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Job Corps Eases Rules for Marijuana, OR Dems Agree to Drug Possession Recrim, More... (2/22/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)

Marijuana Policy

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visits the Detroit Job Corps Center. (Creative Commons)
Job Corps Loosens Marijuana Testing Rules. In a bid to include more youngsters in its national job-training program instead of excluding them, the Job Corps has amended its drug screening protocols for marijuana. The program, which aims to be drug- and alcohol-free, requires testing for all new and readmitted students.

Under the old policy, which did not automatically reject someone with a positive drug test, if someone tested positive they would have to enroll for prevention and education services and take a second drug test 40 days later. If they failed that second test, they would be dismissed.

Under the new policy, if someone tests positive for marijuana on that second test, they would not be dismissed if "there is at least a 50 percent reduction in THC levels." Positive test results that showed more than a 50 percent reduction "will be considered a negative test" and attributed "to drug use prior to enrollment. The student will stay in the program and receive relapse prevention services," Job Corps said.

"We believe our new policy will help us better meet students wherever they may be in their own journeys and provide them with the platform and opportunity to make a change in their lives," officials said. "This change has long been requested by students, staff, and parents," officials said. "We believe these changes will allow us to better serve as many students as we can, and it means our policy will now screen students into the program rather than out of it."

New Hampshire House Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill. The full House on Thursday gave its approval to a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 1633 on a vote of 239-141. If it can get through the Senate, New Hampshire will join the rest of New England in having freed the weed.

But first, the bill must go back to the House Finance Committee before returning for a second and final floor vote.

The bill legalizes the possession of up to four ounces by adults and sets up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. It envisions up to 15 marijuana retail outlets.

In recent years, the House has repeatedly passed legalization bills only to see them die in the Senate. But the politics around the issue may have changed after Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who had long opposed legalization, reversed his position and said he supported a limited regulated market.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Bill That Would Defund Cities That Refuse to Recognize Medical Marijuana Advances. After voters approved medical marijuana in 2018, the legislature mandated that it be treated like any other prescription drug, even though it is a federally controlled substance. But some localities have refused to do so, and now powerful lawmakers have filed Senate Bill 233, which would deny some state funding to those localities.

Backed by Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) and Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City), who are in charge of medical marijuana legislation in the Senate, the bill has already passed the upper chamber and is now before the House Rules Committee.

Escamilla said some cities in the state have refused to recognize that medical marijuana is legitimate and have questioned municipal workers about whether they have patient cards and punishing those that do.

"At the end of the day they are in violation of state law," Sen. Escamilla said. "It's very clear you don't get to force people to tell you they’re using controlled substances as a prescription. This is a recommended, prescribed medication and they're treating them differently. That’s what we're trying to prevent."

But now the bill is facing opposition from the Utah Eagle Forum, a social conservative group, which charges that it would allow patients to work while impaired.

Escamilla rejected that argument, noting that there are provisions to deal with on-the-job impairment.

Drug Policy

Oregon Democratic Lawmakers Reach Deal to Recriminalize Drug Possession. Democrats, who hold power in the state legislature, announced Wednesday that they had agreed to create a new misdemeanor offense for drug possession. Drug possession was decriminalized in the state by voters in 2020, but pressure to revert has been rising against a background of rising overdose death tolls, rising homelessness, and public drug use.

The new misdemeanor for possession of small amounts of drugs carries a potential jail sentence of 30 days for probation violations, but arrestees would be given a chance to enter a "deflection" program consisting of inpatient or outpatient drug treatment to avoid jail.

The new misdemeanor language will be added to House Bill 4002, the vehicle lawmakers are using this session to address the fentanyl-fueled drug overdose and addiction crisis. Democrats say its purpose is to give drug users plenty of chances to go to treatment and recovery instead of jail.

"You're going to see, when all this stuff settles, that we have lived up to the promise that we said we were going to do at the very beginning, which is we are going to have a robust housing package," said Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, (D-Beaverton). "And we are going to put a robust package together to try to solve the addiction crisis, and you're going to see that those two packages are working, aligned, and robust."

Proponents of decriminalization and recovery advocates are not pleased.

"Time and time again, the lived experiences of people who would be most harmed by criminalization was ignored," Oregonians for Safety and Recovery, a coalition that includes the ACLU of Oregon, Drug Policy Alliance, and Health Justice Recovery Alliance, said in a statement. "Time and time again, the evidence that recriminalization of addiction is a failure has been ignored."

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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