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LA House Vote Kills Marijuana Legalization Effort, AZ Legislature Approves Needle Exchanges, More... (5/19/21)

A Connecticut poll has strong continuing support for marijuana legalization, a Pennsylvania poll has surprisingly strong support for drug decriminalization, and more.

A bill that would allow for needle exchanges is now on the desk of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Connecticut Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new poll from Sacred Heart University show continuing strong support for marijuana legalization even as the governor and legislative leaders struggle to come to agreement on rival proposals. The poll had support at 64% (35.8% strongly and 28.1% somewhat). That's a slight decrease from overall support at 66% in February, but still strong.

Louisiana House Kills Marijuana Legalization Effort. Marijuana legalization is dead for the year after the House on Tuesday failed to advance House Bill 434, which would set up a tax structure for marijuana sales. That bill needed a two-thirds majority because it is a tax measure, but didn't even get a majority, failing 47-48. That prompted bill sponsor Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville) to pull the legalization bill itself, which he also sponsored.

Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion, Smokable Marijuana. On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that will expand the state's medical marijuana program by allowing patients to smoke the buds of the dried plant. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz (D).

Drug Policy

Pennsylvania Poll Has Majority Support for Drug Decriminalization. A new poll from Data for Progress has found that 60% of voters support having their district attorneys eliminate "criminal penalties for simple possession of a controlled substance." Some 71% of Democrats supported the proposal, while only 43% of Republicans did.

Harm Reduction

Arizona Legislature Approves Allowing Needle Exchange Programs. The legislature has passed a bill that would allow needle exchanges in the state, with the House voting 57-2 to advance it Tuesday. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey (R).

MO House Approves Needle Exchange Programs, NE MedMJ Bill Gets Hearing This Week, More... (5/11/21)

A Rhode Island superior court judge throws out a traffic stop and search based on the odor of marijuana, the Missouri House passes a needle exchange bill, and more.

Needle exchange programs like this one could be legalized under a bill that just passed the Missouri House. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Judge Throws Out Traffic Stop Search and Arrest Based on Odor of Marijuana. A Superior Court judge on Monday threw out evidence in two cases after determining that state troopers violated suspects' rights by unconstitutionally converting routine traffic stops into drug investigations and warrantless searches. Both cases involved out-of-state drivers of color and in both cases troopers argued that the apparent nervousness of drivers gave them reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic stops and search the vehicles. In one of the cases, troopers also argued that the faint odor of marijuana could justify a warrantless search. Marijuana is decriminalized in the state. The trooper in this case initiated the stop because of a seatbelt violation, but as the judge noted in his ruling: "Based on the facts present in this case, it is clear that [the trooper] departed from his seatbelt violation mission and pursued a narcotics investigation when he removed [the driver] from the vehicle." The judge noted that the state Supreme Court had yet to rule on how decriminalization affected reasonable suspicion or probable cause determinations, but noted that neighboring Massachusetts and Vermont high courts had ruled that the odor of marijuana alone is not sufficient for a search.

Medical Marijuana

Nebraska Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Floor Debate This Week. The state's unicameral legislature will debate a medical marijuana bill, LB 474, on Wednesday. Sponsored by Sen. Anna Wishart (D-Lincoln), the bill would allow patients with specified qualifying conditions to buy and possess up to 2 ½ ounces, but not smoke it.

South Carolina Medical Marijuana Bill's Time is Running Out. A medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 150House Bill 3361, is on the calendar for debate in the House this week, but it is unclear whether it will be taken up before the session ends on Friday. The bill would allow patients with specified medical conditions access to medical marijuana and would set up a strictly regulated cultivation and distribution system.

Harm Reduction

Missouri House Votes to Approve Needle Exchanges. The House on Monday passed a bill to legalize needle exchange programs, House Bill 1467. There are already needle exchanges in the state, but harm reduction workers currently face the prospect of a misdemeanor charge of providing needles for drug use. Under the bill, needle exchange programs could get legal by registering with the state. The bill now heads to the Senate.

House Passes SAFE Banking Act, NJ AG Says No Mandatory Minimums for Nonviolent Drug Crimes, More... (4/20/21)

Dallas police will no longer arrest people possessing small amounts of pot, a North Carolina bill seeks to restrict needle exchange programs, and hemp is now legal in all 50 states.

(Pixabay)
Marijuana Policy

House Passes Marijuana Banking Bill (Again). The House on Tuesday approved the SAFE Banking Act (House Resolution 1996), which would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access banking and other financial services. The House also passed the bill last session, but it went nowhere in the then Republican-led Senate.

Alabama Democratic Party Endorses Marijuana Legalization. The state Democratic Party announced Tuesday that it supports the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in the state. "Nearly 100 years of marijuana prohibition and criminalization has trapped thousands of Alabamians, mostly Black, in our broken criminal justice system," said state Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa). "Reforming policy surrounding cannabis not only serves our state in producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, but is an important step in reducing arrests and expunging records. Nobody should be sitting in jail for carrying a little bit of weed."

Dallas Cops Will Finally Stop Charging People for Small Amounts of Pot. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia has ordered his officers to stop charging people found with small amounts of marijuana. Garcia revealed the policy change in a memo to the City Council last Friday. Under the new policy, people will be arrested only if they possess more than two ounces or if there is evidence of sales. Those caught with between two and four ounces will be ticketed, but not jailed.

Medical Marijuana

Iowa Lawsuit Challenges Governor's Delay in Seeking Federal Exemption for Medical Marijuana. Veteran activist Carlo Olsen has filed a lawsuit against Governor Kim Reynolds (R) after she has failed to move forward with an effort to win an exemption from federal drug laws. The legislature passed and Reynolds signed a bill to do that last year but has failed to act. The lawsuit is an attempt to prod her to move on it.

Hemp

With Idaho Governor's Signature on Hemp Bill, Hemp is Now Legal in All 50 States. Gov. Brad Little (R) last Friday signed into law House Bill 126, which legalizes industrial hemp production in the state. Idaho was the last state to legalize hemp after it was federally legalized in 2018.

Harm Reduction

North Carolina NIMBY Bill Would Hamper Needle Exchanges. Spurred by an Asheville neighborhood group that has tried for years to put restrictions on an Asheville needle exchange program, friendly lawmakers have filed Senate Bill 607, which would ban mobile needle exchanges and require engraved needles, background checks, and forced drug treatment. The bill is currently before the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Sentencing

New Jersey Attorney General Orders End to Mandatory Minimum Prosecutions in Noviiolent Drug Cases. Calling mandatory minimum sentencing "outdated policy," state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive Monday telling prosecutors not to seek such sentences in nonviolent drug cases. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the new directive in a statement. The policy change means that mandatory minimums are "off the table" in current and future nonviolent drug cases. It also allows people currently serving mandatory minimums for such offenses to seek early release.

Biden's Drug Policy Priorities Are a Small Step in the Right Direction, But Old Attitudes Linger [FEATURE]

On April 1, the Biden administration gave us the first big hint of what its drug policy will look like as it released the congressionally-mandated Statement of Drug Policy Priorities for Year One. The result is a definite mixed bag: a heavy dose of drug prevention, treatment, and recovery, along with an acknowledgement of harm reduction and a nod in the direction of racially-sensitive criminal justice reform, but also a reflexive reliance on prohibitionist drug war policies both at home and abroad.

And nothing about the most widely used illicit drug by far: marijuana. The word "marijuana" appears not once in the heavily annotated 11-page document, and the word "cannabis" only once, in the title of an academic research paper about the onset of teen drug use in the footnotes. That's perhaps not so surprising, given that, in response to a reporter's question, Vice President Harris said last week the administration was too busy dealing with other crises to worry about making good its campaign pledges about marijuana reform.

What is on the administration's mind is "the overdose and addiction crisis." Citing ever-increasing drug overdose deaths, the statement says "addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for [the] administration." But the solution is not to imprison drug users, with the statement noting that "President Biden has also said that people should not be incarcerated for drug use but should be offered treatment instead." (Underlying that seemingly humane approach is the errant presumption that all or most drug users are addicts in need of treatment when, depending on the drug, only between one in five and one in 10 drug users fit that dependent or problematic drug user description.)

Here are the Biden administration's drug policy priorities, all of which are gone into in detail in the statement:

  • Expanding access to evidence-based treatment;
  • Advancing racial equity issues in our approach to drug policy;
  • Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts;
  • Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use;
  • Reducing the supply of illicit substances;
  • Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce; and
  • Expanding access to recovery support services.

Prioritizing treatment, prevention, and recovery is bound to be music to the ears of advocacy groups such as Faces and Voices in Recovery (FAVOR), whose own federal policy and advocacy priorities, while focusing on specific legislation, lean in the same direction. But the group also advocates for harm reduction practices the administration omits, particularly supervised consumption sites. FAVOR noted the administration's statement without comment.

As with the failure to even mention marijuana, the Biden administration's failure to include supervised consumption sites in its embrace of harm reduction -- it is wholeheartedly behind needle exchanges, for example -- is another indication that the administration is in no hurry no rush down a progressive drug reform path. And its prioritizing of supply reduction implies continued drug war in Latin America ("working with key partners like Mexico and Colombia") and at home, via support of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and "multi-jurisdictional task forces and other law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle transnational drug trafficking and money laundering organizations." Prohibition is a hard drug to kick.

Still, naming advancing racial equity issues as a key priority is evidence that the Biden administration is serious about getting at some of the most perverse and corrosive outcomes of the war on drugs and is in line with its broader push for racial justice, as exemplified by Executive Order 13985, "Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government," issued on Biden's first day in office. And it is in this context that criminal justice system reform gets prioritized, although somewhat vaguely, with the promise of the creation of an "interagency working group to agree on specific policy priorities for criminal justice reform."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has some specific policy priorities for criminal justice reform, too, and they go far beyond where the administration is at. In its 2020 Roadmap for the incoming administration released in November, the group calls for federal marijuana legalization, drug decriminalization, and a slew of other criminal justice and policing reforms ranging from ending mandatory minimum sentencing and the deportation of non-citizens for drug possession to barring no-knock police raids, ending the transfer of military surplus equipment for counter-narcotics law enforcement, and dismantling the DEA. And the federal government should get out of the way of supervised consumption sites, or in DPA's politically attuned language "overdose prevention centers."

"We're glad the administration is taking important steps to address the overdose crisis -- by increasing access and funding to harm reduction services and reducing barriers to life-saving medications -- especially as people are dying at an alarming rate. We also appreciate their commitment to studying how to advance racial equity in our drug policies and best implement innovative practices on the ground. But it's clearly not enough. We need action," DPA Director of the Office of National Affairs Maritza Perez said in a statement responding to the administration's statement. "Black, Latinx and Indigenous people continue to lose their lives at the hands of law enforcement in the name of the drug war, and yet, the administration has chosen to prioritize increased funding for law enforcement. We need supervised consumption sites, not more money for police."

"And while we commend the Administration for taking steps to reduce employment discrimination, unless we address the biggest barrier for people trying to get a job -- past drug convictions and arrests -- we will still be left with significant inequities and racial disparities in the workplace," Perez continued. "It's time we get serious about saving lives and repairing the damage that has been caused by the drug war, particularly on Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. We can start by passing federal marijuana reform and ending the criminalization of people for drugs in all forms."

Young drug reformers also had a few bones to pick with the administration's priorities. In their own statement in response to the administration, Students for Sensible Drug Policy applauded priorities such as more access to treatment and more research on racial equity, it complained that the administration priorities "fail to provide adequate support to Young People Who Use Drugs (YPWUD) in this country" -- especially those who use drugs non-problematically.

"There are no steps being taken to support YPWUD that do not want to and will not stop using drugs," SSDP said. "Young people have feared and faced the consequences of punitive drug policies and shouldered the burden of caring for their peers who use drugs for far too long. Young leaders calling for drug policy reform recognize that simply using drugs is not problematic and that we can support the safe and prosperous futures of People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) without forcing them to stop as a pre-condition for compassion, care, and opportunity."

Although only time will tell, for drug reformers, the Biden administration is looking like a step in the right direction, but only a step, and its policy prescriptions are limited by a vision of drug use rooted in the last century. Perhaps they can be pressured and prodded to plot a more progressive drug policy path.

HI & NM Marijuana Legalization Bills Advance, NJ Harm Reduction Bills, More... (3/10/21)

Marijuana legalization bills advance in Hawaii and New Mexico, a pot prisoners' group calls on President Biden to grant clemency to federal marijuana offenders, a California bill to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses advance, and more.

Marijuana legislation is popping up all over the place. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Last Prisoner Project Calls on Biden to Grant Clemency to Federal Marijuana Prisoners. The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis-related criminal justice reform, has launched 'A Time To Heal,' an advocacy campaign calling on President Biden to leverage his clemency power to commute the sentences of thousands of people unjustifiably incarcerated due to federal marijuana-related violations. The advocacy organization is also encouraging the President to issue grants to the tens of thousands more still struggling because of the collateral consequences of a federal cannabis conviction. "President Biden himself has acknowledged that 'nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime'. We're encouraging him to turn his words into action and use the most immediate tool at his disposal to provide this desperately-needed relief," said project director of strategic initiatives Natalie Papillion.

Arkansas Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) on Monday filed SB499, which would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana an infraction punishable by a $200 fine. Possession is currently a Class A misdemeanor.

Hawaii Senate Approves Expanded Decriminalization, Marijuana Legalization Bills. The state Senate approved two separate marijuana policy reform bills on Tuesday. Senate Bill 767 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by people 21 and over, while Senate Bill 758 would expand the amount of marijuana that is currently decriminalized from three grams to 30 grams. Both measures passed by veto-proof margins. The bills now head for consideration by the House.

New Mexico Senate Committee Approves Two Marijuana Legalization Bills. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved a Senate bill to legalize marijuana, Senate Bill 288 on a unanimous vote and also approved a House bill to legalize marijuana, HB 12, on a 7-4 vote. Two other legalization bills were shelved by sponsors as the legislature seeks consensus on a final measure. The two remaining bills now head for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislation must be approved there and on the Senate floor before the session ends on March 20.

New York Coalition Forms for Final Marijuana Legalization Push. Dozens of organized labor groups, progressive organizations, and businesses are set to launch on Wednesday a coalition to make a final push for the legalization of adult-use cannabis products in New York. All told, more than 40 groups are signing onto the coalition called New Yorkers for New Revenue & Jobs, highlighting what advocates contend is one of the main selling points of legalized marijuana in New York: the millions of dollars in revenue the measure would provide in the coming years for the state and local governments. The coalition includes the New York AFL-CIO, as well as the New York Cannabis Industry Association and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Texas Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D-Dallas) filed a marijuana legalization bill, HB 3248, on Monday. The bill would legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces and 10 ounces at home. It has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Bill to Cap THC Levels for Medical Marijuana Wins Committee Vote. The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10% and 15% for edibles. The vote to advance HB 1455 came despite testimony from doctors and patients that the measure was an assault on medicine. It still needs to be approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Health Care Appropriations Committee before going to a House floor vote.

Psychedelics

New York Bill to Decriminalize Psychedelic Mushrooms Filed. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D) filed a bill to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms on Monday. AO6065 is similar to legislation Rosenthal filed last year that went nowhere. It would remove psilocybin and psilocin from the state's list of controlled substances. It is now before the Assembly Health Committee.

Harm Reduction

Coronavirus Relief Bill Includes Funding for Addiction Treatment, Harm Reduction. The American Rescue Plan Act, the coronavirus relief bill passed this week by Congress, includes nearly $4 billion for substance abuse disorder and mental health, including funding for harm reduction activities such as needle exchange services, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) said Wednesday. In addition to $1.5 billion for block grants for prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, the act includes $30 million in community-based funding for local substance use disorder services like syringe services programs and other harm reduction interventions.

New Jersey Harm Reduction Bills Filed. Far-reaching harm reduction expansion legislation was introduced in the Senate Health Committee earlier today. The bill package, sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, would reduce overdose deaths, prevent infectious disease, and connect people who use drugs to non-judgmental support. It would do this by creating a statewide standing order for naloxone (brand name Narcan), the medicine that reverses an overdose (S3491); lifting the onerous municipal ordinance requirement that limits harm reduction services (S3009); decriminalizing syringes and expunging previous convictions (S3493); making HIV prophylaxis medication available at pharmacies without a prescription (S1039); and allowing harm reduction programs to offer mail-based services (S3065). Companion measures have been filed in the House.

Sentencing

California Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Advances. The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve SB 73, which would repeal state laws enacted in the midst of the drug war that created mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Hit With NIMBY Lawsuit, Mexico Supreme Court Okays Legalization Vote Delay, More... (12/11/20)

The Mexican Supreme Court grants another extension on its deadline to end marijuana prohibition, the Oakland city council will next week take up a measure calling on the state to decriminalize psychedelics, and more.

The Oakland City Council has psychedelics on its mind. (Creative Commons)
Heroin and Prescription Opioids

South Carolina Lawmakers File Slew of Bills to Fight Opioid Epidemic. Lawmakers have filed a package of bills aimed at the opioid epidemic, including H. 3362, which would require Medicaid plans to pay for opioid treatment; H. 3363, which would treat criminal offenses involving synthetic opioids like those involving heroin; and H. 3364, which would allow authorities to charge the seller of a drug involved in a fatal overdose to be charged with manslaughter.

Psychedelics

Oakland City Council Will Vote Next Week on Resolution Calling on State to Decriminalize Psychedelics. The city council will take a resolution pushed by Decriminalize Nature that calls on the state to decriminalize psychedelics and let cities and counties allow "healing ceremonies" where people could use those drugs. Decriminalize Nature was inspired to look beyond local measures after state Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) announced plans to file a statewide psychedelic decrim bill.

Harm Reduction

Santa Cruz, California, Needle Exchange Program Sued by NIMBY Neighbors. The Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County has now been hit with a lawsuit over its needle exchange program by unhappy neighbors. The group's needle exchange program "poses a serious threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Santa Cruz County," the plaintiffs argue, and have led to a "significant" number of discarded needles. The Harm Reduction Coalition has long refuted that charge, saying it has removed thousands of needles from the area.

International

Mexican Supreme Court Grants Another Extension to Marijuana Legalization Deadline, Allowing Final Vote to Take Place Next Year. After the Chamber of Deputies requested a delay in a looming vote on the marijuana legalization bill, citing the complexity of the bill, the Supreme Court on Thursday extended the deadline by which the government must act to end marijuana prohibition. The latest deadline was December 15; it has now been pushed back to the end of the spring legislative session in April.

MO and OK Inits Could Fall Victim to Pandemic, COVID-19 Spreads Behind Bars, More... (3/30/20)

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on state-level marijuana legalization initiatives, Pennsylvania says needle exchanges are "life-sustaining" during the pandemic, Vancouver moves to allow "safe supply" of regualted drugs during the crisis, and more.

COVID-19 is in the nation's jails and prisons.
Marijuana Policy

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Likely to Fall Victim to Coronavirus Pandemic. Missourians for a New Approach, the folks behind the state's marijuana legalization initiative, are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely mean that the effort will not be able to gather enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign needs 160,000 valid voter signatures by May 3, but at this point has only 60,000 raw signatures. "Yes, it's a terrible setback," said Dan Viets, board chair of the group. "When there's no public gatherings, when people stay in their homes… it's very difficult to find voters."

Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative in Doubt as State Shuts Down Signature Gathering. The campaign to put a marijuana legalization initiative, State Question 807 is likely to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of a 30-day statewide emergency declaration, Secretary of State Mike Rogers has ordered a pause to all initiative signature gathering activities. The campaign needs to collect 178,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify for the November ballot. It would be "really difficult, if not impossible to imagine a scenario in which an initiative petition campaign could responsibly and feasibly collect the signatures necessary in order to make the 2020 ballot if that campaign doesn't already have the signatures on hand," said campaign spokesman Ryan Kiesel.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Needle Exchanges Are "Life-Sustaining," State Says. Needle exchanges are technically illegal in the state, but the state Department of Health has deemed them a "life-sustaining" service, allowing them to stay open amid the shutdown of other businesses and nonprofits. Some 20 such programs operate in the state, and advocates are hoping this designation could lead to their legalization down the line.

Incarceration

Coronavirus Spread Accelerates in US Jails and Prisons. Jails and prisons across the US are reporting an accelerating spread of COVID-19 with more than 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases. In New York City alone, at least 132 inmates and 104 jail staff have been infected. Jails and prisons are responding in varying ways, including releasing thousands of inmates from detention, some with little or no screening before they are released.

International

Vancouver Moving to Allow Take-Home Doses of Regulated Drugs. Canada's British Columbia is moving to provide drug users with take-home supplies of regulated substances, including opioids, stimulants, tobacco, and alcohol. Vancouver has long called for "safe supply" for drug users, but the combination of two public health crises -- the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing overdose epidemic -- has finally made it a reality, with the city drafting new guidelines to allow the practice. "These guidelines enable us to provide a safe supply for people and to ensure that they're able to comply with our public-health advice around isolation or quarantine, should that be required," said Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry. Recent changes to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and provincial prescribing guidelines made the move possible.

Mexican Opium Poppy Cultivation Drops 9%, UNODC Says. The land area under opium poppy cultivation decreased by 9% between July 2017 and June 2018, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Monday. Land under cultivation fell from 78,000 acres to 70,000 acres. Poppy cultivation was centered in the Golden Triangle region of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua meet, but was also grown in northern Nayarit and in the Sierra Madre del Sur of Guerrero. Analysts said the likely explanation for the decrease was a sharp decline in opium gum prices caused by rising demand for synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Chronicle AM: OR Drug Decriminalization Initiative Launches, Colombia Coca Conflict, More... (3/2/20)

Utah's medical marijuana program rolled out today, an Oregon initiative would decriminalize the possession of personal amounts of all drugs, Nepalese Communist lawmakers move toward legalizing marijuana farming, and more. 

Colombian cocaine seized at the US-Mexico border. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Florida Measure Would Cap THC at 10% for Underage Patients. House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Hialeah) last Friday filed an amendment to a Senate Appropriations Committee bill that would cap the THC level of medical marijuana at 10% for underage patients. Last month, Oliva said that capping medical marijuana at 10% was one of his priorities. The amendment to Senate Bill 230, which limits the cap to kids, is most likely a concession to veterans' groups that made it clear last week they opposed any caps.

Utah Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Amendments Bill. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) last Friday signed into law Senate Bill 121, just days before the state's medical marijuana program opened Monday. The changes in the bill include packaging, expungements, dosing, and limits on how many patient recommendations doctors can provide. "This bill makes needed adjustments and clarifications to Utah’s medical cannabis law," Herbert said. "These changes will help us ensure that Utah patients have the best possible access to cannabis products as our new program rolls out on Monday, March 2."

Drug Policy

Oregon Drug Decriminalization Initiative Launches. A campaign to put a drug treatment and drug decriminalization initiative, the "Drug Treatment and Recovery Act" ( IP 44), on the November ballot launched on Saturday. The measure would take money from the state's existing marijuana tax revenues to fund the expansion of access to drug treatment, as well as decriminalizing the possession of personal use amounts of all drugs, including cocaine, meth, and heroin. If the measure qualifies for the ballot and passes in November, Oregon would be the first state in the country to decriminalize drug possession.

Harm Reduction

Missouri Needle Exchange Bill Passes House. The House last Friday passed House Bill 1486, which would legalize needle exchanges across the state. The bill now heads to the Senate.

International

Colombia High Court Reminds Government No Aerial Fumigation of Coca without Crop Substitution. The country's Constitutional Court last Thursday reminded the government of President Ivan Duque that if it does not help farmers find substitutes for their coca crops—as agreed in a 2016 treaty with the FARC—it will not be able to engage in aerial crop fumigation. The move came in reaction to the government reportedly ended a contract with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that monitors the crop substitution program. The Duque government has said it will resume aerial eradication this year.

Nepalese Communist Party Lawmaker Files Bill to Legalize Marijuana Farming. Former law minister and current House member Sher Bahadur filed a private bill Monday to allow marijuana farming. The move comes after 46 lawmakers last month called for legalization. The Nepalese parliament is controlled by the Nepalese Communist Party.

Chronicle AM: OK Bills Would Legalize Needle Exchanges, HI Defelonization Bill Advances, More... (2/18/20)

Rhode Island sees marijuana expungement and drug possession expungement bills filed, a Vermont poll shows strong support for legalizing and regulating marijuana sales as the House takes up the issue, a Hawaii drug defelonization bill has been filed, and more.

Oklahoma legislators are pondering a pair of needle exchange bills this year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Rhode Island Marijuana Offense Expungement Bill Filed. A bill aiming to remove barriers for people previously convicted of marijuana offenses have been filed in the legislature. Rep. Anastasia Williams (D) has filed HB 7142 to allow people "previously convicted of marijuana possession, which would now constitute a decriminalized offense, to have their records for those convictions automatically expunged regardless of their criminal history." The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Vermont Poll Shows Very Strong Support for Legal, Regulated Marijuana Sales.  A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project found that an overwhelming 76% of Vermont residents support allowing adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from regulated, tax-paying small businesses. These results are significant as they come days before the Vermont House is expected to vote on SB 54, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales in the state. The bill passed the Senate nearly a year ago.

Washington House Passes Bill to Address Racial Inequities in Marijuana Licensing. The House on Sunday approved HB 2870, which aims to address racial inequity within the legal marijuana industry by allowing applicants of a new social equity program to be issued previously forfeited, canceled and revoked retail licenses. That new program would consider the applicant's race and gender, history of marijuana convictions, and plans to employ people of color, as well as the impact the war on drugs had on their neighborhood. There are currently 13 licenses not being used. The bill would also establish a marijuana social equity task force to recommend whether more licenses should be issued. The bill is now in the Senate and must be passed out of committee by February 28.

Hemp

Idaho Hemp Bill Filed. Along with Mississippi and South Dakota, Idaho is one of only three states that have not legalized hemp, but that could change after a pair of Republican state representatives filed a bill that would legalize it. A similar bill has already been filed in the Senate.

Drug Policy

Hawaii Drug Defelonization Bill Advances. A bill that would make it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to be caught with less than two grams of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 2793 still needs to be approved in the Senate Public Safety Committee before heading to a Senate floor vote.

Rhode Island Drug Possession Expungement Bill Filed. Rep. Jason Knight (D) has filed HB 7091, which makes peopleconvicted of felony simple possession of a controlled substance eligible for expungement five years after completion of their sentence. The act also repeals the requirement that those seeking expungement pay a fee to the court. The House Judiciary Committee last week ordered the bill held for further study.

Harm Reduction

Oklahoma Bill Would Legalize Needle Exchanges. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is proposing legalizing needle exchanges in a bid to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. SB 1346 from Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City) would would allow governmental or nongovernmental entities to operate needle exchange programs. It would also remove needles from the state's drug paraphernalia laws. The bill must pass through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading for a floor vote. In the House, Rep. Carol Bush (R-Tulsa) has filed HB 3028, which would allow state agencies, county health departments, private businesses, nonprofit entities and churches to operate needle exchange programs so long as the programs aren’t paid for with state funding. That bill passed the House Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

Chronicle AM: Hawaii Bill Would De-Decriminalize Pot, Indiana Syringe Exchange Expansion Bill, More... (1/28/20)

Some Hawaii legislators want to roll back last year's marijuana decriminalization, Mexico's president says a government panel will be formed to make recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, and more.

Marijuana

Hawaii Bill Would Roll Back Decriminalization. Last year, the legislature approved marijuana decriminalization. This year, at least five legislators want to turn back the clock. House Bill 2018 was introduced by five Oahu representatives and argues that "Hawaii should be protected from suffering the dangers and risks increasingly occurring in states which have endorsed the possession and use of marijuana through means of decriminalization and legalization." The bill is not yet available on the legislative web site.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Syringe Exchange Access Bill Filed. A bill to allow syringe exchange programs to operate without the prior declaration of a public health emergency has been filed in Indianapolis. SB 207 would also repeal the July 1, 2021 expiration date of existing syringe exchange programs. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Health and Provider Services and was set for a hearing Wednesday morning.

International

Mexico's President Says A New Marijuana Panel Will Make Legalization Recommendations. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his government is forming a panel to make recommendations on how marijuana legalization should unfold. "A group is going to be formed to decide what will happen about that with a public health approach. We are about to comply with the recommendation of the Supreme Court," the president said. The high court ruled in 2019 that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and gave the government a limited time to rectify the situation. That clock runs out in April, and Lopez Obrador's allies in the congress say they will pass a legalization bill before then.

Drug War Issues

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