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Mexican Drug War

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State Attorneys General Press for SAFE Banking Act, Singapore Drug Death Sentence Via Zoom, More... (5/20/20)

Illinois is spending tens of millions of marijuana tax dollars to help communities impacted by the drug war, the DEA gets a new acting administrator, Mexican murders continue to increase, and more.

State attorneys general are urging Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which is already approved in the House. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

State Attorneys General Push for Federal Marijuana Banking Reform. Attorneys Generals from 34 states and territories sent a letter today to Congressional leadership urging members to expeditiously pass The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to gain access to banking and financial services. Calling the status quo "untenable," the attorneys general wrote that the coronavirus pandemic had heightened the need for Congress to act quickly. The SAFE Banking Act is now part of the coronavirus relief HEROES Act, which passed the House last week, but whose prospects are clouded in the Senate.

Illinois Announces $31 Million In Marijuana Revenue-Funded Grants to Repair Drug War's Harms. State regulators have announced that some $31.5 million in marijuana tax revenues has been made available to "communities impacted by economic disinvestment, violence and the severe and multilayered harm caused by the war on drugs." The windfall is the result of the state's marijuana legalization law, which mandates that a quarter of all pot tax revenues go to the program serving those communities.

Drug Policy

Attorney General Barr Announces Timothy J. Shea New Acting DEA Administrator.Attorney General William P. Barr on Monday announced the appointment of Timothy J. Shea as Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since February 2020, Shea served as Interim US Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was also an assistant US attorney in the Northern District of Virginia in the 1990s and later served as the Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. Shea also served in congressional roles, including as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and on the US House Appropriations Committee professional staff under Ranking Member Silvio O. Conte.

International

Mexican Murders at Record Levels in First Part of 2020. Despite President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's pledge to bring down drug gang-related violence when he took office in late 2018, it just keeps increasing. Last year was the bloodiest one since records started being kept, and this year so far is even worse. According to the federal security ministry, there were 11,535 murders during the first four months of 2020, up 2.4% over the same period last year. Mexico began imposing coronavirus restriction in late March, but that didn't stop the killing. Nearly 6,000 murders took place in March and April, one of the worst two-month periods on record.

Singapore Sentences Man to Death on Drug Charges Via Zoom. For the first time in the city-state's history, a man has been sentenced to death remotely via a Zoom video-call. Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction last Friday, with the country under lockdown to try and curb one of the highest coronavirus rates in Asia. Human Rights Watch didn't think much of the move: "Singapore's use of the death penalty is inherently cruel and inhumane, and the use of remote technology like Zoom to sentence a man to death makes it even more so," said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division.

House Includes Marijuana Banking in COVID Bill, Mexico Soldiers to Stay on Streets, More... (5/12/20)

A Mexican cartel leader is struck down by the coronavirus, the House leadership is including help for state-legal marijuana businesses in the latest coronavirus relief bill, and more.

The House leadership has included relief for state-legal marijuana businesses in the new COVID bill. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

House COVID Package Includes Cannabis Banking Relief, But Not Small Business Support. The House leadership has included banking relief for the state-legal marijuana industry in its latest coronavirus relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It has done so by incorporating HR 1595, the SAFE Banking Act, within it. That bill amends federal law so that banks and other financial institutions may work directly with state-legal marijuana businesses. The House already approved the SAFE Banking Act back in September. Still, language to amend eligibility for Small Business Administration loans for small businesses was not included.

Maine's Long, Long Road to Legal Marijuana Sales. Nearly four years ago, the state approved a marijuana legalization initiative, but it has yet to see a legal marijuana retailer open. Then Tea Party Republican Gov. Paul LePage threw up obstacles until he left office, and nearly a year ago, the state adopted rules for adult-use marijuana businesses, and the hope was to launch retail this spring, but then coronavirus appeared. This is as the state is waiting for approval from state and local government, including Portland, the state's largest city. The city council there could vote on a local ordinance later this month, but the state says it still can't provide a timeline for the launch of legal sales. Any year now...

International

Mexican President Renews Orders Keeping Military on Streets to Curb Rising Violence. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ordered the military to take on organized crime and violence for another four years, extending a policy he had previously criticized. He ordered the military to participate "in an extraordinary, regulated, and complementary manner with the National Guard" in public security tasks. Lopez Obrador won office in 2018 with a plan to reduce crime and violence by focusing on the root causes of crime, but the violence has only continued, with a record 35,000 people killed in 2019. "His security strategy is not working and that is why he has had to order with this decree for the Armed Forces to support public security," security specialist Juan Ibarrola told the Milenio newspaper.

Mexican Los Zetas Leader Killed by Coronavirus in Jalisco Prison. Moises Escamilla May, a Los Zetas leader imprisoned for beheading 12 people in Cancun has died of coronavirus at the Puente Grande Federal Prison in Jalisco. He was 45 years old. Security analysts have warned that the impact of the virus on the leadership of criminal organizations, which tend to be older males, could be destabilizing as more experienced leaders who have developed negotiating skills are killed off by the bug, only to be replaced by less experienced and more violent mid-level commanders.

Cartel COVID Curfew in Culiacan, SF Providing Booze, Buds, Butts to Quarantined Drug Users, more... (5/7/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc with global drug markets, the Sinaloa Cartel has imposed a coronavirus curfew on a city of nearly a million people, San Francisco is taking a harm reduction approach to quarantined drug users, and more.

El Chapo may be behind bars in the US, but his sons still rule Sinaloa. (sedena.gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Marijuana Legalization Initiative Campaign to Begin Signature-Gathering with New Safety Protocols. New Approach Montana announced Thursday it will proceed with signature-gathering for a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives and that it had drafted internal policies to protect circulators and the public during the coronavirus pandemic. The move comes after the group lost a court bid to be able to do electronic signature-gathering. They need to collectt about 25,000 valid signatures from registered voters for the statutory legalization measure and 51,000 needed for the constitutional proposal concerning age requirements. Those petitions must be submitted by June 19.

Psychedelics

DC Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative Approved for Signature-Gathering. The DC Board of Elections on Wednesday approved a petition to decriminalize psychedelics in the nation's capital. It also approved a motion allowing circulators to sign their own petitions, removing a longstanding obstacle to initiative campaigns.

Drug Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Drug Defelonization Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed into law HB19-1263, which makes the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The move is expected to save the state somewhere between $8 million and $14 million over the next five years, with the savings diverted to fund new drug treatment centers.

Harm Reduction

San Francisco Providing Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana to Some People Under Quarantine or Isolation. The city health department confirmed Wednesday that it is providing alcohol, tobacco, medical cannabis and other substances in an effort to prevent a handful of people quarantined or isolating in city-leased hotels from going outside to get the substances themselves. The hotel residents are receiving opioid maintenance medications such as methadone, delivered by methadone clinics. The city says it is using harm reduction to keep these people inside and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

International

UNODC Says Pandemic Pushing Up Price of Illegal Drugs. In a report published Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said pandemic-related border closures, lockdowns, and flight shortages are making drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain around the world. "Many countries across all regions have reported an overall shortage of numerous types of drugs at the retail level, as well as increases in prices, reductions in purity and that drug users have consequently been switching substance (for example, from heroin to synthetic opioids) and/or increasingly accessing drug treatment," the report said.

Mexican City Under Lockdown Imposed by Sinaloa Cartel. Culiacan, Sinaloa, a city of nearly a million people, is under lockdown with a curfew imposed by the Sinaloa Cartel. Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, the sons of imprisoned cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have threatened violators with beatings with boards, arrests or fines. "This is no game, we're not playing," a member of the Sinaloa Cartel reportedly said in one of several videos circulating on social media. "After ten o'clock at night, all the people must be inside their homes due to the coronavirus, otherwise they will be punished, these are orders "from above (from Los Chapitos)," the video said, referring to the brothers. Cartel members have been patrolling the streets in heavily armed convoys to enforce the curfew.

Trump Authorizes Reserves to Fight Cartels, Murder Spike in Ciudad Juarez, More... (5/4/20)

President Trump has authorized the Defense Department to call up military reserves as he ramps up a campaign against the cartels, a Nebraska medical marijuana initiative plans to continue signature-gathering, the legal pot industry is still hiring, and more.

President Trump has authorized calling up 200 military reserves to help in the fight against cartels. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pot Job Seekers Surge as Sector Is Still Hiring. Laid off workers from the retail and hospitality industries are flocking to the marijuana industry in pursuit of jobs. The marijuana business is one that is still hiring, but the number of jobs available is dwindling. There are layoffs in the industry and some of the positions on offer are only temporary, but at least they're jobs to go after.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Unveils New Signature-Gathering Strategy. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the folks behind the Nebraska Medical Marijuana Initiative, have announced plans to go ahead with signature-gathering despite the coronavirus pandemic once social distancing measures in the state are lifted. The campaign is not going the electronic signature-gathering route but instead is "preparing masks, tables, disposable pens, hand sanitizer to be able to get back out and collect safely in a socially distant way once these direct health measures expire."

Interdiction

Trump Authorizes Pentagon to Activate Reserves for Cartel Fight. President Trump last Thursday issued an executive order authorizing the Defense Department to activate up to 200 additional military personal as part of a recently announced counternarcotics operation in the Caribbean. "Effective today, pursuant to section 12304 of title 10, United States Code, I am authorizing the Secretary of Defense to order units and individual members of the Selected Reserve to active duty to augment active component forces for the effective conduct of 'Enhanced Department of Defense Counternarcotic Operation in the Western Hemisphere,'" he wrote. "This authority is necessary to ensure the Department of Defense can properly conduct operations required to meet our evolving security challenges. As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus, there's a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists, and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain. And we must not let that happen," he said.

International

Mexico's Ciudad Juarez Sees Big Spike in Killing Despite Quarantine. Homicides in the metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso have increased 42% since March 1 despite stay-at-home orders issued in early March. The month ended with 174 murders, including victims chopped into pieces, burned to death, hanged from bridges, stuffed into storm drains and gunned down in broad daylight. Police said most of the killings are drug-related and that the March spike may be related to the arrest, jail transfer, and death of gang leaders.

245 Caves Camp Road
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MT Judge Blocks E-Signatures for Pot Initiative, Europe Flooded With Cocaine Despite Pandemic, More... (5/1/20)

No electronic signature-gathering for the Montana marijuana legalization initiatives, a Canadian psychedelic decriminalization petition has enough signatures to send it to the House of Commons, Mexico's Jalisco New Generation Cartel is handing out crisis supplies in Puerta Vallarta, and more.

Cocaine seized in Madrid. Authorities aren't catching all of it, though. (espana.gob)
Marijuana Policy

Montana Judge Rejects Legalization Initiative's Pleas for Electronic Signature-Gathering. District Court Judge John Larson of Missoula on Thursday rejected a request from New Approach Montana, the people behind a pair of marijuana legalization initiatives, to allow electronic signature-gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. He held the governor's emergency orders related to the coronavirus do not prevent traditional signature gathering for ballot initiatives. He also rejected the group's request to extend the July 17 deadline for signatures. New Approach Montana is considering whether to appeal the decision.

International

Canadian Psychedelic Decriminalization Petition Goes to House of Commons. An electronic petition calling for the decriminalization of psychedelic plants and fungi will be presented in the House of Commons on Monday. It only needed 500 signatures to reach the threshold required for it to be presented to the House and had surpassed that figure within 12 hours of the petition going live on April 16. Organizers said their goal was 500,000 signatures, "so that there is no doubt left in the government's mind that the time is now to free these plants from the outdated laws that are keeping them from assisting in the healing work that's so desperately needed."

Europe Flooded with Cocaine Despite Coronavirus Trade Disruptions. Latin American drug traffickers have managed to send bumper shipments of cocaine in recent weeks despite the crunch the coronavirus pandemic is imposing on legitimate transatlantic trade. The traffickers have responded by packing huge loads of cocaine onto fewer container ships and commercial airplanes -- a sign they are willing to take bigger risks to get their goods to market. "The global pandemic, at this moment in time, has not had an effect on maritime drug trafficking. It's business as usual," said Michael O'Sullivan, head of the EU-funded Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre which coordinates interdictions at sea.

Mexico's Jalisco New Generation Cartel Hands Out Food in Puerta Vallarta. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has been handing out food supplies in Pueta Vallarta. The supplies come in boxes marked with cartel logos and "Mencho," the name of the CJNG leader. Puerto Vallarta authorities continue to deny that the cartel is distributing food, despite multiple reports and images of the food boxes displaying the cartel's logo. The boxes contained toilet paper, sardines, tuna, oil, pasta, rice, beans, sugar, salt, cookies, among other items.

New Zealand Government Unveils Final Version of Marijuana Legalization Measure for 2020 Ballot. The New Zealand government has released the final version of the marijuana legalization referendum to be voted on by Kiwis in September. Adults 20 and over would be able to possess and purchase marijuana, grow two plants for personal use, and toke up at cannabis cafes. If approved by voters, the legislature would then have to pass a the bill, which means it could theoretically amend it.

Push to Allow Marijuana Businesses Pandemic Aid, Bloody Gun Battles in Mexico, More... (4/23/20)

A push is on in Congress to secure coronavirus pandemic relief aid for the legal marijuana industry, a poll suggests that a DC psychedelic decriminalization initiative could win -- if it can make the ballot -- and more.

Some senators and representatives are pushing to get legal marijuana businesses included in pandemic relief funding. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

US Senators Want Small Marijuana Firms Included in Coronavirus Aid. A group of 10 US senators led by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jackie Rosen (D-NV) have sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to include small, state-legal marijuana businesses and related companies in any future coronavirus relief packages. The letter comes a week after nearly three dozen House members sent a similar one.

Lawmakers File Bill to Let Marijuana Companies Have Access to Coronavirus Relief Funds. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) on Thursday filed an as yet unnumbered bill, the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act, which would allow legal marijuana businesses to access disaster relief loans and other programs available during the COVID-19 crisis.

Psychedelics

DC Voters Would Approve Psychedelic Decriminalization Initiative If It Makes Ballot, Poll Says. A poll commissioned by Decriminalize DC, the folks behind the psychedelic decriminalization initiative, suggests the measure could pass -- if it manages to make the ballot. Signature-gathering for initiative campaigns around the country have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and DC is no exception. The poll found 51% said they were in favor when read the actual text of the measure, but that figure rose to 60% when voters were provided more information and settled at 59% when voters had heard pro and con arguments.

International

Mexico Sees 13 Dead in Violence in Guerrero Poppy Fields. At least 13 people were killed over the weekend in multisided clashes between community vigilantes, police, soldiers, and members of the Cartel del Sur in the opium poppy-growing town of El Naranjo, Guerrero. Clashes and gun battles lasting for hours broke out Saturday as cartel gunmen duked it out with a "grassroots citizens militia" (vigilante group) called the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero, a repeat of clashes last summer when the vigilantes tried unsuccessfully to force out the cartel. After Saturday's clashes, authorities called in the National Guard, soldiers, and state police, who then engaged in another gun battle, killing four presumed cartel members. Later another four executed bodies were found, and on Monday the bodies of five more men covered in blankets were discovered at the bottom of a ravine surrounded by shell casing.

NYC 4/20 Pot Party Busted Over Social Distancing, Mexican President Acknowledges Cartel Aid-Giving, More... (4/21/20)

Mexico's president acknowledges cartels have been handing out coronavirus relief packages and implore them to knock it off, a New York City 4/20 pot party ran afoul of social distancing measures, and more.

Weed that never got smoked at that New York City 4/20 pot party. (NYPD)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Curbside Pickup of Pot Now in Effect. Emergency regulations allowing for the curbside pickup of marijuana purchases are now in effect in Alaska. The Marijuana Control Board approved the regulations Friday and Lt. Gov Keven Meyer's office signed off on them later that same day. Business owners who want to do curbside pickup have to apply to the state and submit operational plans.

New York City 4/20 Pot Party Busted for Violating Social Distancing. Police alerted by a concerned citizen reporting a large number of people on the third floor of a Manhattan commercial building ended up busting a party of about 40 people who had gathered to celebrate 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday. The party was hosted by a marijuana edibles company called Ganja Pigs, which was not available for comment on Tuesday. Police found a duffel bag full of weed at the party, along with edibles, THC, and paraphernalia. Five people were cited for marijuana offenses and 38 people were cited for unlawful trespassing.

International

Mexico President Acknowledges Cartels Handing Out Aid Packages, Implores Them to Knock It Off. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador acknowledged Monday that drug cartels are handing out aid packages during the coronavirus pandemic, said the government couldn't stop it, and implored the cartels to cut it out. "It is something that happens, it cannot be avoided," López Obrador said. "I don't want to hear them saying, ‘we are handing out aid packages,’"he said. "No, better that they lay off, and think of their families, and themselves, those that are involved in these activities and who are listening to me now or watching me." He also suggested that perhaps some cartel members are rethinking their place in society: "I don't rule out that there are people in the gangs who are becoming conscious, because I don't think you can spend your life always watching your back, worrying about another gang, going from one place to another, because you could get eliminated, that is no life at all,"said López Obrador.

MA Judge Upholds Recreational Pot Shop Ban; Mexican Cartels Hand Out Food, Supplies Amidst Crisis, More... (4/17/20)

Sorry, Massachusetts, no legal pot sales for you for now; Mexican drug cartels and El Chapo's daughter are currying favor by handing out food and supplies amidst the pandemic, and more. 

"El Chapo"-branded face masks being distributed in Mexico by a company owned by his daughter. (Facebook)
Massachusetts Judge Upholds State Ban on Recreational Pot Shops. A Suffolk County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Charlie Baker (R) acted within the law when he shut down recreational marijuana businesses as part of a broader stay-at-home order issued to address the coronavirus pandemic. Pot businesses filed suit to overturn the ban, which they argued was arbitrary since Baker's order allowed medical marijuana and liquor outlets to remain open, but Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth Salinger agreed with Baker's argument that the shops would attract out of state visitors: "It was reasonable for the governor to be concerned that the relatively few adult-use marijuana establishments in Massachusetts are more likely than liquor stores or [medical marijuana treatment centers] to attract high volumes of customers, including people traveling from other states," Salinger wrote. "The governor’s decision to treat medical marijuana facilities and liquor stores differently than adult-use marijuana establishments has a rational basis and therefore is constitutional."

International

British Columbia Rolls Out Safe Drugs for Street Users. Last month, the Canadian government urged provinces to lower barrier to prescription medications as part of the effort to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic, and now British Columbia is becoming the first province to apply those guidelines to people using street drugs. Healthcare providers are increasing the supply of opiate maintenance drugs and even dispensing some of them via a unique vending machine. By providing a safe supply of legal drug alternatives, the province hopes to lower a sudden spike in drug overdose deaths that coincided with the coronavirus outbreak in Vancouver.

Mexican Drug Cartels Hand Out More Coronavirus Aid. One of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's daughters and several Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been handing out aid packages to help poor residents get through the coronavirus pandemic. Guzman's daughter Alejandrina is seen in Facebook videos filling boxes with slick logos and an image of her father with food and toilet paper. The video narrator calls them "Chapo's provisions." The boxes were distributed in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The products are made for El Chapo 701, a legal business run by his daughter. But other active cartels are also handing out goods to local residents in some areas in a bid to gain public support. In one case, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel can be seen handing out packages of food and supplies labeled: "From your friends, CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support." The Gulf Cartel did a similar free distribution of supplies to poor residents of Victoria, Tamaulipas, last week. 

 

 

Charlotte's Web Girl Dies of Possible COVID Complications, Mexican Cartels Provide Food in Pandemic, More... (4/8/20)

The young girl whose story named Charlotte's Web and launched the CBD movement has died of complications from suspected COVID-19, Mexican drug cartels are handing out food to the poor in the midst of the pandemic, and more.

Boxes of food for the Mexican poor, provided by drug cartels. "The Gulf Cartel in support of Ciudad Victoria." (Facebook)
Medical Marijuana

Charlotte Figi, Colorado Girl Who Inspired CBD Movement, Dies of Possible Coronavirus Complications at Age 13. Charlotte Figi, the namesake for Charlotte's Web CBD products, has died of complications of suspected coronavirus, her family has reported. Figi suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy, which left her suffering from hundreds of small and large seizures a day. Pharmaceutical treatments proved ineffective, and her parents then turned to CBD products, which reduced her seizures dramatically and allowed her to be weaned off anti-epileptic medications. "Charlotte is no longer suffering," reads a post on the family's Facebook page. "She is seizure-free forever. Thank you so much for all of your love."

Harm Reduction

NIDA Warns on Coronavirus Implications for People with Substance Use Disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is warning the research community studying coronavirus to "be alert to the possibility that it could hit some populations with substance use disorders (SUDs) particularly hard. Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape. People with opioid use disorder (OUD) and methamphetamine use disorder may also be vulnerable due to those drugs' effects on respiratory and pulmonary health. Additionally, individuals with a substance use disorder are more likely to experience homelessness or incarceration than those in the general population, and these circumstances pose unique challenges regarding transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. All these possibilities should be a focus of active surveillance as we work to understand this emerging health threat."

International

United Kingdom to Hand Out Methadone Without a Prescription to Those Already Receiving It. As a response to the coronavirus crisis, pharmacists in Great Britain are being allowed to hand out a range of strong medicines, including methadone, without a prescription for the duration. The Home Secretary had asked the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to consider the risks of lifting restrictions on certain drugs, and the council decided to recommend the course of action despite voicing concerns it could lead to an increase in drug abuse. "The measure would rely on the professional judgment of pharmacists, who will be working outside the scope of their usual practice," the council said. "Without adequate support and guidance for the healthcare professionals affected by the proposed legislative change, there is a risk that pharmacists struggling to follow best practices could inadvertently lead to an increase in drug misuse and diversion. This is a particular risk for patient groups requiring opioid pain medicines, e.g. for palliative care or for opioid substitution therapy (OST). Additionally, whilst it will be necessary for the government to publicly announce in an emergency that these measures are to apply, common knowledge of the applicability of this measure may increase the risk of the misuse and diversion of controlled drugs."

Mexican Drug Cartel Gives Out Food to the Poor Amid Pandemic. Members of the Gulf Cartel are delivering boxes of food to poor families in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, and members of Los Viagras are handing out food to poor families in the western state of Michoacan to help them deal with the disruptive consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The drug traffickers have reportedly delivered food to at least 200 families. In Tamaulipas, boxes containing basic foodstuffs such as oil, breakfast cereal, and canned goods appeared with labels saying "Gulf Cartel in support of Ciudad Victoria."

Mexico's Drug Wars Set Bloody Record, ND Legalization Init Suspends Campaign, More... (4/6/20)

The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a deleterious impact on state-level efforts to get marijuana legalization on the November ballot, Mexico's prohibition-related violence sees a record number of deaths, and more.

Mexico's black market drug trade is generating violence at record levels. (Creative Commons)
Arizona Initiative Campaigns Ask State Supreme Court to Okay Electronic Signature Gathering. Several campaigns to put initiatives on the state's November ballot, including the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative, asked the Supreme Court last Thursday to allow electronic signature gathering because the coronavirus pandemic has made in-person petitioning all but impossible. The campaign has already gathered some 320,000 raw signatures and only needs 237,645 valid voter signatures, but wants the ability to gather more to have a larger cushion.

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Campaign Falls Victim to COVID-19. The Legalize ND marijuana legalization initiative campaign announced last Thursday that it has suspended its signature gathering efforts because of the coronavirus pandemic. "Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked," the group said. "Businesses will continue to collect, but we don't want to create another vector for the coronavirus. As a result, at this time if something major doesn't change we will not be able to make the 2020 ballot."

International

Mexico Hit All-Time High in Murders in March. Mexico reported 2,585 homicides -- largely driven by drug prohibition-related violence -- during the month of March, the highest monthly figure since records began in 1997. The surge in killings came as state and federal officials shifted resources into confronting the coronavirus pandemic. "It's business as usual [for drug cartels] with a risk of further escalation, especially if at some point the armed forces are called away for pandemic control," said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst at the International Crisis Group. Violence has been especially intense in the central state of Guanajuato, with cartel gunmen blockading streets, torching businesses, and engaging in shootouts with security forces.

Mexico Cartel Clash in Chihuahua Leaves 19 Dead. The state government of Chihuahua said Saturday that 19 people had been killed in a gun battle between suspected drug cartel hitmen. Local media reported that the clashes were between groups linked to the Juarez Cartel and the rival Sinaloa Cartel. Police found 18 bodies Friday evening at the site of the battle in the municipality of Madera. A wounded man also found at the scene died later of his injuries.

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