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Chronicle AM: MT Asset Forfeiture Reform Passes Legislature, IL Pot Decrim Passes House, More (4/24/15)

Decrim advances in Illinois, an Ohio legalization initiative is rolling along, asset forfeiture reform passes in Montana and is now under consideration in Michigan, Vancouver will regulate its dispensaries, and more.

2015 is looking like the year of asset forfeiture reform. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois House Passes Decriminalization Bill. The House Thursday approved House Bill 218, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Cassidy (D-Chicago). The bill would make possession of 15 grams or less an infraction punishable only by a fine of no more than $125. Under current law, people face up to a year in jail for simple possession. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Ohio Legalization Initiative Making Progress on Signature-Gathering. The Responsible Ohio legalization initiative campaign has gathered more than 180,000 signatures in its effort to put its initiative before voters in November. Buckeye State initiatives need 305,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, so the group probably needs to gather something like 400,000 signatures to ensure that disqualifications don't knock it off the ballot. Responsible Ohio says it is aiming even higher—for 700,000 signatures. They have until July to gather them. A second legalization initiative, aiming at 2016, Ohioans To End Prohibition, is just in the initial phase of its campaign, while a third effort, led by the Ohio Rights Group, says it will not manage to qualify this year and has filed Election Commission complaints claiming that people associated with Responsible Ohio have interfered with its efforts.

Heroin

Heroin Use Up Sharply in Past Decade, SAMSHA Says. The number of heroin users in the country was stable at around 400,000 between 2002 and 2007, but began increasing in 2008 and reached 681,000 by 2013, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). But that's still less than one-third of 1% of the population. Another 11 million people, or 4% of the population, used prescription pills for off-label reasons.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Package Filed. A bipartisan package of eight asset forfeiture reform bills was filed Wednesday with support from the legislature's Republican leadership. One bill would create uniform, mandatory reporting requirements and raise the standard of evidence needed for a seizure from "a preponderance" to "clear and convincing." Another bill would bar seizures of vehicles used by someone buying an ounce of pot or less. The package doesn't include a bill to ban civil asset forfeiture outright, but it's a start.

Montana Legislature Passes Bill Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture. A bill that would end civil asset forfeiture passed the House Thursday. House Bill 463 had already passed the Senate and now heads for the governor's desk. New Mexico and Wyoming have both passed similar laws this year; the New Mexico governor signed hers, but the Wyoming governor vetoed his.

Drug Testing

Florida ACLU Targets Police Field Drug Tests. The ACLU of Florida is investigating the presumptive field test kits police use to make drug arrests. The move comes just a day after Hillsborough County Public Defender called them "faulty" and "inaccurate." Scientists have reported that kits like the Nark 2 are unreliable, but thousands of people have been arrested on the basis of their field test results.

Louisiana Bill Would Let Employers Drug Test Hair. The House Health Committee Wednesday approved House Bill 379, which would allow employers to use hair drug tests on potential hires. Hair drug tests can detect use going back as far as three months. The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Law Enforcement

Seattle Doing Mass Arrests to Clean Up Downtown Drug Dealing. Police in Seattle have arrested more than a hundred people in two days in a push to clean up open-air drug dealing downtown. The arrests involved undercover officers making pot, heroin, meth, and cocaine buys. Prosecutors said they would seek judicial orders barring those people from returning to the area, but that they would seek diversion programs in other cases.

International

Vancouver Moves to Regulate Marijuana Stores; Ottawa Not Happy. Vancouver has announced plans to regulate the more than 80 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city, making it the first city in Canada to do so. But the federal Health Minister is warning the city not to do it, saying it would "normalize" marijuana sales.

Drug Cartel Violence Flares in Mexican Border State. Gun battles and arson attacks flared for the second time in a week in Tamaulipas, just across the Rio Grande River from Texas border towns such as Harlingen and Brownsville. The brouhaha broke out after police captured four alleged Gulf Cartel members and included blockades in the town of Altamira. At least two people were killed. Earlier this month, major violence broke out in Reynosa after the arrest of a Gulf Cartel leader. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in prohibition-related violence since 2006. 

Chronicle AM: Supreme Court Nixes Roadside Waits for Drug Dogs, DEA Head to Resign, More (4/21/15)

The DEA head is on her way out, the Supreme Court rules on making motorists wait for drug dogs to arrive, Indiana's governor extends an emergency needle exchange, a new report on asset forfeiture abuses in California is out, and more.

The US Supreme Court rules that detaining motorists on the side of the road to wait for drug dogs is illegal. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Washington State Legal Pot Price Declines to $12 a Gram. Pot prices averaged nearly $30 a gram—well above black market prices—when the state's first marijuana retail outlets opened, but that has changed dramatically, according to the State Liquor Control Board. Now, the average retail price of a gram is about $12, as supply expands to meet demand. That's still $336 an ounce, though.

Medical Marijuana

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative Getting Underway. Activists with Wyoming NORML submitted their initiative application with the secretary of state's office Monday. If and when the application is approved, organizers will have until next February to gather 25,673 valid voter signatures to place it on the 2016 general election ballot. A recent poll had support for marijuana at 72% in the Cowboy State.

Asset Forfeiture

New Report Details California Asset Forfeiture Abuses. The Drug Policy Alliance today released a new report, Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, a multi-year, comprehensive look at asset forfeiture abuses in the state that reveals the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have violated state and federal law. The report finds that a handful of LA County cities lead the state in per capita seizures, that some departments rely on asset forfeiture for funding themselves, and that some departments were providing false or incomplete reports to the Justice Department.

Drug Testing

Indiana Welfare Drug Testing Bill Dead. The legislator who unexpectedly proposed adding a welfare drug testing proposal to a social services spending bill has withdrawn it after learning how few people would be tested and how little support there is for it. Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Crawfordsville) said today he would instead seek a study committee to examine how best to fight drug abuse.

Florida Governor Settles on State Employee Drug Testing. Gov. Rick Scott (R) has formally given up on his effort to subject state employees to random, suspicionless drug testing. He reached an agreement Monday with the employees' union that will only allow drug testing in a relative handful of safety-sensitive positions. Of the 1,400 job classifications Scott originally wanted covered, only 267 will be covered.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Governor Extends Emergency Needle Exchange Program. Gov. Mike Pence (R) Monday extended an emergency needle exchange program in Scott County for another 30 days in a bid to get a handle on an injection drug-related HIV outbreak there. The move comes as the legislature heard testimony supporting a bill that would allow similar exchanges elsewhere in the state.

Law Enforcement

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Set to Resign. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is expected to resign soon, a unnamed "senior administration official" told CBS News this morning. The embattled DEA head has been under fire for years over her leadership of the scandal-ridden agency, but it was her performance at a Capitol Hill hearing last week that sealed her fate. Click on the link to read our feature story on this.

Supreme Court Says Detaining Motorists to Wait for Drug Dogs to Arrive is Not OK. In a 6-3 decision today, the US Supreme Court held that detaining motorists on the side of the highway to await the arrival of a drug dog violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unlawful searches and seizures. Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that police may request drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, proof of insurance, and check for outstanding warrants because all those investigatory actions are aimed at enforcing traffic laws and ensuring that vehicles are operating safely—the ostensible reason for the stops. "A dog sniff, unlike those stock inquiries, lacks the same tie to roadway safety," she said. Prolonging the stop, even for a few minutes, to allow for the arrival of a drug dog was improper, Ginsburg wrote. "A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries," Ginsburg said. Click on the link to read our newsbrief and view the ruling itself.

International

Mexicans Capture Gulf Cartel Leader. Mexican authorities confirmed over the weekend that they had captured Jose Tiburcio Hernandez Fuentes, who they described as a Gulf Cartel leader responsible for much of the recent violence in the border city of Reynosa. He was caught despite a shootout between Mexican soldiers and police and around 60 cartel gunmen who tried to rescue him. The Mexicans caught a key Juarez Cartel leader just a day earlier. 

Holding Motorists on Highway to Await Drug Dog Searches Not OK, Supreme Court Rules

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

In a 6-3 decision today, the US Supreme Court held that detaining motorists on the side of the highway to await the arrival of a drug dog violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unlawful searches and seizures.

In the decade since the Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Cabellas that a drug dog sniff of a vehicle that did not extend a traffic stop was not a search under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement agencies across the country have routinely detained drivers on the roadside awaiting arrival of a drug dog, then used drug dog alerts as "probable cause" to allow vehicle searches.

The practice left motorists in a legal limbo where there was no actionable cause to detain them, but they were not free to be on their way. Today's ruling from the Supreme Court says that is not okay.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that police may request drivers licenses, vehicle registrations, proof of insurance, and check for outstanding warrants because all those investigatory actions are aimed at enforcing traffic laws and ensuring that vehicles are operating safely -- the ostensible reason for the stops.

"A dog sniff, unlike those stock inquiries, lacks the same tie to roadway safety," she said.

Prolonging the stop, even for a few minutes, to allow for the arrival of a drug dog was improper, Ginsburg wrote.

"A traffic stop becomes unlawful if prolonged beyond the time in fact needed to complete all traffic-based inquiries," Ginsburg said.

The ruling came in Rodriguez v. US, in which Dennys Rodriguez had been pulled over in Nebraska for a traffic infraction. He was issued a warning ticket for driving on the shoulder of the road, but then made to wait on the roadside for the arrival of a drug dog 10 minutes later. After the drug dog alerted, his vehicle was searched, methamphetamine was found, and he was charged and convicted.

While the decision is a boon to motorists, it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card for Rodriguez. The evidence derived from the drug dog search has been thrown out, but his case remanded to the lower courts, prosecutors will still have a chance to try to prove there was other reasonable suspicion to think he was carrying drugs.

Chronicle AM: IA & VA Pot Polls; Ecuador Reform Bill, New Federal Cosponsors, More (4/14/15)

Congress is back and reform bills are picking up new cosponsors, new polls have Iowa dead even on pot legalization and Virginia favoring it, a major medical marijuana conference is coming, Ecuador begins debating a groundbreaking drug reform bill, and more.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on civil asset forfeiture reform tomorrow. (judiciary.senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Federal Marijuana Prohibition Repeal Bill Picks Up New Cosponsor. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is the latest sponsor of HR 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. The bill now has 14 cosponsors -- 13 Democrats and one Republican. Click the link to for more bill information.

Iowa Poll Has State Split on Legalization, Strong Support for Medical. A new Quinnipiac University poll has Iowans split 47% to 47% on legalizing pot, but overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana, with 86% saying they support it.

Virginia Poll Has Majority for Legalization.A new Quinnipiac University poll has Virginians backing marijuana legalization, with 54% in favor and only 41% opposed. The poll also had support for medical marijuana above 80%.

Medical Marijuana

Federal Medical Marijuana Bill Picks Up New Cosponsors. The CARERS Act, HR 1538, which would end federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws, has picked up new sponsors over the recess. The latest are Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Donald Beyer (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Joseph Heck (R-NV). The bill now has 12 cosponsors, evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. Click the link for more bill information.

Federal CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Picks Up New Cosponsors. The Charlotte's Web Medical Access Act, HR 1635, which would remove cannabidiol (CBD) and CBD-rich marijuana plants from the Controlled Substances Act, has picked up new cosponsors. The latest are Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). The bill now has 20 cosponsors, evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans. Click on the link for more bill information.

9th Annual Clinical Cannabis Conference Next Month in Florida. The medical marijuana advocacy group Patients Out of Time is hosting this premier event. Click on the link for all the details and registration information.

Tennessee Lawmakers Approve CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Both the House and the Senate unanimously approved a bill to allow the use of CBD cannabis oil for the treatment of seizures in children Monday night. House Bill 197 now awaits the signatures of Gov. Bill Haslam (R).

Hemp

Federal Hemp Bill Picks Up New Cosponsor. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, HR 525, which would remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, has picked up a new cosponsor. The latest is Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). The bill now has 55 cosponsors -- 36 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Click on the link for more bill information.

Asset Forfeiture

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Tomorrow. The committee will hear from an asset forfeiture abuse victim and an attorney for the Institute for Justice, which has been fighting to rein in such abuses, as well as a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will also address the panel.

Drug Testing

Indiana Welfare Drug Testing Bill Filed. Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Crothersville) today filed an amendment to Senate Bill 465 that would require welfare recipients to undergo screening for drug use and require those identified as high-risk to undergo drug testing.

Sentencing

House Version of Federal Sentencing Reform Bill Picks Up New Cosponsors. The House version of the Smarter Sentencing Act, HR 920, has picked up new cosponsors. The latest are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The bill now has 26 cosponsors -- 20 Democrats and six Republicans. Click on the link for more bill information.

International

Ecuador Debates Bill That Would Regulate, Not Prohibit, Controlled Substances. Last Thursday, legislators in Quito began debating a new Organic Law on Comprehensive Drug Prevention. The bill, supported by the ruling PAIS Alliance, would "control" more than a hundred substances, including alcohol and tobacco and calls for a Technical Secretariat of Drugs to "regulate and control the activities related to the import, export, cultivation, production, marketing, distribution, transportation, and use" of those substances. Under current Ecuadorian law, cultivation or sale of banned substances garners prison sentences of 12 to 16 years; under the new law, that would be replaced by fines and seizures of the substances. Debate on the bill is expected to happen intermittently over the next few months.

Chronicle AM: France Okays Safe Injection Sites, Wichita Decriminalizes, Egypt Hash Debate, More (4/8/15)

A Louisiana poll shows rising support for marijuana legalization; if Massachusetts want to legalize, it will be up to the voters; Wichita votes to decriminalize it, a CBD cannabis bill dies in Indiana, France okays safe injection sites, and more.

A proposal to legalize hash in Egypt has stoked debate. (justice.gov/dea)
Marijuana Policy

Louisiana Poll Sees Rising Support for Legalization, But Still No Majority. The 2015 Louisiana Survey, released Tuesday, shows support for marijuana legalization at 45%, up from 42% two years ago. Opposition was at 52%, down from 56% two years ago. Support was twice as high in southwest Louisiana (57%) than northeast Louisiana (28%). The state has some of the harshest pot laws in the country, but the legislature appears little inclined to do anything about them.

Massachusetts Lawmakers to Punt on Legalization. There is "no appetite" among lawmakers to address marijuana legalization, leaving the field open for ballot initiatives next year, said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. "There's been conversations and there seems to be no appetite in the Legislature to take up... recreational marijuana, so you should expect to see it on the ballot in 2016," Rosenberg (D-Amherst) told the Boston Herald's internet radio station on Tuesday.

Wichita Votes to Decriminalize. Voters in Wichita voted 54% to 45% to approve a local initiative to decriminalize small-time marijuana possession. The measure would make first-time possession an infraction with a $50 fine. But state law says it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, and state Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) has vowed to sue the city if it passes. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

Indiana CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Killed. A bill to allow for the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat children with epilepsy sailed through the House earlier this session, but was killed by a Senate committee vote Tuesday after prosecutors opposed it, saying it was similar to legalizing medical marijuana.

Massachusetts Revamps Application Process for Registered Dispensaries. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced significant changes to the Commonwealth's Medical Marijuana Dispensary program first authorized in 2012. The revised process will license Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMD) in a format similar to other healthcare facilities, such as pharmacies, which DPH also administers. This process will phase out the current use of state procurement policies to register a dispensary. Click on the link for more details.

Drug Testing

Kentucky GOP Gubernatorial Hopeful Proposes Drug Testing Welfare Recipients. Would-be Republican gubernatorial nominee Hal Heiner is seeking to win support from the base by pushing a scheme to drug test welfare recipients. He made the call in a series of TV ads that began appearing yesterday. "I am simply asking welfare recipients to do what many employees in Kentucky are already required to do," Heiner said in a statement. "If working Kentuckians can be required to take drug tests, it is certainly reasonable to expect those who are benefiting from their tax dollars to do so as well."

International

France Approves Safe Injection Sites. The National Assembly Tuesday adopted a draft health law that will allow for safe injection sites for injection drug users. Opposition deputies denounced the move as "a first step toward legalizing drugs," for creating "no-go zones," and for sending "incomprehensible messages to our youth," but they did not prevail. Pilot sites will open in Paris, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg, and the law will prevent users from being arrested for drug possession within safe injection sites. Safe injection sites already operate in around 10 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Call for Hash Legalization in Egypt Sparks Lively Debate. Just a few days ago, Cairo tobacco traders called for hash legalization as a revenue measure and submitted a proposal to that effect to the cabinet, and that has sparked strong reactions. The Ministry of Social Solidarity's Drug Control and Addiction Treatment Fund warned that hash is a serious threat to Egypt, which is "safe by nature." The fund claimed hash is a major factor in road accidents because it causes "lack of awareness of one's surroundings." The fund also claimed that a survey it conducted found that 86% of rapists and 23% of murderers were hash users. But hash users cited in the story disagreed. Click on the link for more.

Mexican Cartel Attack Kills 15 Cops in Jalisco. An ambush of a police convoy by presumed drug cartel gunmen on the highway between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara left 15 policemen dead and five wounded. It was the deadliest attack on Mexican police since 12 federal police were killed in neighboring Michoacan state in 2010. Fingers are being pointed at the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has grown to be one of the country's most powerful. The state has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks, including a March 19 ambush of federal police that killed five, a March 23 shootout in which police killed a gang boss, an unsuccessful March 30 attempt to assassinate the state security commissioner, and the killing Monday of the police chief in the town of Zacoalco de Torres. The security commissioner said the recent attacks were revenge for the killing of the gang leader.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: AK Pot Bill Advances, Obama Commutes Drug Sentences, Brit Drug Spat, More (3/31/15)

There will still be marijuana felonies under a bill moving in Alaska, North Dakota has a new hemp law, an Arkansas welfare drug test bill heads to the governor's desk, Obama commutes sentences, and more.

Are there hemp fields on the horizon in North Dakota? (votehemp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Senate Passes Marijuana Bill -- Without Ban on Concentrates. The Senate voted Monday night to approve SB 30, the bill designed to update the state's criminal code to reflect marijuana's legalized status. The bill was approved 17-3 after an amendment to make concentrates illegal in two years was defeated. It continues to list pot as a controlled substance and has provisions making it a felony to possess more than a pound or to grow more than 25 plants. It also bans pot businesses in unorganized boroughs.

Another Maine Legalization Bill Filed. Rep. Mark Dion (D-Portland) has filed a bill to allow adults 21 and over to use marijuana, regulate commercial sales, and tax them at 15%. The bill is still being drafted and is not yet available on the legislative web site. Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) has also filed a legalization bill, but its language isn't completed yet, either. There are also two separate legalization initiative campaigns brewing the in the state.

Hemp

North Dakota Governor Signs Hemp Bill Telling Feds to Butt Out. Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) last Friday signed House Bill 1436, which allows farmers to apply to grow the crop for either research or commercial purposes. The bill says that "license required by this section is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States drug enforcement agency," a direct jab at the DEA. Instead, licensing will be up to the state agriculture department.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Legislature Passes "Suspicion Based" Welfare Drug Testing Bill. The House Monday approved Senate Bill 600, which would set up a two-year pilot program for "suspicion based" drug screening and testing of public benefits applicants. The Senate, which had already approved it, gave it a final approval today, and the bill now heads to the governor's desk.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Needle Exchange Bill Wins House Committee Vote. The House Public Health Committee Monday approved a bill to allow needle exchanges in the 23 counties in the state with the highest rates of hepatitis C infections. The bill actually addresses an HIV outbreak in southeastern Scott County, where Gov. Mike Pence (R) days ago issued an executive order allowing for emergency needle exchanges. The bill now goes to the House floor.

Law Enforcement

Maine Governor Slams Foes As "Weak on Drugs." Faced with legislative skepticism over his proposals to beef up the state's drug enforcement apparatus, Tea Party Republican Gov. Paul LePage has come out swinging. "They are weak on drugs," LePage told reporters, describing the legislators. "They simply don't want to deal with the problem. Frankly, they shouldn't be in this hall, they shouldn't be in this building if they can't take care of our children. And the gloves are off now."

Sentencing

Obama Commutes Sentences of 22 Drug Offenders. The president today doubled the number of drug sentence commutations he has issued in one fell swoop by cutting sentences for 22 drug offenders, mostly crack cocaine offenders and mostly doing sentences of 20 years or more. Eight were doing life sentences for drug offenses, including one doing life for growing pot plants.

International

Spanish Cannabis Club Wins Acquittal. The provincial court in Vizcaya has acquitted five people accused of violating Spanish law by forming a club to grow and consume marijuana. The members of the Pannagh collective were charged with drug trafficking and "criminal organization," but in a victory for cannabis advocates, the court held that Pannagh acted within the limits of the concept of "collective cultivation."

British Labor Party Attacks Lib Dems as "Soft on Crime, Drugs, and Thugs." Labor has put out a leaflet attacking the Liberal Democrats on drug and crime policy ahead of looming parliamentary elections, but Labor is taking lots of flak for its efforts. One critic called the Labor approach "medieval," another accused it of underestimating the intelligence of the electorate, and yet another accused Labor of "turning their back on progressive, sensible, evidence-based reform."

Chronicle AM: CO Defends Pot Law, Drug Testing News, Feds Target Reddit Users, More (3/30/15)

Colorado defends marijuana legalization at the Supreme Court, a DC seed sharing event goes big on its second day, pediatricians reject drug testing in schools, two courts set limits on worker drug testing, the feds go after Reddit users over dark web drug sales, and more.

Drug testing took a couple of shots in the courts, and pediatricians say it shouldn't be used in schools. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska House Marijuana Regulation Bill Moves. The House Judiciary Committee has approved a new version of House Bill 79, which defines a municipality's role in regulating pot businesses, sets a maximum household limit of 24 plants, and includes pot clubs in the list of regulated marijuana businesses. The bill also bans public consumption of marijuana.

New Legalization Ballot Campaign Launched in Arizona. Dr. Gina Berman, chair of the Marijuana Policy Project's Arizona legalization initiative campaign, has formed a second ballot committee, Responsible Arizona. It's unclear exactly why, although it could be an effort to blunt opposition to marijuana law reforms from a recently-formed group called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. Responsible Arizona has not yet released a draft initiative.

Kansas Bill to Lessen Pot Penalties Will Get Floor Vote. A bill that would lessen penalties for first- and second-time pot law violators will get a floor vote this session, House Speaker Rep. Ray Merrick (R-Stilwell) has confirmed. The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee), would make second-time possession a misdemeanor with no jail time, as opposed to the up-to-42 months the charge now carries.  

DC Seed Sharing Event Draws Thousands on Day Two. People lined up for blocks around the DC Cannabis Campaign headquarters in Adams Morgan Saturday to get marijuana seeds. The second day of the "seed sharing" event was even more successful than the first.

Colorado Defends Marijuana Legalization at the Supreme Court. State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman last Friday urged the high court to reject a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska seeking to invalidate the state's legalization of marijuana. She told the justices the two states were trying to "selectively invalidate state laws with which they disagree." She also pointed out that overturning the state's regulation and taxation of marijuana would lead to a situation where marijuana remains legal, but unregulated.

Medical Marijuana

House CARERS Act Picks Up Cosponsors. The House version of the federal bill to allow states to move forward on medical marijuana without federal interference is accumulating cosponsors. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced it a week ago today, and it now has seven more cosponsors. Click on the link to see who they are.

Georgia Governor Signs Executive Order to Expedite CBD Cannabis Oil Law. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) last Friday signed the order to speed up the enactment of House Bill 1, which has passed both houses of the legislature. The bill provides immunity from prosecution for CBD patients who register with the state. Deal said he would sign the bill at the end of the legislative session.

Idaho Governor's Office Pushes Back Against CBD Cannabis Oil Bill.Gov. "Butch" Otter (R) sent his drug policy point-man to the capitol today to speak out against Senate Bill 1146aa, which would provide an affirmative defense for parents of children using low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil to treat severe seizures. Elisha Figueroa, head of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy, warned that "Idaho will be violating federal law if this bill passes." Fourteen other Republican-controlled legislatures have passed similar laws, but they're all violating federal law, too, he said. Figueroa is pushing for a different bill, Senate Bill 1156, which would set up a special program to run trials on a GW Pharma CBD product called Epidiolex.

Drug Testing

Pediatricians Reject School Drug Testing. The American Academy of Pediatricians has recommended against schools using suspicionless drug testing. There is little evidence that drug testing deters drug use or helps get users into drug treatment, the group said in an updated policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics.

Anonymous Tip Not Enough to Create "Reasonable Suspicion" for Employee Drug Test, Federal Court Rules. An unidentified source telling a reporter about on the job drug use and the reporter then relaying the assertion to the employer is not enough to create individualized reasonable suspicion" to require a public employee to submit to a drug test, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled this month. The ruling came in the case of a Detroit construction inspector who was fired after refusing a drug test after a reporter called public works to say an anonymous informant had told him workers were smoking pot. The inspector has been reinstated.

Presence of Marijuana Metabolites in Drug Test Doesn't Workman's Comp Benefits, Ohio Court Rules. A worker who had marijuana metabolites in his system is not barred from collecting workman's compensation benefits unless drug use was the proximate cause of his work-related injury, the Ohio Court of Appeals has ruled. In the case in question, the employer showed no evidence the worker was under the influence of marijuana when he was injured, only that he had used it sometime in the recent past.

Law Enforcement

Feds Target Reddit Users in Bid to Crack Dark Web Drug Sales. The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has subpoenaed Reddit demanding that it turn over personal data about five users of its dark web drug markets forum. The feds are seeking names, IP addresses, data on site visits, and other information, such as phone numbers and credit card data, that Reddit doesn't possess. The popular web discussion site doesn't even require an email address to register. The subpoenas appear to be an expansion of investigations into the Evolution dark web drug sales site.

Sentencing Reform

DC Sentencing Reform Summit Drew Hundreds. More than 600 lawmakers, advocates, and criminal justice leaders gathered in the nation's capital last Thursday to unite for sentencing reform. Among those attending were Attorney General Holder, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), The Wire creator David Simon, and many more. Click on the link for more details and press coverage. 

International

Vietnam Moving to End Death Penalty for Some Drug Offenses. The Ministry of Justice last week proposed abolishing the death penalty for a number of crimes, including heroin smuggling. It said it would keep the death penalty for heroin dealing, but not for smuggling and possession. Those acts will only carry a penalty of up to life in prison. 

Chronicle AM: CA Poll Has 55% for Legalization, GA MedMJ CBD Bill Passes, DEA Sex Parties, More (3/26/15)

Marijuana and medical marijuana remain hot items at the statehouse, a new report says DEA agents partied with prostitutes paid for by drug traffickers, Indiana's governor okays emergency needle exchanges, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Alaska Marijuana Bill Would Still Treat Pot as Controlled Substance. The state Senate is preparing to vote Friday on the bill to deal with marijuana post-legalization, but it will vote on a version of Senate Bill 30 that keeps marijuana listed as a controlled substance. A Judiciary Committee draft removed marijuana from the list, but the Senate voted as a whole to adopt instead language from the Finance committee that keeps it on the list.

New California Poll Has Support for Legalization at 55%. A new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll has 55% of Californians supporting marijuana legalization. "Support for legalization is at its highest point since PPIC began asking the question in May 2010," the group noted.

California Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy Releases Policy Road Map Today. A group of experts led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is today unveiling a "progress report" that outlines issues that should be addressed in any legalization initiative going before voters next year. The commission also includes the ACLU, leading academics, law enforcement officials, and activists.

Massachusetts Prosecutors Reject Legalization. State DAs showed little interest in legalizing marijuana at a statehouse hearing Wednesday. "We ought to turn ourselves into Denver, Colorado, where gummy bears are littering the streets that are made of marijuana?" asked Cape and Islands DA Michael O'Keefe in a typical comment from prosecutors. If the legislature doesn't legalize pot this year or next, the state is extremely likely to see one or more initiatives to do so next year.

New Jersey Governor Says Marijuana Tax Revenue is "Blood Money." Gov. Chris Christie (R) used the occasion of the ribbon-cutting event at a drug treatment facility to reiterate his opposition to marijuana legalization. Christie said marijuana is a "gateway drug" and that tax revenues from its sale would amount to "blood money."

ResponsibleOhio Begins Signature Gathering. Signature gathering started Wednesday for the group's marijuana legalization initiative, which is unique and controversial because of its scheme to essentially create a commercial marijuana monopoly with only 10 registered commercial growers. The group needs some 300,000 signatures by July to qualify for this year's ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Federal CBD Bill Filed. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) has filed HR 1635, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude cannabidiol (CDB) and CBD-rich marijuana plants from the definition of marijuana under the act.

Georgia CBD Passes Legislature, Governor Will Sign. The House Wednesday gave final approval to House Bill 1, which would allow patients with eight specified diseases to use CBD cannabis oil. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said today he will sign the bill.

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Public Health and Public Safety committees have approved House Bill 321, which would create dispensaries and production centers in each county in the state. They also amended the bill to speed up the opening of dispensaries, which would now be set for next year.

Iowa Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday approved Senate Study Bill 1243, which would allow patients with a number of specified medical conditions to use medical marijuana -- but not to smoke it.

North Carolina House Committee Kills Medical Marijuana Bill. After an intense hour-long hearing, the House Judiciary Committee voted to kill a medical marijuana bill, House Bill 78. Some supporters of the bill vowed to move to other states, while one Republican foe of the bill, Rep. Dan Arp, complained he was struck in the back by an angry supporter. The man was detained by police, but later released without charges.

Heroin and Opiates

Kentucky Legislature Passes Compromise Heroin Bill. After more than three years of negotiations, the legislature has passed a bill that will allow for needle exchange programs, but also increase sentences for some heroin dealing offenses. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is expected to sign the bill.

Harm Reduction

Indiana Governor Authorizes Limited Needle Exchange Program to Fight HIV Outbreak. Gov. Mike Pence (R) has declared a public health emergency in Scott County, which has seen 79 new HIV cases since December, all tied to needle sharing among drug users. The move allows him to institute a short-term needle exchange program to attempt to slow the outbreak.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Welfare Drug Testing Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor has approved House Bill 1924, which would establish a pilot program to require welfare applicants to undergo screening for drug use and submit to drug tests if deemed "suspicious." The bill now heads for a House floor vote.

Law Enforcement

DEA Agents in Colombia Enjoyed "Sex Parties" Paid for By Drug Traffickers. A new report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General finds that foreign drug trafficking organizations paid for "sex parties" attended by DEA agents, including at least one DEA Supervisory Agent. At least seven overseas agents admitting attending parties with prostitutes, and they were hit with penalties of suspensions ranging from two to10 days. The DEA wasn't especially helpful in preparing the report, the OIG noted.

International

New Zealand Prime Minister Rejects Marijuana Decriminalization. Prime Minister John Key said while campaigning Thursday that he did not support marijuana decriminalization. When accused by a listener of wanting to lock people up, he said, "It's not so much that, I just don't agree with drugs." That prompted Northland candidate Maki Herbert to retort that Key was sending mixed messages. "On the one hand he wants cannabis to remain a crime but he denies wanting to lock people in jail for that crime," she said. "Mr. Key should remember that alcohol is also a drug, one which he admits to using regularly."

Chronicle AM: Second Maine Initiative, Federal Hair Drug Tests for Truckers Bill, More (3/24/15)

And now there are two Maine legalization initiatives, there is no decrim in New Mexico this year, Denver moves to restrict collective grows, truck drivers could face hair drug tests, the DEA's marijuana eradication program is lagging, and more.

The DEA is chopping down millions fewer pot plants these days. (DEA)
Marijuana

Alaska Marijuana Bill Moves. A bill to adjust the state's criminal codes to allow for legal marijuana passed the Senate Finance Committee Monday and now heads for the Senate Rules Committee before going for a floor vote. The bill, Senate Bill 30, creates crimes for possession of amounts greater than allowed for under state law, bans the delivery of marijuana for sale or barter, and bans marijuana commerce in the state's unorganized boroughs (although villages could opt back in). The bill no longer contains a controversial section banning marijuana concentrates after 2017.

Second Maine Legalization Initiative Campaign Gets Underway. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) today unveiled its plan to legalize marijuana in the state next year. The MPP initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants, allow for retail sales with a 10% tax in addition to sales taxes, and limit the number of retail outlets until 2019. Another group, Legalize Maine, unveiled its initiative proposal last month. In the meantime, the legislature is considering a legalization bill from Sen. Diane Russell (D-Portland).

New Mexico Decriminalization Bill Dies as Session Ends. A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana is dead after the session came to an end without the House taking it up. Senate Bill 383 had passed the Senate, but was languishing in the House Judiciary Committee when the session ended last Saturday.

Denver City Council Votes to Restrict Collective Gardens. The council voted Monday night to limit the number of marijuana plants that collectives can grow to 36. There are at least 60 collectives in the city, with some having thousands of plants. Marijuana attorney and advocate Rob Corry said that the ordinance violates Amendment 64 and that he'll sue to get it annulled.

Medical Marijuana

House Version of Federal Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (D-AK) Monday introduced the House version of the CARERS Act filed two weeks ago in the Senate. Both bills would allow states to have medical marijuana without federal interference, reschedule marijuana to Schedule II, allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana, allow interstate commerce in CBD cannabis oils, and ease banking problems for the industry. The House version is HR 1538.

New Synthetic Drugs

Texas Senate Approves Bills Banning New Synthetics. The Senate passed one bill to make new synthetics controlled substances, one bill increasing the penalty for possession of the drugs, and one bill that would subject retailers who sell them to a fine of $25,000 a day. The bills are Senate Bill 172, Senate Bill 173, and Senate Bill 461. All three now go to the House, where they are expected to pass.

Drug Testing

Federal Bill Would Allow Hair Drug Testing of Truck Drivers. A bill filed last week by Rep. Eric Crawford (R-AR) would allow motor carriers to submit hair samples for their drivers' drug tests instead of urine samples. Hair testing can reveal drug use months earlier, while urine testing only catches recent drug use. The bill, HR 1467, is supported by several industry organizations.

Law Enforcement

DEA Marijuana Eradication Slowing Down. The DEA is uprooting and destroying far fewer pot plants than it did just a few years ago. According to DEA records, the agency destroyed 4.3 million pot plants last year and 4.4 million the year before. That's less than half of the 10.4 million eradicated in 2009. The slowdown is being blamed on states reducing their enforcement efforts because of the recession and states prioritizing other, more serious, drug threats.

International

Canada Parliament Passes Bill Aimed at Blocking Safe Injection Sites. Parliament has passed Bill C-2, the "Respect Communities Act," which supporters said would give communities a chance to have input on whether to allow safe injection sites. But opponents of the bill say it will only increase the number of hurdles such life-saving programs must surmount before they can operate. The Conservative government has been a staunch opponent of safe injection sites.

Chronicle AM: NM Legislature Passes Civil Asset Forfeiture Ban, No Jail for Junkies in WA County, More (3/23/15)

A ban on civil asset forfeiture passes the legislature in New Mexico, there was a legalization demo in New Jersey and a medical marijuana rally in Tennessee, a UN agency says the herbicide used to spray Colombian coca crops causes cancer, and more.

Snohomish County, WA, is not jailing heroin addicts for nonviolent, misdemeanor offenses. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana

Massachusetts Attorney General Opposes Legalization. Attorney General Maura Healey said today that while she supported a successful decriminalization initiative a few years ago, she doesn't support legalization. "I supported the effort to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana a few years ago, and I appreciated the motivation behind that move and ultimately, the law," Healey told Boston Herald Radio. "What I oppose though now is full legalization of marijuana." She said her views were informed by discussions with her counterparts in Washington and Colorado, who told her they had not seen a drop in drug trafficking and that people came from out of state to buy marijuana. A legalization bill is pending, and the state could see two different initiative campaigns next year if the legislature fails to act.

New Jersey Legalization Advocates Smoke Out in Trenton. More than a hundred people showed up for the "Spring Smoke Out" rally at the statehouse in Trenton Saturday. Led by veteran Garden State pot activist Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion, the group toked up amid chants of "One, two, three four, smoke, smoke, smoke some more!" and demanded an end to pot prohibition.

Medical Marijuana

Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Heads for Senate Floor Vote. A bill that would allow for the use of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of epilepsy passed the Senate State Affairs Committee last Friday and now heads for a Senate floor vote. The measure is Senate Bill 1106. Another cannabis oil bill that would only allow an affirmative defense, Senate Bill 1146, also awaits a Senate floor vote.

Louisiana Medical Marijuana Bill Pre-Filed. State Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) has pre-filed a bill that would allow for the use of marijuana for specified medical conditions, including seizure disorders, glaucoma, cancer, and the side effects of cancer treatments. The bill is House Bill 6. Last year, similar legislation failed to get out of committee in the face of opposition from law enforcement. The session begins April 13.

Tennessee Advocates in Smoky Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally. Hundreds of people showed up for the Smoky Mountain Medical Marijuana Rights Rally and march in Johnson City Saturday. The rally comes as the state legislature considers a number of medical marijuana-related bills.

International

Bolivia Lashes Out at US Anti-Drug Report. The Bolivian government rejects the State Department's anti-drug report, released last week, which said the country is not complying with international anti-drug trafficking obligations."The report is unacceptable. The only thing it does is to put more obstacles to the hypocritical call to reestablish bilateral relations. This is the double standard policy that he US has and will always have," Government ministry spokesman Hugo Moldiz said.

Ten Killed in Mexico Cartel Attack on Police. Suspected drug gang members attacked a convoy of Mexico's newly militarized police force, the gendarmerie, in Jalisco state last Thursday, leaving five policemen dead, as well as three gang members, and two bystanders. It was one of the deadliest attacks on police since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012.

UN Agency Links Herbicide Used to Spray Colombian Coca Crops to Cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization, said last Thursday it had reclassified the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. It cited what it said was convincing research showing that the herbicide creates cancer in lab animals and that it could cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans. Under a US-government supported program, Colombia has sprayed more than four million acres of land with the stuff in a bid to destroy coca crops. The Colombian government, however, expressed concern, but didn't say it was ready to stop the spraying. Eliminating cocaine "transcends" other concerns, said Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria.

Drug War Issues

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