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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.

Medical Marijuana Update

Key congressmen stick up for California's dispensaries, an Idaho CBD bill passes, an Indiana CBD bill fails, the Arizona Supreme Court allows parolees to use medical marijuana, and more.

National

Last Thursday, two key congressmen rejected DOJ claims that it can still prosecute California dispensaries. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), authors of the successful congressional budget amendment protecting medical marijuana in states where it is legal, have rejected Justice Department claims that it can still go after dispensaries in California. "The Justice Department's interpretation of the amendment defies logic," Farr said. "No reasonable person thinks prosecuting patients doesn't interfere with a state's medical marijuana laws. Lawyers can try to mince words but Congress was clear: Stop going after patients and dispensaries." A Rohrabacher spokesman added that "the congressman believes the amendment's language is perfectly clear and that the DOJ's self-referential interpretation is emphatically wrong."

Alabama

Last Wednesday, a full-blown medical marijuana bill was filed. Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) filed Senate Bill 326, which would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients and which has a unique scheme setting three levels of allowable amounts possessed. The bill would allow one dispensary in cities with a population of 10,000 or more and two dispensaries in cities with a population of 150,000 or more. Companion legislation is expected to be filed in the House by Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham).

Arizona

On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that probationers and parolees can use medical marijuana. In two rulings, the state high court barred courts and prosecutors from denying registered patients the right to use medical marijuana while on probation. The cases are Arizona v. Farrell and Reed-Kaliher v. Arizona.

California

Last Tuesday, the Fresno city council approved the indoor cultivation of up to four plants. That's a change from the total ban on cultivation it passed last year. Still, patients expressed reservations about whether four plants would be sufficient. The council must approve the measure one more time before it becomes law.

Last Friday, a Yuba County judge denied a temporary restraining order against the county sought by medical marijuana growers. The Yuba Patients Coalition and six growers had sought to undo an "urgency" designation with the county's cultivation ordinance that eliminated a period for signature-gathering for a referendum challenging the ordinance. The growers said they will appeal.

On Tuesday, the State Water Board issued best practice guidelines for marijuana cultivation. The effort includes a "Know Before You Grow" brochures and a "Pesticide Use on Marijuana" research paper. Click on the link for much more.

Connecticut

On Monday, a legislative committee approved expanding the medical marijuana program.The committee endorsed Senate Bill 1064 after lengthy debate. The bill would be a significant expansion of the state's medical marijuana system and would allow children with specified diseases to participate, but they wold be limited to using low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oils. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Florida

Last Friday, the state's CBD implementation bill faced more problems. A bill trying to get the state's CBD cannabis oil law, passed last year, actually implemented is now facing a new challenge: how to give black farmers a fair shot at growing the new crop. The existing law only allows farms that have been in existence for at least 30 years and that grow 400,000 plants or more to apply for one of five licenses to cultivate and distribute the crop. But hundreds of black farmers say they are being cut out of the deal because 30 years ago, they were still fighting with the US Department of Agriculture over discriminatory lending practices and weren't yet in business. The sponsor of both last year's successful bill and this year's implementation bill, Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), said he would attempt to address the issue. The bill is Senate Bill 7066.

Idaho

Last Monday, the CBD cannabis oil bill came back from the dead. The bill, Senate Bill 1146, was killed on a tie vote in the House State Affairs Committee Monday, but the committee has agreed to reconsider it and was set to meet today for further discussion on it. If it passes the committee, it could go to a House floor vote tomorrow.

Last Thursday, it passed the Senate. The bill was killed in committee on Monday, but brought back to life Thursday and passed the Senate today. Senate Bill 1146would allow for the use of CBD for "intractable seizure disorder." It won the support of all seven Democratic state senators and 15 of 27 Republican state senators.

Last Friday, it passed the House. A bill that appeared dead only a week ago has now passed both houses of the legislature and heads for the desk of Gov. Butch Otter (R). The bill is Senate Bill 1146.

Illinois

On Monday, officials began pondering whether to add 14 new qualifying conditions. The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is now reviewing 22 petitions requesting the addition of some 14 diseases or medical conditions to the list of those that qualify for medical marijuana. The board will hold a hearing in May and then make recommendations to the director of the Department of Publich Health, who will make the ultimate decision. Click on the link to see the whole list.

Indiana

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

Massachusetts

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

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

Chronicle AM: ID CBD Bill Passes, Another OH Legalization Init, NV Heroin Maintenance Hearing, More (4/7/15)

Busy busy in Ohio, Arizona Supreme Court upholds patient rights, Idaho legislature approves CBD bill, Nevada legislature hearing about heroin-assisted treatment today, Rand Paul announces, and more.

Pharmaceutical diacetylmorphine AKA diamorphine AKA heroin. It could be coming to Nevada. (wikipedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Another Ohio Legalization Campaign Gets Underway. Cleveland-based Ohioans to End Prohibition has begun initial signature-gathering for a proposed 2016 initiative that would allow adults to grow up to six plants and possess up to 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and would allow for marijuana commerce. The group needs to get a thousand valid voter signatures before moving to the next phase, where state officials will vet the initiative's language. The group would then need to gather more than 300,000 signatures to qualify for the 2016 general election ballot. Another group, Responsible Ohio, is already gathering signatures for a 2015 initiative.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Probationers Can Use Medical Marijuana. In two rulings today, the state high court barred courts and prosecutors from denying registered patients the right to use medical marijuana while on probation or parole. The cases are Arizona v. Farrell and Reed-Kaliher v. Arizona.

Connecticut Legislative Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion.The committee endorsed Senate Bill 1064 after lengthy debate. The bill would be a significant expansion of the state's medical marijuana system and would allow children with specified diseases to participate, but they wold be limited to using low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oils. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Idaho Legislature Approves CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. A bill that appeared dead only a week ago has now passed both houses of the legislature and heads for the desk of Gov. Butch Otter (R). The bill is Senate Bill 1146.

Illinois Officials Ponder Adding 14 More Qualifying Conditions. The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is now reviewing 22 petitions requesting the addition of some 14 diseases or medical conditions to the list of those that qualify for medical marijuana. The board will hold a hearing in May and then make recommendations to the director of the Department of Publich Health, who will make the ultimate decision. Click on the link to see the whole list.

Drug Policy

Rand Paul Announces Republican Presidential Nomination Bid. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul today announced he is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Paul has been a voice for drug reform in the Senate, calling for the federal government to let states set their own marijuana policies and filing bills on sentencing reform, industrial hemp, and medical marijuana.

Heroin

Nevada Senate Holding First Ever US Hearing on Heroin Maintenance. The state Senate is holding a hearing on Senate Bill 275, which would establish a four-year heroin maintenance (or heroin-assisted treatment) pilot program. This is the first time such a proposal has gotten a legislative hearing anywhere in the US. Witnesses will include Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann and Dr. Martin Schecter, principal investigator for Canada's North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI).

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania State Police to Start Carrying Opiate Overdose Reversal Drug. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) formally announced today that state troopers will start carrying the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone. About 30 states have naloxone legislation, but in only a few do police forces routinely carry the drug.

International

Chile Marijuana Legalization Bill Advances. A bill that would allow people 18 and older to grow up to six marijuana plants passed the congressional health committee Monday and now goes for a floor debate in the Chamber of Deputies. If the bill passed the chamber, it then goes to the Senate. The bill also allows people to possess up to 10 grams, but bars the public use of pot. Chile already allows for medical marijuana and was preparing for its first legal harvest this week.

This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, 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.)

Chronicle AM: Reps Challenge DOJ on Dispensary Prosecutions, CO Harm Reduction Bills, More (4/3/15)

A pair of congressmen reject the Justice Department's stance that it can still prosecute California dispensaries, an Alaska marijuana regulation bill moves, a Mississippi legalization initiative gets a boost, two Colorado harm reduction bills become law, and more.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) says DOJ is wrong to say it can still prosecute California dispensaries. (congress.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Alaska House Passes Marijuana Regulation Bill. The House Thursday gave final approval to House Bill 75, which clarifies the ability of localities to ban or regulate commercial pot businesses. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Florida Activist Will Help Pay for Mississippi Legalization Initiative Signatures. Jeremy Bufford, president of Florida's Medical Marijuana United, has announced he will pay $1 for each valid signature gathered for Ballot Initiative 48, the Mississippi marijuana legalization initiative. He said he would pay $2 per signature in some areas of the state where people have been reluctant to sign. The initiative campaign needs 107,216 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Congressmen Reject DOJ Claim It Can Still Prosecute California Dispensaries. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), authors of the successful congressional budget amendment protecting medical marijuana in states where it is legal, have rejected Justice Department claims that it can still go after dispensaries in California. "The Justice Department's interpretation of the amendment defies logic," Farr said. "No reasonable person thinks prosecuting patients doesn't interfere with a state's medical marijuana laws. Lawyers can try to mince words but Congress was clear: Stop going after patients and dispensaries." A Rohrabacher spokesman added that "the congressman believes the amendment's language is perfectly clear and that the DOJ's self-referential interpretation is emphatically wrong."

Idaho Senate Passes CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. The bill was killed in committee on Monday, but brought back to life Thursday and passed the Senate today. Senate Bill 1146 would allow for the use of CBD for "intractable seizure disorder." It won the support of all seven Democratic state senators and 15 of 27 Republican state senators.

Harm Reduction

Colorado Governor Signs Harm Reduction Bills. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) today signed into law two harm reduction bills: SB 15-53, which expands access to the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone, and SB 15-116, under which people carrying needles would not be subject to arrest if they reveal they have them prior to being searched by police.

International

Indian Maoists Fund Their Fight With Marijuana. Officials in Orisha state say that Maoist militants known as Naxalites are relying on marijuana cultivation as a major source of funding. The Naxalite rebellion has festered in parts of the country for decades.

Chronicle AM: DOJ Says It Can Still Prosecute Dispensaries, GA Forfeiture Bill Passes, More (4/2/15)

A Tennessee "decrim" bill moves, an Idaho CBD cannabis oil bill is back from the dead, a Georgia asset forfeiture reform bill passes, the Justice Department says it can still prosecute California dispensaries, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Tennessee Bill to Lessen Marijuana Penalties Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would make possession of up to an ounce a misdemeanor punishable only by a $100 fine was approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday. The bill, House Bill 873, now goes before the House Finance and Ways and Means Committee. Companion legislation, Senate Bill 1211, is set to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. Under current law, possession of between a half-ounce and 10 pounds is a felony.

Medical Marijuana

Justice Department Says It Can Still Prosecute California Dispensaries. A Justice Department spokesman said Wednesday that the congressional ban on the agency interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal does not apply to California dispensary prosecutions. Patrick Rodenbush said the department does not believe the amendment to a spending bill applies to cases against individuals, but only stops Justice from "impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws."

Florida CBD Implementation Bill Faces More Challenges. A bill trying to get the state's CBD cannabis oil law, passed last year, actually implemented is now facing a new challenge: how to give black farmers a fair shot at growing the new crop. The existing law only allows farms that have been in existence for at least 30 years and that grow 400,000 plants or more to apply for one of five licenses to cultivate and distribute the crop. But hundreds of black farmers say they are being cut out of the deal because 30 years ago, they were still fighting with the US Department of Agriculture over discriminatory lending practices and weren't yet in business. The sponsor of both last year's successful bill and this year's implementation bill, Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), said he would attempt to address the issue. The bill is Senate Bill 7066.

Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill is Back from the Dead. The bill, Senate Bill 1146, was killed on a tie vote in the House State Affairs Committee Monday, but the committee has agreed to reconsider it and was set to meet today for further discussion on it. If it passes the committee, it could go to a House floor vote tomorrow.

Prescription Opiates

FDA to Help Drug Makers Develop Abuse-Deterrent Opiates. "The science of abuse-deterrent medication is rapidly evolving, and the FDA is eager to engage with manufacturers to help make these medications available to patients who need them," Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the FDA's commissioner, said in a press release. "We feel this is a key part of combating opioid abuse. We have to work hard with industry to support the development of new formulations that are difficult to abuse but are effective and available when needed." The agency also issued a document called "Guidance for Industry: Abuse-Deterrent Opioids -- Evaluation and Labeling," outlining how future studies can decide whether a new drug has abuse-deterrent properties.

Asset Forfeiture

Georgia Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes Senate. A bill that would standardize asset forfeiture procedures easily passed the Senate Tuesday. The bill is House Bill 233. It has already passed the House and now goes to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal (R). The bill creates safeguards for owners of seized assets, requires regular accounting, and prohibits law enforcement agencies from using seized goods for anything other than law enforcement.

Medical Marijuana Update

A federal CBD bill is filed, the federal medical marijuana bill picks up more sponsors, and bills are moving (or dying) in a number of state. Let's get to it:

National

Last Thursday, a federal CBD bill was filed. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) 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.

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

California

Last Thursday, the Fresno city council voted to allow residents to grow up to four plants. The move would be a step forward for the city, which last year banned all cultivation within the city limits. The council will take a second and final vote on the measure in coming weeks.

Also last Thursday, four Yuba county medical marijuana growers sued the county over its new, restrictive medical marijuana cultivation ordinance. The ordinance allows only for up to 12 plants to be grown inside a structure -- but not a residence -- and no outdoor grows.

Last Friday, a raided El Dorado County dispensary operator sued the county to recover marijuana and financial and medical records seized during a sheriff's department raid last November. The Pure Life Cannabis Collective has been closed since the raid. The lawsuit charges that the dispensary was legitimate and the raid was not.

Florida

Last Friday, more delays came for the state's CBD medical marijuana program. A Central Florida grower and a South Florida trade association are the latest to file legal challenges to the state Health Department's rules for the program. The program envisions only five growers, and the competition is vicious. Now, there are three active legal challenges, which means the department cannot proceed with the program until they are resolved. This is after an earlier delay caused by an earlier legal challenge.

On Tuesday, an expanded CBD medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The Senate Health Policy Committee approved a bill that would expand the list of qualifying conditions for the use of CBD cannabis oil, quadruple the number of dispensing organizations to 20, and establish a time frame for issuing licenses.

Georgia

Last Wednesday, a CBD medical marijuana bill passed the legislature. The House 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.

Last Friday, Gov. Deal signed an executive order to speed expedite the new law. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed the order to speed up the enactment of House Bill 1, which has passed both houses of the legislature. The bill provides immunity from prosecution for CBD patients who register with the state. Deal said he would sign the bill at the end of the legislative session.

Hawaii

Last Wednesday, a dispensary bill won a pair of committee votes. 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.

Idaho

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

On Tuesday, the bill was killed in committee. The House State Affairs Committee listened to hours of tearful testimony from supporters of Senate Bill 1146, which would allow for the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat epileptic seizures in children, then voted to kill it Monday.

Iowa

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The Senate Ways and Means Committee 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.

Missouri

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The House Select Committee on General Laws approved House Bill 800, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for a handful of specified diseases. It would also allow for up to 30 dispensaries.

New Jersey

Last Thursday, the Assembly approved a trio of medical marijuana bills. Legislators in Trenton Thursday approved adding PTSD to the list of qualifying diseases, and then some. They also approved ACR 224, which would undo the Christie rule that doctors who recommend medical marijuana must be publicly listed and A 4286, which allows dispensaries to share surpluses. The bills now go to the state Senate.

New York

On Wednesday, the state issued final regulations for the medical marijuana program and advocates were not happy. The state has issued final regulations for the program, and they are very similar to the heavily-criticized draft regulations it started out with several months ago. The regs limit the number of dispensaries to 20 and don't add any new qualifying conditions. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the law's sponsor, said the final regs are needlessly restrictive and "gratuitously cruel."

North Carolina

Last Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill was killed in committee. 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.

Tennessee

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The House Health Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookville). The measure, which would not allow for the smoking of marijuana, now goes to the full House Health Committee.

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

Chronicle AM: Holder Takes on Forfeiture Again, NY Medical Marijuana Final Rules, More (4/1/15)

It's mainly medical marijuana news today, but there's also another move on asset forfeiture from Attorney General Holder.

Eric Holder
Medical Marijuana

Florida CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The Senate Health Policy Committee approved a bill that would expand the list of qualifying conditions for the use of CBD cannabis oil, quadruple the number of dispensing organizations to 20, and establishe a time frame for issuing licenses.

Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill Killed in Committee. The House State Affairs Committee listened to hours of tearful testimony from supporters of Senate Bill 1146, which would allow for the use of CBD cannabis oil to treat epileptic seizures in children, then voted to kill it Monday.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. The House Select Committee on General Laws has approved House Bill 800, which would allow for the use of medical marijuana for a handful of specified diseases. It would also allow for up to 30 dispensaries.

New York Issues Final Regulations for Medical Marijuana Program; Advocates Upset. The state has issued final regulations for the program, and they are very similar to the heavily-criticized draft regulations it started out with several months ago. The regs limit the number of dispensaries to 20 and don't add any new qualifying conditions. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), the law's sponsor, said the final regs are needlessly restrictive and "gratuitously cruel."

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. The House Health Subcommittee unanimously approved Tuesday a medical marijuana bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookville). The measure, which would not allow for the smoking of marijuana, now goes to the full House Health Committee.

Asset Forfeiture

Attorney General Holder Announces New Curbs on Civil Asset Forfeiture. Federal authorities will only seize bank accounts when serious illegalities have been documented, he said Tuesday. The guidance focuses on Justice Department and IRS agents who have made seizures related to "structuring," or intentionally limiting the size of deposits to avoid scrutiny. "With this new policy, the Department of Justice is taking action to ensure that we are allocating our resources to address the most serious offenses," Holder said in a statement. "Appropriate use of asset forfeiture law allows the Justice Department to safeguard the integrity, security and stability of our nation's financial system while protecting the civil liberties of all Americans."

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."

Obama Commutes 22 Drug Sentences, Including Eight Lifers

President Obama today commuted the sentences of 22 convicted federal drug offenders. With that action, he has doubled the number of commutations he has issued since taking office in January 2009.

President Obama commuted 22 drug sentences today. (whitehouse.gov)
The prisoners who got their sentences cut were all convicted of possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Fourteen of the cases involved cocaine.

Many of those were convicted under harsh crack cocaine sentencing laws adopted in the 1980s and at least partially rolled back during the Obama administration. The sentences were typically 20 years or longer, with most of the prisoners having already served more than a decade behind bars.

In eight cases, the defendants were serving life sentences for drug crimes. Among the life sentences, six were for crack cocaine offenses (one included heroin, too), one was for a meth offense, and one was for a Kentucky man convicted of growing more than a thousand marijuana plants.

"Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement announcing the commutations. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years -- in some cases more than a decade -- longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

In a first, the president also sent letters to each of the prisoners whose sentences he commuted urging them to take full advantage of any post-release opportunities.

"I wanted to personally inform you that I have granted your application for commutation," President Obama told Terry Barnes at the Federal Correctional Institute in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Barnes was only halfway through a 20 year sentence for crack cocaine distribution.

The same letter went out to the other 21 commutees as well.

The prisoners will see their sentences end on July 28. For a complete list, click on the link at the top of this article.

Washington, DC
United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Marijuana

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

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

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

Drug Testing

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

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

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

Law Enforcement

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

Sentencing Reform

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

International

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

Drug War Issues

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