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Chronicle AM: Joe Biden's Muddy Marijuana Policy Message, Peru Coca Eradication Gearing Up, More... (9/13/19)

Joe Biden muddies the waters on his marijuana policy, Copenhagen is moving toward a pilot progeram of legal marijuana sales, Peru prepares to go after coca crops in a lawless region, and more.

Joe Biden. Where, exactly, is he on marijuana policy? (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Bipartisan House Bill to Reschedule Marijuana Filed. Florida US Reps. Donna Shalala (D) and Matt Gaetz (R) filed a bill Thursday aimed at reducing barriers to marijuana research by moving it from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The Expanding Cannabis Research and Information Act is identical companion legislation to a bill filed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in July, S. 2400.

Joe Biden Says Marijuana Offenses Should Be Misdemeanors, But Without Jail Time. During Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden muddied the waters by saying marijuana offenses should be treated as misdemeanors, even though he has earlier called for decriminalization. Many other candidates are calling for legalization. Here's what Biden said: "Nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example -- immediately upon being released, they shouldn't be in there." he said. "That should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned," he said. "When you finish your term in prison, you should be able to not only vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing, have access to be able to move along the way."

International

Denmark's Capital City Moves toward Legal Marijuana. The Copenhagen city council overwhelmingly supports a pilot program that would see marijuana sold legally across the city. The city has long been prepared to move down this path, but had been stymied by a conservative national government. But now, left-wing parties won an overall majority in elections this summer. The new health minister, Magnus Heunicke, doesn't endorse the scheme, but the city council is moving forward anyway. Under the proposed plan, a half dozen or so marijuana dispensaries would operate in the city.

Peru to Start Eradicating Coca Crops in the VRAEM. For the first time, Peruvian security forces will attempt to eradicate illicit coca plants in the country's largest coca growing area, the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), the government announced Thursday. Starting November 1, authorities will undertake a 45-day operation aiming to eradicate some 1,800 acres of coca crops, and they are vowing to intensify such operations next year. The region produced some 60,000 acres of coca in 2017, according to the UN. Although the region has been in a state of emergency for decades, recent governments have declined to send in coca eradication teams for fear of a violent backlash from coca farmers and remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas who have morphed into drug traffickers.

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

Chronicle AM: Johns Hopkins Gets Psychedelic Center, Guatemala State of Siege, More... (9/5/19)

Johns Hopkins University is opening a psychedelic research center, hemp cultivation in the US quadruples over last year, Guatemala declares a state of seige after suspected drug traffickers killed three soldiers, and more.

The psilocybin molecule. They'll be taking a look at the new Johns Hopkins psychedelic studies center. (Creative Commons)
Hemp

Hemp Farming Quadrupled in Tte US This Year, New Report Shows. In a report released Thursday, the advocacy group Vote Hemp announced that the amount of land devoted to legal hemp cultivation in the country has more than quadrupled this year. Since passage of the farm bill last year federally legalized hemp production, the amount of land licensed for cultivation -- primarily female plants for CBD production -- was 511,442 acres, up from 78,000 acres grown last year and less than 10,000 acres cultivated in 2016.

Law Enforcement

St. Louis Cop Kills Armed Man in Small-Time Marijuana Bust. Early Thursday morning, a St. Louis police officer shot and killed a man he was trying to arrest in a small-time marijuana bust after the man allegedly tried to pull a gun from his pocket. Officers were patrolling an area "known for drug activity" when they noticed several people around a parked car. Approaching the vehicle, they found a man with marijuana on his lap. Police said he refused their commands to exit the vehicle, so they pulled him from the car and one of the officers "notice[d] there [was] a gun that the person [wa]s trying to remove from his pocket" and then shot him. The victim, described as a 28-year-old black man, has not yet been identified.

Psychedelics

Johns Hopkins Launches Center for Psychedelic Research. A group of private donors has given $17 million to start the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine, making it what's believed to be the first such research center in the US and the largest research center of its kind in the world. The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research will focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning and memory, the brain's biology, and mood. At Johns Hopkins, much of the early work with psychedelics has focused on psilocybin, the chemical found in so-called magic mushrooms. Further studies will determine the chemical's effectiveness as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa, and alcohol use in people with major depression. Researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to individual patients' specific needs.

Harm Reduction

Washington State Health Officer Okays Standing Order for Naloxone. Late last week, State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy signed a statewide standing order for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. The order allows any person or organization in the state to get naloxone from a pharmacy. The state Department of Health encourages anyone who is at risk of experiencing or witnessing an opioid overdose to carry naloxone. People who want to get naloxone can use the standing order at any pharmacy in the state without a prescription from a health care provider.

International

Guatemala Declares State of Emergency After Narcos Kill Soldiers. The Guatemalan government on Wednesday declared a state of siege in five northeastern provinces in the wake of an attack by suspected drug traffickers that left three soldiers dead. The provinces are Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Peten and Zacapa provinces, a drug-trafficking corridor that runs from the Honduran to Mexican borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. It must be approved by Congress.

Chronicle AM: Feds Warn on Marijuana Health Risks, Philly Drug Test Backlog, More... (8/30/19)

Federal officials issue a warning on marijuana for teens and pregnant women, the Philadelphia DA deals with a drug sample testing crisis, Colombian FARC dissidents pick up their guns again, and more.

A Dutch cannabis cafe. A pilot program to begin in 2021 will see legal suppliers for the shops in 10 cities. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Officials Issue Warning on Marijuana for Teens, Pregnant Women. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned jointly Thursday against marijuana use by adolescents and pregnant women. Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive, called marijuana "a dangerous drug," while Adams warned that "this isn't your mother's marijuana" because of higher THC levels.

Oklahoma Poll Shows State Not Ready to Support Legalization. State voters approved medical marijuana last year, but a new poll suggests legalization may be a bridge too far. A new SoonerPoll found that 59% opposed legalization for non-medical use, with 50.5% strongly opposed.

Law Enforcement

Philadelphia Drug Sample Testing Backlog Means DA Will Prosecute Fewer Low-Level Cases. Faced with a backlog of thousands of untested drug samples, District Attorney Larry Krasner's office has announced an "emergency protocol" to suspend the automatic testing of new samples for low-level drug cases. That means the number of low-level drug cases the DA's office prosecutes each year should be reduced because without testing to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a white powder is actually a controlled substance, prosecutors have no case.

International

Colombia FARC Dissidents Take Up Arms Again. Three years after an historic peace agreement between the leftist guerrillas of the FARC and the Colombian state, dissident FARC leaders announced Thursday that they were rejoining the path of armed struggle. Saying the rightist government of President Ivan Duque has betrayed the accord, the dissidents led by Ivan Marquez (Luciano Marin) said they were ready for a "new stage of fighting." They cited the murders of more than a hundred former FARC members and labor activists, as well as the government's failure to provide sustainable development assistance to areas formerly under their control. "The state has not fulfilled its most important obligation, which is to guarantee the life of its citizens and especially avoid assassinations for political reasons," Marquez. Marquez said his group would work with the ELN, another leftist guerrilla army. The number of dissidents affiliated with Marquez is estimated at around 2-3,000. The civil war with the FARC that began in 1964 left more than 220,000 people dead.

Ten Dutch Cities Will Participate in Legal Marijuana Supply Pilot Program. Beginning in 2021, cannabis cafes in 10 Dutch cities will be supplied with legally grown marijuana under a pilot program aimed at solving the country's "back door problem," where marijuana is allowed to be sold but there is no legal source of supply. The ten cities selected for the program are Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad. In those towns, all cannabis cafes must obtain their supply from legally regulated growers. That's why bigger cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam opted out: They have large numbers of cannabis cafes and authorities worry problems could arise if they all abandoned their illicit suppliers simultaneously.

Chronicle AM: Houston Narc Charged With Murder in Bogus Drug Raid, DEA Moves on Pot Research, More... (8/26/19)

The DEA finally moves on expanding marijuana research opportunites, a former Houston cop who led a lethal bogus drug raid is charged with murder, a Florida poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization, and more.

The DEA is finally moving to expand researchers' ability to grow their own marijuana. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Government to Expand List of Marijuana Research Growers. The DEA said Monday it would move to expand the number of growers allowed to grow marijuana for research purposes. The move comes three years after DEA began accepting applications from researchers, but it had yet to act on any of them, and weeks after researchers filed court papers asking a judge to force the DEA to process their applications.

Florida Poll Has Two-Thirds Support for Legalization. A new poll by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates has support for marijuana legalization at 67% among likely Florida voters. Only 29% opposed legalization. The poll comes as two legalization initiative campaigns seek to position themselves to appear on the 2020 ballot.

New Jersey Governor Vetoes Pot Expungement Bill. Gov. Phil Murphy (D), a proponent of marijuana legalization, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed people with small-time pot convictions to get their records expunged. Murphy said the expungement process in the bill was too cumbersome and he wanted it to be easier. "Nobody that I know -- certainly not me -- is opposed to automatic expungement. That's something we would all like to be able to flip a switch and you're expunged," Murphy said earlier this year.

Law Enforcement

Former Houston Cop Who Led Deadly Bogus Drug Raid Charged with Murder. Prosecutors have charged the former Houston police officer who led a February raid that left two innocent homeowners dead and five officers injured has been charged with murder after authorities said he lied to obtain a search warrant for the raid. Gerald Goines, a 35-year veteran, faces two murder counts in the deaths of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle. A second former officer, Steven Bryant, is charged with tampering with evidence. Gaines falsely told a judge an informant had purchased heroin at the home and that the man selling drugs was armed so he could obtain a no-knock warrant. Police found no heroin at the home; only personal use amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

International

Mexican Bishop Calls for Dialogue Between Government and Armed Groups, Including Drug Cartels. A bishop in the country's opium farming heartland is urging the federal government to hold talks with armed groups, including drug cartels, saying that many in the drug business now can't make ends meet and are "seeking an exit." Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoze of Chilpancingo-Chilapa (Guerrero state) commented after Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said last week that the government was in talks with armed groups such as so-called community police and self-defense militias, but not the cartels. "If the government wants to dialogue with these criminal groups and, above all, wants to talk with these community police forces, I think that's good," Bishop Rangel said. "To get peace you have to dialogue, even with Satan, with whomever it might be to get peace. But they have this point of view that we don't want to talk because they break the law. At least you have to listen to them." Rangel added that the opium economy had collapsed because of the rise of fentanyl and now some cartel leaders "no longer want to fight because it doesn't make sense. What are they fighting over? … Now, nothing."

Chronicle AM: CA Pot Party Bus Bill Advances, Bolivia Coca Cultivation Decline, More... (8/23/19)

Top White House drug officials signal a laissez-faire stance toward marijuana legalization in the states, a bill to allow pot smoking and vaping on party buses advances in California, the world's third largest coca producer sees a slight decline, and more.

Marijuana party buses could be coming soon to the Golden State. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

White House Drug Officials Say Legal Marijuana Is Up to States. A pair of top federal drug officials said this week that marijuana legalization should be left up to the states. Jim Carroll, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said he considers legalization a states' rights issue. Carroll's remarks were echoed by Anne Hazlett, a senior ONDCP advisor, who said marijuana legalization is "a state decision."

California Marijuana Party Bus Bill Advances. A bill that would allow passengers on party buses to smoke and vape marijuana products was approved Wednesday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Senate Bill 625 would allow passengers 21 and older to use the products on a bus, limousine, or modified limousine as long as the driver's compartment is sealed off by a physical barrier and ventilated separately from passenger areas. The bill now heads for an Assembly floor vote.

Florida Sees New Industry-Backed Marijuana Legalization Measure Filed. A major player in the legal marijuana industry, the multi-state dispensary chain MedMen, is leading the charge for a second marijuana legalization initiative campaign in the Sunshine State. A political committee linked to MedMen, Make It Legal Florida, filed the initiative earlier this month. It would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and allow recreational sales through medical marijuana dispensaries. There is no mention of home cultivation.

International

Bolivian Coca Production Drops, UN Says. The land area under coca cultivation in the world's third largest coca producer declined 6% last year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported Thursday. UNODC said cultivation was some 57,000 acres, down from a little more than 60,000 acres in 2017. But UNODC also noted that cultivation was still above what is legally allowed by Bolivian law, which is some 54,000 acres.

Chronicle AM: Outside Lands Festival to Allow Pot, Colombia Cocaine Conflicts Creating Refugees, More... (8/9/19)

There will be legal pot smoking at Outside Lands in San Francisco this weekend, the Trump administration moves forward with plans to allow drug testing of unemployment recipients, fighting over coca farms and cocaine smuggling routes in Colombia is generating large refugee flows, and more.

Prohibition-related violence in Colombia's cocaine trade is generating tens of thousands of refugees. (Pixelbay)
Marijuana Policy

Outside Lands Becomes First Major US Music Festival to (Officially) Allow Marijuana. San Francisco's Outside Lands music festival, set for this weekend, will allow marijuana sales and consumption, making it the largest music festival of its size to do so. Some 200,000 people attended last year. Final approval from the state Bureau of Cannabis Control came on Wednesday.

Medical Marijuana

DC Will Now Accept Medical Marijuana Cards from Any State. In a press release Thursday, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that the District will now accept medical marijuana cards from any US state. "Non-residents needing their medication while they are visiting the District will be able to patronize the District's regulated marijuana dispensaries and obtain their medication," the press release said. Previously, the District recognized 19 other states' medical cards. Now, at least 27 states' cards will be recognized by the District's dispensaries.

Drug Testing

Labor Department Rule to Allow States to Drug Test Unemployment Recipients Now Under Review at White House. The White House budget office is reviewing a final Department of Labor rule that would allow states to drug test unemployment insurance recipients. The rule would allow states to drug test applicants in occupations where the employer "regularly conducts drug testing."

International

Colombia Cocaine Trade Fighting Generates Tens of Thousands of Refugees. According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, illegal armed groups fighting for control over the lucrative cocaine trade have forced some 40,000 people to flee their homes in the country's Catatumbo region near the Venezuelan border. The groups are fighting over territory armed by the former leftist guerillas of the FARC, who laid down their arms in a peace accord in 2016. The three groups named by Human Rights Watch are the Popular Liberation Army, the National Liberation Army, and a small group of FARC dissidents. Human Rights Watch accused the Colombian government of "not meeting its obligations" to protect civilians in the area.

Chronicle AM: US & China Spar Over Fentanyl, Honduran President Named Trafficking Conspirator, More... (8/5/19)

Federal prosecutors accuse the president of Honduras of participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, the US and China squabble over fentanyl, Colombia coca production declined slightly last year, and more.

The Trump administration and China are sparring over fentanyl exports and who is responsible for the opioid crisis. (CC)
Medical Marijuana

Iowa Panel Backs Including Chronic Pain, But Not PTSD, Opioid Dependency. The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board last Friday approved a recommendation to add chronic pain as a qualifying condition under the state's medical marijuana law. But the board drew criticism from patients advocates for not making the same recommendation regarding PTSD, opioid dependency, and other medical conditions. The board could revisit the issue in November if more data or research is available.

Nebraska Attorney General Argues Legalizing Medical Marijuana Is Unconstitutional. State Attorney General Doug Peterson (R) issued an opinion last Thursday saying federal law preempts state medical marijuana laws and that an effort to legalize medical marijuana in the state "would be, therefore, unconstitutional." On the other hand, more than 30 states have legalized medical cannabis since 1996, but the Supreme Court has never ruled that state legalization regimes are preempted by federal law. [Ed: This Cato brief by Vanderbilt law profession Robert Mikos explains why federal law probably does not preempt state law in ways that would interfere with state legalization laws. -DB]

Foreign Policy

Trump Accuses China of Failing to Halt Fentanyl Exports to US. President Trump last Thursday accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of failing to honor a pledge to stem the flow of fentanyl from Chinese chemical factories to the United States. "My friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of fentanyl to the United States -- this never happened, and many Americans continue to die," Trump said in a tweet. "We're losing thousands of people to fentanyl," he later told reporters. Xi had promised Trump in December that he would act, and China announced on May 1 that it had expanded its list of narcotics subject to state control to include more than 1,400 known fentanyl analogues.

China Rejects Trump Criticism on Fentanyl. Chinese state media fired back at President Trump on Sunday, with Xinhua editorializing that "the United States has only itself to blame" for the country's opioid crisis. A day earlier, Liu Yaojin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission also hit back, saying "China is not the main resources of fentanyl in the United States… I think that the United States should solve the problem of the widespread abuse of fentanyl domestically."

[Ed: I've never been inclined to accept the word of China's government, much less of their counternarcotics officials. Nor, however, can one rely on President Trump's word about anything either. On this one, the Chinese are probably more right than wrong. As this commentary by RAND scholars Beau Kilmer and Bryce Pardo suggests (following a report on Asian drug policy, link a few paragraphs in), China's regulatory capacity (unlike its surveillance capacity) falls very far short of what's needed to monitor all the chemical companies that could be involved in fentanyl, some of which produce it legally for the medicinal market. If they were to succeed in stamping out illicit production by such businesses, it could have unintended consequences, such as sparking increased activity by groups operating entirely outside the law. -DB]

International

UNODC Reports Slight Drop in Colombia Coca Production Last Year. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported last Friday that coca production had declined by a modest 1.2% in 2018 from record levels the year before. In areas where voluntary and forced eradication took place, production dropped 18%, but that was largely offset by increases in areas dominated by violent drug trafficking organizations.

Honduran President Accused of Drug Conspiracy by US Prosecutors. In documents filed in federal court in New York City last Friday, prosecutors refer to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking scheme with his brother, Juan Antonio Hernandez, and former President Porfirio Lobo "to use drug trafficking to help assert power and control in Honduras." It says that the president and his predecessor "relied on drug proceeds" to fund political campaigns and cites "evidence of high-level political corruption." The US government has been a staunch supporter of Hernandez's government, pouring millions of dollars into security cooperation to stop cocaine headed to the US from South America.

Chronicle AM: Fed Court Orders DEA to Respond to Pot Research Lawsuit, Colombia Violence Rising, More... (7/31/19)

A federal appeals court has ordered the DEA to promptly respond to a lawsuit over stalled medical marijuana research applications, a Florida legalization initiative passes an early milepost, a psychedelic activist group goes national, and more.

SPORE is taking its psychedelic activism nationwide through a new nonprofit. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Court Orders DEA to Explain Marijuana Research Block. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Monday ordered the DEA to respond to a lawsuit about stalled applications for research-grade marijuana growers. The lawsuit was filed by the Scottsdale Research Institute, which has submitted an application that has never been acted on. The court on Monday ordered that the DEA "file a response to the amended mandamus petition, not to exceed 7,800 words, within 30 days of the date of this order."

Florida Activists Clear First Hurdle to Putting Marijuana Legalization on 2020 Ballot. Sensible Florida, the group behind the legalization initiative, announced Monday that it had met an early requirement in the process of getting the measure on the November 2020 ballot. The group has gathered some 76,000 valid voter signatures, or one-tenth of the number required to put the measure on the ballot. This triggers a state Supreme Court review of the initiative's language.

Psychedelics

Psychedelic Activists Group Goes Nationwide. The group that organized the successful Denver psychedelic mushroom decriminalization initiative is going national. SPORE, the Society for Psychedelic Outreach and Reform and Education, announced Tuesday that it will apply for 501(c)(3) status, allowing the organization to reach more people. "Our mission is to transform public opinion to normalize and decriminalize the responsible use, possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic plants and fungi," said Kevin Matthews, the group's executive director. "We offer resources like education, community and organizational support, policy guidance, and we're also advocates for individuals, communities and organizations that are interested in pursuing or exploring psychedelic drug policy reform both here in Colorado and nationwide."

International

Colombia Homicides Jump as Traffickers, Rebels Fight Over Former FARC Areas. The national homicide rate rose for the first time in a decade last year, driven largely by battles for control over coca-growing areas that had previously been controlled by the leftist guerrillas of the FARC. The FARC demobilized as part of the 2016 peace accords, but that left a vacuum in coca-growing areas it once dominated. Now, FARC dissidents, other guerrilla groups, and criminal drug trafficking groups are fighting over who will control the fields.

Chronicle AM: FL Pot Initiative Nears Early Mile Post, Colombia Drug Reform Push, More... (7/25/19)

Arkansas sees yet another marijuana legalization initiative filed, the Florida legalization initiative campaign nears a milepost, Colombian legislators seek to block their rightist president's repressive drug policies, and more.

Colombian legislators want to block President Duque's plan to dump herbicides on coca fields (and farmers). (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Sees Second Legalization Initiative Filed. A group calling itself Arkansas True Grass has filed a marijuana legalization initiative with the secretary of state's office. The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment would legalize the use of the drug and expunge any previous criminal convictions for marijuana possession. Earlier this month, another pro-legalization group, the Arkansas Drug Policy Education Group, separately filed two legalization initiatives.

Florida Legalization Initiative Nears Early Signature Benchmark. Regulate Florida, the group trying to put a legalization initiative on the 2020 ballot, says it has nearly enough signatures to trigger a review of the ballot summary by the state Supreme Court. The court will look at whether the summary follows state ballot guidelines. The trigger point is just over 10% of the 766,200 valid voter signatures required to make the ballot. Reaching the trigger point also requires state economists to conduct an economic impact study of the initiative.

New York City Council Passes Two Marijuana Reform Resolutions. The city council on Tuesday approved a pair of marijuana reform resolutions as part of a package of marijuana legislation the council's Progressive Caucus is seeking to advance. The first resolution calls on the city's child services department to clarify that "finding that a person's mere possession or use of marijuana does not by itself create an imminent risk of harm to a child, warranting the child's removal," while the second calls on the legislature to pass a bill requiring the New York Department of Health to create hospital drug testing regulations for pregnant women or those giving birth, "including informing patients of their rights before any discussion of drug use or drug testing."

International

Colombian Congress Presents Bills to Decriminalize Drug Use, Ban Glyphosate. In a slap in the face to President Ivan Duque, the legislative opposition and the center-right bloc presented four bills that seek to decriminalize drug use and ban glyphosate, the chemical the government wants to use to fumigate coca. The package of bills seeks to reverse Duque's repressive drug policies, which have the support of only a minority of conservative and far-right parties. What opposition lawmakers want is to curb drug abuse by strengthening health care and to fight drug trafficking via voluntary crop substitution and rural development.

Chronicle AM: First Step Sentence Cut Prisoners Walk Free, Drug Czar Touts OD Decline, More... (7/19/19)

More than 2,000 federal drug prisoners walk free today under First Step Act reforms, the drug czar touts declining drug overdose numbers and blames Obama, Texas prosecutors balk at low-level pot prosecutions now that hemp is legal, and more.

There's a bit more room in the federal prisons today after 2,200 inmates walked free under the First Step Act. (Supreme Court)
Marijuana Policy

Texas Governor Tells DAs Not to Drop Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Cases. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent a letter Thursday to all county prosecutors urging them to continue to enforce state marijuana laws even though since the state legalized hemp this year prosecutors have no means of testing the amount of THC in a cannabis sample. Their current drug tests only detect the presence of THC, not whether it exceeds the 0.3%, and prosecutors in some of the state's largest counties have announced they will not prosecute small-time pot possession cases. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot is one of them, and he said he's not changing his mind: "I have the responsibility to protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that people are not prosecuted for possessing substances that are legal. The concentration of THC is a statutory element of an offense that we must prove to establish a person's guilt. Our office will not charge a person with a marijuana offense without a laboratory report stating that the substance has an illegal concentration of THC."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Drug Czar Touts Progress Against Opioid Crisis. Jim Carroll, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) gave his boss, the president, credit for an apparent decline in drug overdose deaths reported earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This president has made this a priority since day one and we're beginning to see results. As you know, the billions of pills that were released, without any control or oversight about what was going on in the last administration has resulted in thousands and thousands of people dying," he said. Still, nearly 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year on Trump's watch.

Sentencing Policy

More Than 2,000 Federal Drug Prisoners Walk Free Today Under First Step Act. The federal Bureau of Prisons is set to release today 2,200 inmates who had their release dates recalculated following passage of the First Step Act in December. The measure created an easier pathway for inmates to participate in programs designed to prevent recidivism and earn reductions in their sentences. It also reduced mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders with the goal of accelerating the rehabilitation of criminals and improving their chances for success after release.

International

Colombia Court Upholds Ban on Spraying Coca Fields With Herbicide, but Gives Government an Out. The country's constitutional court on Thursday upheld its restrictions on the aerial spraying of glyphosate to kill coca crops, but also said spraying could be reinstated if the government met certain conditions. The country ended the spraying in 2015 after the World Health Organization linked glyphosate to cancer, and the court ratified that decision. But now, rightist President Ivan Duque wants to overturn that decision. While the court upheld the ban for now, it said it will be up to the national narcotics council to decide whether spraying can resume based on conditions it set in its 2017 ruling.

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