FL Governor Warns Against Weed Initiative, Iran's Execution Binge, More... (4/5/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1208)
Consequences of Prohibition

A New York judge threw a scare into the state's marijuana industry but all is better now, Vancouver activist Dana Larsen opens another drug-checking operation, and more.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Florida Governor Warns "Radical" Marijuana Legalization Initiative Will Leave State "Smelling Like Marijuana." Displaying much of the same political acumen that left him an early also-ran in the Republican presidential race, Gov. Ran DeSantis (R) has come out against a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana that has just been cleared for the November ballot.

The measure is "radical" and will "reduce the quality of life" in the state, he warned at a Thursday press conference. The initiative is "basically a license to have it anywhere you want" and its passage would mean "this state will start to smell like marijuana in our cities and towns."

The odor of weed is a big issue for DeSantis, who has complained about the smell of it in other jurisdictions.

The state already has medical marijuana and that should be enough, he argued.

"Do we really need to do more with that?" he asked. "Do we want to have more marijuana in our communities? I don’t think it’ll work out well, but it is a very, very broad amendment."

Under the proposed initiative, people 21 and over could purchase and possess up to three ounces of weed, which would initially be sold only by companies that are already in the existing medical marijuana marketplace, such as Trulieve, which has already funded the effort to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. There is no provision for home cultivation.

New York Judge Freaks Out Marijuana Industry with Regulatory Ruling That Was Amended the Next Day. State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bryant on Wednesday issued an opinion that appeared to throw out the state's regulatory regime for legal marijuana sales as "unconstitutionally vague," causing great concern within the industry. But the next day, after an uproar ensued, he amended the order to clarify that it only applied to marketing and advertising rules -- not the entire regulatory structure.

The ruling came in a case brought by Leafly, a marijuana sales website, which had taken the state to court over its rules barring dispensaries from advertising on third-party platforms like it.

Leafly said it was happy with even the limited decision: "It's impossible to overstate the importance of providing consumers with choices, and educational information when making purchasing decisions," the company said in a statement. "It is critically important that licensed retailers have equal access to important advertising and marketing tools to help them succeed in a competitive landscape."


Vancouver Activist Dana Larsen Opens New Drug Checking Site. Veteran drug reform activist Dana Larsen has opened a second site for people to get their drugs checked for potency and contaminants. The Get Your Drugs Tested service opened on West Broadway in downtown Vancouver will provide checking for free and is legally approved to operate by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Larsen said.

"We'll test anything people bring in, any kind of substance. That can be anything from heroin, cocaine to other substances. We test psychedelics like MDMA, any street drug or pill, we can analyze it and give you a very good idea of what's in there and make an informed decision on what you’re taking," said Larsen at the grand opening event.

Larsen is not the only one offering such services. The British Columbia Ministry of Health and Addictions says there are 90 drug-checking services across the province and "46 of these offer immediate point-of-care testing with FTIR spectrometer on some days of the week."

"Lifesaving supports such as drug checking, overdose prevention services, and providing harm reduction supplies keep people alive so they can access health care and treatment," reads a statement from the ministry. "People need to be alive to get help. Drug checking is a harm reduction service aimed at keeping people alive -- to help reduce the risk of overdose or poisoning from the toxic street drugs being pushed on people by organized crime."

Iran Executed Hundreds of Drug Offenders Last Year, Amnesty International Says. In a report released Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International said Iran had executed at least 853 people in 2023, the highest number in years, and that 481 of them -- or more than half -- were for drug offenses.

"Amid domestic calls for the abolition of the death penalty, including from death row prisoners, the Iranian authorities have doubled down and persisted with their state-sanctioned killing spree which has turned prisons into killing fields," read the investigative report titled "'Don't Let Them Kill Us': Iran's Relentless Execution Crisis Since The 2022 Uprising."

The number of overall executions has risen dramatically since a nationwide uprising began after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini for not wearing a head covering. The number of drug executions has also risen dramatically since the Islamic Republic moved in 2017 to amend its death penalty procedures and reduce the number of drug executions.

"The execution crisis in Iran both stems from and exacerbates a wider crisis of systemic impunity for the arbitrary deprivation of life. Security forces, prosecutors, and judges collaborate in a relentless assault on the right to life," the report said.

"Our shocking findings on the Iranian authorities’ ongoing assault on the right to life underscore the urgent need for the international community to press the Iranian authorities for an immediate moratorium on all executions," said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, further calling for the renewal of the mandates of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Iran and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.

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