The Drug Debate

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Chronicle AM: Yang on Safe Injection Sites, Bloomberg on Marijuana, More... (12/5/19)

Michigan pot shops see high demand on opening day, Democratic contenders stake out drug policy positions, Maine finally has all pot business applications ready, and more.

Andrew Yang wants to decriminalize opiates and fund safe injection sites like this one in Vancouver. (vch.ca)

Marijuana Policy

Michael Bloomberg Backs Decriminalization as Marijuana Views Evolve Amid Presidential Run. Faced with criticism over his past positions on marijuana, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg has now come out in support of decriminalization, which still leaves him lagging behind most of the Democratic pack. "He believes no one should have their life ruined by getting arrested for possession, and, as a part of his reform efforts that drove incarceration down by 40 percent, he worked to get New York State laws changed to end low-level possession arrests," a spokesman said. "He believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized."

Maine Says All Marijuana Licenses are Now Available. More than three years after voters legalized marijuana, the state has finally made available all applications for marijuana cultivation, products manufacturing and retail facilities. That means the state could see pot shops open by the spring.

Michigan Pot Shops Forced to Impose Purchase Limits as Demand Overwhelms. High customer volume is forcing marijuana retailers to limit purchases so there will be enough weed to go around. The four shops that opened Sunday saw combined sales of $221,000 that first day. Each of the four shops has had to turn customers away, too. Some customers waited as long as four hours to get inside.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Senator Introduces Bill Providing Broad Employment Protections to Medical Marijuana Users. A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Lori Berman (D) Would provide various protections to job applicants and employees who use medical marijuana. The measure is Senate Bill 962.

Harm Reduction

Andrew Yang Calls for Investments in Safe Injection Sites. Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang says he supports government funding for safe injections sites as part of an effort to counter the country's overdose epidemic. "I would not only decriminalize opiates for personal use but I would also invest in safe consumption sites around the country," Yang said Thursday.

(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 Book Review: Reefer Movie Madness

Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide, by Steven Bloom and Shirley Halperin (2010, Abrams Image Press, 336 pp., $18.95 PB)

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/reefer-movie-madness.jpg
Even the wonkiest of drug policy reformers can't spend all their time reading policy proposals, research results, and desert-dry academic treatises, but Reefer Movie Madness is much more than a mere guilty pleasure. Penned by former High Times editor and Celebstoner.com proprietor Steve Bloom and former High Times intern turned entertainment writer Shirley Halperin, Reefer Movie Madness is not only a most excellent guide to stoner filmdom, it also maps the cultural acceptance of marijuana in America through film history.

A follow-up to the pair's well-done, comprehensive compendium of all things cannabinical, Pot Culture, Reefer Movie Madness profiles more than 700 films that are about marijuana, feature marijuana in key scenes, feature other drugs, or just plain a gas to watch stoned. The films are ranked via a five-star rating system, and the authors demonstrate exquisite taste and filmic knowledge in their rankings (meaning that their tastes agreed with mine).

They begin at the beginning, going back even before 1936's anti-pot propaganda classic Reefer Madness to note such obscure films as 1924's High on the Range, in which Cowboy Dave smokes a reefer, and 1933's International House, in which jazz legend Cab Calloway performs "Reefer Man."

But in the late 1930s, as Harry Anslinger crusaded against the demon weed, so did Hollywood. In addition to Reefer Madness, the movie industry cranked out propaganda like Marijuana: The Weed with Roots in Hell (1936), Assassin of Youth (1937), and just a handful of years later, Devil's Harvest (1942). While such films helped shape American attitudes at the time, and for decades to come, they are now the stuff of nonstop laugh fests.

While marijuana and other drug use was portrayed intermittently, and occasionally, even with some sympathy for drug users, it wasn't until the cultural revolution of the 1960s, bringing us classic stoner films like Wild in the Streets (1968) and Easy Rider (1969), that pot-smoking began to be widely portrayed as anything but deviant. And it wasn't until the late 1970s that Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke gave birth to the now ubiquitous stoner comedy genre (although Bloom and Halperin give the classic Animal House, with its single hilarious pot-smoking scene partial credit for establishing the genre, too).

By now, stoner movies and depictions of pot-smoking are everywhere, most notably, but not only, in the stoner comedy genre. Films like Half-Baked, How High, Friday, and Strange Wilderness are now being produced by mainstream production companies, and the Judd Apatow franchise alone has been responsible for numerous box office hit stoner flicks, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. This year's Get Him to Greek, featuring the inimitable and charismatic Russell Brand and Apatow regular Jonah Hill, was released too late for inclusion, but will certainly make the next edition.

The book is divided into sections by genre: comedy, drama, sci-fi/fantasy/horror, action, sports, music, documentaries and offers spot-on capsule reviews of more than 700 films, complete with plot summaries, star rankings, and choice quotes. Reefer Movie Madness also includes themed lists (Best Buds: Ten stony duos that take friendship to a higher level; Stoner Inventions and Innovations), celebrity Q&As, and lists of favorite stoner movies from well-known actors, directors, and musicians, including Cheech & Chong, the Trailer Park Boys, Snoop Dog, and Melissa Etheridge, among many more.

Reefer Movie Madness is a bookshelf must for pot movie fans, whether they be culture mavens or fully-baked couch potatoes. Even for veteran stoner film watchers, it contains some delicious movies you've never seen before and helps you remember long-forgotten gems. It has already vastly increased the length of my Netflix queue, and once you pick it up, the same thing is going to happen to you.

But beyond that, Reefer Movie Madness is a valuable and important contribution to charting and understanding the pop cultural role of marijuana in the past few decades. And it's a gas to read, stoned or not.

CDC Reports Record Drug Overdose Toll, UN Report on Arbitrary Detention in War on Drugs, More... (10/15/21)

Baltimore drug arrests are down dramatically thanks to a policy shift by the local prosecutor, Virginia has sealed the records of more than 64,000 small-time pot-dealing charges, and more.

More than 90,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the period ending in March 2021. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Virginia Seals 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges. The state has sealed records of more than 64,000 misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges, the legislature's Cannabis Oversight Commission heard Thursday. They have been scrubbed from the state's criminal records database, which is used by employers to screen job applicants. Another 333,000 simple possession convictions have also been sealed. The state was ordered to expunge the records as part of the marijuana legalization bill passed earlier this year.

Drug Policy

CDC Reports Record Drug Overdose Toll. Drug overdose deaths, primarily but not exclusively around opioid use, hit an all-time high in the year ending in March 2021, with 96,779 overdose deaths reported. That's an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous 12-month period, but the number could go even higher because the numbers are only provisional, and the CDC has estimated predicted overdose deaths during this period would total more than 99,000. The big jump in fatal drug overdoses came as the country was in the depths of the coronavirus pandemic and as fentanyl pervades ever more illicit drug markets—including being used as a cut in non-opioids, such as meth and cocaine—but also reflects a two-decade old trend of rising overdose deaths.

Baltimore Drug Possession Arrests Are Just About Extinct. Baltimore Police on Thursday released data showing that both felony and misdemeanor drug arrests are down, with the latter down dramatically. So far this year, police have arrested 796 people on drug felonies, down 19 percent from the 978 arrests during the same period last year. But when it comes to drug misdemeanors, police have arrested only 38 people so far this year, down a whopping 91 percent from the 445 during the same period last year. The declines are a direct result of a policy decision made last year by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby to stop prosecuting certain drug offenses, including drug possession. Conservative local media is criticizing the policy, saying that it has allowed open-air drug dealing to flourish, but the police, the mayor's office, and Mosby's office all say open-air drug markets remain a priority.  

Recent UN Report on Arbitrary Detention and Drug Policies Underscores Urgent Need for Reform, Includes Call for Drug Decriminalization. A recent United Nations human rights report details the widespread use of arbitrary detention in the drug war in countries around the world. The report from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) finds that arbitrary detention in drug cases is swelling jail and prison populations precisely as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic highlights the need to reduce prison overcrowding. Arbitrary detention can include people arrested without a proper warrant or detained in ways that do not respect procedural rights. The report notes that states are required to uphold human rights obligations under international law, but that relying on harsh drug war policies creates sustained violations of those policies. "People who use drugs are particularly at risk of arbitrary detention," the report said, pointing to countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru, where people arrested on drug charges are automatically jailed pending trial, but also cited the use of torture, particularly in Mexico. The report ends with 17 recommendations, starting with a call to UN members to "decriminalize the use, possession, acquisition or cultivation of drugs for personal use, including the possession of associated paraphernalia." Other recommendations include calling for an end to drug courts, ending the participation of the military in drug enforcement operations, and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples to cultivate and use plants traditionally grown for spiritual, medicinal, and cultural purposes.

SD Activists Begin 2022 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Drive, Report on Racial Disparities in State Prisons, More... (10/13/21)

A pair of GOP Ohio lawmakers prepares a marijuana legalization bill, the Sentencing Project releases a new report on differential racial incarceration rates in the states, and more.

A new Sentencing Project report finds Blacks are imprisoned in state prisons at a rate five times that of Whites. (Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio GOP Lawmakers Announce Marijuana Legalization Bill. In a sign of changing times, a pair of Ohio Republican lawmakers announced Tuesday they were preparing a marijuana legalization bill. For years, Democrats have led the fight for marijuana legalization, but in recent days, first Pennsylvania and now Ohio are seeing signs of Republican interest in moving forward on legalization. Reps. Jamie Callender (R) and Ron Ferguson (R) rolled out a bill that would allow people 21 and over to buy and possess marijuana, with limited home cultivation allowed. The bill also envisages a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sales, with half going to the state's general fund and half going to law enforcement and mental health and addiction treatment and recovery services. Callender and Ferguson are circulating a cosponsorship memo to build support for the forthcoming legislation and are aiming to formally file the bill within the next six weeks or so.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. Although state voters already approved a marijuana legalization initiative last year, it was challenged in court by Gov. Kristi Noem (R) and two law enforcement officials, and the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on its constitutionality. The people behind the successful initiative, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, is not waiting on—or counting on—a favorable Supreme Court ruling and is moving ahead with plans for a 2022 initiative designed to get around the issue that has the 2020 initiative stuck in the courts: the claim that it unconstitutionally encompasses more than one subject. This new initiative simply legalizes marijuana possession and cultivation for people 21 and over. The secretary of state on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for signature gathering to begin. Campaigners have until May 8, 2022 to come up with 16,691 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Sentencing Policy

New Sentencing Project Report Finds Blacks Imprisoned in State Prisons at Rate Five Times of Whites. Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at nearly five times the rate of Whites, and Latino Americans are 1.3 times as likely to be incarcerated than non-Latino whites, according to a new report by The Sentencing Project, The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.The report, authored by Senior Research Analyst Ashley Nellis, documents the rates of incarceration for white, Black, and Latinx Americans for each state. Although Black Americans are not a majority of the general population in any of the 50 states, they make up more than half of the prison population in a dozen states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. New Jersey tops the nation in terms of disparity in its incarceration rates, with a Black/white ratio of more than 12 to 1. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Connecticut follow closely behind, incarcerating Black Americans at about 10 times the rate of white people. Latino individuals are incarcerated nationally in state prisons at a rate that is 1.3 times the rate for non-Latino whites, but at a much higher rate in Massachusetts (4.1), Connecticut (3.7), New York (3.0), and North Dakota (2.4). In raw numbers, Latino incarceration is highest in border and southwestern states. The report makes several policy recommendations: eliminate all mandatory minimums, enact racial impact statements that require crime bills to be accompanied by an estimate of the policy’s impact on demographic groups, and discontinue arrest and prosecution for low-level drug offenses that often lead to accumulation of prior convictions

Booker & Warren Call on DOJ to Deschedule Marijuana; US & Mexico Meet to Forge New Relations on Crime & Drugs, More... (10/12/21)

California's governor vetoes a "contingency management" drug treatment bill, a pair of progressive senators call on the Justice Department to deschedule marijuana, and more.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) send letter to DOJ seeking marijuana descheduling. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Booker, Warren Call on DOJ to Decriminalize Cannabis. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter last Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the Federal controlled substances list. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), the Attorney General can remove a substance from the CSA's list, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), based on the finding that it does not have the potential for abuse. Decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level via this descheduling process would allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit, begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.

"While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis," wrote Booker and Warren. "We urge the DOJ to initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis. Doing so would be an important first step in the broader tasks of remedying the harmful racial impact of our nation's enforcement of cannabis laws and ensuring that states can effectively regulate the growing cannabis industry, including by assisting small business owners and those most harmed by our historical enforcement of cannabis laws."

Drug Treatment

California Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Paid People to Stay Off Drugs. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has vetoed a bill that would have made California the first state to embrace "contingency management," the drug treatment program in which users are paid money to stay sober, receiving increasing payments for each drug test passed. Such a program has been underway with military veterans for years, with research showing it is an effective way to get people off stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, for which there are no pharmaceutical treatments available. Newsom had asked the federal government to allow the state to use federal tax dollars to pay for it through Medicaid, but still rejected Senate Bill 110 without explanation.

Foreign Policy

US, Mexico Meet to Restore Cross-Border Cooperation on Drugs, Crime. Leading Biden administration officials including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Attorney General Merrick Garland met with their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City Saturday to try to create a new framework for cooperation on drugs, crime, and border issues. The high-profile meeting comes after months of quiet talks to rebuild relations that grew especially fraught after DEA agents arrested a retired former senior Mexican military officer for alleged links to drug traffickers. That prompted the Mexicans to demand -- and obtain -- his release and to pass a law limiting the involvement of the DEA inside Mexico. The new framework appears to signal a break with Plan Merida, the more than decade-old security agreement under which billions of dollars in US security assistance went to help Mexico fight drug traffickers, but which also saw drug-related killings rise to record levels.

NY Governor Signs Package of Bills Aimed at Curbing OD Crisis, CA Governor Signs Hemp Regulation Bill, More... (10/8/21)

Another poll has two-thirds support for freeing the weed, Oklahoma activists file initative petitions to legalize marijuana, and more.

Hemp products like these will be regulated under a new California law just signed by Gov.Gavin Newsom (D). (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Yet Another Poll Finds Supermajority Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Harris Research poll has 66 percent of respondents supporting marijuana legalization, with millennials (79 percent) and Generation X (76 percent) being the most supportive. For Baby Boomers, slightly less than half supported legalization. The findings are in line with other recent polls showing a supermajority for legalization.

Oklahoma Activists File Marijuana Legalization, Medical Marijuana Regulation Initiative Petitions. Activists organized as Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action have filed a pair of petitions related to marijuana policy. Question 817 would legalize marijuana for people 21 and over, while Question 818 would replace the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with a stand-alone agency. The group now has 90 days to come up with 178,000 valid voter signatures in order to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.

Hemp

California Governor Signs Hemp Regulatory Bill. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday signed into law Assembly Bill 45, which creates a comprehensive regulatory framework for the manufacture and distribution of hemp-derived products in the nation's most populous state. The bill allows for the sale of smokeable hemp products, as well as hemp-infused foods and drinks. The bill should also provide clarity to consumers, reassuring them that products are independently tested and properly labeled. Because the law was passed as an emergency measure, it goes into effect immediately.

Opioids

New York Governor Signs Package of Bills Aimed at Blunting Overdose Crisis. Governor Kathy Hochul (D) on Thursday signed into law a package of bills designed to ease the overdose epidemic in the state. One bill eases access to the opioid overdose drug naloxone, another allows for the use of medication-assisted treatment in state prisons, a third decriminalizes the sale and possession of needles and syringes, a fourth creates an online directory of naloxone distributors, and the fifth creates a judicial diversion program for some felony offenders. "Addiction can impact any family, suddenly and harshly - those who find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle are there through no fault of their own," Governor Hochul said. "This is a personal battle for me and I am proud to be able to combat the opioid crisis by signing these bills into law. There is no shame in seeking help for substance use and I want to let all New Yorkers know that we are here for you. Treatment should always be accessible for those who need it."

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Bill, MI Opioid Treatment Bills, More... (10/6/21)

A crack appears in Pennsylvania Republicans' opposition to legalizing marijuana, that DEA agent killed in Tucson on Monday died enforcing marijuana prohibition, and more.

A proposed Michigan bill would let community-based organization dispense the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Sees Bipartisan Effort to Legalize Marijuana. A Republican state senator has joined forces with a Democrat in a bid to garner bipartisan support for marijuana legalization. Senator Mike Regan (R) and Rep. Amen Brown (D) are teaming up on Regan's proposed bill, which would legalize marijuana, includes social equity provisions, and seeks to create a tax and regulatory structure for legal weed. Democratic politicians in the state, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have been calling for legalization, but the Republican-controlled legislature has so far resisted such entreaties. It's time for us to move forward in Pennsylvania," said Regan, a former US marshal who played a role in crafting the state's medical marijuana program. "If we can take the violence out of it and we can regulate it and tax it and let police focus on the really serious crimes, I think it's a huge step forward."

Opioids

Michigan House Committee Takes Up Opioid Treatment Expansion. The House Health Policy Committee has met to discuss several pieces of health-related legislation, including a pair of bills that would expand access to treatment for opioid use disorder, HB 5163 and HB 5166. "HB 5163 will expand capacity to treat opioid overdoses in emergency departments, a key interception point for people who use drugs where we see a high risk of overdose upon discharge," said bill sponsor Rep. Angela Witwer. The bill would allow emergency departments to provide medication-assisted treatment, create specific hospital overdose care protocols, and provide referrals to community-based care organizations. HB 5166 would increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone by allowing community-based organizations to distribute the drug. Currently, under a 2016 standing order law, pharmacists can give the drug without a prescription, similar to an over-the-counter drug. No votes were taken on the bills.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agent Killed in Tucson Was Enforcing Marijuana Prohibition. DEA Agent Michael Garbo, who was killed Monday in a shootout on an Amtrak passenger train in Tucson, died attempting to enforce federal laws against marijuana. The accused shooter, known only as D.T., opened fire on drug task force agents after they found 2.4 kilograms of marijuana, 50 packages of edibles, and "other marijuana and cannabis products," according to the court documents. D.T. and his partner, Devonte Okeith Mathis, were targeted by the DEA, whose agents were given a list "that contained names of several individuals on an Amtrak train that was arriving in Tucson" as part of their routine investigative activities. Task force officers saw Mathis move several bags a few rows away from where he and his partner were sitting, then took the bags off the train to inspect them and found marijuana. When agents then attempted to approach D.T., he opened fire, killing Garbo and wounding another DEA agent and a Tucson police officer. D.T. was then fatally shot.

Seattle Psychedelic Decriminalization, OH Towns to Vote on Marijuana Decrim, More... (10/5/21)

The Philippine government tries to look like it is doing something about human rights abuses in its drug war, Bolivian coca grower factions continue to clash, Seattle decriminalizes natural psychedelics and more.

Not only the cultivation and possession but also the sharing of natural psychedelics is decriminalized in Seattle. (CC)
Marijuana Policy

Ohio Towns Will Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Ballot Measures Next Month. Activists with NORML Appalachia of Ohio and the Sensible Marijuana Coalition have qualified marijuana decriminalization ballot initiatives for next month's ballot in more than a dozen municipalities, even as efforts to qualify in more communities continue. Voters in Brookside, Dillonvale, Laurelville, Martins Ferry, McArthur, Morristown, Mount Pleasant, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straitsville, Powhatan Point, Rayland, Tiltonsville, and Yorkville will have the chance to vote on the initiatives. Some of the 14 local measures read simply: "Shall [jurisdiction] adopt the Sensible Marihuana Ordinance, which lowers the penalty for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest penalty allowed by State Law?" Others are longer and more specific, but all aim to further undermine marijuana prohibition in the Buckeye State.

Psychedelics

Seattle Becomes Largest City to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The city council on Monday approved a resolution to decriminalize not just the cultivation and possession but also the noncommercial sharing of a wide range of psychedelic substances, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and non-peyote derived mescaline. The non-inclusion of peyote is a nod to concerns voiced by the indigenous community, where members of the Native American Church consume the cactus as a sacrament. Seattle police already have a policy of not arresting or prosecuting people for drug possession, but this ordinance extends that protection to people growing and sharing psychedelic plants and fungi for open-ended "religious, spiritual, healing, or personal growth practices." The ordinance passed on a unanimous vote.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agent Killed in Drug Sweep of Amtrak Train in Tucson. A DEA agent and a person on an Amtrak train stopped in Tucson were killed in an outburst of gunfire that broke out Monday morning as members of a joint drug task force conducted a drug sweep of the train. Another DEA agent was critically wounded, while a city police officer was also shot and is in stable condition. Two people on board the train reacted to the police presence, with one opening fire. "They were checking for illegal guns, money, drugs," Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said. "This is something they do, as I said, routinely at pretty much all transit hubs." Magnus said he did not know whether any guns or drugs were found by officers. One person is now in custody.

International

Bolivian Anti-Government Coca Growers Storm La Paz Coca Market. Following more violent clashes with security forces, thousands of anti-government coca growers stormed the Adepcoca market in La Paz on Monday. For more than a week, pro- and anti-government coca grower factions have clashed over control of the market, through which 90 percent of the country's legal coca passes, after pro-government coca unions ousted an opposition leader to take control of it. The anti-government faction is centered in the Yungas region, which is the traditional center of Bolivian coca production. Yungas growers have been upset with the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party since 2017, when then-President Evo Morales ended the Yungas monopoly on coca growing by legalizing coca production in his region of Cochabamba.

In Bid to Blunt International Criminal Court Investigation, Philippines Says 154 Police Could Be Liable for Drug War Conduct. Faced with a formal International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into rampant human rights abuses -- including thousands of killings -- during President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs, Filipino Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced Sunday that 154 police officers could be criminally liable for their conduct in the drug war, including 52 cases of killings. The Philippine government is refusing to cooperate with the ICC probe, arguing that it is capable of policing itself, but the 154 officers who are listed as facing potential criminal liability represent only a tiny fraction of the killings that have taken place, of which the government officially acknowledges more than 6,000. Human rights groups have put the figure north of 30,000.

Senators File Bill to Undo Supreme Court Decision on Crack Sentencing, CO Pot Tax Initiative, More... (10/4/21)

A bipartisan group of leading senators files a bill to ensure that low-level federal crack prisoners get the same shot at retroactive sentence reductions as other crack offenders, a Colorado initiative would increase pot taxes to fund educational programs for low-income kids, and more.

Denver. As legal marijuana production hits a record, an initiative would increase taxes to help educate kids. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Produced Almost Two Million Pounds of Legal Marijuana Last Year. According to a report just released by the state's Marijuana Enforcement Division, state-legal marijuana growers produced nearly two million pounds of weed last year. That was 25 percent higher than the 2019 figure. Recreational marijuana accounted for the bulk of weed produced, with 1.38 million pounds, while medical marijuana producers added and 449,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, 2020 also saw the highest marijuana sales since legalization, with nearly $2.2 billion worth of marijuana products sold.

Colorado Initiative Would Increase Marijuana Taxes to Pay for Educational Programs for Kids. When state voters go to the polls in November, they will have an opportunity to vote on whether to raise the state's recreational marijuana sales tax to pay for out-of-school educational programs for children between five and 17, with low-income kids being prioritized. Proposition 119 has already qualified for the ballot. It would increase the sales tax from 15 percent to 20 percent over a five-year period, starting with a three percent increased in 2022 and four percent in 2023. The goal is to raise $137 million a year for the programs.

Sentencing Policy

Senators Introduce Bill to Correct Supreme Court Ruling on Retroactivity of Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform. A bipartisan group of senators including Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have introduced the Terry Technical Correction Act, which clarifies that all offenders who were sentenced for a crack cocaine offense before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 can apply for its retroactive application under Section 404 of the First Step Act, including individuals convicted of the lowest level crack offenses.

Section 404 of the First Step Act allows crack cocaine offenders to request a sentence reduction pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act. The Fair Sentencing Act, authored by Durbin, reduced the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1. In 2018, the four were the lead sponsors of the First Step Act, which made the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. Earlier this year in Terry v. United States, the Supreme Court held that low-level crack offenders, whose conduct did not trigger a mandatory minimum penalty, do not qualify for resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step Act. The effect of this holding is that individuals convicted of the offenses with the lowest levels of crack cocaine are not eligible for retroactive relief, whereas others are.

House Judiciary Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill, SD Lawmakers Move to Ban MedMJ Home Grows, More... (9/30/21)

Mississippi's Republican governor says a special session to deal with medical marijuana is coming soon, a South Dakota medical marijuana subcommittee votes to undo the patient home grow provision approved by voters, and more.

Marijuana legalization is advancing in the Congress. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Congressional Committee Approves Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884), a bill that would federally legalize cannabis. The bill is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and is a comprehensive federal cannabis reform bill that contains strong social equity provisions with an emphasis on restorative justice for communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. The MORE Act passed the House last year but died in the Senate. This year, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NY) are working on their own legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act but have yet to release a final text.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Governor Says Medical Marijuana Bill Needs Changes Before He Will Call a Special Session. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Wednesday he will call a special session to get a medical marijuana bill passed "sooner rather than later," but said there are still details to be worked out and that a special session was likely weeks away instead of this week as lawmakers had requested. "There is no update on exactly when, but I do anticipate we are going to have one sooner rather than later," Reeves said. "We are a long way towards getting a final agreement, but not all the way there yet," Reeves said. "At this point it's just a matter of working out the final details... things such as funding, an appropriation bill, what that would look like." The legislature is moving to implement the will of state voters as expressed in the 2020 elections, where a medical marijuana initiative was approved only to be overturned by the state Supreme Court on technical grounds.

South Dakota Legislative Medical Marijuana Subcommittee Votes to Deny Will of Voters, Ban Patient Home Grows. The legislature's medical marijuana subcommittee voted 6-4 Wednesday to make home marijuana cultivation by patients illegal. The voter approved medical marijuana initiative passed last November explicitly allowed for patient home cultivation, but lawmakers on the panel voted to overturn that part of the initiative in an effort initiated by state Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Brookings). The subcommittee's vote is not final; its recommendations will now be taken up by the legislature's marijuana study committee.

International

Bolivia Coca Grower Clashes Extend into Second Week. Coca growers fighting over control of the La Paz market of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca) clashed among themselves and with police in the eight straight day of protests Wednesday. Even though neighborhood residents asked for "restraint," police once again used tear gas against demonstrators, who had set up explosives in the area. Residents have also marched with white flags to demand an end to the violence and formed barricades to block the entry of police and coca growers through various streets. The government has attempted to mediate the conflict, but does not see a solution to the conflict in the short term.

Drug War Issues

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