measures build on the important strides our state has made toward this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry. I look forward to partnering with the legislature and policymakers to fully realize cannabis legalization in communities across California."

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Doctor Who Is Medical Marijuana Patient Sues ATF, FBI After Being Denied Right to Purchase Handgun. Dr. Matthew Roman, a registered medical marijuana patient, was turned down for a handgun purchase after truthfully telling the clerk that he had a medical marijuana card. The clerk, in compliance with federal law, refused to make the sale. Roman has now filed a federal lawsuit against the ATF and the FBI. In 2011, ATF issued a statement clarifying that a 1968 law barring anyone who uses an "unlawful" substance indeed applies to medical marijuana users even in states where it is legal. Roman's suit argues that "this strict, rigid, blanket prohibition violates the fundamental constitutional rights of tens of thousands of non-violent, law-abiding citizens, and thus violates the Second and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution." In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in a similar case.

Drug Policy

At Ohio Campaign Rally, Trump Again Calls for Death Penalty for Drug Dealers. The defeated former president used a campaign rally for Ohio Republicans in Youngstown Saturday to reiterate his call to execute drug dealers. Painting an oratorical portrait of a country awash in crime, he said that "much of the crime wave is caused by drug dealers who during the course of their lives, will kill an average of 500 American citizens not to mention the destruction of millions of American families who are so devastated by drugs. It's an invasion of crime," he added. "And remember much of the crime that we talk about is caused by drugs. And I'm calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers." Trump falsely claimed that the death penalty for drug dealers would "reduce drug distribution and crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent. That's in one day

"Every place that has a real death penalty ... they don't have any people dying of drugs. I mean, literally nobody, because these drug dealers are smart," he said. "They say ‘you know what, if I want to keep doing drugs, if I'm going to continue to sell them, I'm not doing them in China. I'll go someplace else like how about the United States of America where nothing happens?’ We would reduce crime in our country by much more than 75 per cent in one hour. In one hour, the day it's passed, it's got to be meaningful, but you would reduce it in one hour," he claimed. "I say it because it's very hard. Nobody ever talks this way. Nobody talks about the death penalty. It's a horrible thing to say. Even for me, it's a horrible thing."

The remarks were met with cheers from the crowd, which also cheered a Q-Anon anthem played at the rally's end and raised their arms in a one-finger Q-Anon salute to it. Trump was campaigning for Republican senatorial candidate JD Vance, who he said was "kissing my ass" to maintain his support It is not clear what Vance's position on the death penalty for drug dealers is.

Psychedelics

Native American Church Leaders Ask Congress for Money to Support Peyote Cultivation and Preservation. Leaders of the Native American Church, whose members can lawfully use the psychoactive cactus peyote, held multiple meetings with members of Congress last week in a bid to garner federal funding for efforts to preserve the limited habitats where peyote can be grown. The supply of peyote is limited and under strain, and Native American Church members want assistance to ensure that it remains available for future generations. Peyote is a slow-growing crop that takes 10 years to mature, and it is stressed by climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices, and increase non-Native use of the hallucinogen.Specifically, church leaders and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) are lobbying lawmakers to allocate $5 million in funding from USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program or Interior’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to provide compensation to landowners who agree to convert their property to protected peyote habitats.

International

Peru Reports Coca Crop Grew by 30 Percent Last Year. The area devoted to coca cultivation increased by more than 30 percent last year, reflecting rising coca cultivation in the country ever since 2015. Ricardo Soberon, head of the drug agency DEVIDA, said cultivation had reached 200,000 acres in 19 coca zones, up from 14 in 2020. Soberon said Peruvian producers were responding to high demand from the United States and Europe. "How can we act to reduce the supply if there is a growing demand to buy cocaine," he asked, pointing out that at a kilo of cocaine goes for $1100 in Peru, but nearly $45,000 in London or Paris. 

(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.)

White House Issues Annual Drug Countries List, CA Governor Signs Forced Treatment Bill, More... (9/16/22)

A federal appeals court shoots down yet another effort to move marijuana off Schedule I, new research finds prentant Black women are more likely to be tested for marijuana, and more.

The annual list of naughty and nice drug producing and trafficking nations is released. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Marijuana's Schedule I Classification. A group of defendants who had been convicted on federal marijuana charges had their bid to have the substance removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act shot down by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of August. They had argued that the scheduling of marijuana had no rational basis because it does not meet the criteria for a Schedule I drug and the court should "strike the offending statutory classification as unconstitutional"and leave reclassification to Congress. But the appeals disagreed, ruling that there is a "conceivable basis" for the classification.

Blacks Disproportionately Drug Tested for Marijuana During Labor, Analysis Finds. A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that patients ordered to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Black and are also likely to be on subsidized health insurance plans. The research assessed drug screening practices at one St. Louis hospital and found doctors ordered marijuana-related drug tests in 753 patients out of just under 4,000 deliveries. Seventy percent of those subjected to testing were Black. Marijuana tests were also more likely for those patients who were younger or on public insurance. Most subjected to testing came up negative, but of those who did positive, 90 percent were referred to child welfare authorities, even though there were no statistically significant differences between them and other mothers in terms of preterm birth rates or other indicators of natal health.

"Isolated marijuana use was a poor predictor of other substance exposure in our cohort, but a urine drug screening test result positive for marijuana exposed a historically underserved population that is already subject to pervasive systemic racism in the medical field to further stigmatization without changing outcomes. The utility of using isolated marijuana use as a criterion for urine drug screening appears limited in benefit but rife with inequitable potential to harm and should be carefully reconsidered in labor and delivery units for necessity," the authors concluded.

Drug Treatment

California Governor Signs Forced Drug Treatment Bill. To the dismay of drug reform and mental health advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed into law Senate Bill 1338, the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Act, which create a civil court system in all counties that would force people who are experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health issues to undergo an involuntary court process and treatment plan. Although the CARE Act sailed through the legislature, the proposal was opposed by a wide range of advocates who feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction. It will take away people’s basic right to make their own decisions and force them into court-mandated treatment programs, which have been shown to often exacerbate harms while worsening existing health disparities and the overrepresentation of people of color in the criminal legal system. The CARE Act will fail to meet the urgent needs of our communities or offer a path to effective evidence-based treatment, recovery and other health services for Californians who are unhoused, struggling with substance use disorder, or experiencing other mental health issues, they argued.

Foreign Policy

White House Issues Annual List of Major Drug Trafficking and Producing Countries; Contains the Usual Suspects. The White House has released its annual Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2023 and has identified the following countries as major transit or drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The annual exercise also designated four countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as "having failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts during the previous 12 months to both adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Notably, all four of these countries are political foes of the US, unlike major drug producing and trafficking countries such as Colombia and Mexico, which are US allies.

Grassley, Whitehouse Lead Senate Caucus in Issuing Report onStrategies to Combat Money Laundering By Drug Cartels. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RR), Chairman of the caucus, havereleased a bipartisan report entitled: Strengthening U.S. Efforts to Attack the Financial Networks of Cartels. The report offers recommendations for Congress and the Biden administration to reduce the supply of illicit drugs by closing loopholes in the U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) framework that enable narcotics traffickers to obscure and access their illicit proceeds.Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and James Risch (R-ID) have also endorsed the report.

Its recommendations include: Help partner nations strengthen their institutions to better defend against corruption and implement justice sector reforms; better track whole-of-government efforts to combat narcotics-related illicit finance;  deploy experts in narcotics-related illicit finance to assist partner nations; authorize innovative and effective programs to combat international money laundering, such as Trade Transparency Units; use regulatory authorities to close loopholes in the U.S. AML framework, including by: ensuring greater transparency in the cross-border transportation of stored value or prepaid access devices, and fully implementing the beneficial ownership requirements of the Corporate Transparency Act; aggressively investigate, prosecute, and pursue the maximum allowable criminal penalties for culpable banks, employees, and executives who fail to timely report suspicious transactions; and address vulnerabilities in the AML framework by swiftly enacting the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance, and Counterfeiting Act. The report does not explain how these proposals to deepen the drug war would lead to any different result than decades of previous prohibitionist measures. 

OK Arrests Pregnant Women for Medical Marijuana, Bolivia Coca Leader Arrested, More... (9/15/22)

North Dakota activists cry foul over a financial summary of their legal pot initiative, the South Caroline Supreme ourt upholds civil asset forfeiture, and more. 

Coca farmers are clashing with each other in Bolivia. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill to Protect Marijuana-Using Workers Filed. Even though Colorado was the first state to legalize marijuana, it still does not have protections in place for people fired or not hired for using it. That could change under newly filed House Bill 1152 , which would not only protect workers from adverse consequences for off-the-job marijuana use but also allow medical marijuana patients to consume their medicine at work. Past attempts to pass such legislation have failed and the state Supreme Court has held that employers can fire medical marijuana users for off-duty use.

Missouri Lawmaker Files Marijuana Legalization Bill, Urges Special Session to Consider It. In a bid to fend off a marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 3, Rep. Ron Hicks (R) filed his Marijuana Freedom Act on Wednesday, one day after a judge cleared the way for the initiative to be voted on in November. The bill is a revised version of a bill he filed earlier this year and advanced through committee during the regular legislative session. He is calling on Gov. Mike Parson (R) to include the bill in a pending special session, even though Parsons said recently he would not include it.

Nevada Judge Rules Pharmacy Board's Classification of Marijuana as Schedule I Substance Unconstitutional. District Judge Joe Hardy Jr. ruled Wednesday that the state Board of Pharmacy’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada, which argued that marijuana doesn't meet the definition of a Schedule I drug under state law because it has accepted medical uses. The judge agreed: "The constitutional right to use marijuana upon the advice of a physician does establish that marijuana has an accepted medical use and treatment in the United States," Hardy said.

North Dakota Activists Accuse State of Misleading Voters About Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Backers of the Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1 marijuana legalization initiative say the state's ballot summary misleads voters about the costs of the measure by failing to include any revenues from legalization in the summary. The state's fiscal summary reads as follows: "The estimated fiscal impact of this measure beginning in 2023 through the 2025-2027 Biennium is Revenue of $3,145,000 and Expenses of $4,985,000." That does not include revenues from legal marijuana, which would be taxed at 5 percent by the state, up to an additional 3 percent by localities, and a possible excise tax. Dave Owen, the chairman of New Approach North Dakota, called the fiscal summary "obviously incomplete" and "intentionally misleading." The state claims it is unable to calculate potential revenues, but an economics professor at North Dakota State University was able to come up with a projection that the state would get about $6 million in pot taxes each year.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Is Arresting Pregnant Women for Using Marijuana. At least 26 women have been charged with felony child neglect since 2019 for using medical marijuana. That offense carries a sentence of up to life in prison, although defendants have typically pleaded guilty and received probation. At least eight of those women were registered medical marijuana patients. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, this is the only state to prosecute pregnant women for medical marijuana use. The prosecutions involving medical marijuana are "inconsistent with state law,"said Ryan Kiesel, a civil rights attorney and former Oklahoma lawmaker. "Those women are protected as medical marijuana patients under the law,"Kiesel said. "It’s important to remember, if you have a medical marijuana license, you are under the care of a physician."

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Civil Asset Forfeiture Law But Urges Legislative Reform. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state's civil asset forfeiture law but suggested the legislature could reform the law to make it more fair to seizure victims. "Several states have amended their statutory schemes to impose more stringent requirements on the government; however, the fact that certain states have legislatively altered their civil forfeiture laws provides no support for judicially changing ours,"the order said. "Legislative alteration might be a good thing, but we are not called upon to decide whether a change in the law would be wise."

International

 

 

. The leader of an anti-government coca growers union faction, Freddy Machicado, was arrested Wednesday for his role in protests that resulted in the burning of a "parallel" coca market in La Paz. He is being held at a police headquarters in El Alto, a La Paz suburb. For weeks, Machiado had led weekly protests against the market, which is operated by another faction of the Adepcoca union close to the government. Its leader, Arnold Alanes, who claims leadership of the union even though a majority of affiliates reject his leadership. There are only two officially sanctioned legal coca markets in the country, but Alanes' "parallel" market had operated unimpeded by the government. 

Federal Bill to Help Small Pot Growers, UN Report on Philippines, More... (9/14/22)

Bolivia coca conflict continues, the back and forth over the Arkansas marijuaan legalization also continues, and more.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-OR) have a plan to help small marijuana producers. (Creative Commons)

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Secretary of State Declares Marijuana Legalization Initiative "Insufficent." Secretary of State John Thurston (R) declared Tuesday that the Responsible Growth Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative is "insufficient" to appear on the ballot the State Board of Election Commissioners did not certify the ballot title and popular name of the measure. But the measure will appear on the ballot nonetheless because the state Supreme Court last month ordered its conditional placement on the ballot while it takes up the issue. It has yet to issue a final ruling on whether the vote will count.

California, Oregon Congressmen File Bill to Allow Small Growers to Sell Direct to Consumers Across State Lines. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have filed a bill to help small marijuana growers compete against large corporations by allowing them to ship and sell their product directly to consumers across state lines once marijuana is federally legalized. The bill is the Small and Homestead Independent Producers (SHIP) Act, which is yet to receive a bill number.
 

International

Bolivia Coca Conflict Continues. Last week, union coca growers opposed to an officially unsanctioned "parallel" legal coca market burned it to the ground, but this week union coca growers who supported the destroyed market sold coca leaves on its steps, demanded the government declare theirs is the only legitimate coca market, and announced another round of mass mobilizations to demand justice. The battle pits the government-allied coca growers of the Arnold Alanes bloc against growers from the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) led by Freddy Machicado. The conflict is now nearly a year old, dating from the election of Alanes as the leader of Adepcoca, but the Machicado faction rejects his authority.

UN Report Calls for Philippines to Take New Approach to Drug Policy. Amid continuing reports of human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines, including in the context of anti-drug operations, victims still face challenges in seeking justice, a UN report published Tuesday finds. In the report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledges the Government’s commitment to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms, including through an innovative UN joint program on human rights that is being implemented with Government agencies, the national human rights institution and civil society. The report, mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 45/33, calls for the new Philippines administration to adopt a transformative approach that looks to rights-based solutions for critical issues, including drug law enforcement and counter- terrorism, and to end divisive rhetoric that puts human rights defenders at risk. While acknowledging some progress in a number of areas, the report notes that considerable challenges remain.

"The Government took some initiatives to advance accountability for human rights violations and abuses… However, access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses remained very limited. Institutional and structural shortcomings in law enforcement and the judiciary remained, despite efforts to address some cases," it says. The report highlights "limited oversight of human rights investigations, inadequate investigation capacity and inter-agency cooperation, limited forensic capacity and protracted judicial processes."

The Philippines has admitted to more than 5,000 drug war killing by police during the recently-ended term of Rodrigo Duterte, but human rights groups put the death toll in the low tens of thousands.

Philippines President Promises to Dial Back Deadly Drug War. Newly-installed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has vowed to pursue a less violent and punitive approach to drug problem after the drug war unleashed by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, left tens of thousands dead and little accountability. The war on drugs will continue, but we will have to do it a different way," Marcos said. "In fact, right now, we are trying to formulate what is the best way for the rehabilitation program. These are all being formulated." The new anti-drug campaign will emphasize "the upstream of the problem, the prevention," he added. While Marcos's remarks point to a break with tough Duterte-era policies, he stopped short of any explicit condemnation of his bloody policies. 

MO Judge Okays Legal Pot Initiative, Taliban War on Opium a Dud So Far, More... (9/12/22)

Fentanyl has largely replaced heroin in the nation's capital and that's being reflected in overdose statistics, India creates a national drug trafficker registry, and more.

In Afghan fields, the poppies grow. Despite the Taliban's announced ban. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Judge Rejects Challenge to Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Show Me State voters will have the chance in November to show the country whether they support marijuana legalization or not after a Cole County judge dismissed a lawsuit from anti-marijuana groups seeking to keep Amendment 3 off the ballot. Opponents sued, arguing that some signatures were invalid because they were verified by the state instead of county election officials, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the Colorado-based plaintiff did not provide evidence that she was a Missouri resident. But the judge also said he would have ruled against the lawsuit regardless of residency because the initiative met state signature-gathering requirements.

Opiates and Opioids

Fentanyl Replaces Heroin as Leading Cause of Overdose Deaths in DC. Fentanyl has now almost completely replaced heroin in Washington, DC, with heroin being detected in only 15 of the city's 166 opioid overdose deaths in the first five months of 2022. Heroin is now killing fewer Washingtonians than fentanyl, cocaine, alcohol, or prescription drugs. Public health experts say public health strategies must be adapted to adjust to the city's changing drug use profile. Most of the city's drug overdoses in the last year were among people between 40 and 70, and 84 percent of them were Black.

International

Taliban Make Little Progress in Countering Drugs. The Taliban banned opium in April, shortly after the last harvest, but as the next poppy growing season approaches, less than 250 acres of poppy have been eradicated and only 4,270 kilograms of opium have been seized, far behind the performance of previous Afghan governments. In 2020, for example, the government seized 80,000 kilos of opium, nearly 20 times as much as this year. And that has some experts questioning the Taliban's commitment to the ban. "There is serious doubt on the intentions of the current rulers whether they really want to eradicate poppy," said Javid Qaem, a former deputy minister for counternarcotics in Afghanistan and now a researcher at Arizona State University. "At the time of the Republic, security was a big challenge. Police could not go to the areas where poppy was cultivated. Taliban claim that they have all the areas under their control. They should be able to do it easily," he told said.

India's "Narco Files" Hold Over 500,000 Names. India's first registry of drug traffickers, launched only a month ago, now has more than 500,000 names on it. The National Integrated Database on Arrested Narco-offenders (NIDAAN) - a database of arrested narcotics offenders from states and union territories, developed by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) - aims to profile each narco-offender by integrating with Inter Operable Justice System (ICJS) and Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS), officials said. It holds the names of all people convicted of drug trafficking offenses in the past 10 years.

San Francisco DA's Misdemeanor Drug Crackdown, Philippine Rejects ICC Investigation into Drug War Killings, More... (9/9/22)

Seattle makes a move on marijuana equity, Bolivian coca growers get rowdy, and more. 

San Francisco DA Brooke Jenkins is moving to crack down on open air drug use and selling in the Tenderloin. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Seattle City Council Approves Marijuana Equity Legislation. The city council has approved a package of marijuana equity legislation, including a measure that anticipates the city issuing new "social equity licenses" for city marijuana businesses. The package is the result of months of work by the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force to address the lack of diversity in the industry in the city. Mayor Bruce Harrell (D) called the package "historic," but also noted that "this is a first—but necessary—step toward equity long overdue in the cannabis industry." The program should put the city in line with forthcoming state rules that will require at least 51 percent ownership by individuals "who have resided in a disproportionately impacted area" where there have been factors like a high poverty rate or a "high rate of cannabis-related arrest, conviction or incarceration” to qualify for the special licenses.

Drug Policy

San Francisco DA Announces New Misdemeanor Drug Policy. New District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has announced a new misdemeanor drug policy that will require mandatory drug treatment for people who have five misdemeanor drug possession citations. The move of part of Jenkins' efforts to move against open-air drug use and drug selling, especially in the city's Tenderloin district. "What we are doing is SFPD has begun citing individuals that are engaged in public drug use," Jenkins said. "Both injecting and smoking, pipes, fentanyl, methamphetamines. When a person reaches five citations for that public drug use that is when we file a complaint that we forward to our community justice centers, so that we can connect that person with resources for treatment."

The ACLU of Northern California has some concerns: "One is that it seems to be a backtracking of the statement the DA made a few weeks back saying that she would not prosecute possession or paraphernalia cases. This is saying, you do this five times we’re going to arrest you. Then we’re going to put you through the criminal legal system, which we know and have seen in the past, it is not the best place to put people into recovery," said Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Program Director for the group.

International

Bolivia's Coca Grower Conflict Continues as Yungas Growers Burn "Parallel" Market in La Paz. The conflict between pro- and anti-government coca grower union factions escalated Thursday as thousands of farmers from the Yungas region broke through police lines, marched into La Paz, and burned down a "parallel" coca market. The protestors attacked with dynamite, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails. The country has only two officially sanctioned legal coca markets, in La Paz and Cochabamba, but a pro-government faction of a coca grower union opened the "parallel" market in La Paz last October. The coca growers that burned down the market say the government should have shut it down. "The government and its ministers are responsible for this," coca leader Esar Apaza said, adding that the Yungas coca growers would not go home until the government resolves the conflict.

Philippine Government Rejects ICC Request to Resume Investigation of Duterte's Drug War Crimes. The government of Ferdinand Marco Jr. on Thursday rejected a request from the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to resume an investigation into thousands of drug war killings that took place under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. The ICC authorized a full investigation into Duterte's drug war last September but suspended the investigation after the Philippines said it would conduct its own review. In August, the ICC asked Manila to respond to its request to reopen the investigation, and now it has a response from the Philippines Office of the Solicitor General, which says that the international court "has no jurisdiction" over the Philippines. "The alleged murder incidents that happened during the relevant period do not constitute "crimes against humanity,'" the agency said in a statement. Philippine authorities have admitted killing roughly 8,000 people as part of Duterte's drug war, but human rights groups put the actual toll at three or four times that. Only three people have been convicted of killings in the drug war, and the government has conceded that in another 52 deaths, police may have used excessive force. 

San Francisco Deprioritizes Natural Psychedelics, UK Blocks Bermuda Pot Legalization, More... (9/8/22)

Prisoners and advocacy groups call on the Bureau of Prisons to clean up its act, Colombia's new president has some words for the US, and more.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro continues to push against the war on drugs. (Creative Commons)
Psychedelics

San Francisco Effectively Decriminalizes Natural Psychedelics. The city's Boad of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that effectively decriminalizes natural psychedelics. The resolution includes the "full spectrum of plants, fungi, and natural materials that can inspire personal and spiritual well-being," and includes ayahuasca, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, psilocybin. The resolution also allows for the "planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, engaging in practices with" those substances and provides no limits on quantities that may be possessed. The resolution effectively decriminalizes these substances by designating them the lowest law enforcement priority, but they remain illegal under state and federal law. San Francisco now joins Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among California cities that have embraced such measures. A dozen other citizens around the country have, too.

Incarceration

Incarcerated People and Advocacy Organizations Urge Reform of US Bureau of Prisons. In a letter Tuesday to federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters, current and former federal prisoners and an array of sentencing, drug policy, and other advocacy groups called on her to "bring the Bureau into compliance with federal law and to lead the Bureau toward a more humane future grounded in transparency and accountability." The letter cited a number of issues and concerns, including unsafe and inhumane prisons, the need for the Bureau to use its power to seek compassionate release, the need for the Bureau to comply with the First Step Act (there are chronic delays in releasing people who qualify), and the pervasiveness of abuse, corruption, and misconduct. In addition to individual signers, the letter was endorsed by the ACLU, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), the Drug Policy Alliance, Fair and Just Prosecution, Federal Public and Community Defenders, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Council of Churches, and the Sentencing Project, which organized the campaign.

Foreign Policy

Colombian President Warns US Drug War Has Failed, Change Must Come. President Gustavo Petro warned the US on Wednesday the he believes the US-led war on drugs in his country is a failure and called for substantial changes in drug policy. The statement came after he met with the commander of the United States Southern Command, General Laura Richardson.  "We were now talking at length with General Laura Richardson … about the failure of the anti-drug policy. I think it should be called without fear: the policy that (Richard) Nixon had in the time It was called the War on Drugs, has failed here," said Petro from the presidential palace. "It is our duty before the United States, but also before the world, to not only say this, but to propose alternatives that will not kill more than a million Latin Americans."

Colombia is the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, and Petro said that his own country is "the biggest culprit" because rural poverty makes drug cultivation and trafficking an attractive livelihood. Petro has moved to restrict the aerial spraying of herbicides and limited the resort to forced eradication of coca crops, promoting voluntary crop substitution instead. He is also proposing changes in the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US to allow those who cooperate with Colombia to avoid extradition to the US.

International

United Kingdom Blocks Bermuda from Legalizing Marijuana. In a rare move, the UK's Governor for Bermuda, who, as the queen's representative typically provides pro forma assent to the Bermudan government's actions, has intervened to block marijuana legalization in the British Overseas Territory. Even as incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss was vowing to "stand up for freedom and democracy around the world," her government was directing the governor to block the marijuana legalization bill. "I have now received an instruction, issued to me on Her Majesty’s behalf, not to Assent to the Bill as drafted," the governor said. "The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs concluded that the Bill, as currently drafted, is not consistent with obligations held by the UK and Bermuda"under international anti-drugs conventions dating back to 1961. Liz Truss was foreign secretary until Tuesday when she became prime minister. In a statement, the Bermudian government said the move was "disappointing, but not surprising, given the confines of our constitutional relationship with the UK government and their archaic interpretation of the narcotic conventions. The Bermudian government said it would continue to move forward on marijuana legalization, which could put the country on a collision course with the UK. "The people of Bermuda have democratically expressed their desire for a regulated cannabis licensing regime, following the strong endorsement at the ballot box and an extensive public consultation process. The Government of Bermuda intends to continue to advance this initiative, within the full scope of its constitutional powers, in keeping with our 2020 general election platform commitment." Bermudian Premier David Burt has not commented on this move, but warned earlier that: "If Her Majesty’s representative in Bermuda does not give assent to something that has been passed lawfully and legally under this local government, this will destroy the relationship we had with the United Kingdom."

Drug War Issues

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