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House GOP Policy Panel Says Reject Pot Banking Bill, MN Drug Residue Decrim Bill Advances, More... (3/26/24)

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Marijuana Policy

Hawaii's marijuana legalization bill advances but faces dimming prospects, South Dakota activists try a third time to get marijuana legalized, and more. 

Delegates at the closing session of the 67th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. (UNODC)
House GOP Policy Committee Formally Opposes Marijuana Banking Legislation. Embracing the rhetoric of Reefer Madness, the House Republican Policy Committee has formally come out in opposition to marijuana banking legislation. In a new report, the committee criticized marijuana as a "gateway drug" that leads to "violence, depression, and suicide."

The report also chastised Vice President Kamala Harris for saying marijuana brings people "joy" during the 2020 presidential campaign and instead qualified it as a "hazardous drug with short and long-term impacts."

The Policy Committee is not a congressional committee but a party entity, and its role is to provide party members guidance on policy issues. Its report on marijuana reviewed the history of pot prohibition before arguing that marijuana is a dangerous substance linked to mental health problems, which it blamed in part of "the high concentration of THC."

The report also tried to make the case that marijuana legalization in the states is tied to increased violence and that it impacts the workplace through "decreased productivity, high unemployment claims, and lawsuits."

"Instead of turning a blind eye to the dangers associated with marijuana and allowing states to have dispensaries on every corner, Congress should work to ensure that laws in relation to marijuana are enforced," the guidance says.

The report had two specific policy recommendations: Oppose the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (S. 2860) and the Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act (H.R 5040).

The CURE Act, which would prevent the denial of federal employment or security clearances based on a candidate’s past marijuana use, passed the House Oversight Committee in September, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats to advance it.

 The House has approved different versions of the SAFE Banking Act with bipartisan support seven times in recent sessions. The current version has 106 cosponsors, including 24 GOP members.

Hawaii Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Another Vote, But Prospects Dim. A marijuana legalization bill that has already passed the Senate, Senate Bill 3335, won an initial House floor vote Friday, but that vote was to send the bill back to the House Finance Committee where there are indications it could be in for a fight.

The House floor vote itself also signals a potential problem: The bill advanced on a vote of 25-23, but three of those "yes" votes are from members who have expressed reservations with the bill and could vote against it in a final floor vote. 

One Finance Committee member, Rep. Gene Ward (R) warned that if the bill passes, "homelessness is going to be catalyzed by the increase in use of marijuana."

But the bill's House sponsor, Rep. David Tarnas (D), said the bill was "a reasonable and moderate and measured approach to regulating the legal use of cannabis by adults in Hawaii." 

But there was also opposition from some Democrats. Representatives "should not vote with reservations or vote in favor of this bill just to see it move along, said Democratic Majority Whip Rep. Scot Matayoshi. "I just want to encourage the body to vote on the bill before us," he said. "We can’t be voting on what the bill might be. We can’t be voting on a bill that has some good parts but also has an incredible harm to our society in the form of legalizing recreational marijuana."

South Dakota Campaign Tries for Third Time to Legalize Marijuana. Marijuana activists waged a successful initiative campaign to legalize marijuana in 2020, only to see their efforts overturned by the state Supreme Court. They tried again in 2022, only to lose amidst increasing political polarization. Now, they are back for a third try. 

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws has filed paperwork with state officials and undertaken signature gathering to qualify for the November 2024 ballot. It is a brief window: The campaign has only until May 7 to come up with 17,508 valid voter signatures to qualify. 

Drug Policy

Minnesota Senate Committee Votes to Decriminalize Drug Residue. The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for people found in possession of illicit drug residue, Senate File3663/House File3952).

The bill builds on legislation passed last year that decriminalizes drug paraphernalia and any drug residues found on it. This bill takes the next step by decriminalizing "residual amounts" of drugs regardless of where they were found. 

The vote came after testimony from Edward Krumpotich of the Harm Reduction Coalition, who said that after the passage of the paraphernalia bill last year, some prosecutors continued to prosecute residue cases by exploiting loopholes in the previous law. This bill would close those loopholes, Krumpotich said. 


Commission on Narcotic Drugs Passes Four Resolutions at Vienna Meeting. The 67th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna concluded last Friday, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a press release noting that:

"The Commission decided to place one benzodiazepine, one synthetic opioid, two stimulants, one dissociative-type substance, sixteen precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants, and two fentanyl precursors under international control. The scheduling of the two series of amphetamine-type stimulant precursors is part of - for the first time - the taking of a pre-emptive measure to address the proliferation of closely related designer precursors with no known legitimate use.

"During the 67th  session of the CND, four resolutions were also adopted, covering topics including: alternative development; rehabilitation and recovery management programs; improving access to and availability of controlled substances for medical purposes; and preventing and responding to drug overdose.

"In accordance with the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, the Commission conducted a review of policy commitments during the two-day High-Level Segment, consisting of a General Debate and two multi-stakeholder round-table discussions on the topics "Taking stock: work undertaken since 2019" and "The way forward: the road to 2029". The final review is planned for 2029."

UNAIDS Welcomes CND Resolution Recognizing Harm Reduction, In a press release, the United Nations's anti-AIDS agency, UNAIDS said it "welcomes the adoption of a key resolution at the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), recognizing harm reduction for the first time as an important part of an effective public health response. The resolution encourages member states to develop and implement harm reduction measures to minimize the adverse public health and social consequences of the non-medical use of illicit drugs. UNAIDS
congratulates the CND and the CND Chair for this historic milestone.

"The resolution represents a landmark in political commitment to a rebalancing of drug policy towards a public health approach. Such a shift is critical to meeting the targets in the 2021-2026 Global AIDS Strategy.
Harm reduction is 'a comprehensive package of evidence-based  interventions, based on public health and human rights, including needle syringe programs (NSPs), opioid agonist maintenance therapy (OAMT) and naloxone for overdose management. Harm reduction also refers to policies and strategies that aim to prevent major public and individual health harms, including HIV, viral hepatitis, and overdose, without necessarily stopping drug use.' (World Health Organization,

"Since 2018 only five countries have reported achieving the target of providing 200 sterile needles and syringes per person who inject drugs. In that same timeframe, only three countries reported achieving the target of 50% coverage of opioid agonist maintenance therapy among people who inject drugs.

"The criminalization of drug use and possession for personal use in at least 145 countries, along with stigma, discrimination, and violence, continues to restrict both the provision of and access to life-saving harm reduction services.

"A failure to invest in harm reduction services or remove the structures that inhibit access, including those relating to gender, have led to a situation where HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is 7 times that of the rest of the population, and people who inject drugs have the highest incidence globally of any key or vulnerable population. In countries with data, median HIV prevalence among women who inject drugs is almost twice that of men who use

"Under the UN Common Position on Drugs, UNAIDS collaborates with other UN agencies and partners with governments, community-led organizations and donors to increase the provision of harm reduction services and remove harmful laws and policies which create barriers to accessing
such services, such as the criminalization of possession of drugs for personal use. UNAIDS works to ensure all efforts relating to drug policy are in conformity with international human rights, as outlined in the international guidelines on human rights and drug policy." 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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