ND Legal Pot Initiative Filed, Amsterdam Mayor Calls for Regulated Cocaine, Ecstasy Sales, More... (4/16/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1209)
Consequences of Prohibition

The UN says Colombian coca cultivation is at an all-time high, North Carolina lawmakers move to ban "gas station heroin," and more.

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

North Dakota Activists File Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure. Will the third time be the charm? Activists tried and failed in 2018 and 2022 to legalize marijuana via the ballot box, but now they are back again with an eye on November 2024. A committee named New Economic Frontier filed a marijuana legalization initiative with state officials Tuesday.

The measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed by people 21 and over and would allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants. It would also mandate that the state create a regime of legal marijuana production and sales by October 2025. The initiative specifies that there would be no more than seven production facilities and 18 retail pot shops statewide.

To qualify for the November ballot, the campaign must gather 15,582 valid voter signatures by July 8th.

"Cannabis legalization is coming, and it's coming fast," said Burleigh County Commissioner and former Bismarck mayor Steve Bakken, who chairs the sponsoring committee. "We've got a choice here -- let out-of-state interests call the shots, or take the lead ourselves. We've carefully crafted this initiative right here in North Dakota, making sure it fits what our community really needs. Let's embrace this opportunity the North Dakota way, with common sense and local input guiding the way."

Drug Policy

North Carolina Lawmakers Call for Ban on "Gas Station Heroin." The House Select Committee on Substance Abuse adopted a report Tuesday calling on the legislature to make "gas station heroin" a Schedule II controlled substance.

"Gas station heroin" is the colloquial name for tianeptine, an antidepressant drug authorized for medical use in Europe but not in the US, where it is not scheduled. It has opioid-like qualities and is sold under various product names in convenience stores and gas stations, thus the sobriquet. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a public safety alert amidst "reports of serious medical injuries," including agitation, hallucinations, high blood pressure, coma and even death.

The committee report adopted Tuesday recommends making tianeptine a Schedule II controlled substance under state law.

"I think that the public in general has no idea the amount of substances that are out there so easy to get to," said Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance).


Colombian Coca Cultivation at All-Time High, UN Says. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported over the weekend that coca cultivation in Colombia had increased 13 percent over 2022 to nearly 570,000 acres of cropland. That is an all-time high for Colombia, UNODC said.

Colombia is now the world's leading exporter of cocaine and provides 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the US. (Peru and Bolivia, the second and third-place producers see most of their production go to markets in Latin America and Europe.)

Colombia's coca crop decreased slightly from 2017 to 2020, following a peace deal between the government and the country's biggest rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. But planting has risen since then as smaller armed groups that profit from the drug trade take over territory that was abandoned by FARC fighters.

The UNODC report comes as the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro struggles to stifle the trade, whose operators include leftwing dissident guerrillas, rightwing paramilitaries, and apolitical yet violent drug trafficking organizations.

The administration tried to put the best spin on the numbers, saying cultivation was growing at a slower pace than in recent years and that it was working on new programs to help farmers switch to legal crops in coming years.

"We are flattening the curve," Justice Minister Nestor Osuna said at a news conference, referring to the 13% annual increase in land planted with coca. He noted coca cultivation in Colombia rose more than 40% from 2020 to 2021.

Meanwhile, President Petro was attending a conference on drug policy and urged his neighbors to change their policies and switch from a military approach to treating drugs as a "public health problem."

"We have to end the disastrous policy that blames farmers (for cocaine production) and doesn’t ask why in some societies people consume drugs until they kill themselves," he said. "Drugs are replacing the lack of affection and loneliness."

Amsterdam Mayor Calls for Regulated Cocaine, Ecstasy Sales. In an interview with Agence France Press, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema said hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) should be regulated. That is the only way to deal with the "disastrous" effect of illicit drug trafficking on her city, she said.

"You could imagine getting cocaine at pharmacies or via a medical system," she told AFP. "I think that some drugs are dangerous, and I also think it is wise to reduce drug use. But I also notice that the way we do this does not help... we need to think of better ways to regulate drugs."

Despite concerted efforts to repress the black market in cocaine -- which takes up 80 percent of Amsterdam policing, Halsema said -- the street price of the drug has stayed "exactly the same... so we have had no effect. Is it not ridiculous that we leave drug trafficking to criminals and we do not try to find a way to have a civilized market?"

Halsema has been criticized by the mayors of Rotterdam and Antwerp, Belgium, a key destination port for South American cocaine, who both have advocated for pressuring consumers to cut it out, but she said she does not believe treating consumers as a criminal is a solution.

Frustrated with conservative Dutch governments, Halsema has gone international with her critique of drug prohibition, inviting fellow mayors and experts to a January conference in Amsterdam to discuss "how and not whether" cities should regulate drugs. The conference's final declaration was signed onto by the mayors of Bern and the former mayor of Bogota, among others.

"Anyone who thinks a bit about ways to really reduce the influence of the narco-traffickers comes to this conclusion... there is in fact really no alternative," she said.

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