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Medical Marijuana Update

Our first-ever medical marijuana update with no news from California. But there are things going in places that are not the usual suspects--a sign of changing times, indeed. Let's get to it:

National

This week, the Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 continued to pick up new sponsors. The bill, HR 5526, would exclude low-THC, cannabidiol-based medicines from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The latest cosponsors are Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tom McClintock (R-CA). The bill now has 24 cosponsors—14 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Florida

Last Friday, Florida Republican county chairs came out against the medical marijuana initiative. They voted to oppose Amendment 2, the state's medical marijuana constitutional amendment. They worried it would lead to widespread access to marijuana. "I do not want to see Florida turned into the pot capital of the world,"said Volusia County GOP chair Tony Ledbetter, in a remark typical of Republican concerns.

On Wednesday, a new poll had the initiative leading, but not by enough to pass. The latest SurveyUSA/WFLA tracking poll has the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative at 56%, which would be good news except that, because it is a constitutional amendment, it needs 60% to be approved. Other recent polls have shown the initiative hovering on the cusp of passage.  

Georgia

Last Thursday, advocates called for whole plant medical marijuana, not just CBD oil. As legislative hearings in Macon continue to examine the use of CBD oil, medical marijuana advocates are calling for whole plant medical marijuana. "The cannabis plant contains many compounds that have proven to be effective in treating a variety of conditions," said Georgia C.A.R.E director James Bell. "We should not be determining who can and cannot benefit from this healing plant."

Guam

On Monday, the Guam Election Commission released the text for the island's medical marijuana initiative. The legislature-sponsored initiative, Proposal 14A, will go before voters in November. The election commission is urging opponents and proponents of the measure to submit written arguments not exceeding 500 words by this Friday.

Iowa

Last Thursday, a legislative panel said medical marijuana should be grown in the state. A bipartisan legislative committee studying the state's CBD oil medical marijuana law has recommended growing and distributing it in the state and reclassifying marijuana under state law. The vote was largely along party lines, with only one Republican voting for Iowa-grown medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania

Last Wednesday, a key Republican senator said he would consider the medical marijuana bill. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) said he plans to caucus on whether to move forward with Senate Bill 1182, saying the bill has "broad support" in the legislature.

On Monday, a key Republican House member said he supports the medical marijuana bill. State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) told a rally on the capitol steps Monday that he now supports pending medical marijuana legislation. This could be a sign that Republican opposition in the House is softening. The bill has some bipartisan support in the Senate, but the session only has a month left.

[

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

Chronicle AM: DC Opposition Emerges, MPP "Consume Responsibly" Campaign, NJ Opiate Bill Package, More...(9/17/14)

Organized opposition has arrived in DC, MPP launches a "Consume Responsibly" campaign, polls suggest a tough fight for the Florida medical marijuana initiative, New Jersey solons roll out a package of bills aimed at opiate use, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

DC Initiative Gets Organized Opposition. Opponents of the DC marijuana possession and cultivation legalization initiative, Measure 71, have formed an organization to try to defeat the measure. "Two. Is. Enough. DC." has been formed to fight "the scourge of a third legal recreational drug" in the nation's capital, according to its front-man, Will Jones III. A Wednesday new conference unveiling the group featured former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of the anti-legalization campaign group Project SAM, which has also been active in opposing the Alaska and Oregon initiatives.

Marijuana Policy Project Launches "Consume Responsibly" Campaign. With a nod to newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd, who famously got way too high on marijuana edibles in Colorado, the Marijuana Policy Project is rolling out a series of hand-outs and Internet ads urging marijuana users to "Consume Responsibly." One of the images features a woman resembling the red-headed columnist sitting on a hotel room bed. There is a new web site, too: Consume Responsibly. Check it out.

House Passes Bill Barring Use of Welfare Benefits Cards at Marijuana Shops. The Republican-controlled House last night passed the Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act (HR 4137) on a voice vote. The bill bars people from using EBT cards at marijuana stores or withdrawing cash from ATM machines at businesses that sell marijuana. The bill passed after 18 minutes of floor debate.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Initiative at 56% in Latest Poll, But It Needs 60% to Pass. The latest SurveyUSA/WFLA tracking poll has the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative at 56%, which would be good news except that, because it is a constitutional amendment, it needs 60% to be approved. Other recent polls have shown the initiative hovering on the cusp of passage.  

Hemp

Industrial Hemp Farming Act Picks Up New Sponsor. The bill, SB 359, would remove a serious obstacle to hemp production in the US by removing hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. It now has five cosponsors—two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent. The latest sponsor is Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Drug Policy

Brookings, OSI, LSE to Hold Global Drug Policy Discussion in DC on Monday. The Latin America Initiative (LAI) at Brookings, the London School of Economics (LSE), and the Open Society Foundations will host a discussion on global drug policy trends and effectiveness. Experts will address among other issues the security and organized crime implications, the effectiveness of supply-side policies, as well as mass incarceration and the public health dimensions. Click on the link to see the panelists and for further information.  

Opiates

New Jersey Legislators to Introduce Package of Bills to Address Opiate Use. Led by state Sen. Joe Vitale (D), a bipartisan group of solons is today introducing a package of bills that would expand funding for drug treatment, increase oversight of state facilities and doctors, create a mandatory prescription monitoring program, and require colleges to provide substance abuse recovery options. There are 21 bills in all; here's the complete package.

International

Israeli Health Ministry Will Allow Family Doctorss to Prescribe Some Medical Marijuana.  Responding to a heavy burden on pain clinics and the 30 doctors currently allowed to prescribe medical marijuana, the Health Ministry will temporarily allow family doctors to write prescriptions for medical marijuana, but only if it is an extension to an existing treatment and only if it does not increase the dosage. There are currently some 18,000 Israelis with permission to use medical marijuana.

Chronicle AM: Obama Names Drug Producing Countries, CDC OD Report, CA Gov Signs Narcan Bill, More...(9/16/14)

Congress is back and bills are picking up cosponsors, Guam will vote on medical marijuana, Wyoming moves toward ending civil asset forfeiture reform, the president names drug producing and transit countries (again), and more. Let's get to it:

The rate of increase in opiate OD deaths is slowing. (CDC/NCHS)
Marijuana Policy

Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act Picks Up New Sponsor. The bill, HR 4137, would "prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to States for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at any store that offers marijuana for sale." Introduced in March by Rep. David Weichert (R-WA), the bill now has 16 cosponsors, all Republicans. The latest is Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). The House Speaker has indicated the bill could see action this week.

Medical Marijuana

Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 Picks Up New Sponsors. The bill, HR 5526, would exclude low-THC, cannabidiol-based medicines from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The latest cosponsors are Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tom McClintock (R-CA). The bill now has 24 cosponsors—14 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Guam Medical Marijuana Legislative Initiative Published, Pro and Con Arguments Sought. The Guam Election Commission has released the text of for Proposal 14A, the legislatively-initiated medical marijuana measure that will go before voters in November. The election commission is urging opponents and proponents of the measure to submit written arguments not exceeding 500 words by this Friday.

At Harrisburg Rally, Top Pennsylvania House Republican Says He Supports Medical Marijuana Bill. State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) told a rally on the capitol steps Monday that he now supports pending medical marijuana legislation. This could be a sign that Republican opposition to Senate Bill 770 in the House is softening. The bill has some bipartisan support in the Senate, but the session only has a month left.

Asset Forfeiture

Wyoming Legislative Committee Votes to Sponsor Bill to End Civil Asset Forfeiture. The legislature's Joint Judiciary Interim Committee voted last Thursday to sponsor a draft bill for next year's legislative session that would end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The draft bill is 15LSO-009. Under the bill, defendants would have to be convicted of a crime before property could be seized, they would have to be told what property is being considered for seizure, and, if they are convicted of a crime, they could challenge the forfeiture and request a hearing.  

Drug Policy

In Annual Determination, White House Names 22 Countries as Major Drug Producers or Transit Countries. The White House has named the following countries as "major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries:" Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Among that group, the determination singles out Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela as "having failed demonstrably" to undertake drug war policies to Washington's liking. But it also says Washington will keep supplying aid to Burma and Venezuela because it is "vital to the national security interests of the United States."

Harm Reduction

California Governor Signs Naloxone Access Expansion Bill. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Monday signed into law Assembly Bill 1535, which allows pharmacists to furnish the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) without a prescription. Previously, the drug was only available with a prescription or through a handful of programs throughout the state.

Prescription Pills

CDC Finds Slowing Rate of Increase in Prescription Opiate Overdose Deaths. Opioid pain relievers were involved in about 11,700 drug overdose deaths in 2011, up about four-fold over 1999, but the rate of increase in such deaths has leveled off since 2006, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. But while ODs from opiates alone seem to be stabilizing, ODs from a combination of opiates and benzodiazepines were on the increase, with benzos involved in 31% of opiate ODs in 2011, up from 13% in 1999.  

Sentencing

Second Chance Reauthorization Act Gets New Sponsor. The bill, HR 3465, would amend the Second Chance Act of 2007 to allow continued authority for grants for drug treatment in prisoner re-entry programs. The bill has 41 cosponsors—33 Democrats and eight Republicans—with the latest being Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

House Smarter Sentencing Act Gets New Sponsor. The bill, HR 3382, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, allow for applications for resentencing for some crack offenders, and allow judges to sentence beneath mandatory minimums in some cases. The bill has 50 cosponsors—36 Democrats and 14 Republicans—with the latest being Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).

CBO Says Senate Smarter Sentencing Act Would Save $3 Billion Over Next Decade. The bill, SB 1410, would reduce Justice Department corrections spending by about $4 billion, but would also result in about $1 billion in costs related to ex-offenders receiving federal benefits earlier than they otherwise would have, the Congressional Budget Office reported. The bill would see about 250,000 prisoners released earlier than they would have been over the next decade.

International

Australia's Victoria State to See Government-Sponsored Medical Marijuana Bill. Victoria Health Minister David Davis said a bill to make it easier to conduct medical marijuana clinical trials will be introduced today.

Chronicle AM: WPost Just Says No, WV Pain Clinics Using Narcs, Vietnamese Drug Users Break Out of "Rehab," More... (9/15/14)

The Washington Post just says no to the DC marijuana initiative, the Oregon initiative sees a lively debate, the Madison, WI, police chief says legalize it, another drug war death, West Virginia pain patients are getting screened by narcs--and paying for the privilege!--and more. Let's get to it:

Imprisoned Vietnamese drug users working at a "rehabilitation center" in 2011. (hrw.org)
Marijuana Policy

Washington Post Counsels "No" Vote on DC Initiative. The editorial board of The Washington Post came out Sunday against DC's Initiative 71 legalizing the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana. The paper noted that it had supported DC's recent decriminalization, but worried about "the rush to legalize marijuana." The paper warned that marijuana is "a dangerous drug" and "a gateway to more dangerous drugs." It also warned of "negative consequences" of legalization in Colorado, citing contentious information from the anti-legalization group Project SAM.

Legalization Debated in Oregon. The Salem City Club was the site of an hour-long debate last Friday over the legalization initiative, Measure 91. US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) represented the "pro" side, while Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis represented the "con" side. Click on the title link for the flavor of the debate.

York, Maine, Initiative Still Up in Air. Will residents of York get to vote on a marijuana possession legalization this year or not? The city council has rejected an initiative petition, but organizers were expected to submit a notarized version of the signatures to the town clerk, which would put the measure on the ballot. That hasn't happened yet. The Coalition for a Safer Maine only has until Friday, but the town clerk is now saying signatures may have to be re-gathered. The Coalition is considering its options. Similar initiatives are already on the ballot in Lewiston and South Portland, and Portland passes its own measure last year.  

New York State Senator Says She Will Introduce Legalization Bill. Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said Sunday she will introduce a bill to legalize marijuana. "I will push for taxation and regulation of marijuana," she said. "I continue to work with experts around the country and to evaluate laws and regulations being put into place now." She introduced a similar bill last session that went nowhere, but she said progress on medical marijuana and factional realignments in Albany made her hopeful. "I see more hope in a Democratic majority for… pieces of legislation that weren’t going anywhere," she said.

Madison, Wisconsin, Police Chief Says Legalize It. Police Chief Mike Koval came out in favor of marijuana legalization last week, saying it should be taxed and regulated, with revenues used to provide treatment for hard drug users. The war on drugs in general and on marijuana in particular has been "an abject failure," he said. "We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now," he added.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Republican County Chairs Oppose Medical Marijuana Initiative. GOP county chairs voted last Friday to oppose Amendment 2, the state's medical marijuana constitutional amendment. They worried it would lead to widespread access to marijuana. "I do not want to see Florida turned into the pot capital of the world,"said Volusia County GOP chair Tony Ledbetter, in a remark typical of Republican concerns.

Drug Testing

Wisconsin's Republican Governor Comes Out for Public Benefits Drug Testing. In a tough race for reelection, Gov. Scott Walker has come out with a proposal to drug test people seeking foot stamps or unemployment benefits and he is looking for a fight with the federal government over it. The notion is politically popular, but legally and constitutionally problematic. Walker's opponent, Democrat Mary Burke, has derided Walker's plan as a campaign stunt.  

Pain Treatment

West Virginia Pain Clinics Using Former Narcs to Screen Patients. People seeking medical assistance at the Hope pain clinics in Beckley, Fairmont, and Kanawha City now must undergo screening by former narcotics officers—and pay for the privilege. The clinics are charging patients $150 to be fingerprinted, photographed, drug tested, background checked, and interviewed by the former narcs. The work is doing by a private company, but some state legislators said it should be doctors—not narcs—who are reviewing and monitoring patients.

Law Enforcement

House Judiciary Committee Hearing Thursday on DEA Oversight. The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will meet Thursday for a hearing on DEA oversight. The only scheduled witness is DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. Click on the link for more details.

19-Year-Old City Oklahoma Woman Shot By Cops Is Year's 33rd Drug War Fatality; Boyfriend Now Charged With Murder. An Oklahoma City woman was shot and killed by police as she attempted to drive away from a drug bust and hit an officer on foot earlier this month. Karen Cifuentes, 19, becomes the 33rd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.  Cifuentes was apparently the girlfriend of passenger Juan Manuel Aguilera Perez, 24, who reportedly threw a bag of cocaine from the car as the pair fled. Perez is now charged with first degree murder, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and possession of drug proceeds ($400 in cash). Because Perez's was allegedly in the midst of the commission of a felony—drug sales—when police shot Cifuentes, under Oklahoma law he can—and has been—charged with murder in her death.

International

Parliamentary Citizen's Initiative for Marijuana Legalization Now Third Most Successful in Austrian History. A parliamentary citizen initiative asking for marijuana legalization has now been signed by 22,392 Austrians, making it the third most successful such petition in the country's history. "This huge success motivates us to organize a parliamentary hearing in order to reduce information deficits as most Austrian politicians still reject any legalization moves," said Bernhard Amann, chairman of Legalize!Österreich.

Hundreds of Vietnamese Drug Users Flee Compulsory "Rehabilitation Center." At least 400 inmates at a compulsory drug treatment "rehabilitation center" escaped on Sunday after breaking down the gates of the center near Hai Phong City. Drug users in Vietnam are regularly arrested and sent to compulsory treatment programs, a practice that has been denounced by human rights groups. A local official was quoted as saying that the men had escaped to pressure authorities for "better policy." They can be held for up to three years in the treatment centers, which Human Rights Watch has called "little more than forced labor camps."

(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: Roger Christie Out of Prison, Bogota Smoke-In, LA First Pot Bust Centenary Demo, More... (9/12/14)

With Congress back in session, bills are getting some attention, Roger Christie walks out of prison, the PA Senate will take up medical marijuana next week, smoke-in in Bogota, and more. Let's get to it:

California marijuana reform activists. (cannabispolicyreform.org)
Marijuana Policy

Hawaii's THC Minister Roger Christie Walks Out of Federal Prison. Roger Christie walked out of a federal detention center near Honolulu uncowed today after nearly 50 months behind bars on marijuana charges related to his THC Ministry. He had done nearly four years without bail awaiting trial before he and his wife accepted a plea deal that resulted in release for time served. He is vowing to lead the fight to legalize marijuana in the Aloha State.

LA Rally Marks a Century of Pot Prohibition, Calls for Its End. A rally at City Hall in Los Angeles yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the state's first pot bust, in which state Board of Pharmacy agents cut down and seized $500 worth of "Indian Hemp" in the city's Sonoratown Mexican colony. The event was sponsored by Cal NORML and the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. Several current and former Los Angeles elected officials attended.

Oregon Legalization Campaign Contributes to Get Out the Youth Vote Effort. New Approach Oregon, the folks behind the Measure 91 legalization initiative, have contributed $100,000 to a voter registration effort conducted by the state's major progressive political groups, Our Oregon. The campaign has identified increasing youth turn-out in this off-year election as a key campaign goal.

Medical Marijuana

Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act Picks Up More Sponsors. The bill, HR 5226, is picking up more sponsors every day. It got three more Wednesday and two more yesterday. The newest cosponsors are Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), John Yarmuth (D-KY), John Delaney (D-MD), and Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). The bill, which was introduced at the end of July, now has 21 cosponsors—13 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act Gains New Sponsor. The bill, HR 4137, would bar the use of EBT cards from the food stamp program in marijuana stores. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) becomes the 15th cosponsor. All the cosponsors are Republicans.

Pennsylvania Senate to take Up Medical Marijuana Next Week. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester) said Wednesday night he plans to caucus on whether to move forward with Senate Bill 1182, saying the bill has "broad support" in the legislature.

Iowa Legislature Panel Says Medical Marijuana Should be Grown in State. A bipartisan legislative committee studying the state's CBD oil medical marijuana law has recommended growing and distributing it in the state and reclassifying marijuana under state law. The vote was largely along party lines, with only one Republican voting for Iowa-grown medical marijuana.

Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act Picks Up More Cosponsors. The bill, HR 5212, would provide additional protections against civil asset forfeiture efforts by law enforcement and prosecutors. The newest cosponsors are Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Michael Conaway (R-TX), and Paul Broun (R-GA). The bill has nine cosponsors, all Republicans.

Drug Testing

California Initiative to Drug Test Doctors Losing Ground. A new Field Poll finds that Proposition 46, a medical malpractice initiative that includes a provision mandating drug testing for doctors, is well under 50%, with support declining. Support for the measure is at 34%, with 37% opposed and 29% undecided. It had led earlier, but support is evaporating in the face of a multi-million dollar "no" campaign funded by doctors, medical groups, and insurance companies.   

Sentencing

Second Chance Reauthorization Act Picks Up New Sponsors, Hearing Set Next Week. The bill, SB 1690, would amend the existing act to broaden access to family-based drug treatment and other reentry services. The newest cosponsors are Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The Senate Judiciary Committee will take it up next Thursday.

International

Smoke-In in Front of the Colombian Congress. The Colombian Congress was the scene of a peaceful marijuana smoke-in Thursday, with demonstrators demanding the legalization of the drug. Demonstration leaders vowed to continue protests, "rolling joints in any place" in the capital city, Bogota. The demo comes as the Congress considers a medical marijuana bill.

Chronicle AM: Mexican Coca, Saudis Behead Another Trafficker, Feds Raid LA Fashion District, More (9/11/14)

A federal CBD medical marijuana bill picks up more sponsors, so does a federal asset forfeiture reform bill, Georgia advocates want whole whole plant medical marijuana, Mexico's first coca patch is busted, Saudi Arabia beheads another drug offender, and more. Let's get to it:

Coca plant. Mexico has found its first plantation. (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

York, Maine, Selectmen Refuse to Put Legalization Initiative on Ballot, But… Town selectmen voted against putting the initiative from Citizens for a Safer Maine on the November ballot, but since petitioners have already gathered sufficient signatures to force the issue, they can get their petition notarized to be placed on the ballot. York will join Lewiston and South Portland in voting on initiatives this year; Portland approved one last year.

Medical Marijuana

Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act Picks Up More Sponsors. The Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act (HR 5226), which would exclude cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of marijuana, has gained new sponsors. It now has 19 cosponsors -- 11 Democrats and eight Republicans. The latest are Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Matthew Cartwright (D-PA), and Chris Stewart (R-UT).

Georgia Advocates Call for Whole Plant Medical Marijuana, Not Just CBD Oil. As legislative hearings in Macon continue to examine the use of CBD oil, medical marijuana advocates are calling for whole plant medical marijuana. "The cannabis plant contains many compounds that have proven to be effective in treating a variety of conditions," said Georgia C.A.R.E director James Bell. "We should not be determining who can and cannot benefit from this healing plant."

Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture Act Picks Up New Sponsors. The bill, HR 5212, now has five cosponsors. The latest are Reps. Stevan Pearce (R-NM), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Reid Ribble (R-WI). All cosponsors so far are Republicans. The bill, filed by Rep. Tim Wahlberg (R-MI), would increase citizen protections against federal asset forfeiture actions.

Law Enforcement

Feds Raid LA Fashion District in Cartel Money Laundering Probe. More than a thousand law enforcement officers spread out across LA's fashion district Wednesday, raiding more than 60 warehouses, storefronts, and residences, arresting nine people and seizing $65 million in cash that they said was being laundered for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The feds called the mass bust Operation Fashion Police.

International

OAS Head Claims Regional Consensus on Drug Reform. Speaking in front of the Inter-American Dialog in Washington, DC, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said Wednesday that regional leaders have reached consensus on four drug policy reform issues: to emphasize a public health approach, to seek out alternatives to incarceration, to stay strong against organized crime, and to work on strengthening regional institutions. Insulza's remarks come ahead of an OAS Special General Assembly to be held in Guatemala next week.

Mexico's First Coca Plantation Discovered in Chiapas. Mexican soldiers have seized more than 1,600 coca plants being cultivated in southern Chiapas state, near the Guatemalan border. Mexican military and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) officials said it was the first time coca planting had been discovered in the country. "It's a pretty troubling discovery," said UNODC Mexico representative Antonio Mazzitelli. It could amount to "a small-scale experiment to see if there is a possibility of replicating" coca production in Mexico. Coca is currently grown only in the Andes, although there is nothing stopping it from being cultivated elsewhere.

Saudi Arabia Beheads Another Drug Offender. Authorities in Saudi Arabia Tuesday beheaded a Pakistani national convicted of smuggling "a large quantity of heroin." They have executed at least seven other drug traffickers in recent weeks, and 49 people overall so far this year. It's unclear how many of the 49 were drug offenders.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Florida initiative is in a close fight, hearings are coming in Hawaii, draft regulations are coming in Maryland, Illinois begins taking medical marijuana business applications, and more. Let's get to it:

California

Last Thursday, a federal judge denied a request from Lake County patients for a temporary restraining order barring the county from carrying out searches and eradications under its Measure N grow rules. US District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that the claims did not meet the legal standard required for a temporary restraining order, but held that plaintiffs could still seek a preliminary injunction.

Florida

Last Thursday, a new poll had the state medical marijuana initiative coming up just short. A new Florida Decides poll has a majority in favor of the Measure 2 medical marijuana initiative, but not the super-majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment. The poll had support at 57%, but 60% is needed. But the poll also had 17% undecided, and if only a fraction of the undecided break in favor of the initiative, it could win. Another poll earlier this week had support at 64%.

Hawaii

Last Friday, officials announced public hearings on dispensaries. A task force created by the state legislature to address dispensary issues will hold public hearings this week in Hilo and on September 24 in Honolulu. Click on the link for more details and information about how to submit public comments.

Illinois

On Monday, the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana businesses. The state Agriculture Department is now taking applications from people who want to open dispensaries or cultivation centers. There are 22 licenses available for growers and 60 for dispensaries.

Maryland

On Wednesday, the state was waiting for new draft medical marijuana regulations. The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission was expected to release a second draft of regulations for the state's medical marijuana program today. The first draft came under public criticism last month for, among other things, language that would have barred grows or dispensaries within the Baltimore city limits. That language has been removed. Stay tuned for the actual draft.

New Jersey

Last Friday, a Princeton employee was put on paid leave over his medical marijuana use. Princeton University campus dining manager Don DeZarn, who had been told to choose between his job and his medicine after he began legally using medical marijuana this summer, is now on paid leave as the school attempts to resolve the issue. The problem arose after DeZarn said he might use the drug while at work and school public safety officials raised concerns he could be impaired and might accidentally give a student with food allergies the wrong item (or something).

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

Chronicle AM: House Won't Block DC Decrim, Forfeiture and SWAT on Trial, More (9/10/2014)

The House backs off on DC decrim, Maryland awaits medical marijuana draft rules, asset forfeiture is in the news, so is SWAT, Russia says "nyet" to drug legalization, and more. Let's get to it:

19-month-old Bounkham "Baby Bou Bou" Phonesavanh after a Georgia SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade into his crib. (family)
Marijuana Policy

House Won't Challenge DC Decriminalization Law. House Republicans yesterday unveiled their continuing resolution for an appropriations bill that includes spending for the District of Columbia, and it doesn't include an amendment adopted by the Appropriations Committee in July that would have barred the District from implementing its recently passed law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Colorado Retail Marijuana Sales in July Greater than Medical Marijuana Sales for First Time. The Department of Revenue has reported that July recreational marijuana sales were $29.7 million, compared to $28.9 million for medical marijuana sales. That's the first time recreational sales have surpassed medical sales, which are not subject to the same tax burden on consumers as recreational sales.

Another Poll Finds Coloradans Still Like Their Legal Pot. A new NBC/Marist Poll has found that Colorado's retail cannabis market remains popular among Colorado residents, 55% of whom continue to support the passage and implementation of Amendment 64, the 2012 initiative that legalized taxed and regulated sales to adults. Other recent polls have also showed support hovering in the mid-50s.

Medical Marijuana

Maryland Awaiting New Draft Regulations Today. The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission was expected to release a second draft of regulations for the state's medical marijuana program today. The first draft came under public criticism last month for, among other things, language that would have barred grows or dispensaries within the Baltimore city limits. That language has been removed. Stay tuned for the actual draft.

Asset Forfeiture

Montana Legislators Plan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Two freshman legislators from Billings, Reps. Daniel Zolnikov (R) and Kelly McCarthy (D) plan to introduce legislation to reform the state's civil asset forfeiture law. The proposed legislation would create a public database on asset forfeiture, require a criminal conviction before forfeiture, protect innocent property-owners from seizures for actions of co-owners, and possibly drop civil forfeiture altogether.

Civil Asset Forfeitures Have Doubled During Obama's Tenure. As part of its ongoing investigative series on asset forfeiture, The Washington Post reports today civil asset forfeitures have more than doubled since President Obama took office. They were at $508 million in 2008, increasing to $1.1 billion last year. Since 2001, police have seized at least $2.5 billion in cash from people never convicted of a crime.

Philadelphia Homeowners Seek Injunction to Block Forfeiture Seizures. A group of homeowners in the city has asked a federal judge to block the city from seizing homes, cars, and other property. The homeowners, who include a couple who lost their home after their adult son sold $40 worth of heroin to an undercover cop, have filed a lawsuit alleging that the city's asset forfeiture practices are unconstitutional. The city conducts more than 6,000 forfeiture actions a year, and local law enforcement is allowed to keep a percentage of the proceeds.

Law Enforcement

Georgia SWAT Raid That Burned Toddler Goes to Grand Jury. A Habersham County grand jury will look into a May SWAT team no-knock drug raid that found neither drugs nor the suspect, but resulted in severe burns and injuries to a 19-month-old toddler when a SWAT team member tossed a flash-bang grenade into his crib. Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh was hospitalized for weeks and is still undergoing medical treatment, which the county has so far refused to pay for. DA Brian Rickman said the grand jury will examine both the investigation leading up to the raid and whether anyone should face criminal charges for it. The grand jury goes to work on September 29.

Oregon SWAT Team Arrests Man for Videotaping Drug Raid. Gresham resident Fred Marlow was arrested by police after he refused to stop filming a SWAT raid on a neighbor's home and go inside his own home as ordered. Marlow has uploaded his videotaped exchange with SWAT team members, who accused him of interfering with their operation. When Marlow told police his video was going direct to the cloud, he was then arrested on charges of interference and -- you guessed it -- resisting arrest. Filming in public spaces is not a crime, according to the ACLU, which has a web page on photographers' rights.

International

Key Australian Federal Senator Says Legalize Drugs. Senator David Leyonhelm (LD-NSW) has called for the legalization of both hard and soft drugs as a means of curbing organized crime. He said pot should be sold in supermarkets, while drugs such as cocaine and heroin should be available for purchase from the government.

In Response to Global Commission Report, Russian Drug Agency Rules Out Legalization. Responding to yesterday's release of a new report from the Global Commission on Drugs calling for decriminalization and the regulated sale of drugs, the Federal Drug Control Service said today it rejected the notion, warning that such a move could lead to non-repairable damage to the nation.

Chronicle AM: Philly Decriminalizing, Global Commission Report, Police Militarization Hearing, More (9/9/14)

Philly will decriminalize, the Global Commission on Drugs issues a ground-breaking new report, LEAP's Norm Stamper testifies on police militarization, Jodie Emery runs for parliament, there's medical marijuana news from Europe and South America, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Opium poppies in Afghanistan. The Global Commission on Drugs would like to see this regulated. (unodc.org)
Philadelphia Will Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign a municipal ordinance decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. The city council passed the measure in June, but Nutter had held out for changes that he has now obtained, including requiring court appearances for those caught with pot (but no criminal charges) and, for those caught actually toking up, the imposition of a $100 fine for smoking in public on top of the $25 fine for possession. Decriminalization is expected to go into effect on October 20.

Drug Policy

World Political Leaders Call for Radical New Direction in Drug Policies. In a report released last night and in a New York City press conference this morning, a number of global leaders, including former heads of state, called for drug decriminalization and the regulation of psychoactive drug markets. Those same global leaders are meeting this afternoon with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his deputy, Jan Eliasson. These world leaders are members of the Global Commission on Drugs and their new report is Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. Click on the title link for a full report.

Drug Policy Forum of California Publishes 2014 Voters's Guide.The guide covers all candidates for state and congressional office and all local ballot measures concentrating on marijuana- and drug policy-related stances and issues. Click on the link to check it out.

Law Enforcement

Norm Stamper Testifies Before Senate on Police Militarization. Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a long-time member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), testified today before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on the militarization of law enforcement in the post-9/11 era. Click on the link to read his submitted remarks in full.

Nevada Officials, Lawmakers Call for Careful Review, Revision of Marijuana DUID Law. The state currently has a strict DUID law, meaning the presence of more than 2 nanograms per million of detectable THC in a driver's blood makes drivers "per se" guilty of driving under the influence, but a growing number of lawmakers, prosecutors, and advocates are calling for the legislature to review and possibly revise that law next year. They are looking for some way of measuring marijuana impairment that actually measures impairment, not THC in the blood. Some are holding up California as a model. That state has no legal standard, but instead relies on the judgment of police at the scene. In California, prosecutors can use blood test results as evidence, but must still prove actual impairment.

International

Jodie Emery Officially Files to Run for Canadian Parliament. Jodie Emery, the wife of just released from US prison "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery and an effective activist in her own right, has officially filed for the Liberal Party nomination to run as a member of parliament representing the Vancouver East riding. That seat is currently held by New Democratic Party stalwart Libby Davies, herself an avid drug reformer, and Davies is widely expected to retain the seat.

Italian Army to Grow Medical Marijuana. Italian media are reporting that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense have agreed that the military will grow medical marijuana at a military-run pharmaceutical factory in Florence. Italy allows for the use of medical marijuana, but there are no legal private growers, leaving patients to obtain supplies abroad and leaving the Italian health care system footing the bill. The move is designed both to cut costs and to ensure that the drug is produced under strict controls.

Chilean Government Approves First Medical Marijuana Farm. The governor of metropolitan Santiago announced yesterday that the county's first medical marijuana production operation had been approved by the Agricultural Livestock Service. The operation will grow marijuana for medical and research purposes and is expected to produce cannabis oil as well. The farm will be sponsored by La Florida, a Santiago municipality, as well as Fundación Daya, "a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to research and promotion of alternative therapies to alleviate human suffering."

World Leaders Call for Regulatory Alternatives to Drug Prohibition [FEATURE]

In a report released last night and in a New York City press conference this morning, a number of global leaders, including former heads of state, called for drug decriminalization and the regulation of psychoactive drug markets. Those same global leaders are meeting this afternoon with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his deputy, Jan Eliasson.

These world leaders are members of the Global Commission on Drugs and their new report is Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. The commission's members include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson, and more.

The report's executive summary lists a number of policy prescriptions, some of them quite breathtakingly bold:

  • Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime.
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs.
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession -- and stop imposing "compulsory treatment" on people whose only offense is drug use or possession.
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances.
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain.

In other words, decriminalize drug possession, legalize and regulate drug markets, and end the failed decades-long embrace of prohibitionism. This is a policy advance from the Commission's initial 2011 report, which, while breaking new ground in advancing the debate of drug prohibition, did not go as far as calling for efforts to regulate and legalize drugs.

Global Commission meeting in Warsaw last year, with four former presidents present. (globalcommissionondrugs.org)
"Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation," said Cardoso. "Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue -- rather than as a crime -- and by reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives. But let's also allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking."

"Health-based approaches to drug policy routinely prove much less expensive and more effective than criminalization and incarceration," said former Mexican President Zedillo. "Decriminalization of drug consumption is certainly crucial but not sufficient. Significant legal and institutional reforms, both at the national and international levels, are needed to allow governments and societies to put in place policies to regulate the supply of drugs with rigorous medical criteria, if the engines of organized crime profiting from drug traffic are to be truly dismantled."

The Commission's report today is only the latest evidence of growing global momentum for fundamental drug policy reforms. After the Commission's 2011 report, sitting Latin American heads of state, including Presidents Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala, and José Mujica in Uruguay, as well as then-President Felipe Calderón in Mexico, for the first time made drug reform a major topic at the Summit of the Americas in April 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia.

That was followed 13 months later by an Organization of American States report, commissioned by the heads of state of the region, calling for consideration of drug legalization along with other possible scenarios as a potential policy alternative. And late last year, Uruguay broke new ground, becoming the first country in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana commerce.

All of this has created a big push for a new look at global drug prohibition during the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs set for 2016. The last UNGASS, in 1998, was dominated by rhetorical calls for a "drug-free world" and ended with unrealistic goals of suppressing illicit drug production (which, of course, have not been met), but the Commission and the global political leaders whose voices it echoes are working to use the next UNGASS to advance a frankly and radically reformist alternative.

Celebrity Commission member Richard Branson (Wikimedia/David Shankbone)
"We can't go on pretending the war on drugs is working," said Richard Branson. "We need our leaders to look at alternative, fact-based approaches. Much can be learned from successes and failures in regulating alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceutical drugs. The risks associated with drug use increase, sometimes dramatically, when they are produced, sold and consumed in an unregulated criminal environment. The most effective way to advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation."

American drug reformers liked what they were hearing.

"When the Commission released its initial report just three years ago, few expected its recommendations to be embraced anytime soon by current presidents," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "But that's exactly what happened, with Colombian President Santos and Guatemala President Perez-Molina speaking out boldly, former Mexican President Calderon calling on the United Nations to reassess the prohibitionist approach to drugs, and Uruguayan President Mujica approving the first national law to legally regulate cannabis. Meanwhile, one Commission member, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has opened up the drug policy debate in West Africa, recruiting some of the region's most distinguished figures," he noted.

"The import of the Commission's report lies in both the distinction of its members and the boldness of their recommendations," Nadelmann continued. "The former presidents and other Commission members pull no punches in insisting that national and global drug control policies reject the failed prohibitionist policies of the 20th century in favor of new policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. There's no question now that the genie of reform has escaped the prohibitionist bottle. I'm grateful to the Commission for the pivotal role it has played in taking drug policy reform from the fringes of international politics to the mainstream."

"With polling having shown consistent majority voter support for legalizing marijuana in the US for several years now, it's been clear that this is a mainstream issue in this country," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "Now this group of world leaders has not only put marijuana legalization on the table for serious consideration on the global stage, but has gone even further by suggesting that ending the prohibition of other drugs should be considered as a way to better protect public health and safety. The hope now is that these forward-thinking recommendations by so many respected former heads of state will encourage current officials to modernize their nations' policies."

The Global Commission on Drugs is showing the path forward to more enlightened drug policies. Now it's up to citizens to push for reform from the bottom up, and it's up to national and international leaders to start making those changes at the national and international level.

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