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SF Mayor's Bid to Drug Screen Welfare Seekers Draws Opposition, PA Drug Courts to Allow Opioid Meds, More... (2/9/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)

A pair of Tennessee bills would allow voters to weigh in on marijuana policy questions, the European Union gives the go-ahead for a multi-national initiative campaign on medical marijuana and research, and more.

Some Pennsylvania drug courts are being forced to allow the use of opioid addiction medications. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Tennessee Bill Would Ask Voters to Weigh in on Marijuana Policy. The Republican-controlled state has yet to embrace even medical marijuana, but now, one lawmaker wants the state's voters to have a say. Rep. Jesse Chism (D-Memphis), has filed House Bill 2657, which would put three marijuana policy questions before the voters in the form of non-binding referenda.

If the bill were to pass, voters would be asked three yes or no questions: Should the state legalize medical marijuana, should it decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of weed, and should it legalize and regulate commercial sales of recreational use of marijuana?

Chism filed a similar bill last year, but it was killed with opponents arguing that marijuana policy should be set at the federal level.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) is sponsoring identical legislation, Senate Bill 2726, in the upper chamber this year. Both bills are in committee.

Drug Policy

San Francisco Mayor's Proposal to Mandate Drug Screening for Welfare Recipients Draws Opposition Campaign. Mayor London Breed's (D) Proposition F ballot measure that would require people seeking welfare benefits in the city to undergo drug screening is part of her campaign to clean up the city's drug crisis. But it is also drawing opposition from addiction treatment providers and medical professionals who on Thursday launched an opposition campaign. They called the move "cynical ploy to shift blame onto the poorest San Franciscans

"Prop F’s potential for harm is undeniable," said Gary McCoy, a spokesperson for HealthRight 360, the city’s largest addiction treatment provider. "It blurs the line between care and punishment. It hurts people for their illness and dangerously undermines overdose prevention and recovery."

Under Prop F, which is on the March ballot, people seeking cash assistance would not only have to undergo a drug screening, they would have to enroll in a free drug treatment program if they are found to be drug users. Such people would not be required to test negative for drugs but would be required to actively participate in treatment.

State Assembly Member Matt Haney, the San Francisco Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters. They argue that coercing drug users into treatment is not effective and a waste of health care resources.  

"I have seen addiction and overdose worsen when people lose support systems and that is what Proposition F threatens to do," said Dr. Marlene Martin, director of the addiction care team at UCSF.

Harm Reduction

Pennsylvania Drug Courts Will Be Required to Allow Use off Opioid Addiction Medications. As part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit, drug courts in several counties will allow participants to use medications prescribed to control their opioid addiction, such as methadone and buprenorphine. Federal prosecutors had filed against the state's Unified Judicial System in 2022, charging that several county courts were unlawfully forbidding people in their drug courts from taking those to treat opioid addiction.

Under the terms of the settlement, courts in Blair, Jefferson, and Northumberland counties must adopt within 60 days a nondiscrimination policy that prohibits them from barring people taking prescribed medications for substance use disorder.

The suit was filed on behalf of several drug court participants who were forced off their addiction medications because judges overseeing the courts had adopted policies forbidding those medications.

Under the settlement, the state must also train all judges in criminal and state courts on federal antidiscrimination laws and opioid addiction medications, as well as encourage every county court to adopt the same nondiscrimination policy as Blair, Jefferson, and Northumberland counties.


European Union Commission Clears Way for Medical Marijuana and Research Initiative to Begin Signature-Gathering. The European Commission agreed on Tuesday to register a multi-national initiative to foster access to medical marijuana and promote research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis. That means signature-gathering can get underway. Petitioners will have six months to start the drive, then must gather one million signatures from at least seven members countries within a year to force the European Union to consider the proposal.

Activists had sought a three-pronged initiative, but the commission said it could only approve two. One approved objective asks the commission to "foster access to medical cannabis and allow the transportation of cannabis and its derivatives prescribed for therapeutic purposes to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to health." The other requests that EU allocate "the necessary resources for researching cannabis for its therapeutic purposes."

The commission declined, however, to register the third prong, which was to "convene a trans-European citizens’ assembly on cannabis policies, including sanctions and the consistency of Member States’ policies."


"The Commission had to refuse the registration of the first objective of the initiative, as it falls outside the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act on this matter," it said. "The Commission has not analyzed the substance of the proposals at this stage," it added. "The decision to register the initiative insofar as its second and third objectives are concerned, is of a legal nature and it does not prejudge the final legal and political conclusions of the Commission on this initiative and the action it would intend to take, if any, in case the initiative obtains the necessary support."

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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