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Chronicle AM: Jamaica Decrim Now in Effect, First CA 2016 Legalization Init Filed, GA Gov Signs CBD Bill, More (4/16/15)

A Northern California attorney is first out of the gate with a 2016 legalization initiative, a CBD cannabis oil bill becomes law in Georgia, and another awaits the governor's signature in Oklahoma, congressmen say they have "no confidence" in DEA head Leonhart, decrim is now in effect in Jamaica, and more. 

This Rastaman has reason to smile. Decrim has come to Jamaica. (wikimedia.,org)
Marijuana Policy

First 2016 California Legalization Initiative Filed.  Sebastopol marijuana attorney Omar Figueroa and activist Heather Burke have filed the California Craft Cannabis Initiative, the first of what are expected to be several measures seeking to legalize marijuana in the state next year. Proponents say it is an inclusive effort designed to protect the state's legacy of artisanal marijuana growers. To make the ballot, initiatives must see their language approved by the state Attorney General's office, and then they have 180 days to gather more than half a million valid voter signatures.

Frustrated Vermont Legislators Propose Treating Alcohol Like Marijuana. A pair of House members Wednesday filed a bill that would ban alcohol and treat it like marijuana. The move was a frustrated reaction to stalled efforts to legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol.  The bill is House Bill 502, and lead sponsor Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) said he doesn't really want to ban alcohol, but that the bill is a symbolic step "recognize recent scientific studies that demonstrate that alcohol use is significantly more dangerous than marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

2016 California Medical Marijuana Initiative Filed. A group of medical marijuana activists have filed the Compassionate and Sensible Access Act, which is designed to protect a doctor's right to recommend medical marijuana and limit officials' ability to regulate cultivation, distribution, and transportation of the plant. To make the ballot, the language must first be approved by state officials, then campaigners will have to gather more than half a million valid voter signatures within 180 days of starting.

Georgia Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) today signed into law House Bill 1, which allows for the use of CBD cannabis oil for a list of specified diseases and medical conditions. The bill allows patients to possess the oil, but has no provision for obtaining it in the state.

Oklahoma Legislature Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The Senate Wednesday unanimously approved House Bill 124, which would allow for the use of the oil to treat seizure disorders in children. The bill passed the House in February and now heads to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

Asset Forfeiture

Iowa House Committee Hearing on Asset Forfeiture Reform Gets Heated. Law enforcement squared off against civil libertarians in a House Government Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. No bill was on the agenda, but committee Chair Rep. Bobby Kaufman (R-Wilton) said after the hearing he planned to author reform legislation next year. Click on the link for more detail.

Drug Policy

Federal Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Bill Filed. Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) has reintroduced the bill, HR 1812. It's been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Law Enforcement

House Oversight Committee Has "No Confidence" in DEA Head Leonhart. Fed up with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart over a long litany of scandals in the drug-fighting agency she heads, 22 members of the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee issued a statement yesterday saying they had "no confidence" in her leadership. "After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive 'good old boy' culture that exists throughout the agency," the statement said. "From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position. Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency."

Sordid Philadelphia Police Drug War Corruption Trial Underway. This one is a doozy! A trial now in its third week is ripping the lid off scandalously criminal behavior by the police department's dope squad. Stolen drug money, planted evidence, perjured testimony, beaten suspects, it's got it all. Click on the link for more detail.

International

Jah Herb is Now Decriminalized in Jamaica. Marijuana decriminalization went into effect Wednesday in the island nation. Anyone, including foreign tourists, can now possess up to two ounces of ganja and face only a $5 fine. And any household can now grow up to five plants. And adult Rastafarians can now use the herb for religious purposes. Irie.

Elite Texas Cops "Spied on Mexico," Report Says. Department of Public Safety documents show that an elite reconnaissance team formed by Gov. Rick Perry did aerial surveillance of Mexican drug cartel targets on the Mexican side of the border. Aircraft were used to track suspected Zeta cartel members and passed that information on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which in turn worked with Mexican military forces to target them. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Looks like we've got us a Big City Bad Boys edition this week, with the exception of a pair of crooked Louisiana cops, but that pair is pretty special, too. Let's get to it:

In New York City, two Brooklyn narcotics officers were under investigation last Thursday after a video taken during a raid on a bodega appeared to show one of them pocketing $4,000 in cash. Detective Ian Cyrus, 49, from the Brooklyn North Narcotics Squad has been suspended, and Sergeant Fritz Glemaud, 44, has been placed on modified assignment. The investigation continues.

In Detroit, two Detroit police officers were arrested last Thursday on charges they robbed drug dealers and stole drugs and money during police raids. Lt. David Hansberry, 34, and Officer Bryan Watson, 46, allegedly identified themselves as police officers to scare their victims into complying with their demands, then stealing their cash, drugs, and personal property. They had been members of the now-disbanded Detroit Police Narcotics Section, but had been suspended since last October. They are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, multiple counts of interference with commerce by robbery and extortion, possession with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking crime.

In San Francisco, a San Pablo police officer was arrested last Wednesday after police who were monitoring him saw him make what appeared to be a drug sale. Officer Kenneth White, 32, had a two-year-old child in his back seat when the deal went down. Police suspect he was dealing heroin and cocaine, and he's now being held on suspicion of narcotics violations, weapons violations, and child endangerment.

In Chicago, a Melrose Park Police detective was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole cocaine from the evidence room, plotted to steal drugs from the state lab, and agreed to transport a load of drugs in his unmarked squad car. Detective Gregory Salvi, an 18-year veteran, went down in a sting. He was arrested at a storage facility where he'd gone to pick up a 5-kilogram load of cocaine that he thought he was delivering to another drug dealer. But the dealer was actually a federal informant. He's charged with possessing 5 kilos of coke or more with intent to distribute and is looking at a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence if convicted. He's also charged with using a firearm in furtherance of crime, which is good for another five years.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, a state trooper and a Lafayette Parish sheriff's deputy were arrested over the weekend on charges they conspired with a local businessman to plant drugs in his brother's car and have him arrested. Bryan Knight, the brother of businessman Mark Knight, was arrested in June 2014 after a Mark Knight employee planted drugs in his car and the two cops then showed up to bust him. Evidence on the cell phone of a Mark Knight employee implicated Trooper Corey Jackson and Lafayette Parish deputy Jason Kinch, who was assigned to the narcotics task force. The two cops and the employee were allegedly paid $100,000 for setting up the brother. Both cops are now charged with racketeering in the case.

Florida Man Dies After Eating Drugs to Avoid Bust

A Marathon, Florida, man died last week after apparently swallowing a bag or bags of drugs following a traffic stop turned drug bust. Clifford Green, 39, becomes the 20th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Florida Keys Keynoter, citing a Monroe County Sheriff's Office report, Green was pulled over by Detective Iscandel Perez last Wednesday for having windows too darkly tinted. Perez wrote that Green was "fidgeting about inside the vehicle" before pulling over. [Editor's Note: Apparently, the tinting wasn't so dark.]

Perez ran a computer check that showed Green was on probation for a drug conviction and that his drivers' license had been suspended for failure to pay child support. Green was placed under arrest.

Detective Perez then deployed a drug dog on the exterior of the vehicle and the dog "alerted to the presence of narcotics on the passenger's front side door." Perez and other officers at the scene then searched the car, finding "a beaker and large quantity of blue clear plastic Baggies commonly used to package narcotics inside a paper bag in the back seat of the vehicle. No narcotics were found inside the vehicle at this time."

Deputy Thomas Hill then began transporting Green to the jail in Plantation Key, but within a few miles, Perez wrote, he saw Hill's cruiser stopped with Green "face down on the asphalt" and Hill trying to turn him on his side.

Green was "vomiting, having tremors and irregular breathing," according to Perez's report. The detective added that he saw "what appeared to be a cellophane bag with suspected cocaine inside" Green's mouth.

EMS arrived and took Green to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead within the hour.

The Florida Division of Law Enforcement is investigating the death.

Plantation Key, FL
United States

Another Week, Another Pair of Drug War Deaths

A black New Orleans man was killed Monday after a traffic stop escalated into a chase and shootout, and a white South Carolina man was killed in a drug raid on his home Thursday, in the two latest deaths in the US drug war. Desmond Willis, 25, and Phillip Michael Burgess, 28, become the 18th and 19th persons die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, citing the account provided by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Norman at a Wednesday press conference, deputies initially pulled Willis over for a traffic violation, but smelled marijuana from his open window. (This contradicts an earlier law enforcement statement that he was targeted as part of a drug investigation.) Deputies ordered him to put his hands up and turn off the SUV, but when one deputy reached into the vehicle to grab his arm, Willis sped off.

He then crashed his SUV and took off on foot. Norman said Willis fired at deputies and that witnesses inside an office building and a restaurant saw him firing. Deputies returned fire, killing him in the parking lot of New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger.

Detectives recovered a 9 mm pistol near his body, and a .38 caliber pistol and $800 in cash in his pockets. In the SUV, investigators found a half-pound of pot packaged for sale, as well as ammunition, sandwich bags, and a vacuum sealer.

According to Fox Carolina News, citing Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office sources, narcotics officers were serving a drug search warrant Thursday morning in Boiling Springs when Burgess became "belligerent."

The narcs called for backup, and two deputies showed up to assist. The official account said Burgess continued to be belligerent and grabbed a gun from atop the refrigerator, pointing it at deputies. The two deputies then opened fire, killing him.

Because his death was at the hands of law enforcement, it will be investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

No word on if any drugs were found.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Drug-related law enforcement thievery from lowly police cadets to high-placed DEA and Secret Service agents is the them this week. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, a DEA agent and a Secret Service agent were charged last Monday with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoins from the Silk Road dark web drug sales website they were investigating. DEA Agent Carl Force, 46, is accused of extorting Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht out of $250,000 in bitcoins by threatening to turn him in if he didn't pay up, as well as other bitcoin-related charges. He deposited $757,000 in personal bank accounts during a year when his salary was $150,000. He is charged with money laundering, wire fraud, and conflict of interest. Secret Service Agent Shaun Bridges, 32, allegedly ripped off Silk Road accounts by using password information obtained from a Silk Road customer service agent arrested in a drug sting. He allegedly stole $800,000. He is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.

In Houston, a Houston Police officer was arrested Tuesday after being caught escorting a cartel drug load across state lines. Noe Juarez was arrested on a DEA warrant out of New Orleans. The precise charges will not be revealed until he makes a first court appearance.

In Towson, Maryland, a former Baltimore County police cadet was sentenced last Wednesday to four years in prison for stealing drugs from the department evidence room. Nicholas Ishmael, 21, had pleaded guilty in January to felony theft and possession of oxycodone with the intent to deliver. He had been arrested last June after an investigation into missing drugs pointed toward him. He was carrying $40,000 in cash when arrested.

In Frankfort, Kentucky, a former Franklin County narcotics officer was sentenced Monday to 16 months in prison for stealing cash, jewelry, and gift cards from drug dealers. Matthew Christian Brown, 32, was the county sheriff's lead narc until December 2012 and enriched himself during drug busts. In one August 2012 case, he confiscated guns, drugs, and $32,000 in cash, but only logged the guns, drugs, and $18,000 into evidence, keeping the other $14,000. In another case, he stole an $11,000 ring and $3,000 watch from a drug dealer. He kept the ring, but sold the watch back to the dealer for $800 and kept the cash. He was charged with embezzlement, illegally distributing anabolic steroids, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI.

In Titusville, Florida, a former Titusville police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for participating in a drug deal. Richard Irizarry, 46, went down after befriending a DEA snitch and telling him he wanted to get into the drug business. Irizarry also helped the informant avoid detection by DEA officers. He was charged with attempting to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine and was found guilty in January.

Bronx Teen Fleeing Cops Over Marijuana Falls to His Death

A Bronx teenager has died two days after falling from the roof of a six-story apartment building as he fled police who were chasing a group of young marijuana smokers. Hakeem Kuta, 17, becomes the 17th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Hakeem Kuta (family photo)
According to The New York Times, citing NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis, four probationary NYPD officers were approached Thursday evening by a man who told them about "kids in the lobby of the building smoking pot," and the officers went to investigate.

Davis said one of the teens "impeded" the cops by sticking his arms out as they came to the door and that six or seven more fled up a staircase headed to the roof.

Two of the officers, Edmundo Rivera and Eduard Solano, chased them onto the roof, where the kids split up, with four going in one direction, hopping to the roof of the neighboring building, and getting away. But two others, including Kuta, ran in the other direction and ended up penned in at roof's edge by a wall on the neighboring building.

"Please don't move, please don't move," Davis quoted the officers as telling the two teens. But Kuta tried to step over a short wall on the edge of the roof he was on, but instead began to fall. His friend grabbed his vest, but could not hold him.

"He was gone, you're talking seconds," Davis said.

Kuta landed in the alley six floors below, critically injured. He died Saturday at St. Barnabas Hospital.

Police said they recovered marijuana in the building, but made no arrests in connection with the incident.

Kuta had no criminal record. He was born in Ghana and came to the US with his parents and a younger sister three or four years ago, a relative said.

New York, NY
United States

Tulsa Meth and Guns Suspect Killed When Reserve Deputy Grabs Pistol Instead of Taser

A Tulsa man targeted in undercover meth and gun trafficking investigations was shot and killed last Thursday by a 73-year-old reserve deputy who said he mistook his pistol for a Taser. Eric Harris becomes the 16th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Tulsa's News on 6, citing a Tulsa County Sheriff's Office account, Harris was being investigated for "a form of methamphetamine called ICE" by the Violent Crimes Task Force. He sold meth to undercover officers on several occasions, during which he mentioned that he could also obtain a sawed-off shotgun and other weapons.

The task force set up a gun buy in a Dollar Store parking lot, and Harris delivered a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and 300 rounds of ammunition.

When an "arrest team" of deputies tried to arrest him, he "confronted undercover deputies" and fled. Deputies "observed him reaching for his waistband areas near his hip, causing concern for deputies' safety," according to the sheriff's office statement.

When deputies caught up to him, Harris continued to struggle and "refused to pull his left arm out from underneath his body where his hand was near his waistband." Reserve Officer Charles Robert Bates, 73, who was assigned to the task force, opened fire, striking Harris once.

The sheriff's office has not mentioned recovering any weapon from Harris (other than the one he sold them earlier).

According to the sheriff's office, "initial reports have determined that the reserve deputy was attempting to use less lethal force, believing he was utilizing a Taser, when he inadvertently discharged his service weapon."

The sheriff's department report said Harris briefly continued to resist arrest after being shot before officers managed to cuff him. It also claimed he told emergency medical personnel at the scene he had taken PCP. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died.

Bates is a retired long-time Tulsa police officer and "advanced level" reserve deputy, meaning he had hundreds of hours of training and annual weapons exams. He had training in "homicide investigations, meth lab identification and decontamination, and other specialized training."

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

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

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

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

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

Hemp

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

Drug Testing

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

Harm Reduction

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

Law Enforcement

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

Sentencing

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

International

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

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

Two More Drug War Deaths This Week

A Virginia man was shot and killed by police Tuesday after a drug investigation turned into a chase and confrontation, and a Florida man died Wednesday after swallowing drugs in a bid to avoid arrest by a police drug task force. Walter Brown III and Michael Antoine Rodriguez become the 14th and 15th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, citing police sources, Brown was sitting in a car with another man outside the Southside Garden apartments in Portsmouth when police conducting surveillance for drug activity suspected he might have been selling drugs. The other man got out of the passenger seat, but Brown, in the driver's seat, drove away. Police chased him through Portsmouth until he pulled onto the lawn of a residence and ran up to the front door. (It was Brown's house.)

An officer used a stun gun on Brown without being able to subdue him, police said. Brown and the officer struggled into the house, down a hallway, and into a bedroom before two other officers arrived. Brown was again hit with a stun gun, again to no avail. Police said he then pulled out a handgun. One officer yelled "Gun!" and tried to grab it from Brown's hand, and another officer opened fire, shooting Brown three to five times.

Medics pronounced him dead at the scene.

Brown's wife, Octavia, was in the house at the time. She told reporters she had been ordered out of the room where her husband and police were fighting. Then she heard shooting. She said police would not let her see her husband's body. She said he had just gone out to pick up lunch before going to work.

"Why would they take him from us?" she asked. "Why would they take him from his kids?"

She said police treated her husband like an animal.

"He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he was a family person," she said. "He did not have a weapon."

Police said they recovered a handgun from the scene.

"I know my son had emotional problems all his life," said Walter Brown, Sr., who said his daughter-in-law had called him to tell him his son was dead. "He had problems with authority. He didn't like nobody grabbing on him. He would fight back," he said. "No matter if it was drug-related or whatever, it could have been handled a different way."

Meanwhile, according to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, citing police sources, on Wednesday, the Broward County Drug Task Force was conducting an undercover drug operation in Oakland Park when Rodriguez, 38, showed up shortly before 10:00pm carrying a methamphetamine delivery.

When Rodriguez saw narcs approaching to arrest him, he swallowed the drugs. Detectives tried to stop him, but failed. They then called for medical assistance, and Rodriguez was taken to Holy Cross Hospital nearby. He then went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead.

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

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

Marijuana Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

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

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

Heroin and Opiates

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

Harm Reduction

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

Drug Testing

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

Law Enforcement

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

International

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

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