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Trump's Latest Drug Budget: Pretty Much More of the Same [FEATURE]

The Trump administration rolled out its proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Drug Control Budget Tuesday, and it's pretty much more of the same -- $35.7 billion more, to be precise. That's a proposed $94 million increase over what was actually allocated in the current fiscal year.

cocaine seized by US Customs at the Mexican border (dhs.gov)
To be fair, only about half of that money would be destined for the fruitless and endless battle to enforce drug prohibition. The request includes $18.6 billion for prevention and treatment efforts and $17.1 billion for "domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international drug control efforts," the drug war side of the federal drug budget.

"The FY 2021 budget request sends a strong message that, although we've seen signs of real progress, the Trump administration will not let up in our efforts to save American lives," Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll said in a statement accompanying the budget release. "Whether it is going after drug traffickers, getting people struggling with addiction the help they need, or stopping drug misuse before it starts, this budget request ensures our partners will have the resources needed to create safer and healthier communities across the nation."

But big talk notwithstanding, there's not really much of a bump for much-needed treatment. The budget would provide more than $14 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for drug treatment funding, a 3% increase for the department and a 2.9% increase for treatment funding across the federal government. That includes $3.9 billion in drug treatment funding for the DEA for something outside its purview and for which it has not been previously funded.

There's another $2.135 billion for prevention, which we tend to think of mainly as educational efforts, but which the administration notes includes coercive and punitive "drug-free workplace programs" and "drug testing in various settings, including athletic activities, schools, and the workplace."

Ironically given ONDCP's role in rolling out the drug budget, the budget once again takes aim directly at ONDCP. Since the Bush administration, there have been efforts to eliminate or sideline ONDCP, and the Trump administration is back at it. This budget, if enacted, would slash the drug czar's office funding from the $261 million allocated this year to a measly $4.3 million next year, a whopping 98.4% reduction. Congress has so far always rejected such moves. The major part of that reduction results from the transfer of control over High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) funds from ONDCP to the DEA.

And speaking of the DEA and the prohibition enforcement fraction of the overall drug budget, DEA would see its budget increase to $3.1 billion, an increase of 15.8% over this year. More than half of that increase, though, comes from the transfer of those HIDTA funds from ONDCP.

Overall, domestic drug law enforcement spending would increase to $9.95 billion dollars, a jump of 0.9% over this year. That would include $3.4 billion to pay for housing federal drug war prisoners, $931 million for the US Marshals Service to catch more drug war fugitives, and more than half a billion dollars for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, among other line items.

There's also $3.4 billion for the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection to "protect America's land, sea, and air borders from drug trafficking-related security threats." At the same time, though, the budget would reduce the Defense Department's drug interdiction activities -- think Coast Guard ships loaded with seized cocaine -- from $225 million to $109 million, a reduction of more than half.

But there's also international drug enforcement spending, and the Pentagon would get another $200 million for interdiction and counterdrug activities. That would be a dramatic 43% reduction from the $354 million appropriated this year.

The Justice Department, though, would see a 31% increase in its overseas spending, to just over half a billion dollars. The vast bulk of that funding -- $499.7 million -- would be destined for DEA overseas activities.

But the department with the biggest chunk of foreign drug war funding is State, which would see its Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement ("drugs and thugs") funded at $441 million, up 15% over this year. That includes things like trying to suppress the Afghan opium crop or the Colombian coca crop, tasks which have proven remarkably futile.

This is the Trump administration's drug war wish list. It is only a budget proposal and is unlikely to remain unchanged, and with keeping ONDCP active a long-running congressional priority, the radical reduction in its funding is one item that's likely to be amended. Still, the Congress has for years passed largely similar drug budgets, and this one will probably pass, too, without many substantial changes.

Chronicle AM: Colombia Coca Moves, VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Advances, More... (2/25/20)

A Vermont bill to tax and regulate marijuana sales heads for a House floor vote, a potential Ohio marijuana legalization initiative campaign emerges, Israel's embattled prime minister says his government is open to marijuana legalization, and more.

A Colombian peasant working the coca fields. (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Minnesota Poll Has Slim Majority for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune has support for marijuana legalization at 51%, with 37% opposed. The poll comes after House Democrats last month revealed plans for a marijuana legalization bill. That bill faces tough prospects in the Republican-led Senate, though.

Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign Emerges. Some state medical marijuana growers are among a new coalition working on putting a marijuana legalization initiative before the voters in November. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow people 21 and over to buy, possess, and consume up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. Existing medical marijuana businesses would get the first shot at the market, with state regulators deciding later on whether to issue additional licenses. Not all of the medical marijuana sector is behind the move, though.

Vermont Marijuana Sales Legalization Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. A bill to legalize and tax marijuana sales, Senate Bill 54, is now set for a House floor vote after winning the approval of the House Appropriations Committee on a 6-5 vote. The House floor vote should come later this week. The Senate passed the bill last year, but because of changes in the House, differences will have to be settled through a conference committee.

Sentencing Policy

Colorado Bill to Reverse Drug Defelonization Gets Hearing Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill Thursday that seeks to undo a law passed last year that changed drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. House Bill 20-150 seeks to undo the sentencing reform before it takes effect next month.

International

Colombia Ends Crop Substitution Monitoring Program with UN. The Colombian government has ended its cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in monitoring coca crop substitution, a program the government of President Ivan Duque said it wanted to end. But ending the program would put the government out of compliance with its 2016 peace deal with leftist FARC guerrillas, so the government backed away from that. But refusing to monitor the program would block the UNODC from evaluating the effectiveness of planned forced coca eradication, recently announced by Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and supported by the Trump administration. Previous UNODC reports have found that only a tiny 0.4% of voluntary eradicated crops had been replanted, while the number for forcibly eradicated crops was 80%, making the program quite ineffective.

Colombia Launches Military Push Against FARC Dissidents in National Parks. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday the military will step up an offensive against FARC dissidents who have again taken up arms and are overseeing the clearing of thousands of acres of land in national parks for coca cultivation. Trujillo claimed the FARC dissidents were forcing peasants to clear the land and "commit a massacre against nature."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Says His Government is Exploring Marijuana Legalization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday his government is exploring legalizing recreational marijuana and is looking at Canada as a model. He said Justice Minister Amir Ohana "has begun work on the issue, and he will head a committee including professionals and Oren Leibovich, chairman of the [pro-legalization] Green Leaf Party, that will investigate importing the Canadian model for regulation of a legal market in Israel." Netanyahu, who is struggling to maintain power, has gone through two indecisive elections since last April and faces a third next month.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes Legislature, Trump Budget Would Shift Colombia Aid Priorities, More... (2/12/20)

The Virginia legislature passes marijuana decriminalization, a Kentucky medical marijuana bill heads for a House floor vote, a South Dakota hemp bill passes the House, and more.

The Trump administration is eyeing Colombian coca and cocaine production in its new budget. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Legislature Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill; Governor Expected to Sign. Hours after the House of Delegates approved decriminalization Tuesday, the state Senate followed suit by approving its own version of the bill, SB 2. Governor Ralph Northam (D) has said he would sign such a bill, but it first needs to go to conference committee to settle minor differences between the House and Senate versions.

Medical Marijuana

Kentucky House Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-1 Wednesday to approve  HB 136, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. The measure now heads for a House floor vote. A similar bill was approved by the committee last year, but never got a floor vote. This year, 51 of the state's 100 representatives are cosponsors.

Hemp

South Dakota House Passes Hemp Bill with No Debate. The House passed a bill to legalize industrial hemp cultivation, HB 1008, with a two-thirds majority after hearing no debate at all. It now goes to the Senate. If that body also passes it by a two-thirds majority and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signs it into law, an emergency clause would go into effect allowing state farmers to grow a crop this year.

Foreign Policy

Trump Budget Proposal Would Slash Colombia Development Aid, Boost Ant-Drug Funding. President Trump's new federal budget proposal would slash economic assistance to Colombia by nearly $70 million while at the same time nearly doubling anti-drug funding from $125 million this year to $237.5 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1. The budget proposal says the funding is needed to fight "threats posed by sharp increases in coca cultivation."

International

Croatia Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. A Croatian lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales and permit adults to grow up to nine marijuana plants for personal use. Mirela Holy, head of the Social Democratic Party's Green Development Council filed the bill and said it will be subject to first public and then parliamentary debate. The country has decriminalized pot possession and legalized medical marijuana in 2015, but marijuana sales remains a felony with a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Passes House, Nepalese Communists Say Free the Weed, More... (2/10/20)

Colorado activists want to de-legalize weed, Nepalese communists want to re-legalize weed, the Afghan and US governments spar over opium production, and more. 

Sadhus sharing cannabis at Nepal's festival of Shiva. The communist government is moving to re-legalize the herb. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Initiative Would Undo Marijuana Legalization. A pair of activist attorneys have filed Ballot Proposal #249, which would repeal the section of the state constitution that legalizes marijuana. The proposal is only four sentences long, with the key sentence being: "Article XVIII, Section 16 of the Colorado Constitution (Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana) is repealed." The proposal does not seek to change the status quo around legal medical marijuana and hemp. It is currently being reviewed by Legislative Council Staff before heading to the secretary of state's office for title review. Only slightly more than one-third of voters polled in 2016 (the most recent data) supported reversing legalization.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes House, Needs One More Vote in Senate. The House has approved HB 972, which would make simple pot possession an infraction punishable by no more than a $25 fine. Under current state law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense. The bill also ends driver's license suspensions for adults and treats hash oil like marijuana, instead of the Schedule I substance it is currently considered. The Senate version  of the bill also advanced, passing the Finance and Appropriations Committee with a vote 12-3. It now heads for a final Senate floor vote.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Poppy Cultivation and Potential Opium Production in Afghanistan. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) has released the results of the annual US Government estimate measuring poppy cultivation and potential opium production in Afghanistan. The US government estimate found poppy cultivation decreased in 2019 compared to 2018, but potential pure opium production increased.  Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan declined 28 percent, from 221,000 hectares in 2018 to 160,000 hectares in 2019.  Conversely, potential pure opium production increased by 21 percent, from 5,550 metric tons in 2018 to 6,700 metric tons in 2019.  Low opium prices at planting time drove the decline in cultivation.  The rise in potential pure production is a direct result of favorable weather and harvesting conditions.

Afghanistan Interior Ministry Denies ONDCP Opium Report. The Ministry of the Interior has challenged the ONDCP report about a surge of Afghan opium production, saying there has been a significant reduction in drug production in the county because counter-narcotics police have conducted "several raids to destroy it." Officials also cited tighter border controls. "I can assure you about reduction of narcotic products. There are several reasons behind it, the night raids, draught, and narcotics price has downed and recently poppy cultivation in Iraq has scaled up," added Deputy Ministry of Counter Narcotics Najibullah Ahmadi.

Colombia Sets Goal of Eradicating 320,000 Acres of Coca This Year. Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Monday that Colombia hopes to eradicate some 321,237 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca this year. Tools to achieve that goal could include the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate. The country is under constant pressure from the US, the principal market for Colombian cocaine, to reduce coca cultivation. Last year, Colombia destroyed about 250,000 acres of coca using manual eradication. Aerial spraying of glyphosate was banned in 2015, but President Ivan Duque's government is working to get around that ban and reintroduce the practice.

Nepal's Ruling Communist Party Proposes Marijuana Legalization. Lawmakers from the ruling Communist Party have proposed legalizing marijuana in the country, which has a long history of use. Some 46 members of the party filed the proposal in the parliament. "Legalizing marijuana will help the poor farmers and since most of the Western world, which was reason for making it illegal in the first place, have already ended the prohibition, Nepal should also lift the ban," lawmaker Birod Khatiwada said Monday. Marijuana was only criminalized in 1976 under Western pressure after Nepal developed a reputation as a cannabis-friendly destination on the counter-cultural hippie trail in the 1960s.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Decrim Bill Heads for House Floor Vote, Thai Opium Cultivation Declines, More... (2/6/20)

Marijuana decriminalization is moving in Virginia, medical marijuana home cultivation is moving in New Hampshire, a class action lawsuit goes after Detroit-area car seizures, and more.

There are fewer of these in Thailand these days. (UNODC)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor Renews Marijuana Legalization Pledge in Budget Proposal and Speech. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) reiterated his call for marijuana legalization. He also put money where his mouth is by including funding for a legal marijuana regulatory framework in the budget proposal submitted to legislators. He also called for regional coordination in marijuana legalization. "The patchwork of cannabis and vaping laws are impossible to enforce. We will work with our neighboring states to make our laws safe, uniform, and enforceable. Like it or not, legalized marijuana is a short drive away in Massachusetts and New York is soon to follow," he added. "Right now do you realize that what you can buy legally in Massachusetts right across the border can land you in prison here in Connecticut for up to a year?"

Virginia General Assembly Blocks Marijuana Legalization, But Advances Decriminalization Bill. The House Courts of Justice Committee voted Wednesday to refer three marijuana legalization bills for study, effectively killing them for this session. At the same time, the committee voted to approve a decriminalization bill, HB 972, setting it up for a House floor vote. Similar legislation is also moving in the Senate.

Medical Marijuana

New Hampshire Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Home Cultivation Bill. The state Senate Thursday approved a bill that would allow patients and caregivers to grow their own medicine. SB 420 now heads to the House, which has passed similar legislation with strong support. The bill allows for the cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a similar bill last year. The House voted to override his veto, but the Senate fell three votes short of doing so.

Asset Forfeiture

Class Action Lawsuit Targets Detroit Car Seizures. A class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit Wednesday accuses the Wayne County Sheriff's Office of seizing thousands of cars and other property belonging to residents who have not committed crimes in violation of their constitutional rights. "Innocent property owners find themselves ensnared in this system," the lawsuit asserts, leaving them to face the "permanent loss of their car or other property, even when someone else is alleged to have committed a crime without the property owner's knowledge or consent." The lawsuit was filed by the libertarian Institute for Justice.

Drug Testing

Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Worker Drug Testing That Exposed Genitals Invades Privacy. The state Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case where workers at the company Sterilite had their genitals viewed during random drug tests. Four employees of the company sued claiming an invasion of privacy. The case was originally thrown out by a Stark County Common Pleas judge in 2017, but both sides appealed, and the case is now before the state's high court. Employees at the company were asked to submit to "direct observation" random drug tests where drug test administrators watched their groin areas while they produced urine specimens. Two of the plaintiffs were fired because they didn't provide a urine sample within the two-and-a-half hours allotted, according to court records. The original lawsuit seeks reinstatement with back pay for some of the plaintiffs. All four plaintiffs are seeking damages to compensate for pain, suffering and embarrassment.

International

Nigerian Governor Lobbies President to Legalize Marijuana. Ondo State Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu met with President Buhari on Tuesday and renewed his call for marijuana legalization. He argued that legalization would bring economic and health benefits to the country. "It's not because I take it; I take CBD, that's the oil, for medical purposes. I am convinced about the use to which we can put marijuana," Akeredolu said. "I know of the fact because we had to bring in experts, who have gone round and believe that the strain of marijuana that we grow in Ogbese in Ondo State is the best in the world. So, if you have that then a government must find a way to put it into good use. Our own is that the pathway to growing marijuana is for medical reasons, not for anybody to smoke."

Thai Opium Cultivation Keeps Declining, UNODC Says. Opium cultivation dropped last year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014, according to a new UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey. The amount of land cultivated with poppies dropped 11% last year, down to about 80,000 acres. UNODC said that "the highest levels of cultivation continue to take place in unstable and conflict prone areas of Shan and Kachin." Production now is less than one-fifth it was at its peak in 1996.

Chronicle AM: VT Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves, MD Kratom Ban Bill Moves, More... (2/3/20)

Vermont is moving toward full, commercial marijuana legalization, Maryland is moving toward banning -- not regulating -- kratom, and more.

A Maryland bill would make kratom a Schedule I drug. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Vermont Legal Marijuana Sales Bill Moves. The House Committee on Government Operations approved 11-0 a bill that would legalize commercial marijuana sales in the state. SB 54 now heads for a Tuesday hearing at the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill was already approved by the Senate last year, but with changes made in the House, would likely require a conference committee to come to agreement if it passes the House.

Kratom

Maryland Bill Would Make Kratom a Schedule I Dangerous Drug. Delegate Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) has filed HB 283, which would criminalize the use, possession, and distribution of kratom by making it a Schedule I controlled substance under state law. It gets a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A companion bill, SB 147, was reported out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings with a favorable vote Monday. Kratom is banned in six states and four cities in the United States but remains unrestricted under federal law. Kratom advocates call for regulation instead of prohibition, pointing to a model Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which has been passed in four states.

Mexican City Rocked by Violence After Arrest of Cartel Leader. For the second time in recent months, the arrest of a leading cartel figure has sparked widespread violence in a Mexican city. When police detained a senior leader of the Los Viagras cartel, Luis Felipe "El Vocho" last Friday, armed men blocked roads and burned cars in the western city of Uruapan, and there were reports of multiple shootouts. Los Viagras have been involved in a gang war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel over territory in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan.

Chronicle AM: Drug Overdoses Declined in 2018, Bernie Sanders Marijuana Legalization Plan, More... (1/30/20)

The CDC reports that drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in decades in 2018, Colombia's coca farmers are increasingly unhappy, Bernie Sanders could use an executive order to legalize marijuana at the federal level, and more.

Bernie Sanders is looking at using an executive order to end federal marijuana prohibition. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Bernie Sanders Could Use Executive Order to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition. Aides to Vermont senator and Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (I) have presented him with a list of executive orders he could use to unilaterally change federal policies, including one that would direct the Department of Justice to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances. A bill that would decriminalize marijuana and hash oil for adults was approved Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure, SB 2, now heads to the Finance and Appropriations Committee and, if it passes there, a Senate floor vote.

Cleveland, Ohio, City Council Approves Marijuana Decriminalization. The city council has voted 15-2 to approve a measure that would eliminates fines and jail time for low-level marijuana possession. And it's a pretty high low level: 200 grams. The legislation still needs to be approved by Mayor Frank Jackson (D), who has previously expressed support for it.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

CDC Reports Drug Overdose Deaths Declined in 2018. For the first time this century, overall drug overdose deaths declined in 2018, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. The report put the total number of overdose deaths at 67,000 in 2018, down from over 70,000 in 2017, a decline of 4%. But that still makes 2018 the second-worst year for drug overdose deaths in US history. The majority of overdose deaths involved heroin and fentanyl.

Asset Forfeiture

South Carolina Prosecutor to Appeal Circuit Court Judge's Ruling that Civil Asset Forfeiture Law is Unconstitutional. 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson filed notice this week that he intends to appeal a local judge's 2019 ruling that the state's civil asset forfeiture law is unconstitutional under both state and federal law. The move comes a month after Circuit Court Judge Steven John reaffirmed his August ruling. Johns' decision struck down civil asset forfeiture in his district, but the appeal decision would apply statewide.

International

Colombia Coca Farmers Plan Mass Protests as Counternarcotics Strategy Collapses. Coca farmers are demanding the resignation of crop substitution program director Hernando London after he claimed that "coca substitution leaders have not been assassinated." The coca growers' federation says at least 56 community leaders promoting crop substitution programs have been killed since the program began in March 2017. The coca growers said they were fed up with the "bullshit" of President Ivan Duque's administration and would join national strikes set for next month. Duque's anti-coca policy faces collapse if the crop substitution program is not executed because it then cannot resume aerial spraying of coca crops, according to the Constitutional Court. Without voluntary eradication and aerial spraying, only labor-intensive and easily reversed manual eradication could be used -- and 80% of the destroyed crops are replanted.

(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: NM & NH Legalization Bills Advance, Mexico Mayhem, Psychedelic Reform, More... (1/28/20)

It's getting busy, busy, busy as state legislatures get back into session; Philadelphia's DA ends prosecutions for buprenorphine possession, it was a bloody weekend in Mexico's drug wars, and more.

Marijuana is on the move at statehouses around the country. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Bill Would Protect Workers from Dismissal for Off-Duty Marijuana Use. Lawmakers in Denver are considering a measure that would protect workers who use marijuana on their own time from being fired for it. House Bill 20-1089 would bar employers from firing workers "for the employee's lawful off-duty activities that are lawful under state law."

Indiana GOP Lawmakers Target Indianapolis Prosecutor's Decision to Not Prosecute Small-Time Marijuana Cases. A GOP-backed bill that seeks to effectively overturn Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears' recently announced policy of not pressing charges for small-time pot possession is moving in the Senate. The bill would let the attorney general's office step in if a county prosecutor announced a policy of not enforcing a law or was found to have "categorically elected" to not do so. The measure, SB 436, was approved by the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee and now heads for a Senate floor vote.

New Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Affairs Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve SB 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act. The bill would create a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, as well as emphasizing social equity and local entrepreneurship. There would be a 9% excise tax on sales. The measure now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, HB 160 is headed for the Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) is pushing for the bill to be passed during the current 30-day legislative session.

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to recommend that a bill legalizing the possession and home cultivation of small quantities of marijuana "ought to pass." The measure is HB 1648. It comes after a full marijuana legalization bill failed last year.

Kratom

Missouri Kratom Regulation Bill Heads for House Floor Vote. The House General Laws Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved HB 2061, the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The bill would deal with the substance by regulating it, not prohibiting it. It now heads for a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

Oakland Activists Unveil Plan to Legalize Sale of Psychedelics This Year. Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the national movement to decriminalize natural psychedelics, has announced a push to legalize the cultivation and sale of those hallucinogens in the city. The city already approved the decriminalization of such substances last year.

Santa Cruz City Council Approves Psychedelics Decriminalization Measure. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a resolution that would effectively decriminalize "entheogenic plants and fungi" such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ibogaine, and ayahuasca. The resolution says the city shouldn't spend money to investigate psychedelic use by adults 21 and over and that such possession and use "should be considered among the lowest law enforcement priorities for the City of Santa Cruz."

Criminal Justice

Philadelphia DA Will No Longer Prosecute Buprenorphine Possession. District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that his office will no longer prosecute people for possessing buprenorphine, an opioid-based addiction treatment drug. Krasner said the new policy is aimed at reducing overdoses. Krasner's office has already been dropping possession charges for people who can show they're in a treatment program.

International

Bloody Weekend in Central Mexico Cartel Wars. At least 48 people were killed between Friday and Sunday in prohibition-related violence in the central state of Guanajuato, including a six-year-old. In one incident, five people were killed at a house in Leon; in another, eight people were shot and killed at a taco stand in Celaya; in yet another, nine people were executed at a highway service plaza in Villagran. Among the dead were one soldier and one police officer.

New Zealand Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in September. The country has set September 19 as the date for its next general election. On the ballot will be a simple question: "Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill?" A final draft of the bill is expected to be released soon, but the government has already published a draft bill. If more than 50% of ballots are in favor of the draft legalization bill, the incoming government would be responsible for formally introducing a bill to Parliament. The first draft of the Cannabis Legalization and Control Bill is available here.

Chronicle AM: NY MJ Legalization Poll Shows Strong Support, Tulsi Gabbard Calls for Drug Legalization, More... (1/21/20)

A New York poll shows strong support for marijuana legalization, Dutch opinion-shapers push for a new drug policy, a US presidential candidate calls for drug legalization and more.

Dutch drug policy is tolerant but incomplete. (Amsterdam canal image via pixabay.com)
Marijuana Policy

California Lawmakers Ponder Temporary Tax Cut for Legal Weed. Lawmakers last Friday revived a measure to temporarily cut taxes on marijuana in a bid to boost the state's legal marijuana market. The bill would cut the state excise tax on marijuana from 15% to 11% and eliminate a cultivation tax for the next three years. The effort foundered last year when Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) objected, but it now appears he is open to changing his mind. Lawmakers estimated that up to 75% of the state's marijuana is still sold in the black market.

New York Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. As the state legislature prepares to try to pass marijuana legalization again this year, a new Sienna College poll finds the public is ready. The poll had support for legalization at 58%.

Drug Policy

Tulsi Gabbard Endorses Legalizing Drugs. Longshot Democratic presidential contender Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HA) has come out for legalizing currently illicit drugs. "If we take that step to legalize and regulate, then we're no longer treating people who are struggling with substance addiction and abuse as criminals and instead getting them the help that they need," she at a campaign stop in Merrimack, New Hampshire on Friday. Her comments came in response to a voter's question about whether she intended to emphasize harm reduction and treatment or move instead to legalization. "All of the above," she said. "The costs and the consequence to this failed war on drugs is so vast and far reaching, socially and fiscally, that if we take these necessary steps, we'll be able to solve a lot of other problems that we're dealing with in this country."

International

Dutch Push for New Drug Policy. Parliamentarians, TV celebrities, health experts, lawyers, and dance scene personalities are among the 79 people who have signed a new manifesto calling for a major shift in Dutch drug policy. "The need for a new and realistic drugs policy is greater than ever. The international drug trade has taken root in the Netherlands and with serious consequences," the online manifesto states. "Mayors are receiving death threats, a lawyer was murdered, and ecstasy waste dumping is threatening the environment. But the manifest powerlessness in the face of drug-related crime is making for ever greater repression." The aim, signatories said, is to reduce drug harms and increase public safety, and that should be done by tackling black market drug revenues. "A regulated -- not a free -- drugs market [is] the starting point of a new drugs policy. lllegality fuels crime. That is why we must tackle the revenue model of the criminals and make a regulated -- not a free -- drug market the starting point of a new drugs policy."

Mexican Murders Hit All-Time High. The country saw some 34,582 murders in 2019, demonstrating the challenge President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces while waging war on drug cartels. The 2019 figure is a 2.5% increase over 2018, despite Lopez Obrador's less confrontational approach to drug cartels.

(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: Federal Marijuana Prosecutions Drop, Drug Czar Touts Reduced Overdoses, More... (1/17/20)

A New Mexico pot legalization bill gets filed, Rhode Island's governor calls for legalization, the drug czar touts a drop in drug overdose deaths, and more.

Federal marijuana prosecutions declined significantly last year, a new report finds. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Prosecutions Decline. Federal marijuana prosecutions declined by 28% from September 30, 2018 to September 30, 2019, according to a report from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. The year-end report also found that total federal filings for drug crimes was up 5% over the same period, with some 83,000 cases.

New Mexico Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D) and Rep. Javier Martinez (D) have filed a bill, Senate Bill 115, that would allow adults in the state to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. The move comes just a day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signaled that she supported legalizing marijuana this year. The bill would also automatically expunge prior possession convictions and promote participation by small and tribal-owned businesses. The bill would not allow home cultivation, but would decriminalize the growing up of to three plants and six seedlings.

Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization Proposal in State Budget Plan. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has included marijuana legalization as a priority in the state budget plan she released Thursday. The plan envisions state-contracted private marijuana retailers with the state controlling location, price, potency, and quantity of sales. Revenues would be divvied up among the state (61%), the private contractors (29%), and local communities (10%). This is the second year Raimondo is including adult-use cannabis legalization in the state budget; she introduced a similar proposal last year, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Drug Czar Touts Decline in Overdose Deaths. Jim Carroll, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), said Friday that the country had seen a decline in drug overdose deaths for the first time in 30 years. "For the first time in almost 30 years, we've seen a decline in the number of Americans dying from an overdose -- it's a 5 percent reduction," he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2017, with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl being the main driver behind those deaths.

Foreign Policy

US, Mexico Agree on Plan to Reduce Illegal Guns, Drug Trade. The Mexican government said Thursday it had reached agreement with the United States on a plan to combat the illicit trafficking of arms, drugs, and money. The announcement came after a meeting between US Attorney General William Barr and Mexican officials. The two countries said they agreed to cooperate on reducing drug consumption and combating addiction. The agreement came after President Trump threatened in November to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, prompting Mexican officials to quickly seek talks.

International

Canadian Health Minister Says Time Not Right for Drug Decriminalization. Health Minister Patty Hadju said Thursday that talk about decriminalizing drugs to deal with the country's opioid crisis is premature until people have enough help to fight their addictions. "My personal perspective on decriminalization is that it can't be done in a broad sweep," she said. "I think that having a comprehensive kind of approach that includes things like prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement, housing, those are the kind of things that are actually going to start to move the needle," Hajdu said. "It's too premature to have a conversation about full decriminalization of substances until we get to the place where we have comprehensive support for people to get well."

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