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VA Lawmakers Approve Legalization... Three Years from Now, Colombia Goes for More Drug War Militarization, More... (3/1/21)

New Mexico lawmakers work to shrink four marijuana legalization bills down to one, Pennsylvania's governor pardons dozens more marijuana offenders, and more.

Virginia State House (Creative Commons)
New Mexico Legislators Agree to Senate Committee Request to Consolidate Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Saturday asked the sponsors of four competing marijuana legalization bills to get together this week and come up with one bill for the committee to consider and vote on this coming Saturday. That would leave legislators with just two weeks to get to a Senate floor vote before the session ends on March 20.

Pennsylvania Governor Grants 69 More Marijuana Pardons. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Monday announced that he had granted expedited pardons to 69 low-level marijuana offenders, bring his total of pot pardons to 95. He also pardoned another 241 non-marijuana offenders. The move comes as Wolf calls for marijuana legalization and as a bipartisan bill is now before the legislature.

Virginia Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization… Three Years from Now. The House and Senate reached a deal on marijuana legalization Saturday, but in an attenuated way. The measure would not actually legalize marijuana until 2024 and would require the legislature to vote on parts of the bill again next year, both positions that have legalization advocates complaining loudly. The need for additional votes next year exposes legalization to the chance it could depend on Republican majorities in the House and/or Senate or a new Republican governor who would not be as supportive. The bill now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who supports legalization, and now some Democrats are calling on him to amend the bill and send a more complete measure to the statehouse later this year.

Washington, DC, Mayor Filed Bill to Legalize Marijuana Sales. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Friday that she had filed a bill to legalize pot shops in the nation's capital. DC voters approved marijuana legalization in 2014, but have been blocked from setting up a legal, regulated system of marijuana commerce because federal budget provisions bar the District from using funds to regulate and tax still federally illegal marijuana. With Democrats in control of Congress now, advocates that budget rider will now be killed, clearing the way for legal sales. The measure is B24-0114, the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021.

Sentencing Policy

Virginia Legislative Bid to End Mandatory Minimum Sentences Dies. Although both chambers passed bills doing away with mandatory minimum sentencing --HB 2331to end mandatory minimums for drug offenses and SB 1443to end them for all offenses -- House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise, and the bills died as the session ended Saturday.

International

Colombia Launches New Elite Military Unit to Target Coca Crops, Drug Trafficking, Armed Groups. The Colombian government announced last Friday it had launched a new, elite military unit to heighten the fight against coca cultivation, drug trafficking, and the armed groups who benefit from prohibited activities. "The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and -- of course -- any transnational form of terrorism," President Ivan Duque said. The new unit of some 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to Catatumbo region bordering Venezuela and the coca-producing provinces of Cauca and Putamayo.

NM Legalization Bill Passes Senate, Honduran Prez Warns US on Trafficking Allegations, More... (2/25/21)

A bipartisan marijuana legalization bill gets filed in Pennsylvania, a medical marijuana bill wins approval in the Alabama Senate, and more.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, accused by US prosecutors of involvement in drug trafficking. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A marijuana legalization bill, HB 12, is now headed for a House floor vote after passing the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill has been amended to remove some specific tax revenue designations for medical marijuana patients and for communities disparately affected by drug prohibition. The amended bill also removes fines for juveniles, adjusts tax rates on marijuana sales, strengthens employers' rights to have a drug-free environment, and delays the start date for a legal marijuana market.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed with Bipartisan Support. State Senators Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) filed a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday. In a statement Senator Laughlin wrote, "While my colleague Senator Street and I come from different political parties, we see a bipartisan way forward on marijuana legalization that is premised on safety and social equity, said Senator Laughlin. As the marijuana movement reaches Pennsylvania, legalization must be done the right way. This bill ensures a legalized market in the Commonwealth is implemented safely and responsibly, with a thoughtful approach that provides opportunities to medical and recreational consumers, farmers, and small, medium and minority-owned businesses." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Medical Marijuana

Alabama Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The state Senate approved a medical marijuana bill, SB 46, Wednesday and sent it to the House for approval there. The bill would allow patients with specified medical conditions to receive marijuana with a physician's approval.

Missouri Bill Would Protect Patients' Privacy, Gun Rights. Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O'Fallon) has filed HB 501, which would make disclosing patient information to the federal government a criminal offense. "I just want to make sure that we're protecting our Second Amendment rights and law abiding citizens who may have medical marijuana, but then they also have a weapon in their house to defend their family when necessary, Schroer said during his testimony on the bill in committee Wednesday. While the measure won support on the committee, no vote was taken.

Psychedelics

Missouri Bill Would Add Some Psychedelics to State's Right to Try Law. Rep. Michael Davis (R-Kansas City) has filed a bill, HB 1176 that would allow state residents with debilitating, life-threatening or terminal illnesses to use drugs such as MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT. The bill would build on a 2014 state right to try law that lets patients with terminal illnesses have access to investigational drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Foreign Policy

Honduran President Warns US That Allegations He Is Involved with Drug Trafficking Could Hurt Anti-Drug Ties with Washington. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Wednesday that US prosecutors' allegations that he is involved with drug trafficking could affect his country's cooperation with Washington to fight drug trafficking. In a federal court filing February 4, prosecutors in New York City accused Hernandez of using Honduran law enforcement and military officials to protect traffickers, and that he took a million-dollar bribe from former Mexican Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

NJ AG Ends Most Marijuana Arrests & Prosecutions, Mexico Coca Plantation Discovered, More... (2/24/21)

A North Dakota marijuana legalization bill passes the House, Nebraska medical marijuana advocates demand action from the legislature, and more.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has ordered an end to most marijuana arrests and prosecutions in the state. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Second House Committee Vote. The House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee voted to approve a marijuana legalization bill, House File 600, on a 7-5 vote. That's the second committee to approve the bill in the past week. It now heads for a third vote in the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee.

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Marijuana Possession, Small-Time Distribution Arrests. In the wake of Governor Phil Murphy's (D) signing into law three bills that set up a legal marijuana marketplace, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Monday ordered police to immediately stop arresting people for possessing less than six ounces of weed or distributing up to an ounce. He also ordered prosecutors to immediately dismiss charges for any pending marijuana offense that is no longer illegal under state law. Although Grewal had issued guidance urging an end to marijuana arrests and prosecutions after voters approved a legalization referendum in November, police still made 6,000 pot arrests since then. Now, no more.

North Dakota House Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House voted Tuesday to approve a marijuana legalization bill, HB 1420. Some lawmakers said they voted to approve the bill because they feared if they didn't, voters would do it themselves through the initiative process. The bill now heads to the Senate. It would allow adults to buy up to 20 grams every two weeks, with purchases tracked. There is no provision to allow home cultivation.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Advocates Rally to Urge Support for Bill. Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis held a rally at the statehouse Tuesday to urge legislators to pass a medical marijuana bill, LB 474. It is sponsored by Senator Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), who was one of the leaders of last year's initiative that qualified for the ballot only to be disqualified by the state Supreme Court.

South Carolina Poll Has Overwhelming Support for Medical Marijuana. As legislators ponder whether to approve a medical marijuana bill this year, a new poll finds overwhelming support for it. The survey released by the advocacy groups SC Compassionate Care Alliance and Compassionate SC had support at 72%, with just 15% opposed.

International

Mexican Soldiers Discover 10-Acre Coca Crop in Guerrero. The Mexican military announced Monday it had discovered and destroyed a 10-acre coca crop growing in the southwestern state Guerrero. They also found a cocaine manufacturing lab nearby. It's the first time a coca crop has been found in the state, which is known for marijuana and opium poppy cultivation, but it's not the first time coca has been discovered being grown in Mexico. The army uncovered a coca field in the southern state of Chiapas in 2014.

Biden IRS Doesn't Support Pot Shop's Tax Fight, Myanmar Opium Down But Meth Is Up, More... (2/15/21)

South Dakota's Republican attorney general won't defend the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization amendment any further, a Michigan court rules people on probation can use medical marijuana, and more.

Meth is making big bucks for Asian crime syndicates, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Administration Opposes Marijuana Dispensary's Tax Fight for Supreme Court Review. In one of the first actions regarding marijuana in the Biden administration, the IRS has argued against a Denver-based dispensary, Standing Akimbo LLC, having its case heard in the US Supreme Court. The dispensary is seeking to challenge an IRS rule that business tax deductions cannot be taken by marijuana businesses because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Delaware Marijuana Legalization Bill Coming Soon. State Rep Ed Osienski (D-Newark) says he plans to submit a marijuana legalization bill by the time lawmakers return from their February break on March 9 and that he is optimistic about its prospects. "It's close, it's close," he said. "We're talking one or two votes" away from approval in the House." Gov. John Carney (D) has consistently opposed legalization, but Osienski is suggesting Carney could let the bill become law without signing it.

South Dakota Attorney General Will Not Join Appeal of Ruling That Marijuana Legalization Amendment Is Unconstitutional. Although the attorney general's office generally defends state laws when they are challenged in court, SD Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg's (R) office will not help appeal a state judge's ruling that the marijuana legalization amendment passed by voters last November is unconstitutional. Ravnsborg's boss, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) opposes marijuana legalization. A deputy attorney general defended the amendment in lower court, and Ravnsborg's office says that satisfies the state law's requirements. An appeal to the state Supreme Court by attorneys associated with the campaign is ongoing.

(The South Dakota code states that ""... the attorney general shall... appear for the state and prosecute and defend all actions and proceedings, civil or criminal, in the Supreme Court, in which the state shall be interested as a party.")

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Appeals Court Upholds Right of People on Probation to Use Medical Marijuana. The state Court of Appeals has ruled that judges cannot prevent people from using medical marijuana as a condition of probation. The ruling came after a Traverse County district court judge barred Michael Thue from using medical marijuana while on probation, saying it was a policy of circuit court judges in the county. But the appeals court ruled that anyone who has a state-issued medical marijuana card is immune to such penalties.

Criminal Justice

Key Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Gets Booker, Cotton as Chair, Ranking Member. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Sunday that the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, where issues extremely relevant to drug and sentencing policy are the focus, will be chaired Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) named ranking member. Booker is a criminal justice and drug law reform stalwart; Cotton is one of the most regressive members of the Senate on criminal justice.

International

UNODC Reports That Myanmar Opium Production Drops While Meth Surges. A UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released last Thursday finds that opium production has dropped in Myanmar, the world's second-larges poppy producer after Afghanistan has dropped to around 405 metric tons, about half the amount recorded in 2013. Instead, the Golden Triangle drug trade is now dominated by methamphetamine production. "Opium production is down 11 to 12% on the previous year," said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional representative. "This decline is intimately linked to the surge of synthetic drugs."

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Allow Buprenorphine Expansion, Honduran President Target of US Drug Investigation, More... (2/9/21)

A major new marijuana reform coalition has formed, a Hawaii asset forfeiture reform bill advances, so does an Idaho medical marijuana bill, and more.

buprenorphine (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Major Marijuana Coalition Forms to Coordinate Legalization Push, But Some Key Advocacy Players Are Not Involved. A bunch of industry and advocacy groups have formed a new coalition, the United States Cannabis Council, to press forward on marijuana legalization. But while the group is headed by Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steven Hawkins on an interim basis, it does not include major advocacy groups such as NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance. It does include marijuana enterprises such as Acreage Holdings, Canopy Growth, Columbia Care, Cronos Group, Curaleaf, Eaze, iAnthus Capital Holdings, LivWell Enlightened Health, MedMen, PAX Labs, Schwazze, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Vireo.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state won a vote in the House Health and Welfare Committee Monday. Although sponsored by the committee, the bill was actually written by Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber, a US Air Force veteran with terminal cancer, who testified before the vote Monday. "I'm here to talk with you about my desire for medical cannabis to be legalized here in Idaho, with specific limitations and controls," Kitzhaber said. "I've spent years writing and editing this legislation, to make it something that would allow medical cannabis to reach those who need it, but not necessarily reach those who just want it."

Asset Forfeiture

Hawaii Senate Advances Asset Forfeiture Reform Measure. The state Senate has approved Senate Bill 294, which would end civil asset forfeiture by requiring a conviction on a felony count before seized property could be sold or otherwise disposed of. The bill would also direct proceeds from the sale of seized property to the state's general fund instead of a fund controlled by law enforcement. Gov. David Ige (D) vetoed a similar bill in 2019, citing concerns it would hinder law enforcement.

Drug Testing

Illinois Bill Would Require Drug Screening to Receive Food Stamps. A downstate Republican, Rep. Blaine Wilhour, filed HB 658 last Friday. The bill would require recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to undergo a drug screening upon being approved for benefits. The bill would also require them to agree to random drug screening while they are receiving the benefits. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee.

Drug Treatment

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Back Buprenorphine Expansion. A group of lawmakers led by led by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and joined by four members in the House is calling on President Biden to allow more doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug used for the treatment of opioid addiction. The Trump administration had loosened rules for buprenorphine prescribing, but in an early move, the Biden administration reversed that move, saying it was premature. The lawmakers are now reintroducing legislation to eliminate restrictive rules and are calling on Biden to "deliver on your promise to expand access to medication-assisted treatment."

Foreign Policy

US Prosecutors Are Investigating the Honduran President on Drug Trafficking Charges. In new court filing last Friday in the case of an indicted Honduran drug trafficker, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and other "high-ranking officials" were targets of a drug trafficking investigation. In another filing last month, prosecutors said that by 2013 Hernandez had "accepted millions of dollars in drug trafficking proceeds" and in return had "promised drug traffickers from prosecutors, law enforcement, and extradition to the United States." Hernandez has been a key US ally in the region.

White House Kills Expanded Buprenorphine Access (At Least for Now), Mexican Poppy Farmers Tell Army to Get Lost, More... (1/28/21)

A challenge to South Dakota's voter-approved marijuana legalization initiative gets its day in court, the Biden administration rolls back a Trump administration expansion of buprenorphine prescribing, and more.

Mexican opium poppy farmers are demanding the army quit destroying their crops and leave the area. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

South Dakota Judge Hears Arguments on Marijuana Amendment. A state judge in Pierre presided over nearly three hours of arguments Wednesday from attorneys challenging and defending the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The constitutionality of the amendment is being challenged by the head of the Highway Patrol and the Pennington County sheriff, with the support of Gov. Kristi Noem (R). Ironically, Noem's attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, is part of the team defending the amendment. The judge said she would issue a written opinion but gave no timeline for doing so.

Tennessee Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Rep. London Lamar (D-Memphis) has filed HB413, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and allow for the casual exchange of small amounts of marijuana as long as no cash changes hands.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Bill to Allow Patient Home Grows Gets Hearing. The state Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. The measure would limit home cultivation to eight plants in an enclosed and locked facility. Representatives of both law enforcement and the state's medical marijuana regulatory agency expressed concerns about a lack of control over patient grows. No vote was taken.

Drug Treatment

Biden Kills Trump Administration Plan to Loosen Buprenorphine Prescribing. The Biden administration on Wednesday said it was canceling a late move by the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on physicians prescribing buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. "On January 14, 2021, HHS announced forthcoming Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder," the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said. "Unfortunately, the announcement was made prematurely. Therefore, the Guidelines previously announced cannot be issued at this time." But, the administration added, it would continue working to "increase access to buprenorphine, reduce overdose rates and save lives." The Trump move had been widely hailed by physicians and drug treatment advocates.

International

Mexico Opium Growers Demand Army Quit Destroying Their Crops, Leave Area. Opium farmers in Guerrero's Tierra Caliente municipality are demanding that the army quit destroying their crops and leave the area after troops last weekend destroyed more than 125 acres of poppies. "The soldiers are still here destroying [the crops] and what we want is for them to go," one farmer said. He said farmers are creating a list of demands for President Lopez Obrador and Guerrero Governor Hector Astudillo. "We're going to give the government a few days to attend to us," the farmer said.

Japan Considers Harsher Marijuana Penalties, Mexico-DEA Tensions Continue, More... (1/22/21)

California's governor signs an executive order preventing medical marijuana ID cards from expiring during the pandemic, Mexico continues to rage against the abortive DEA arrest of its former defense minister, and more.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador continues to hammer the US and the DEA over the abortive Cienfuegos arrest. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote, Avoids Bid to Strip Out Home Cultivation. The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee voted Friday to advance Gov. Northam's (D) marijuana legalization bill, SB 1406. Committee approval came after two different votes to eliminate home cultivation came up short. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Medical Marijuana

California Governor Issues Executive Order to Prevent Medical Marijuana ID Cards from Expiring During Pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday signed an executive order extending the validity of medical marijuana ID cards. The order extends the validity of any cards that would have expired since March 4, 2020, when the state entered a coronavirus state of emergency. They will remain valid until the governor's order is rescinded or the state of emergency is ended.

Florida Bills to Protect Public Employees Who Use Medical Marijuana Filed. State Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Palm Beach) and Rep. Nick Duran (D-Miami) have filed bills that aim to protect state and local government employees from any form of retaliation for using medical marijuana. The identical bills are SB 692 and HB 335.

International

Japan Considers Harsher Penalties for Marijuana. Faced with rising youth marijuana use, the Health Ministry has convened a panel of experts to discuss revisions to the country's Cannabis Control Law, a draconian measure that punishes marijuana possession by up to five years in prison and cultivation by up to seven years. Marijuana use, though, is not currently criminalized, and the panel is considering whether to make ingestion a crime.

Mexico Calls for DEA Internal Probe of "Fabricated" Case Against Former Defense Minister. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday said the US DEA should conduct an internal investigation into how it created what he called a "fabricated" case against former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested by DEA agents in Los Angeles last October on drug conspiracy charges only to be freed after charges were dropped following howls of protest from Mexico. "I am not going to go to any international body, but I respectfully believe that agency should do an internal investigation and clarify what happened, who made the file, who gave the order to apply it," said Lopez Obrador, referring to the DEA.

US and Mexico in Drug War Tiff, IL Passes Bill to Abolish Cash Bail, Santa Fe DA Softens Drug Charges, More... (1/19/21)

Marijuana legalization and medical marijuana bills get filed in Nebraska, the US and Mexico spar over the undone arrest of a former defense minister, a Washington state bill to allow home cultivation gets a hearing, and more.

Bail bond businesses like this one are about to go the way of the dodo in Illinois. (CA Dept. of Insurance)
Marijuana Policy

Nebraska Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. State Senator Terrell McKinney (D-Omaha) has introduced Legislative Bill 481, which would remove marijuana from the state's criminal code and expunge past convictions for marijuana possession.

Washington State Bill to Allow Home Cultivation Gets Hearing. A bill to allow state residents to grow their own marijuana at home got a hearing last week in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee, with little controversy generated. House Bill 1019 could get a committee vote as soon as this Friday.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. State Senator Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln) has filed Legislative Bill 474, which would create a system of regulated medical marijuana distribution for qualifying patients. She filed a similar bill two years ago, which was defeated. A medical marijuana initiative last year qualified for the ballot but was thrown off by the state's Supreme Court.

Psychedelics

Somerville, Massachusetts, Moves to Effectively Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics. The city council last week voted unanimously to approve a resolution that directs city agencies and employees, including police, to not use city resources to enforce laws against the use and possession of natural psychedelics (entheogenic plants). The move came thanks to advocacy by Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, Decriminalize Nature Massachusetts and the Heroic Hearts Project.

Drug Policy

Santa Fe, New Mexico DA Announces New, Softer Policy Toward Drug Possession. New District Attorney Mary Carmakc-Atlwies has announced a set of new, progressive policies including downgrading felony drug possession charges to misdemeanors for a first offense and offering defendants treatment or probation. The only people charged with a drug possession felony will be those who refuse a plea or diversion and ask for a jury trial. "I ran as a progressive on the idea that we need to reform the criminal justice system. And there are prosecutors all over the country doing things in this manner," she said. "We have acknowledged the war on drugs has not worked and we have to do something about it. This is step one of doing something about it."

Foreign Policy

Mexico Exonerates Ex-Defense Minister of Drug Charges, Lashes Out at DEA. At a news conference last Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) lashed out at the DEA, accusing the US drug agency of making up a drug case against former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested upon arrival in Los Angeles last October but then released with US charges dropped after heated protests from Mexico. "Why did they do this investigation this way? Without substance, without evidence?" AMLO demanded after the Mexican attorney general a day earlier said he had found no grounds to charge Cienfuegos with a crime in Mexico.

US Rebukes Mexico for Revealing Evidence in Ex-Defense Minister Case. The Justice Department last Friday sharply criticized Mexico for releasing a massive trove of evidence in an aborted drug trafficking case against former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos. "Publicizing such information violates the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance between Mexico and the United States, and calls into question whether the United States can continue to share information to support Mexico's own criminal investigations," said a statement from an agency spokeswoman. The DOJ also defended the case against Cienfuegos, saying the evidence shows that the charges were "not fabricated."

Law Enforcement

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill to Abolish Cash Bail. A bill to completely abolish cash bail, House Bill 3653, has passed both houses of the legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. JB Pritzker, who is expected to okay it. The bill will end cash bail and empower judges to base their pretrial decisions on whether a person needs to be held for public safety reasons, not their socioeconomic status. It will require the release of people charged with crimes before trial with the exception of a narrow set of felony offenses or if someone poses a specific harm to another individual. In all exceptions, the bill requires judges to impose the least restrictive conditions possible.

CA "Contingency Management" Meth Treatment Bill Filed, NJ Marijuana Mess, More... (1/11/21)

Voter-approved marijuana legalization initiatives are running into problems with elected officials, federal prosecutors say the Honduran president was taking big bribes from drug traffickers, and more.

Can you pay people not to take meth? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Legislature Refuses to Fund Implementation of Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. The state's Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly last Wednesday to refuse to allocate funds to the Department of Revenue to implement the voter-approved marijuana legalization plan. The department had sought $1.35 million to hire 20 staffers and cover administrative costs of getting the program up and running. Now, that means implementation of a legal marijuana market could be delayed.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Legislation Hits Snag. Bills to decriminalize marijuana and set up a taxed and regulated legal marijuana industry are in limbo after the governor and legislative leaders failed to reach agreement on how to punish underage pot smokers. A floor vote set for today has been postponed indefinitely until Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Democratic leaders can reach some sort of agreement.

South Dakota Governor Uses Executive Order to Challenge Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) issued an executive order last Friday okaying a legal challenge to the voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana. She argued that the initiative "was not proper and violated the procedures set forth in the South Dakota Constitution." Her order also said Highway Patrol Superintendent Col Rick Miller, who earlier sued to block the initiative from being implemented, could do so because he is acting on her behalf.  At the same time, Noem's attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, is defending the initiative in court.  

Medical Marijuana

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill Pre-Filed. Once again, state Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort County) has filed a medical marijuana bill, S 150, the Compassionate Care Act. Davis has filed similar bills for nearly a decade. This year could be the charm, he predicted. "The bill has been thoroughly vetted," said Davis. "It’s been looked at by the SC Medical Association. It has been looked at by law enforcement. We have a very good tightly regulated medical cannabis bill, and what it seeks to do is empower physicians."

Drug Treatment

California Lawmakers Seek to Expand Contingency Management Treatment for Meth. Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has filed legislation, Senate Bill 110 that seeks to expand contingency management as a treatment for methamphetamine addiction. Contingency management is controversial becomes it uses cash payments as incentives for users to stay off the drug, but it has been shown to be a proven treatment for meth and cocaine addiction. "We need to embrace this proven, effective approach to meth addiction, make it clearly legal and start reimbursing for it, so we can address this health epidemic," he said.

International

Amsterdam Mayor Wants to Ban Foreigners from Cannabis Coffee Shops. Mayor Femke Halsema has proposed allowing only Dutch residents to enter the city's famous cannabis coffee shops in what she said was an effort to blunt the flow of hard drugs and organized crime linked to the marijuana business. "The cannabis market is too big and overheated," Halsema said in emailed comments. "I want to shrink the cannabis market and make it manageable. The residence condition is far-reaching, but I see no alternative." She submitted her plan to the city council last Friday, setting the stage for an energetic political debate.

Honduran President Accused of Helping Drug Traffickers in US Court Filings. Federal prosecutors in New York City last week laid out evidence implicating Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in drug trafficking. They accused him of using Honduran armed forces to protect large cocaine shipments in return for bribes. Prosecutors quoted Hernandez as saying he wanted the DEA to think Honduras was fighting drugs while he was instead going to "shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos." Honduras has received hundreds of millions of dollars in US anti-drug aid.

 

 



DC Decriminalizes Drug Paraphernalia; Pot Possession, Cultivation Now Legal in MT, More... (1/4/21)

Illinois has expunged nearly half a million marijuana arrests years ahead of schedule, a New Mexico court rules that people under correctional control can use medical marijuana, and more.

Drug parapernalia is now decriminalized in the District of Columbia. (Creeative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois Expunges Nearly Half a Million Marijuana Arrest Records Four Years Ahead of Schedule. State officials announced last Thursday that state police had expunged some 492,129 marijuana possession arrest records, four years ahead of a deadline set by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized marijuana in the state. Governor J.B. Pritzker also announce another 9,219 pardons for marijuana possession, bringing the total number of pot pardon's he has issued to 20,000. "Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color," Pritzker said. "We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward."

Montana Marijuana Legalization Now in Effect. As of New Year's Day, the marijuana-legalizing Initiative 190 has gone into effect. It is now legal for adults 21 and over to use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four plants for personal use. The state is now working on setting up a system of licensed, taxed, and regulated marijuana commerce.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Court Rules Inmates Can Have Access to Medical Marijuana. A district court judge in Albuquerque ruled last week that inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center who are qualifying medical marijuana patients can use the substance while under correctional control. It is unclear whether other state and local jails would voluntarily comply with the ruling, but it has set a precedent for other state courts. The ruling came in the case of man serving a 90-day house arrest sentence.

Asset Forfeiture

Institute for Justice Issues New Edition of Asset Forfeiture Report. The libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice has released the third edition of its report on asset forfeiture laws in the states, "Policing for Profit." The report details each state's laws around civil asset forfeiture. The Institute handed out only one "A" grade in this edition. That went to New Mexico, which banned civil asset forfeiture in 2015.

Paraphernalia

Washington, DC, Decriminalizes the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has signed into law B54, the Opioid Overdose Prevention Act of 2019. The bill decriminalizes the possession of drug paraphernalia and will also allow harm reduction and community groups to distribute harm reduction supplies that were previously criminalized under DC law.

International

Colombia Says It Manually Eradicated the Most Coca in a Decade. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced last week that Colombia had eradicated 325,000 acres of coca crops, the highest figure in a decade. Eradicators had uprooted about 240,000 acres in 2019 and 150,000 acres in 2018. "These 130,000 hectares eradicated translate into an affectation of about US$301 million to drug trafficking organizations, if the average price of a hectare of coca is taken as a reference, and represents about 115,440 kilos of cocaine that were no longer produced," Trujillo said as he watched an eradication operation in the company of US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg. The Trump administration has pressed Colombia to do more to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production.

Drug War Issues

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