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Biden DOJ Moves on Marijuana Rescheduling, UN Says Afghan Opium Production Plummets, More... (5/16/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition

Prohibition-related violence leaves three militiamen dead in Libya and 11 villagers dead in Mexico, and more. 

Libyan militiamen posing with seized drugs and prisoners. A clash with smugglers in the desert left three Brigade 444 members dead. (Brigade 444)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Administration Officially Proposes Moving Marijuana to Schedule III. The Justice Department announced on Thursday a proposed rule to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Here's what the Justice Department announcement said:

"The Justice Department today announced that the Attorney General has submitted to the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking initiating a formal rulemaking process to consider moving marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

"Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug since Congress enacted the CSA in 1970. On Oct. 6, 2022, President Biden asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a scientific review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. After receiving HHS’s recommendations last August, the Attorney General sought the legal advice of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) on questions relevant to this rulemaking. In light of HHS’ medical and scientific determinations, and OLC’s legal advice, the Attorney General exercised his authority under the law to initiate the rulemaking process to transfer marijuana to Schedule III.

"The rescheduling of a controlled substance follows a formal rulemaking procedure that requires notice to the public, and an opportunity for comment and an administrative hearing. This proposal starts the process, where the Drug Enforcement Administration will gather and consider information and views submitted by the public, in order to make a determination about the appropriate schedule. During that process, and until a final rule is published, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

"The notice of proposed rulemaking submitted by the Department can be viewed here, and the OLC memorandum regarding questions related to the potential rescheduling of marijuana can be found here."


UN Says Afghan Opium Production Has Plummeted Since Taliban Ban. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported that opium production in Afghanistan, long far and away the world's leading supplier of the poppy, plummeted last year after the Taliban prohibited its cultivation in April 2022.

UNODC said land under poppy cultivation dropped from more than 500,000 acres in 2021 to just 26,700 acres last year—a massive decline. Similarly, the amount of opium produced dropped by 95 percent down to 333 tons.

By way of comparison, UNODC reported this week on opium production in Myanmar, which has overtaken Afghanistan as the world's largest opium producer. UNODC said Myanmar produced more than double what Afghanistan did last year, coming in at 870 tons of opium. 

UNODC warned that the Afghan opium ban is putting pressure on farmers in an overwhelmingly agricultural country where opium has played a major role. That stress has been evident in recent days, with conflicts taken place around eradication efforts, especially in Badakshan province. 

"Over the coming months Afghanistan is in dire need of strong investment in sustainable livelihoods to provide Afghan farmers with opportunities away from opium," said Ghada Waly, the executive director of UNODC. "This presents a real opportunity to build towards long-term results against the illicit opium market and the damage it causes both locally and globally."

Libya Militia Members Killed in Conflict with Desert Drug Smugglers.  Brigade 444, one of the various armed formations active in the now-failed state of Libya, suffered the loss of three soldiers Tuesday in clashes with drug smugglers in the Libyan desert. 

The Brigade reported that they were killed during a major crackdown on smuggling on the desert route that resulted in the seizure of five million pills, presumably Captagon, a popular Middle Eastern amphetamine.

The Tripoli-based militia, which was involved in clashes with other militias there that left 55 people dead last year, said it had successfully blocked the entry of the drugs into the capital. 

Libya has lacked an effective national government since the fall and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, when Western countries intervened military on the side of a popular uprising against him, leaving large tracts of the desert nation without any effective governance. 

Mexico's Chiapas Sees 11 Killed in Cartel Turf Battle. In the latest in a wave of mass killings conducted as part of battles between the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels in recent days, 11 people were gunned down in the village of Morelia in Chiapas state near the border with Guatemala on Tuesday. The area is known as trafficking route for drug and migrant smuggling.  

It was the fourth prohibition-related killing in the past week. Last Tuesday, nine corpses were found on the side of a road in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, and a day later, nine more bodies appeared in the state. Over the weekend, eight more people were killed in a shooting in Cuernavaca, Morelos. Many of the bodies were found with warning messages from cartel factions. 

For decades after World War II, Mexican authorities in long-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) acted to manage the illicit drug trade rather than actively repress it, creating relatively stable connections between the state and the criminal underworld. But with the PRI's monopoly on power shaken in recent years, that relative stability is gone. Since then-President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) called out the military to confront the cartels in 2006, more than 450,000 people have been killed more than 100,000 "disappeared."

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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