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Marijuana Now Legal in OH, KS Panel Embraces Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms, More... (12/7/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition

The DEA threatens Georgia pharmacies over sales of low-THC cannabis oil, a proposed California initiative would make it easier to prosecute dealers in the cases of fatal drug overdoses, and more.

Welcome to the ranks of legal weed states, Ohio!
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Now Legal in Ohio as State Senate GOP Walks Back Effort to Gut New Pot Law. It is now legal to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana as the state's voter-approved marijuana legalization law goes into effect. Legalization day comes as the GOP-dominated state Senate changes course on efforts to substantially alter the law, opting in the end to make only minor changes to the will of the voters.

The Senate had proposed barring home grows and lowering the amount of marijuana that could be legally possessed, but when the measure got to the Senate General Government Committee, the committee walked back those changes and then unanimously passed the bill in a bipartisan voice vote. It was then approved by the Senate on a 28-2 vote.

Under the revised bill, home cultivation remains but the plant limit shrinks from 12 to six. The bill also would allow adults to purchase marijuana from existing medical marijuana dispensaries in as little as 90 days and includes a provision for the automatic expungement of prior marijuana convictions.

The bill places a cap of 350 on marijuana retailers, slightly increases the THC limits on marijuana extracts, and revises tax rates and revenue allocation.

The House, meanwhile, is considering its own legislation, which also preserves home grow rights but adds residency requirements for cultivation and new restrictions on sharing between adults. Senate Republicans had hoped to have legislation passed before today, but that didn't happen, so for now, people can still grow up to 12 plants. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

DEA Threatens Georgia Pharmacies Over Cannabis Oil Sales. Georgia is the first state to allow pharmacies to sell medical marijuana products, and nearly 120 operations had applied to sell cannabis oil as of October. But now, the DEA is warning pharmacies that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law and that dispensing it is unlawful.

"All DEA registrants, including DEA-registered pharmacies, are required to abide by all relevant federal laws and regulations," says a copy of a letter sent to a Georgia pharmacy by Matthew J. Strait, a DEA deputy assistant administrator in the agency's Diversion Control Division. "A DEA-registered pharmacy may only dispense controlled substances in Schedules II-V of the Controlled Substances Act. Neither marijuana nor THC can lawfully be possessed, handled, or dispensed by any DEA-registered pharmacy."

The agency's advisory, however, bumps up against a congressional budget rider barring the Justice Department -- of which DEA is a part -- from spending money to mess with state-legal medical marijuana programs. That provision has been in effect since 2014 and has most recently been extended to February 2024.

Medical marijuana states have traditionally avoiding using pharmacies to distribute the substance to avoid conflicts with federal law and regulations, but the state Board of Pharmacy began accepting applications in October from independent pharmacies to sell low-THC cannabis oil. The goal was to increase access to medical marijuana, who otherwise have only seven dispensaries they can access.

Asset Forfeiture

Kansas Legislative Panel Embraces Reforms of State Civil Asset Forfeiture Law. A joint House-Senate interim committee has agreed to recommend reforming the state's civil asset forfeiture program, which allows law enforcement agencies to seize millions of dollars a year from people who have not been convicted of crimes.

Dickinson County District Court Judge Ben Sexton, who chaired the Kansas Judicial Council's latest evaluation of civil asset forfeiture in Kansas, told legislators Wednesday that law enforcement agencies fiercely defend the tool for disrupting criminal activity.

"There are also many people who fall somewhere in between these two positions," Sexton said. "Civil asset forfeiture remains a contentious issue, not only in Kansas, but across the nation."

Among the recommended reforms: Prohibiting asset forfeiture for simple possession of drugs, prohibiting the use of "pre-forfeiture" waivers police use to coerce drivers into giving up their money in return for going free, and allowing a person whose property was seized to ask a district court for a hearing at any time to determine whether the seizure was constitutionally excessive -- a proposal aimed at ensuring that seizures are "proportional."

The committee also recommended that probable cause hearing should be required in civil forfeiture cases and that the burden of proof for seizures should be raised from a "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing" evidence.

Now, it will be up to the legislature to enact those recommendations.

Drug Policy

California Ballot Initiative Would Make It Easier to Prosecute Overdose Deaths as Homicides. A proposed state ballot initiative would make it easier to prosecute overdose deaths as homicides. The initiative is the brainchild of Matthew Capelouto, whose daughter Alexandra died of an overdose in 2019 after taking what she thought was a Percocet obtained from a dealer on Snapchat but was actually fentanyl.

"My daughter did not die of what was originally reported as an accidental overdose," Capelouto said. "My daughter was poisoned."

The Snapchat dealer is now serving a nine-year prison sentence, but that is not enough for Capelouto, who worked unsuccessfully with state lawmakers to pass legislation that would warn hard drug dealers they could face a murder charge if they didn't stop selling the drugs.

So, now he is trying the ballot initiative path. The initiative includes both the dealer-warning language and a mandatory minimum 10-12-year prison sentence for anyone providing drugs that result in the death of another. The campaign will need to gather at least 546,652 valid voter signatures by May 3, 2024 to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.

Drug overdose homicide laws have been widely criticized.

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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