Marijuana Policy

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Chronicle AM: House Blocks Pot Banking Measure, No Hookers for DEA Agents, Thai Meth Policy Moves, More... (6/23/16)

House Republicans blocked an effort to open up banking for pot businesses, an Oregon worker fired for medical marijuana use wins his job back, DEA agents get new marching orders on hookers, the Thai government grapples with methamphetamine policy, and more.

Patronize a prostitute, lose your DEA badge.
Marijuana Policy 

House Turns Back Effort to Give Pot Businesses Access to Banks. The Republican-led House Wednesday voted down an amendment to the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that would have blocked federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for working with state-legal marijuana businesses. A similar amendment had passed the Senate last week.

Nevada Legalization Effort Has Raised Nearly $300,000 This Year. The Nevada Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has raised $285,000 so far this year, with more than half coming in a two-day period earlier this month when local marijuana companies made significant donations. The campaign's legalization initiative has qualified for the November ballot. Opposition groups made no reports of donations this reporting period.

Oregon Takes in Nearly $15 Million in Pot Taxes So Far This Year. As of May 30, the state Department of Revenue had processed $14.9 million in marijuana tax payments this year, the agency said Wednesday. Medical marijuana dispensaries authorized to sell to any adult 21 or over began collecting the tax in January.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Auditor Bemoans Delays in Processing ID Cards. The state auditor and the attorney general are investigating a backlog of medical marijuana ID card applications as requests for the cards surge. The state has 30 days to issue the issue the cards, but the Department of Health said it is taking 45-50 days, and the auditor's office said it had complaints of wait times of up to 90 days.

Oregon Worker Fired for Medical Marijuana Wins Jobs Back. An arbitrator has ordered Lane County to reinstate a worker it fired because he used medical marijuana to deal with the side effects of cancer treatment and it has ordered the county to give him nearly $22,000 in back pay. Michael Hirsh had been employed as a senior programmer for the county before he was fired in December after two employees reported smelling pot smoke on his clothing.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

New York Governor Signs Heroin Bill Package. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Wednesday signed into law a package of bills aimed at the state's heroin and prescription opioid problems. The bills, which address prevention, treatment, and insurance coverage, should produce an additional 270 treatment beds and more than 2,000 slots for drug treatment programs. The bills also require insurance companies to wait 14 days before denying coverage to drug users deemed in need of drug treatment, and it limits initial prescriptions for opioids for severe pain to seven days. 

Law Enforcement

No Hookers for DEA Agents. In the wake of scandalous behavior by DEA agents in Colombia during the 2012 Summit of the Americas, the DEA has instituted a one-strike policy for agents caught patronizing prostitutes. "Solicitation of prostitution on duty or off duty, whether you’re in a jurisdiction where it is legal or illegal, first time offense — removal," DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg told a Senate panel Wednesday.

International

UN Releases Annual Global Drug Report—250 Million Adults Used a Drug Last Year. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has released the World Drug Report 2016, and notes that 5% of the adult population has used at least one drug in the past year.  The UN also reported that the number of people classified as suffering from a dependency disorder climbed to more than 29 million, up from 27 million the previous year.

Thailand Won't Legalize Meth, But Will Remove it From List of Dangerous Drugs. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has walked back talk about legalizing the amphetamine, but now says the country will work to reform its drug laws by removing meth from its list of hard drugs like heroin and recognizing a distinction between traffickers and users, workers, and addicts. 

In Exercise in Futility, Danish Cops Raid Christiania's Pusher Street (Again)

Last Friday, more than a hundred Danish police swept into Copenhagen's hippy enclave of Christiania to attack the hash and weed sellers of the community's infamous Pusher Street. They tore down 37 stalls and arrested 18 people, carrying off nearly 10 kilos of cannabis by the time they were done.

But it was an exercise in futility. Before police had even left the scene, new stalls had been constructed and new drug sales had taken place.

The raid, coming after previous raid after fruitless raid on Pusher Street, has re-ignited the ongoing debate about legalizing cannabis in Denmark, with members of law enforcement and parliament speaking out.

"I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win," said senior prosecutor Anne Birgitte Stürup from the Copenhagen Public Prosecutor Office (Statsadvokaten). "We've tried fighting this for so many years and have gotten nowhere. We cannot stop the use of cannabis by outlawing it. It is expensive and is of very little use," she continued.

The debate on cannabis legalization is nothing new. Pusher Street was for decades the center of the city's weed trade as Christiania, a former military base invaded by hippies in 1971, enjoyed existence as an autonomous community within greater Copenhagen. But conservative national governments in recent years have both ended Christiania's special status and regularly attacked Pusher Street, sending the weed trade to street corners around the city.

Copenhagen itself has repeatedly sought a trial program to legalize the trade in the city, with sales handled by public authorities, only to be blocked by the parliament. It's time to move forward with such plans, said former Copenhagen Police Chief Inspector Per Larsen.

"The money is going into the wrong hands today and I think it could be used for something much more positive, for example preventative measures and rehab for those suffering from cannabis psychosis," Larsen said.

Another former public prosecutor, Erik Merlung, agreed it was time to change course and accused members of parliament of "shutting their eyes to reality."

"You make huge raids on Christiania in which all of the stalls are torn down in the afternoon and then up and running again the next morning -- if not in Christiania, then other places in the city," he said, adding that the current prohibitionist strategy is "hopeless."

Even the cops involved didn't seem particularly enthused about their mission, as the video below from the scene makes clear. The video was shot by the Christiania-based documentary group Cadok:

Copenhagen
Denmark

Medical Marijuana Update

A bipartisan federal effort to open up research on medical marijuana is underway, it looks likely that Arkansas will be voting on medical marijuana in November, a New Jersey PTSD bill advances, and more.

National

On Monday, congressional marijuana reform fans and foes said they were working together on a new research bill. Legalization opponent Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is joining forces with Congress's "top legal pot advocate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to file a bill to overhaul federal policies on marijuana research. The bill would make it easier for scientists to conduct research on the medical use of marijuana. It hasn't been filed yet, but is expected this week.

On Wednesday, versions of the research bill were filed in the House and Senate. The bills announced earlier this week have been filed and given bill numbers. The House version, sponsored by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is HR 5549, while the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is S 3077.

Arkansas

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative campaign handed in signatures. Supporters of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care medical marijuana initiative handed in more than 110,000 raw signatures to state officials in Little Rock Monday. The initiative only needs some 67,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If as many as 30% of the signatures are found invalid, organizers would still have enough signatures to qualify.

California

As of Tuesday, a Northern California cannabis oil company was back in business after a misbegotten raid. Sonoma County's Care By Design (CBD) is already back in business after a massive raid including a hundred police officers and DEA agents last week. Business operator Dennis Franklin Hunter was released without charges after initially being held on a $5 million bond. Police raided the business thinking it was using a dangerous and illegal butane extraction process to make cannabis oil, but it was actually using a non-flammable CO2 extraction process. CBD is blaming the botched raid on a disgruntled former employee involved in a competing business.

New Jersey

Last Thursday, the Assembly passed a PTSD bill. The Assembly approved the bill, and a Senate committee approved a similar measure the same day. The bills would allow patients suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: MA Init Hands in Signatures, Uruguay's First Legal MJ Harvest, More... (6/22/16)

Marijuana legalization efforts advance in California and Massachusetts, Iowa Democrats blow minds with a platform plank, Michigan's welfare drug testing pilot program scores a big fat zero, and more.

It could be high times in Boston come November. (regulatemass.org)
Marijuana Policy

Gavin Newsom Warns California Pot People That Legalization Isn't a Done Deal. The state's pro-legalization lieutenant governor told attendees at the National Cannabis Industry Association conference in Oakland Tuesday that they need to get involved in passing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) this November. "It's not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "We need your help on the campaign." Newsom added that while tech billionaire Sean Parker is helping, "He's not going to fund the whole thing. If it is defeated, it will set back this movement in California… and nationally for years and years."

Massachusetts Legalization Backers Hand in Final Signatures. The Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Wednesday handed in some 25,000 raw signatures as the campaign moved toward the final step in placing its legalization initiative on the November ballot. The campaign only needs 10,792 valid voter signatures in this second round of signature gathering after the legislature failed to act when the campaign turned in more than 60,000 signatures last year.

Medical Marijuana

Congressional Medical Marijuana Research Bills Filed. The bills announced earlier this week have been filed and given bill numbers. The House version, sponsored by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is HR 5549, while the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), is S 3077.

Drug Policy

Iowa Democrats' Platform Includes "Legalize All Drugs" Plank. Hawkeye Democrats included the five-word item ("We support legalizing all drugs") as plank No. 293 in their platform, and that's raising eyebrows. But activists involved in the debate said that was shorthand for a policy that aims to treat and mitigate drug addiction instead of criminalizing it. "The brevity of the document doesn't encompass the true meaning,"said Shelly Van Winkle, a registered nurse from Muscatine and newly elected member of the party's state central committee who was active in the platform debate. Another delegate described it as a "divestment strategy in the drug war."

Drug Testing

Michigan Welfare Drug Test Program Generates Zero Positives. The state of Michigan has ordered 303 people seeking welfare benefits to undergo drug testing under a pilot program, and not a single one of them has tested positive for illicit drugs. Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who signed the program into law, declined to comment. Similar programs in other states have produced similar results, although not as dramatic as Michigan's In Tennessee, 65 out of 40,000 applicants tested positive; in Mississippi, two out of 3,656. In Michigan, the people tested were flagged as likely to be using drugs during an initial screening.

International

First Legal Pot Crop Being Harvested in Uruguay. Two companies responsible for marijuana production have begun their first legal harvest, and their product should be hitting the country's pharmacies "soon," said Juan Andres Roballo, head of the National Drug Board, which has oversight over the fledgling industry. By August, Uruguayans should be able to buy weed in five- or 10-gram packets, with the price set at $1.20 per gram.

Chronicle AM: New Orleans "Decrim" in Effect, Philippine Drug Executions Accelerate, More... (6/21/16)

The Big Easy goes easy on marijuana possession, a California medical marijuana business is back in operation after a misbegotten raid, Danish cops raid Christiania to little effect, suspected drug dealers are being killed in the Philippines, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte (theinfluence.org)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Legalization Foes Unveil New Website. Anti-legalization forces operating as Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities have launched a new website aimed at doing in the legalization initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. A drop-down menu on the website provides an indication of their approach, with buttons for "Pot Shops on Main Street," "Marijuana Candy," and "Big Marijuana."

New Orleans "Decriminalization" Ordinance Goes Into Effect. A newly passed city ordinance allowing police to cite and fine instead of arrest people caught with small quantities of pot is now in effect in the Big Easy. But not everybody will get a ticket. Those caught with pot in a drug free zone, such as a city park, school, or church will still be charged and jailed.

Medical Marijuana

After Misbegotten Raid, California Medical Marijuana Company Open for Business Again. Sonoma County's Care By Design (CBD) is already back in business after a massive raid including a hundred police officers and DEA agents last week. Business operator Dennis Franklin Hunter was released without charges after initially being held on a $5 million bond. Police raided the business thinking it was using a dangerous and illegal butane extraction process to make cannabis oil, but it was actually using a non-flammable CO2 extraction process. CBD is blaming the botched raid on a disgruntled former employee involved in a competing business.

International

Danish Cops Raid Christiania's Pusher Street, To No Avail. Police last Friday marched into the Copenhagen hippy enclave, tore down 37 marijuana and hash sales stands, and arrested 18 people, but new stands went up and pot sales recommenced before police even left the scene. The raid is sparking new discussion on marijuana legalization, including from a senior prosecutor in the Copenhagen prosecutor's office. I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win," Anna Birgitt Sturup said.

Philippines in Drug Dealer Killing Frenzy. Under the new presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, who earned a reputation as a crime fighter and death squad organizer as the long-time mayor of Davao City, killings of alleged drug dealers are surging. Duterte has vowed to eradicate drugs and other crime within six months and even offered to give medals to citizens who kill them. Police reported killing 11 suspected drug dealers over the weekend, saying they resisted arrest, with more than 40 killed since Duterte was elected on May 9.

Chronicle AM: Supremes Open Door to More Lawless Searches, CA Dems Endorse AUMA, More... (6/20/16)

The Supreme Court hands down a pair of rulings supporting law enforcement powers, the California and Arizona marijuana legalization efforts gain powerful endorsements, the feds give up on trying to bust Fedex for shipping prescription pills, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arizona Congressman Endorses Legalization Initiative. US Congressman Ruben Gallegos (D-Phoenix) announced Monday that he is endorsing the legalization initiative from the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals," Rep. Gallegos said. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes."

California Democratic Party Endorses Legalization Initiative. Meeting in Long Beach over the weekend, the executive committee of the state Democratic Party voted to endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed, allow limited personal cultivation, and allow regulated commercial cultivation and sales.

Colorado Health Department Reports No Increase in Youth Use. Marijuana use among high school students in the state has not increased since legalization, the Health Department reported Monday. The report was based on a statewide student survey. It found that 21% of students had reported using marijuana, in line with earlier figures from the state and below the national average of nearly 22%.

Medical Marijuana

Congressional Pot Fans, Foes Work Together on New Research Bill. Legalization opponent Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is joining forces with Congress's "top legal pot advocate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to file a bill to overhaul federal policies on marijuana research. The bill would make it easier for scientists to conduct research on the medical use of marijuana. It hasn't been filed yet, but is expected this week.

Arkansas Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. Supporters of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care medical marijuana initiative handed in more than 110,000 raw signatures to state officials in Little Rock Monday. The initiative only needs some 67,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If as many as 30% of the signatures are found invalid, organizers would still have enough signatures to qualify.

Asset Forfeiture

Oklahoma Governor Delays Using Card Readers to Seize Money. In the wake of a furious outcry over the Highway Patrol's recent use of ERAD card-reading devices to seize money from debit and credit cards, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last Friday directed the secretary of safety and secure to delay using the the card-readers until the state can develop a clear policy for their use.

Law Enforcement

Supreme Court Opens Door to More Lawless Police Searches. In a pair of decisions released Monday, the US Supreme Court again demonstrated its deference to law enforcement priorities, in one case by expanding an exception to the long-standing ruling requiring that unlawfully gathered evidence be discarded and in another by holding that drug dealers, even those engaged only in street-corner sales, are engaged in interstate commerce.The two decisions expand the ability of local police to skirt the law without effective punishment on the one hand, and allow prosecutors to use the weight of the federal criminal justice system to come down on small-time criminals whose cases would normally be the purview of local authorities on the other. Taken together, the decisions show a high court that once again give great deference to the demands of law enforcement.

Feds Drop Drug Trafficking Case Against Fedex. Federal prosecutors in San Francisco last Friday suddenly moved to drop all criminal charges against the delivery service, which they had accused of knowingly delivering illegal prescription drugs. In court, presiding Judge Charley Breyer said the company was "factually innocent" and that the DEA had failed to provide it with the names of customers who were shipping illegal drugs. "The dismissal is an act, in the court's view, entirely consistent with the government's overarching obligation to seek justice even at the expense of some embarrassment," Breyr said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Supreme Court Opens Door for More Lawless Police Searches [FEATURE]

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

In a pair of decisions released Monday, the US Supreme Court again demonstrated its deference to law enforcement priorities, in one case by expanding an exception to the long-standing ruling requiring that unlawfully gathered evidence be discarded and in another by holding that drug dealers, even those engaged only in street-corner sales, are engaged in interstate commerce.

The two decisions expand the ability of local police to skirt the law without effective punishment on the one hand, and allow prosecutors to use the weight of the federal criminal justice system to come down on small-time criminals whose cases would normally be the purview of local authorities on the other. Taken together, the decisions show a high court that once again give great deference to the demands of law enforcement.

In the first case, Utah v. Strieff, the Supreme Court held that evidence obtained from the illegal stop of Strieff should not be thrown out under the exclusionary rule, which requires that illegally seized be suppressed as "fruit of the poisonous tree." The exclusionary rule, which dates back to 1920 and values the rule of law even at the expense of seeing a guilty suspect go free, has long been a bane of judicial conservatives, who have been trying to chip away at it since at least the 1980s.

In Strieff, a Salt Lake City police officer investigating possible drug activity at a residence stopped Strieff without "reasonable cause" after he exited the home. During his encounter with Strieff, the police officer found that he was wanted on a traffic warrant, arrested him, then searched him subsequent to arrest. The police officer found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, then charged him with drug and paraphernalia possession.

Strieff argued to suppress the evidence, arguing that it was derived from an unlawful investigatory stop. He lost at the trial and appeals court levels, but the Utah Supreme Court overturned his conviction, holding that an exception to the exclusionary rule known as the "attenuation doctrine" did not apply. The US Supreme Court disagreed.

The attenuation doctrine holds that unlawfully obtained evidence may be used even if "the fruit of the search is tainted by the initial, unlawful detention…if the taint is dissipated by an intervening circumstance," as the Utah Supreme Court described it. In other words, if police acting in good faith violate the law and don't do it flagrantly, they should be able to use any evidence found as a result of that violation in court.

The Supreme Court divided 5-3 on the case, with Chief Justice Roberts joining justices Alito, Breyer, and Kennedy joined Justice Clarence Thomas in his majority opinion. Thomas held that the police misconduct was not bad enough to warrant suppression of the evidence and, besides, police probably aren't going to abuse their powers to do mass searches.

"[The officer's] purpose was not to conduct a suspicionless fishing expedition but was to gather information about activity inside a house whose occupants were legitimately suspected of dealing drugs," Thomas wrote. "Strieff conflates the standard for an illegal stop with the standard for flagrancy, which requires more than the mere absence of proper cause. Second, it is unlikely that the prevalence of outstanding warrants will lead to dragnet searches by police."

Even if someone is unlawfully detained, evidence obtained from them can be used in court, the high court ruled. (wikimedia.org)
The Supreme Court's liberal minority was not nearly as sanguine. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with Justice Ginsberg concurring, cut right to the heart of the matter:

"The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights," she wrote in her dissent. "Do not be soothed by the opinion's technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants -- even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent."

In the second case, Taylor v. United States, the high court upheld the ability of federal prosecutors to use federal law to prosecute people who rob drug dealers, even if the dealers are dealing only in locally-grown marijuana with no evidence of interstate sales. That 7-1 decision is in just the latest in a long line of cases upholding the ability of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution's "commerce clause" and to protect it from robbery or extortion under the 1951 Hobbs Act.

It was the "commerce clause" line of cases that led to the 2005 Gonzales v. Raich decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the ability of the federal government to move against marijuana cultivation and sales even in states where it is legal. In that case, the high court ruled that California medical marijuana patient Angel Raich's cultivation of marijuana plants at her home in California for her use in California implicated interstate commerce and was therefore liable to federal jurisdiction.

Even marijuana grown and sold locally implicates the Constitution's commerce clause, the court has ruled. (flickr.com)
In Taylor, Taylor was part of a Virginia gang known as the "Southwest Goonz" who targeted and robbed marijuana growers and dealers. He was charged under the Hobbs Act with two counts of "affecting commerce or attempting to do so through robbery." In his first trial, which resulted in a hung jury, Taylor offered evidence that the dealers targeted only trafficked in locally-grown marijuana. In his second trial, prosecutors convinced the court to exclude that evidence, and Taylor was convicted on both counts. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction, "holding that, given the aggregate effect of drug dealing on interstate commerce, the Government needed only to prove that Taylor robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds to satisfy the commerce element."

In an opinion authored by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court agreed.

"[T]he Government met its burden by introducing evidence that Taylor's gang intentionally targeted drug dealers to obtain drugs and drug proceeds," he wrote. "That evidence included information that the gang members targeted the victims because of their drug dealing activities, as well as explicit statements made during the course of the robberies that revealed their belief that drugs and money were present. Such proof is sufficient to meet the Hobbs Act's commerce element."

Only Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that the whole line of "commerce clause" cases granted too much power to the federal government.

"The Hobbs Act makes it a federal crime to commit a robbery that 'affects' 'commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction," Thomas wrote. "Under the Court's decision today, the Government can obtain a Hobbs Act conviction without proving that the defendant's robbery in fact affected interstate commerce -- or any commerce. The Court's holding creates serious constitutional problems and extends our already expansive, flawed commerce-power precedents. I would construe the Hobbs Act in accordance with constitutional limits and hold that the Act punishes a robbery only when the Government proves that the robbery itself affected interstate commerce."

Two cases, two distinct lines of legal precedent, one outcome: Drug cases continue to provide a basis for the expansion of state law enforcement power.

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: Times of London Calls for Drug Decrim, Microsoft Enters MJ Business, More... (6/17/16)

Three reports on marijuana policy are released, Microsoft gets in the marijuana business, the Times of London calls for drug decriminalization and hints at legalization, a Thai minister reiterates his call for regulating meth, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Brookings Institution Releases Research Papers on Legalization and Regulation. One paper is "Bootleggers, Baptists, bureaucrats, and bongs: How special interests will shape marijuana legalization," in which Brookings Senior Fellows Philip Wallach and Jonathan Rauch ask: Why did marijuana legalization recently break through in the face of what had long been overwhelming interest-group resistance? How might key social and bureaucratic actors reorganize and reassert themselves, and as legalization ushers in a "new normal" of marijuana-related regulation and lobbying, what kinds of pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead? The second paper is "Worry about bad marijuana -- not Big Marijuana," in which Rauch and Senior Fellow John Hudak examine a concern that many critics and proponents of marijuana legalization share: the potential emergence of Big Marijuana, a corporate lobby akin to Big Tobacco that recklessly pursues profits and wields sufficient clout to shape regulation to its liking. Hudak and Rauch ultimately argue against alarmism, concluding that "policy should concern itself with harmful practices, not with industry structure, and it should begin with a presumption of neutrality on issues of corporate size and market structure."

Transnational Institute Releases Report on Marijuana Regulation and UN Treaties. The report, "Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform," which was compiled by a group of experts in the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom, makes clear that the problem is not that countries are pursuing reforms to legally regulate cannabis, but rather the antiquated drug treaty provisions that explicitly block such reforms. Overcoming that hurdle, the report argues, does not require a global consensus to rewrite the UN drug treaties -- a difficult task under current conditions -- but can be achieved by procedures available to individual countries and groups of countries under international law.

Microsoft Enters the Marijuana Business. The tech giant announced Thursday that is forming a partnership with a marijuana-focused software company called Kind Financial, which provides "seed to sale" services for marijuana growers. The move makes Microsoft the first major tech company to get involved with the growing legal marijuana industry.

Michigan Legalizers Sue Over 180-Window for Signatures. MI Legalize, the group seeking to get its legalization initiative on the November ballot, filed suit Thursday in the state Court of Claims seeking to overturn a new law and an old policy that render invalid any signatures gathered outside of a 180-day window. Michigan officials ruled that the campaign came up short after they rejected signatures from the beginning of the petition drive because they had been gathered outside that window.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Assembly Passes PTSD Bill. The Assembly approved the bill Thursday, and a Senate committee approved a similar measure the same day. The bills would allow patients suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Asset Forfeiture

Delaware Legislature Passes Mild Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 309, which would force the state's Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to disclose the specific items and programs its civil asset forfeiture fund paid for. The measure has already passed the House and goes to the desk of Gov. Jack Markell (D). A bill that would have abolished civil forfeiture was filed, but never moved this year.

International

The Times of London Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Hints at Legalization. England's most prestigious newspaper has declared itself in favor of treating drug use and possession as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. In a leading article, "Breaking Good", the paper supported the call earlier this week from the Royal Society for Public Health for drug decriminalization. The newspaper said that although it is "radical advice," it is "sound" and ministers should "give it serious consideration." In an editorial in the same issue, the Times went a step further: "The government should be encouraged to think of decriminalization not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalizing and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco."

Thai Minister Defends Call for Legalizing Meth. Facing criticism, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya held firm Friday to his call to regulate instead of prohibit methamphetamine. He said it is impossible to eliminate dangerous drugs, so there should be a proper way to live with them. He added that crackdowns on users and sellers had filled the country's prisons, but not prevented drug use.

One Out of Four US Senators Is a Marijuana Prohibitionist -- Is Yours One of Them?

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

Marijuana legalization now consistently scores majorities in national public opinion polls, marijuana is already legal in four states and the District of Columbia and likely to be legal in a handful more, including California, before year's end, and the Obama administration has effectively thrown federal pot prohibition to the wind in the legal (and medical marijuana) states, yet Congress remains to a large degree stuck in the last century when it comes to marijuana policy.

Granted, there are some small signs of progress, some nibbling around the edges of pot prohibition, through bills and spending amendments that seek to stop the feds from interfering in legal and medical marijuana states, but Bernie Sanders' bill to end federal marijuana prohibition doesn't sport even a single cosponsor. When it comes to fixing marijuana policy, Congress is going to have to be dragged crying and screaming into the 21st Century.

One reason is a sizeable contingent of senatorial prohibitionists. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which just released its 2016 Congressional Scorecard, more than a quarter of US senators received a failing grade when it comes to supporting progressive marijuana policy reforms. A failing grade indicates "that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform."

The marijuana consumers' lobbying group arrived at the grades based on the member's 2015 voting records on three amendments to appropriations bills: the Daines/Merkley amendment (would have allowed VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana in states where it is legal), the Mikulski amendment (would block the Justice Department from interfering in state medical marijuana programs), and the Merkley amendment (would have blocked the Treasury Department from punishing banks providing services to legal marijuana businesses).

NORML also weighed whether the member has sponsored or cosponsored federal marijuana reform bills, and his or her public statements or testimony. Legislators were assigned letter grades ranging from "A" to "F."

Before going on to NORML's hall of shame, it's worth taking a moment to salute the class valedictorians: Only two senators got "A" grades -- Sanders and Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, author or co-author of two of the amendments, who also supported the successful 2014 Oregon legalization initiative and has sponsored and cosponsored other progressive marijuana reform bills.

Merkley is the only one of the eight senators representing states where the electorate has already voted to legalize marijuana to earn an "A" grade. The other legalization state senators at least mostly earned "B" grades ("this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference"), demonstrating that they are at least that in tune with their publics.

The good news is that with two senators winning "A" grades, 28 earning a "B," and 28 managing a "C" (supports medical marijuana or decriminalization), there seems to be a senatorial majority in favor of some pot reform legislation, even if not full legalization.

But there is still a sizeable and obstinate anti-marijuana minority, with 20 senators saddled with a "D" grade ("no support for any significant marijuana law reform"), and 26 ingloriously awarded the big "F."

Not surprisingly, 22 of them are Republicans, mostly from that great, L-shaped mass of red states that runs from North Dakota down to Texas and then across the South. But four of them are Democrats.

Without any further ado, here's the list of the Senate's most intransigent and recalcitrant pot prohibitionists (click on the scorecard for the individual particulars):

  • Sen. Jeff Sessions
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)
  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN)
  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
  • Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
  • Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Sen. John Barasso (R-WY)

Chronicle AM: UK Public Health Groups Call for Decrim, MPP Endorses Gary Johnson, More... (6/16/16)

Busy, busy: There's movement on marijuana banking, Gary Johnson picks up MPP's endorsement, a leading California cannabis oil producer gets busted, the AMA casts on leery eye on patient pain reports, a congresswoman wants to drug test the rich, British public health groups call for decrim, the Thai government wants to end the war on meth, and more.

Libertarian Gary Johnson has won the endorsement of the Marijuana Policy Project because of his pro-legalization stance.
Marijuana Policy

Senate Committee Approves Measure to Ease Pot Businesses' Access to Financial Services. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 16-14 to approve an amendment that would bar the Treasury Department from punishing banks that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses. The amendment is part of the FY 2017 Financial And General Government Services Appropriations Act, which now heads for a Senate floor vote.

Marijuana Policy Project Endorses Libertarian Gary Johnson for President. MPP has formally endorsed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president, saying he was the obvious choice as the most pro-marijuana legalization candidate on the ballot. The group said its endorsement was based solely on his marijuana policies.

New York Assembly Passes Bill to Seal Records for Misdemeanor Marijuana Convictions. The Assembly has passed Assembly Bill 10092, which will seal the conviction records of people charged with misdemeanor offenses. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the move was in response to New York City police charging people with misdemeanors for possession of marijuana in public. Simple possession is decriminalized in the state.

Medical Marijuana

Leading California Medical Marijuana Oil Maker Busted.Police, including DEA agents, raided five properties associated with a well-known medical marijuana products manufacturer in Northern California's Sonoma County Wednesday morning, detaining at least nine people and arresting one on suspicion of felony drug manufacture for his role in cannabis oil production.The operation raided was Care By Design (CBD Guild), which produces CBD-rich cannabis oils for use in sprays, gels, and cannabis oil cartridges for vaporizers. The company offers products with five different ratios of CBD to THC so "patients can adjust their cannabis medicine to suit their specific conditions and personal preferences." Police accused the operation of using dangerous and illegal butane extraction for their oils, but Care By Design says that is not the case.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

AMA Resolutions Aim to Curb Opioid Abuse, Will Ignore Patients' Pain Reports. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a number of resolutions aimed at curbing the misuse of prescription opioids. One called for removing any barriers to non-opioid pain therapies, one calls for promoting increased access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), but "the group also voted in favor of efforts to remove pain as a vital sign in professional standards, as well as disconnecting patient satisfaction scores from questions related to the evaluation and management of pain," a move that may not bode well for chronic pain patients.

Asset Forfeiture

Company Now Offers Asset Forfeiture Insurance to Cannabusinesses. CBZ Insurance Services is now offering coverage to protect state-legal marijuana businesses from the threat of seizure and asset forfeiture. The company's "search and confiscation" coverage applies only to entities that are state-legal and are found innocent of any raid-related charges. "A legally operating cannabis business has unique challenges other types of businesses don't have," said CBZ's Jeffrey Rosen. "One challenge is the threat of being shut down at any time by law enforcement. Whether you're a grower, distributor or manufacturer, search and seizure coverage is the best protection for a company's assets."

Drug Testing

Congresswoman Wants to Drug Test the Rich Before Approving Tax Deductions. US Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has called for requiring wealthy Americans to undergo a drug test before approving their tax deductions. Moore said she will file the bill because she is "sick and tired, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, of the criminalization of poverty," referring to efforts pushed by Republican governors and legislators to impose drug testing requirements on people seeking public benefits. "We're not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off SNAP. But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, let's start on the other end of the income spectrum."

International

British Public Health Bodies Call for Drug Decriminalization. Two leading public health bodies say drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one, and have called for drug decriminalization. The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health said that criminalizing drug use has not deterred people from using drugs, and that those harmed by drug use are harmed again by punishment. "We have taken the view that it is time for endorsing a different approach," said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society. "We have gone to our stakeholders and asked the public and tried to gain some consensus from our community and the public, because that is very important." The society has detailed in its new line in the aptly named report Taking a New Line on Drugs.

Thailand Government Proposes Ending War on Meth and Regulating It Instead. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has suggested removing meth from the country's dangerous illicit drug list and putting it in the same category as medicinal drugs, with controls -- not bans -- on distribution, sale, and use of the drug. Current measures to suppress the drug have not worked, he said. Paiboon's comments came in a discussion of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), which met in April. "The world has now surrendered to drugs, and has come to think of how to live with drugs. It is like a man suffering from cancer and having no cure and he has to live a happy life with the cancer," Gen Paiboon said. The government has drawn up a bill that would do that, he said.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org"s lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays 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.)

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