Mexican Drug War

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White House Staffers Hold Virtual Meeting with Ex-Incarcerated, Mexico Cartel Drone Attacks, More... (5/3/21)

A drug decriminalization bill is winning support in Maine, so is a buprenorphine legalization bill in Vermont, and more.

White House staffers held a virtual meeting with formerly incarcerated people to talk policy last Friday. (Whitehouse.gov)
Drug Policy

Maine Drug Decriminalization Bill Garners Support at Committee Hearing. A bill that decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of illicit drugs, LD 967, won support from medical and religious groups during a hearing before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last Thursday. Testifying in support of the bill were the Maine Medical Association and a coalition of religious groups. The bill would make drug possession a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine. The fine could be avoided if people submit to an "evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment for substance use disorder." No vote was taken in committee, but the testimony suggested strong support for the move.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Senate Committee Poised to Pass Buprenorphine Legalization Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health Committee heard testimony largely in support of a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. The bill, House Bill 225 , has already passed the House. The Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on the bill because it is currently before the House Rules Committee, but they did express unanimous support for it and expected to approve it once it reaches the committee. The Health Committee must also approve it before it goes for a House floor vote.

Sentencing

White House Officials Meet Virtually with Formerly Incarcerated Criminal Justice Reform Advocates. White House officials met virtually last Friday with a group of former drug war and other prisoners to listen to ideas about how to change criminal justice policies to advance prison and sentencing reform. Domestic policy advisor Susan Rice, public engagement director Cedric Richmond, and White House counsel Dana Remus heard recommendations on how "to reduce incarceration, end racial disparities, and facilitate successful reentry," they said in a White House readout of the event. The trio heard from 10 differerent advocacy groups, including Forward Justice and JustLeadershipUSA.

International

Mexican Drug Cartels Are Attacking Security Forces with Explosive-Laden Drones, Defense Minister Says. Mexican Defense Minister Luis Sandoval said last Wednesday that drug cartels are employing bomb-carrying drones to attack security forces. "We have found that there are some cartels using drones with explosives," the general said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily news conference. The Jalisco New Generation cartel is among those using the drones, Sandoval said, pointing to an attack last Monday in Aguilla, Michoacan, where police clearing roads that had been blocked by cartel members came under attack, leaving two wounded. But the drones are big enough to carry more lethal loads, Sandoval said. "They cannot carry amounts (of explosives) that are harmful to personnel or to a facility," Sandoval said.

SAFE Banking Act House Floor Vote Today, Texas Governor Wants Cartel Terrorist Designation, More... (4/19/21)

Another poll reaffirms marijuana legalization's popularity, the push for legalization in Connecticut has hit a roadblock over social equity, a bill to allow smokable medical marijuana advances in Louisiana, and more.

US Capitol (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Pew Poll Has Nine Out of Ten Americans Supporting Some Form of Marijuana Legalization. A new Pew poll has 91% of Americans in favor of legalizing either recreational marijuana or medical marijuana or both. Sixty percent favored legalizing both, while another 31% said they supported legalizing only medical marijuana.

House to Vote on Marijuana Banking Bill Today. House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer (D-MD) has confirmed that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, House Resolution 1996, will get a House floor vote on Monday. This will be the first floor action on any marijuana-related legislation this session.

Connecticut Marijuana Legalization Hits Roadblock Over Social Equity. Efforts to legalize marijuana this year are in danger after Gov. Ned Lamont (D) and key lawmakers reached an impasse over social equity provisions that the legislators say Lamont's bill is lacking. They said last week they could not support Lamont's bill without stronger social equity provisions. Lamont, for his part, appears ready to wait until next year if necessary. "I think [legalization is] in the best interest of public health and I don't want to surrender this to the underground market and I don't want to surrender it to outside markets. That said, if you get a bill that you think doesn't meet some basic requirements, you'll put it off another year just like they have for many years in the past. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," he said Friday.

Wisconsin GOP Senate Leader Rules Out Action on Marijuana Legalization. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said last Thursday that the Republican-controlled state legislature will not legalize recreational or medical marijuana. "We don't have support from the caucus. That's pretty clear, that we don't have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it," LeMahieu said. He added that states should not pass laws that are "in conflict with the federal government."

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Bill to Allow Smokable Medical Marijuana Advances. A bill to allow and tax smokable marijuana for medical marijuana patients, House Bill 514, passed the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously last Friday. The measure would apply the state's 4.45% sales tax to such products. The bill is now ready for a House floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Texas Governor Demands Biden Add Cartels to Terrorist List but Didn't Demand the Same of Trump. Governor Greg Abbott (R) has accused the Biden administration of just "standing by" as Mexican cartels "terrorize" South Texas and is demanding that President Biden add the cartels to the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. In doing so, he cited the November 2019 killing of nine US citizens in a cartel attack in northern Mexico, which occurred during the Trump presidency. Abbott never made any such demand of Trump, nor did he complain when Trump, who had threatened such a move, backed down under pressure from Mexico.

MD Lawmakers Pass Major Police Reforms Through Veto Override, Tijuana Travel Warning Issued, More... (4/12/21)

An American citizen in Dubai faces three years in prison after testing positive for marijuana, Delaware marijuana legalization activists urge boycott of dispensaries that testified against legalization bill, and more.

Tijuana street scene. The State Department has issued a travel warning because of cartel violence. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Delaware Marijuana Activists Stage Boycott of Medical Dispensaries That Testified Against Legalization Bill. Marijuana legalization advocates have called a boycott of four medical marijuana dispensaries after their representatives testified against a marijuana legalization bill last month. The four companies are Columbia Care, Fresh Delaware, CannTech and EZY Venture. They testified that allowing legalization would oversaturate the market, with some even talking about how it could hurt their bottom lines. The Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition accused the companies of "simply obstructing the progress of adult-use legislation" and added that "some patients are now staging a boycott of the regulated dispensaries."

Drug Testing

Mississippi Ban on Sale of Urine, Fake or Real, to Beat Drug Tests Signed into Law. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed into law Senate Bill 2569 last Friday. The bill makes it a crime to sell, market, or give away real or fake human urine to produce negative results on a drug test. A first offense can earn up to six months in jail, with a second offense earning up to a year and a third offense earning up to three years in prison.

Law Enforcement

Maryland Passes Sweeping Police Reform Legislation. Overriding a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), the legislature last Saturday passed a package of three bills -- Senate Bill 71, Senate Bill 178, and House Bill 670 -- that restrict the use of no-knock warrants, limits police officers' use of force, and repeals the country's first Bill of Rights for law enforcement. Passage of the package was impelled by the nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd in police custody. "This is what the community wants -- they want reform, they want transparency, and they want accountability," said Caylin A. Young, public policy director of the ACLU of Maryland, which was part of a coalition of 90 groups that had backed the bills. "There needs to be a reimagining of what policing in Maryland looks like."

International

US Citizen Detained in Dubai for Marijuana-Positive Drug Test. An American man who was hospitalized in Dubai for an attack of pancreatitis and who subsequently tested positive for marijuana at the hospital has been detained for violating the drug laws of the United Arab Emirates, which consider a positive drug test as equating with possession. Peter Clark, 51, had smoked marijuana in Las Vegas before flying to Dubai. He was jailed for three days in foul conditions before being released to a hotel. He is facing up to three years in prison.

State Department Issues Travel Alert for Tijuana, Mexicali Valley. The US Embassy in Mexico City has issued a security alert warning citizens to take care when traveling in Tijuana and the nearby Mexicali Valley because of violent conflict between drug trafficking groups in Tijuana. "Travelers should exercise extra caution when traveling in and around Mexicali, the Mexicali Valley, and the western part of the state of Sonora due to the potential for increased violence between rival cartel factions. Members of the embassy community have been warned to avoid the Mexicali area until further notice," the US embassy said. The Sinaloa Cartel is attempting to fend off a takeover attempt of the Tijuana plaza by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has recently threatened the state governor and members of his cabinet.

CA Psychedelic Decrim Bill Advances, CT Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances, More... (4/7/21)

New York police will no longer be able to search vehicles based solely on the smell of marijuana, the Montana House passes a trio of competing legalization implementation bills, a cartel massacre in Mexico leaves more than two dozen dead, and more.

LSD and other psychedelics would be decriminalized under a bill advancing in California. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Governor's Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. A marijuana legalization bill supported by Governor Ned Lamont (D), House Bill 5853, passed the General Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. But lawmakers cautioned that changes are coming to the bill as it winds through the committee process. The bill awaits further action in the Senate.

Montana House Advances Three Marijuana Legalization Implementation Bills. The House on Tuesday approved three competing Republican-backed bills for regulating legal marijuana after voters approved it in November. The bills all departed from the voter-approved initiative, which called for legal sales to begin next January and for many revenues to be used for conservation efforts. Republican legislative leaders urged lawmakers to approve all three, arguing that doing so would give the Senate more options as it considers its course of action.

New York Police Will No Longer Be Able to Search Vehicles Solely Because of the Smell of Marijuana. With the legalization of marijuana possession now in effect, police in the state will no longer be able to search vehicles based solely on the smell of weed. More than three ounces of marijuana -- the personal possession limit -- will have to be visible to create the probable cause required to do a search. "While law enforcement across the state are continuing to review and discuss the ramifications of the new laws, what is clear is the fact we cannot search vehicles based on the odor of cannabis or even witnessing small quantities of cannabis," said Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone.

New Orleans City Council to Take Up Marijuana Decriminalization Resolution. Council President Helena Moreno and five council members have filed a resolution to support an effort in the state legislature to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state. "This is just common sense at this point, from criminal justice reform to job creation to funding critical needs," said Moreno. "It addresses a fundamental source of racial and economic inequity in our criminal justice system. Public support for decriminalization is finally catching up to the truth: black and brown communities bear the brunt of marijuana enforcement, disrupting lives and reinforcing existing biases while failing to make any appreciable effect on public safety. And because of this reality, the taxation piece must be a thoughtful one. Investment in communities of color must be prioritized… Let's do this, the time is now."

Psychedelics

California Psychedelic Decriminalization Bill Advances A bill that would decriminalize the use and possession of several psychedelic drugs, Senate Bill 519, passed its first legislative hurdle Tuesday as it won approval in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. It now heads for the Assembly Health Committee before going for an Assembly floor vote. "By decriminalizing we're not inviting people to use. We're taking, instead of a criminal approach to drug use, a health-minded approach," bill sponsor state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) told the committee before the vote.

Harm Reduction

Nevada Naloxone in Schools Bill Advances. A bill to allow schools to get overdose reversal drugs has passed the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee. The measure, Assembly Bill 205, amends an existing law allowing school officials to have Epi-Pens on hand to prevent anaphylactic shock to add auto-injector devices containing drugs such as naloxone.

Vermont Buprenorphine Decriminalization Bill Advances. The House Human Services Committee on Tuesday approved House Bill 225, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the opioid-addiction medication buprenorphine. The bill passed unanimously in committee and now heads for a House floor vote.

International

Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Second Committee Vote in As Many Days. The Second Legislative Studies Committee approved a rapidly-advancing marijuana legalization bill Tuesday, one day after it won approval in the Justice Committee. It must still get through the Health Committee, which could happen as early as Wednesday, clearing the way to a final Senate vote as early as Thursday.

Mexico Cartel Massacre Leaves 27 Dead in Michoacan. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is being blamed for the mass killing of rival gang members in the municipality of Aguililla, Michoacan, last week. The Citizens' Intelligence Unit said that member of United Cartels had surrendered to the CJNG and were subsequently executed. And now, someone has stolen 26 of their bodies and eight decapitated heads from the local morgue.

NM Legalization Bill Awaits Special Session, Biden Admin Supports Colombia Coca Spraying, More... (3/22/21)

Colorado's governor signs a marijuana socieal equity bill, Arizona's sheriffs and prosecutors don't want to lose civil asset forfeiture, Mexican cartel hitmen gun down 13 cops in Mexico state, and more.

Colombian coca growers face the threat of being sprayed with toxic glyphosate. (DEA)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill. Gov. Jared Polis (D) last Friday signed into law SB21-111, which is designed to support social equity licensees in the industry. The bill creates a program in the Office of Economic Development that will provide loans and grants to such licensees and is initially funded with $4 million from the marijuana tax fund.

New Mexico Governor Calls Special Session After Clock Runs Out on Marijuana Legalization Effort. The state's legislative session ended Saturday without a marijuana legalization bill being approved, so Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has announced that she will call a special session to deal with the issue, probably on March 31. "I believe legalization will be one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come," she said. "I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done right." The bill that is still alive, House Bill12, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday, but never got a floor vote before the session ended.

New York Groups Call on Legislature to Pass Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act. More than 70 groups representing labor unions, civil rights, immigration reform, faith-based organizers, criminal justice and police reformers, parents, treatment providers, drug reform groups, legal advocates and other organizations from across the state of New York sent a letter Monday to Albany's legislative leaders urging the swift passage of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) to "ensure legalization has justice, reinvestment, and health and social equity at the core." The MRTA (S.854/A.1248) would set a new national model by focusing benefits on those who have been harmed by prohibition, according to the groups.

Asset Forfeiture

Arizona Sheriffs, Prosecutors Urge Governor, Lawmakers to Amend Bill That Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture, Last Friday, nearly two dozen sheriffs and county attorneys urged Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and the state Senate to amend HB 2810 to remove the requirement that a criminal conviction be obtained before seizing currency. The bill overwhelmingly passed by the House bars civil asset forfeiture, but the lawmen want the ban to apply only to seizures of property, not currency. They claim the bill would benefit Mexican drug cartels. The bill must still pass the Senate Rules Committee before heading for a floor vote.

Foreign Policy

Biden Administration Is Supporting Renewed Spraying of Herbicides to Kill Off Colombia's Coca Crop. Earlier this month, the Biden administration made clear that it supports Colombian President Ivan Duque in his bid to restart the spraying of toxic glyphosate on coca crops. In the administration's first annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released March 2, the position was made crystal clear: "The government of Colombia has committed to restarting its aerial coca eradication program, which would be a most welcome development." The World Health Organization warned in 2015 that glyphosate damages the environment and might be carcinogenic.

International

Mexico Cartels Kill 13 Police in State of Mexico Ambush. A police convoy in the central state of Mexico was attacked by presumed cartel gunmen last Thursday, leaving 13 law enforcement officers dead. "The convoy was carrying out patrols in the region, precisely to fight the criminal groups that operate in the area," said Rodrigo Martinez Celis, head of the state Public Safety Department. It is the deadliest attack on Mexican police since October 2019, when 14 officers were killed in an ambush in the western state of Michoacan.

Mexico Chamber of Deputies Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill [FEATURE]

Mexico took a giant step toward ending marijuana prohibition Wednesday night as the Chamber of Deputies approved a legalization bill on a vote of 316-129. The Senate approved the bill late last year, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has signaled he will sign it into law.

But it's not quite a done deal yet. Because the bill was amended in the Chamber of Deputies -- and lawmakers were still debating possible amendments late Wednesday night -- it must now go back to the Senate for approval of the changes.

Still, Mexico, a country legendary for marijuana production since the days of the hippies, is now on the verge of becoming the world's largest legal marijuana market. In the United States, federal marijuana prohibition still obtains despite state-level legalization in an ever-increasing number of states, potentially (and ironically) leaving the US as the odd man out in North America, sandwiched between legal pot pioneers Canada and Mexico.

The legislative move to legalize marijuana is the outgrowth of a Mexican Supreme Court decision three years ago that held marijuana prohibition unconstitutional and gave the congress a limited amount of time to bring the law into compliance with the constitution. Deadlines were repeatedly bumped back, though, especially as the coronavirus took hold, but now the congress was up against another deadline next month. And this time, it beat it.

Mexico uses the military to fight its drug wars. (Creative Commons)
Under the bill, people 18 and up will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (although one controversial change in the Chamber of Deputies would require home growers to register with the state). The bill also creates a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce. In another change from the Senate bill, this bill would give regulatory control over the new legal industry to the National Commission Against Addictions instead of the independent regulatory body envisioned by the upper house.

Activists bemoaned aspects of the bill, with Mexico Unido Contra la Delinquencia (MUCD) complaining that it represented a "lost opportunity to end the criminalization of users" because it maintains penalties for possession of larger amounts and that it "did not eliminate the crime of cultivation for persons of scarce resources and extreme economic necessity who have dedicated themselves to this as a primordial activity." This would "perpetuate the marginalization and criminal punishment of our peasants, the people most affected by prohibition, who we want to integrate into the market, not maintain in illegality."

MUCD is calling on the Senate to rectify the bill to address such issues. "Above all, we must not create a legal market that only prioritizes the economic benefit of those who participate in sales while we exclude other, less advantaged actors," the group said. "For this, we call on the Senate of the Republic to correct the bill to comply with the mandate of the Supreme Court to eliminate the absolute prohibition of the consumption of cannabis."

The bill would remove one drug from Mexico's lucrative and bloody black markets (DEA)
Still, despite the objections raised by MUCD and others, Mexico is on the verge of shifting from a prohibition regime to legal marijuana regime, and that is a big deal, and a recognition that the country has bigger problems to deal with.

"The damage caused by the prohibition and the war on drugs in Mexico has caused more harm than the health conditions attributed to drug consumption," said Dep. Rubén Cayetano García. "Cannabis is not considered one of the serious public health problems in Mexico."

"For Mexico, given its size and its worldwide reputation for being damaged by the drug war, to take this step is enormously significant," said John Walsh, director of drug policy for the Washington Office on Latin America. "North America is heading toward legalization."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Drug Treatment

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

Psychedelics

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

Drug Policy

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

Foreign Policy

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

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

Law Enforcement

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

Drug War Issues

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