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Biden Vows to Continue Pressure on China over Opioids, Chiapas Militia Emerges to Fight Cartels, More... (7/23/21)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez files an amendment to encourage psychedelic research, President Biden says he will stay tough on Chinese opioid exports, and more.

President Biden vows to keep pressuring China on opioids, but a better approach may be to ramp up harm reduction here.
Psychedelics

AOC Files Amendment to Promote Psychedelic Research in Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has for the second time filed an amendment to a multi-agency appropriations bill that aims to promote research into psychedelics such by removing a rider than has been in effect since 1996 that bars the use of federal dollars "any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I." A description of the amendment says it is designed to allow "United States researchers to study and examine the potential impacts of several schedule I drugs, such as MDMA, psilocybin, and or ibogaine, that have been shown to be effective in treating critical diseases. She introduced an earlier version of the amendment in 2019 only to see it voted down in a bipartisan and overwhelming fashion, but has a lot has changed in the realm of psychedelics since then.

Foreign Policy

Biden Vows to Continue Pressure on China over Opioids. At a town hall meeting in Cincinnati Wednesday, President Joe Biden vowed to continue "this encounter with China" over opioids, saying that his administration is "addressing the opioid issue" by increasing the number of people in the Justice Department. Biden has repeatedly criticized China, which is a major source of fentanyls and precursor chemicals that go into Mexico and from there into the US, accusing it of failing to crack down on drug trafficking. China banned two fentanyl precursors in 2018, but has not taken additional steps since then.

"I don't think we can do much to delay the export of these drugs in these countries, said Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc., arguing instead for enhanced harm reduction measures at home. In that book, Westhoff put the number of Chinese chemical companies at more than 400,000.

International

Mexico's Chiapas State Sees Formation of Militia to Counter Drug Cartels. A newly formed and heavily armed indigenous militia announced its presence by marching masked and armed through the streets of Pantelho in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas last weekend. The militia, calling itself "El Machete," said in an online manifesto that it is a "David" fighting against the "Goliath" of drug cartels and their assassins, and that it seeks peace, democracy, and justice. While self-defense militias to fend off organized crime have been sporadically active in states such as Michoacan and Guerrero for years, "El Machete" is the first such group to emerge in Chiapas, which attracts competing drug trafficking groups because of its location on the Guatemalan border, and which was the birthplace of the Zapatista uprising back in 1994.

Surgeon General Say Don't Jail People for Pot, ME Law Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture, More... (7/19/21)

The AMA Advocacy Update chronicles one doctor's problems trying to prescribe for chronic pain and addicted patients, Maine becomes the fourth state to end civil asset forfeiture, and more.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says it is time to stop locking people up for marijuana. (hhs.gov)
Marijuana Policy

US Surgeon General Says Time to Stop Locking People Up for Marijuana. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday that it is time to stop locking up people for using marijuana. "When it comes to decriminalization, I don't think that there is value to individuals or to society to lock people up for marijuana use," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a CNN appearance. "I don't think that serves anybody well." His comments came in response to a question about a new draft marijuana legalization bill, and are in line with President Biden, who supports marijuana decriminalization, but not commercial legalization. "When it comes to marijuana, I think we have to let science guide us," Murthy said in the CNN interview. "And we know that the science tells us that there are some benefits to marijuana from a medical perspective but there are also some harms that we have to consider -- and we have to put those together as we think about the right policy."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

AMA on a Doctor's Trials Trying to Treat Pain Patients in the Context of Arbitrary Policies. The American Medical Association (AMA) Advocacy Update has published a piece on the travails of southern Illinois family medicine and addiction medicine specialist Dr. Aaron Newcomb, whose patients found themselves unable to refill prescriptions after he was "blacklisted" by a pharmacy chain citing 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines aimed at reducing opioid prescribing in the face of a rising opioid overdose death toll.

"When the CDC guidelines came down in 2016 basically saying we needed to take as many people as we could off opioids, I knew that my patients were in for a world of trouble," said Dr. Newcomb. "I was particularly concerned about my patients who were stable on low-dose opioid therapy for years. And my concerns have translated into an even worse reality for both me and my patients. Getting blacklisted by a national chain who had no clue about my practice was professionally wrong, but it also hurt my patients and my community."

Newcomb had to explain the nuances of pain prescribing to the pharmacy chain: "When they got back to us, they basically questioned a specific formulation of buprenorphine I was prescribing for stable patients with cost or tolerability problems that isn't a preferred type unless there is a clinical reason," Dr. Newcomb explained. "They were also concerned about opioid therapy in general as well as the dose of buprenorphine used to effectively treat patients, and their algorithm out of context painted a misrepresentative picture of my controlled-substance prescribing habits."

Newcomb was eventually able to get back in the chain's good graces and his patients are now receiving their medication, but his case illustrates the challenges faced by pain physicians and their patients in a time where the opioid-prescribing pendulum has swung so dramatically back to the conservative side.

Asset Forfeiture

Maine Becomes 4th State to End Civil Asset Forfeiture. A new law barring asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction went into effect without the signature of Gov. Janet Mills (D), making Maine the fourth state to abolish the practice of civil asset forfeiture. The legislature earlier this year passed LD 1521, which fully repeals the state's civil forfeiture laws, while also strengthening the criminal forfeiture process. While touted as a tool against drug dealers, one report found that half of all forfeitures in the state were under $1,670 dollars. The other three states that have ended civil asset forfeiture are North Carolina (1985), New Mexico (2915) and Nebraska (2016).

International

Mexico President Makes Rare Call for Dismissal of a State Attorney General. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called last Friday for the resignation of Guanajuato state Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa after the state registered 1,562 murders in the first five months of this year. That figure is higher than any other state, even though Guanajuato is only the country's sixth most populous states. He also suggested there was corruption or collusion with some of the drug cartels battling to control the state. "If he [Zamarripa] were the manager of a company, with this kind of performance they would have fired him," López Obrador said Friday. "When officials do not act with honesty, with rectitude, when there is no division between criminals and the authorities, no progress can be made." López Obrador said.

Zammaripe, who has been attorney general for 12 years, has been accused by businessmen and local experts of being close to the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, which had such control over an oil refinery that it could brazenly steal fuel in and around the plant, leading to a federal troop deployment. "Carlos Zamarripa for many years protected El Marro," the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima gang who was arrested in 2020," said security expert David Saucedo. But now, said Saucedo, Zamarripa seems to have changed sides, expecting the Santa Rosa gang to fall apart as the Jalisco New Generation cartel moved in. Instead, the Sinaloa cartel sent reinforcements to assist the Santa Rosa gang, and the death toll has skyrocketed. "Definitely, Zamarripa is part of the problem," Saucedo said.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, Marijuana Gets Legalized in Three States This Week, More... (6/30/21)

South Dakota gingerly enters the medical marijuana age, governors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania sign bills that will ease burdens on patients, and more.

New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Okays Telehealth Prescriptions for Medical Marijuana. Governor Phil Murphy (D) has finally signed a bill allowing health care providers to recommend medical marijuana via telehealth. He originally vetoed SD 619/A 1635 back in April after criticizing it for including a 270-day waiting period before going into effect. The legislature then amended the bill and got rid of that waiting period so it will go into effect immediately. The amended bill also removed language requiring an in-person doctor visit before initiating telehealth.

North Carolina

North Carolina Compassionate Use Act Wins First Committee Vote. The Senate Judiciary voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 711, the Compassionate Use Act. The measure would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and set up a system of taxed and regulated medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. It must also pass the Senate finance, health care, and rules and operations committees before heading for a floor vote.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Wednesday signed into law House Bill 1024, which updates the state's medical marijuana law to protect patient safety standards and product quality, as well as empowering the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to consider adding new qualifying medical conditions. "It's been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program's successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law," Gov. Wolf said. "This legislation provides important updates to our state's medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication."

South Dakota

South Dakota State Troopers Will No Longer Arrest People with Less Than Three Ounces of Weed -- If It's Medical. With medical marijuana becoming legal in the state as of July 1, the office of Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has announced that state Highway Patrol troopers will no longer arrest people possessing up to three ounces of "natural and unaltered marijuana" as long as they have a patient card, or even if they don't, if they claim the marijuana is for medical use and offer some sort of documentation. Meanwhile, the state's largest city, Sioux Falls, has announced it will no longer make arrests for small-time pot possession. "Even if you don't have a medical marijuana card, the decision was made that on low level, low quantity offenses, it's a waste of resources to try and enforce the very, very complicated version of medical marijuana that was passed by the voter," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said. In a state where people are still arrested for testing positive for marijuana, this is progress.

South Dakota Tribe Opens First Medical Marijuana Dispensary in the State. While the state's medical marijuana program, approved by voters last November, is not set to go into operation until next year, medical marijuana became legal in the state on July 1, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe isn't waiting for state regulators. The state's first medical marijuana dispensary opened on the reservation that same day. The tribe requires customers to first obtain a medical marijuana ID card through its medical marijuana program, which is independent of the program being crafted by the state Health Department. That is leading some skeptics to fear that non-tribe members could face problems with state law enforcement even though the Noem administration last week released Highway Patrol guidelines saying troopers would not arrest people with unexpired medical marijuana cards provided they possessed less than the legally allowed three ounces.

Clarence Thomas Questions Federal Marijuana Prohibition, ONDCP Reports on Colombia Coca, More... (6/28/21)

A major pharmaceutical company settles with the state of New York over opioid distribution, Minnesota lawmakers are on the verge of passing policing reforms, and more.

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas questions the viability of federal marijuana prohibition. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Clarence Thomas Says Federal Marijuana Prohibition May No Longer Make Sense. One the Supreme Court's most conservative justices said Monday that because marijuana is already legalized either medically or recreationally in a growing number of states, federal pot prohibition may no longer make sense. "A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government's piecemeal approach," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas as the high court declined to hear the appeal of a Colorado medical marijuana dispensary that was denied federal tax breaks. "Federal policies of the past 16 years have greatly undermined its reasoning," he said. "The federal government's current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Johnson & Johnson Settles With New York for $230 Million, Agrees to Stop Selling Opioids. Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has agreed to a $230 million settlement with the state of New York over its role in the country's opioid crisis, which has led to nearly half a million dead of overdoses in the past two decades. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to not promote opioids and confirmed it has quit distributing them in the US. Pharmaceutical companies and distributors have faced a barrage of lawsuits over opioids, with governments arguing that the companies pushed the drugs and caused people to become addicted and then turn to illegal opioids as states and the federal government cracked down. The companies argued that they were distributing medically necessary opioids for people who need them. The crackdowns on opioid prescribing have left one group of people in particular in the lurch: chronic pain patients, who must seek opioids and doctors willing to prescribe them in large quantities in the midst of the retrenchment.

Law Enforcement

Minnesota Lawmakers Reach "General Agreement" on Policing Reforms. Legislative leaders of both the Democratic Farm Labor Party and the Republicans have reached "general agreement" on a broad-ranging police reform bill, leaders of both parties said late Saturday. Among other things, the bill would restrict the use of no-knock warrants, civil asset forfeiture reforms (but not an outright ban), reforms of fines and fee structures, restrict the use of confidential informants to better protect them, and make modifications to state police misconduct database to create an early warning system to keep bad cops off the street. The legislature is working under a deadline: If the broader public safety bill that includes the policing reforms is not passed by Wednesday, key government public safety functions, such as running state prisons and the State Patrol, would theoretically face shutdowns. But Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) said he will keep those operations functioning, even if that is legally questionable.

International

US Drug Czar's Office Says Colombia Coca Cultivation Expanded Last Year. Colombian coca cultivation increased 15% last year and potential cocaine production rose 7.9% to around a thousand metric tons, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), said Friday. The report from ONDCP differed from a report issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released on June 9, which had a lower figure for crop cultivation but a higher figure -- 1,228 metric tons -- for potential cocaine production. In either case, Colombia remains the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, ahead of second place Peru and third place Bolivia.

Cuba Reiterates Zero Tolerance Drug Policies. Cuba used the occasion of the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Saturday to make clear that its zero tolerance policy toward drug use, production, and trafficking remains unchanged. In a tweet, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez vowed that the island nations will never be a place to use, store, or traffic illicit drugs.

RI Marijuana Legalization Push Hits Bump, UN Warns Pandemic Could Propel Drug Use, Cultivation, More... (6/25/21)

There's progress on medical marijuana this week in the South, a key Rhode Island lawmaker slams the brakes on a marijuana legalization push, and more.

The coronavirus pandemic could propel new cultivation of illegal drug crops, the UNODC reports. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Key Lawmakers Slams Brakes on Legalization Effort. On the day after the state Senate passed a marijuana legalization bill, an amended version of Senate Bill 568, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick) signaled he was in no hurry to finish the job. He said the state could afford to wait to legalize it while authorities consider diverging proposals, that a proper regulatory structure needed to be created, and that he wanted to ensure that the state gets adequate revenues from legalization. "If we're going to legalize recreational use of marijuana, we want to make sure that the state gets its fair share," he said. He said he had seen "six or seven legitimate proposals" for marijuana legalization that are "very divergent." But the Senate has only passed the one.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill into Law. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 46. The new law allows people suffering from a specified list of medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendations. The state had enacted a law allowing for the use of CBD in 2014 and broadened that law in 2016, but now has enacted a full-fledged medical marijuana law. But patients will not be allowed to use smokable marijuana nor grow their own. Instead, 12 commercial growers and 12 dispensaries will be authorized to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana. The system is expected to be up and running by the fall of 2022.

Louisiana Governor Signs Bill Allowing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) has signed into law House Bill 391, which will allow patients to use smokable medical marijuana. The bill passed non-controversially, and its sponsor, Rep. Tanner Magee (D-Houma) said its purposes was to drive down costs and respond to popular demand. "Having the raw form of it, which the public has shown they really want, will allow them to drive down their costs so they can pass on to the consumer and have a real alternative to opioids," Magee said. Smokable medical marijuana will not be available for purchase until January because of time lags with the two state universities who are currently the only institutions authorized to produce medical marijuana.

International

UNODC Releases Annual Report, Warns That Fallout from Pandemic Could Last for Years. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the 2021 World Drug Report Thursday and warned that the coronavirus pandemic is propelling more people into drug use, has caused drug trafficking groups to adapt to changed conditions, and sowed economic hardship that could lead to increased cultivation of illicit drug crops. "[D]rug markets have swiftly resumed operations after the initial disruption at the onset of the pandemic; a burst that has triggered or accelerated certain pre-existing trafficking dynamics across the global drug market," UNODC said. "Among these are: increasingly larger shipments of illicit drugs, a rise in the frequency of overland and water-way routes used for trafficking, greater use of private planes for the purpose of drug trafficking, and an upsurge in the use of contactless methods to deliver drugs to end-consumers. The resilience of drug markets during the pandemic has demonstrated once again traffickers' ability to adapt quickly to changed environments and circumstances." On the potential increase in drug crops, UNODC said: "While the impact of COVID-19 on drug challenges is not yet fully known, the analysis suggests that the pandemic has brought increasing economic hardship that is likely to make illicit drug cultivation more appealing to fragile rural communities. The social impact of the pandemic -- driving a rise in inequality, poverty, and mental health conditions particularly among already vulnerable populations -- represent factors that could push more people into drug use."

UN For First Time Engages with Marijuana Regulations. In the 2021 World Drug Report released Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for a global ban on marijuana advertising, saying "a comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting and sponsoring cannabis would ensure that public health interests prevail over business interests." While the call is in line with the UN's long-standing opposition to marijuana legalization, it also marks the first time the anti-drug agency has engaged with the notion of regulating -- not merely prohibiting -- marijuana use and production.

FL Supreme Court Strikes Down Second Pot Initiative, ME Legislature Passes Drug Trafficking Reform Bill, More... (6/21/21)

Possession of more than two grams of heroin or fentanyl would no longer be considered prima facie evidence of drug trafficking in Maine after the legislature passes a reform bill, the Decriminalize Nature movement gets a Vermont chapter, and more.

Maine lawmakers move to rein in the state's harsh drug trafficking law. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Second Marijuana Legalization Initiative; Only One Remains Alive. The state Supreme Court last Thursday struck down a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by Sensible Florida, the second time it has blocked a proposed 2022 initiative. The court held the initiative's ballot language was misleading because it said recreational use would be limited, but the actual language would allow for state and local governments to remove those restrictions. The state's Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, petitioned the court to block the initiative. An earlier initiative was struck own because it failed to mention marijuana would remain illegal under federal law. A third initiative, from Floridians for Freedom, remains alive. It includes language about marijuana remaining federally illegal and it is very short, leaving less room for the Supreme Court to rule it deceives voters. It needs a million valid voter signatures by February to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

Drug Policy

Maine Bill to Restrict Drug Trafficking Law Passes Legislature. A bill that would amend the state's harsh drug trafficking law to require that the state actually prove drug trafficking instead of charging a person with trafficking for merely possessing an amount of drugs above a certain limit, LD 1675, won final floor votes in the House and Senate last Friday and now heads to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills (D) . Current law makes possession of more than two grams or 90 wraps of heroin or fentanyl evidence of drug trafficking. The bill would also end the 3.5-to-1 state sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses.

Psychedelics

Vermont Decriminalize Nature Chapter Forms Amid Push to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. As the state legislature ponders a bill to decriminalize natural entheogens, House Bill 309, psychedelics advocates have formed a state chapter of the nationwide group Decriminalize Nature to help prod lawmakers to act. And they need the prodding: The bill has languished in the House Judiciary Committee since it was filed in February. "People are all about nature in Vermont and healing with beautiful nature," Decriminalize Vermont leader Carly Nix said. "And also, I already believe that people should be able to grow their own cannabis and heal with cannabis so this seems like a pretty natural next step."

International

Mexican Border Town of Reynosa Sees 14—Or is it 18?—People Killed by Presumed Cartel Gunmen. Gunmen in SUVs ranged across the border town of Reynosa, just across the Rio Grande River from McAllen, Texas, leaving a toll of at least 14 and as many as 18 dead. The likely perpetrators were warring factions of the Gulf Cartel, which has long dominated drug trafficking in Reynosa but has recently been riven by splits. The last two years have been the bloodiest yet in Mexico's drug war, with more than 34,000 people being killed in both 2019 and 2020, and the toll this year shows no signs of slowing. By contrast, when Mexico's prohibition-related violence earned sustained international attention during the 2012 presidential election year in the US and Mexico, the death toll was around 15,000. It has steadily increased ever since.

NY Syringe Legalization Passes Senate, Portugal Ponders Marijuana Legalization, More... (6/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills in Delaware and Rhode Island get delayed, Morocco's parliament has approved the legalization of hemp and medical marijuana, and more.

Even though coca planting in Colombia was down last year, cocaine production was up, UNODC says. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Bill to Let Researchers Study Marijuana from Dispensaries Wins Committee Vote. Tucked inside an omnibus transit bill is a provision that would let researchers study marijuana from state-legal marijuana shops instead of relying on marijuana from the only currently federally authorized source. That bill and its marijuana research provision passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week and now heads for a House floor vote.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Vote Delayed. The House was set to vote on a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 150, Thursday, but that didn't happen. Bill sponsor Rep. Edward Osienski (D) said lawmakers needed more time to consider proposed changes in the bills. "House Bill 150 is an extremely important piece of legislation with many complicated moving parts," he said. "In recent days, a number of amendments have been filed by myself and other legislators that would make significant changes to the bill as written. Accordingly, my colleagues and I need time to consider the implications of these various amendments before bringing the bill to the House floor for a vote."

Rhode Island House Speaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Be Taken Up in Summer or Fall. Marijuana legalization won't be taken up during the remaining days of the regular legislative session, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D) said. "Marijuana legalization will not be decided until after the budget is adopted this month," Shekarchi said Wednesday. "It is possible we will return sometime in the summer or fall."

Harm Reduction

New York Senate Approves Bill Decriminalizing Needle Possession. The state Senate this week approved Senate Bill 2523, which would decriminalize the sale and possession of needles for injecting drugs. The bill now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass.

International

Colombia Coca Planting Shrank Last Year but Cocaine Output Increased, UNODC Says. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says in a new report that Colombia managed to reduce the area of coca planting by 7% in 2020, but that the potential production of cocaine derived from coca grew by 8%. That means the country produced more than 1,228 metric tons of cocaine last year. UNODC said the increase in production despite the decrease in cultivation was because farmers are sowing more productive varieties of coca, using more efficient agricultural techniques, and planting multiple crops in the same year.

Morocco Parliament Approves Hemp, Medical Marijuana Legalization -- But Not Recreational Marijuana. The upper house of Parliament has approved a bill to legalize the cultivation and sale of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes, but as Interior Minister Abdeluafi Laftit said, "the illegal use and consumption of marijuana is still prohibited in the country." The bill has already passed the lower house.

Portuguese Parliament to Debate Proposed Marijuana Legalization Bills. Portugal decriminalized drug possession two decades ago, but has never gotten around to legalizing marijuana. That could be about to change. Parliament will meet soon to debate two draft laws that would legalize marijuana.

Duterte Issues More Death Threats to Drug Dealers, AL Law Applies "Implied Consent" to Saliva Tests, More... (6/1/21)

Myanmar may see a rebound in opium production in the wake of the coup and the pandemic, Philippines President Duterte stays true to thuggish form, and more.

More trouble down Mexico way. It's getting hot in the Michoacan's Tierra Caliente.
Drug Testing

Alabama Law Increases Use of Saliva Tests to Catch Drug-Impaired Drivers. Governor Kay Ivey (R) has signed into law a bill that will treat saliva tests the same as breath and blood tests, meaning drivers in the state will have given "implied consent" to be tested and will lose their driving privileges for three months if they refuse. Previously, saliva tests did not carry that "implied consent" provision and drivers accused of driving under the influence could refuse them without sanction.

International

Mexico Cartel Violence Flares in Michoacan. After confrontations with National Guard members last week, warring cartels burned vehicles and blocked highways in the Tierra Caliente region of the state of Michoacan. Eleven roads were reported blocked in five municipalities: Apatzingán, Buenavista, Parácuaro, Tepalcatepec and Aguililla. In Aguilla, gunmen from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel burned vehicles to block more security forces from entering, while in Buenavista guardsmen and state police were attacked with sticks and rocks by local residents. Meanwhile, members of the rival United Cartels blocked roads in Apatzingan, Buenavista, and Paracuaro. No word on any casualties.

UN Warns of Likely Bump in Myanmar Opium Production After Pandemic, Coup. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is warning of a potential rise in opium production because of economic dislocation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the February 1 military coup. Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer, behind Afghanistan. Production had been trending down since 2014, but the twin threats could reverse that: "The opium economy is really a poverty economy; it functions in a sense the opposite of what the licit economy does. As people exit that economy and they need to make money, they are going to be looking at places they can make it, and often people that are in poor areas and poverty-stricken areas look to make money from the opium economy," said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC's representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "Probably 12 months out, 18 months out, we're going to be looking at an expansion unless past history is wrong. There's a cycle of this happening in the country over its history," he added.

Philippines President Rejects Providing Full Details on Drug Crackdown, Threatens to Kill More Drug Dealers. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised speech Monday that he would not open up police records about killings in his bloody anti-drug crackdown, comparing the campaign to the government's war against the communist New People's Army. "This is a national security issue like the NPA," he said. The Supreme Court disagrees, noting in a 2018 resolution that anti-drug operations do not usually "involve state secrets affecting national security" like those dealing with "rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers." Duterte also warned drug dealers that: "If I am there, I will really kill you. I don't care if there's TV around. I will really kill you."

IL House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill, Mexican State Police Commander Gunned Down, More... (5/26/21)

A new poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization in the Mountaineer State, a Louisiana bill to end the threat of jail time for pot possession advances, and more.

Minnesota medical marijuana patients will soon be able to smoke their medicine. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Passes Marijuana Equity Bill. The House on Tuesday passed House Bill 1443, which would revamp the state's system for awarding marijuana dispensary licenses with an eye toward increasing minority participation in the legal industry. The bill would create two new lotteries for dispensary licenses creating 110 new licenses in addition to the 75 already licensed. The bill now heads to the Senate, which has until Monday's legislative deadline to pass it with a simple majority.

Louisiana House Panel Advances Bill to Lower Marijuana Penalties. The Senate Judiciary C Committee voted on Tuesday to approve House Bill 652, which would remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses. Pot possession would remain a misdemeanor, but punishable only by a $100 fine. The bill has already passed the House and now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

West Virginia Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Change Research finds strong support for marijuana legalization in the state. Some 70% of registered voters supported marijuana legalization, 77% supported Congress doing it this year in light of legalization in other countries, and 89% supported allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed in VA facilities.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Governor Signs into Law Bill Legalizing Smokable Medical Marijuana. Governor Tim Walz (D) on Tuesday signed into law a medical marijuana expansion bill that includes allowing adult patient to use smokable marijuana products. That policy must take effect by March 1, 2022, or earlier if rules are developed and the state's cannabis commissioner authorizes it.

Mississippians Rally to Demand Special Session to Pass Medical Marijuana. Protestors marched Tuesday from the Supreme Court to the governor's mansion calling for a special session of the legislature after the state Supreme Court last week threw out a voter-approved medical marijuana law. The measure had passed with 74% of the vote, but the court tossed it because the state constitution requires signature gathering requirements in five US representative districts and the state has only had four of them since 2000.

International

Mexico's Head of State Police in Sinaloa Gunned Down. Presumed cartel gunmen ambushed Joel Ernesto Soto, director of the Sinaloa State Police, on Monday, killing him. He was found dead in his bullet-riddled car on the outskirts of Culiacan, the state capital. Sinaloa is the home of the Sinaloa cartel, which is now embroiled in internecine violence as well as armed conflict with the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel.

LA House Passes Legal Pot Study Resolution, Peru Coca Zone Massacre, More... (5/25/21)

An Illinois marijuana equity bill heads for a House floor vote, a loosening of medical marijuana regulations during the pandemic may be made permanent in Pennsylvania, the Texas legislature advances bills to reduce penalties for pot concentrates and to study the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and more.

The Shining Path is suspected of massacring villagers in a coca-producing region of Peru. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Marijuana Equity Licensing Bill Heads to House Floor. A bill designed to get more people from drug war-ravaged communities involved in the legal marijuana industry, House Bill 1443, has passed out of the House Rules Committee and is now headed for a House floor vote.

Louisiana House Passes Marijuana Study Resolution. The House on Monday approved House Resolution 1, which directs the House Criminal Justice Committee to conduct a study of the impact of the use and legalization of marijuana. The move comes after efforts to approve legalization stalled in the legislature last week.

Texas Legislature Approves Bill to Lessen Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates. The Senate has approved House Bill 2593, which would reduce the penalty for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana concentrates to a class B misdemeanor. The measure has already passed the House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania Bill to Make Pandemic-Era Lessening of Delivery Restrictions Permanent Wins House Committee Vote. The House Health Committee on Monday approved a proposal to make permanent pandemic-related loosening of the state's medical marijuana rules permanent, House Bill 1024. The state Health Department allowed curbside pickups and the purchase of three-month supplies during the pandemic, and this bill would retain those changes. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Texas Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday to approve House Bill 1535, which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include all forms of PTSD and cancer, but not chronic pain. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, and if it does, then go back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.

Methampheamine

Oregon Bill Would Re-Legalize Over-the-Counter Pseudoephedrine Sales. In 2006, Oregon became the first state to ban OTC sales of cold and allergy remedies because they contain pseudoephedrine and could be used in home meth manufacture. Now, a new bill, House Bill 2648, would end the ban and allow anyone over 18 to buy products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription, has been filed. It is currently before the Senate Health Care Committee.

Psychedelics

Texas Senate Approves Therapeutic Psychedelic Study Bill. The Senate has approved House Bill 1802, which would require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA. The bill now goes back to the House for approval of a budget-neutrality amendment passed in the Senate.

International

Peru Coca Zone Massacre Leaves 14 Dead. At least 14 men, women, and children were killed in a massacre in the Ene River Valley, one of the country's most important coca-growing areas. Pamphlets from a Shining Path splinter group were left at the scene, and authorities were pointing the finger at the group. Shining Path, a Maoist-inspired guerrilla group, led a brutal insurgency that left 70,000 dead in the 1980s, but had largely been eliminated since 1992. But remnants remain in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), where they have morphed into coca and cocaine traffickers.

Philippines Senator Lobbies for Death Penalty for Drug Offenses. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who once led the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, argued that the death penalty for drug offenses should be reinstated Tuesday during a hearing on a bill that aims to toughen the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He complained that imprisoned Chinese drug lords were still running their businesses from behind bars, saying "the frustration of law enforcement is that had these drug lords been executed, we would not have these problems now." But drug reform advocate Dr. Lee Edson Yarcia pointed out that under the proposed bill, the death penalty is not imposed on top drug lords or syndicates: "This was included in the provision about persons who are in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings, or meetings," he noted. The House passed a reform bill last year, but the Senate has yet to file one. This was a preliminary hearing.

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