DEA Warns on Xylazine in Illicit Fentanyl, BC Recriminalizes Public Drug Possession, More... (4/29/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1210)
Consequences of Prohibition

A North Dakota marijuana legalization initiative campaign can begin signature-gathering, a last gasp at medical marijuana fails in Kansas, and more.

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

North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative Gets Go-Ahead for Signature Gathering. Last Thursday, Secretary of State Michael Howe (R) approved a marijuana legalization initiative for signature-gathering.

The measure sponsored by New Economic Frontier would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and four grams of concentrates by people 21 and over. It would also allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants, with a limit of six plants per household.

It would also mandate that the state establish a system of regulated marijuana commerce by October 1, 2025, but that commerce would be limited to seven growers and 18 dispensaries. To avoid excessive concentration, people or businesses may not operate more than one grow, four dispensaries, or one dispensary within a 20-mile radius of another.

Initiative backers now have two deadlines for coming up with the 15,582 valid voter signatures they will need to appear on the ballot. If they can gather the signatures by July 8, the measure will appear on the November ballot. If they have not completed signature-gathering by July 8, they would then have until April 25, 2025 to qualify for the November 2025 ballot.

There is no recent polling on marijuana legalization in the state. But if the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will have to do at least five points better than its failed 2022 predecessor did.

Medical Marijuana

Kansas Effort to Revive Medical Marijuana Push Fails. Weeks after a medical marijuana bill died in committee, a longshot effort to revive the issue has failed. Sen. Robert Olsen (R) filed a motion to revive another medical marijuana bill he had introduced last year, Senate Bill 135, only to see it struck down on a 12-25 vote last Friday.

Olson has long backed medical marijuana and as chair of the 2022 Special Committee on Medical Marijuana held hearings on the issue. He said last fall that Senate President Ty Masterson (R) removed him as chair of that committee after he held hearings, saying he believed it was a retaliatory move.

Olson's bill would have legalized and regulated medical marijuana, with a 10 percent retail tax. Patients would have paid a $50 fee to be registered with the state. The registry would be limited to patients suffering from 22 specified medical conditions and "any other disease or condition" approved by the state secretary of health and the environment.

Maybe next year.

Drug Policy

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram Warns on Increased Xylazine in Illicit Fentanyl Supply. In a statement last Friday, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram publicized an increase in DEA fentanyl seizures containing the non-opioid sedative xylazine, popularly known as "tranq":

"DEA first warned the public of a sharp increase in fentanyl seizures containing xylazine in our March 2023 Public Safety Alert. Since that time, xylazine’s growing prevalence in the fentanyl supply continues to make the deadliest drug threat facing this country even deadlier."

"In 2023, 30 percent of the fentanyl powder seized by DEA contained xylazine, up from 25 percent in 2022. The percentage of fentanyl pills testing positive for xylazine decreased slightly from 7 percent in 2022 to 6 percent in 2023. In total, DEA seized 12,000 pounds of fentanyl powder and 79.5 million fentanyl pills in 2023."

"In April 2023, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) designated fentanyl adulterated with xylazine as an emerging drug threat, indicating people who ingest fentanyl mixed with xylazine are at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning."

"DEA is publicly updating this information today as part of our commitment to save lives by keeping the American public informed of drug threats as we encounter them."


Canada's British Columbia Backtracks, Will Recriminalize Public Drug Use. More than a year ago, British Columbia won permission from the federal government to begin a pilot program to decriminalize drug use and possession. But in the face of rising criticism, Premier David Eby (NDP) announced last Friday that the province is partially reversing course. He said decriminalization will remain in place but that police will now have the power to enforce laws against drug use in public places such as hospitals, parks, beaches, and restaurants.

Eby still views addiction as a health issue "not a criminal laws issue, but the compassion for people who are struggling does not mean anything goes," he said. While expressing empathy for people struggling with addiction, he said public safety must be maintained. "We're taking action to give police the enforcement tools they need to keep parks, hospitals, and transit safe from public drug use," he said.

Although police will have the ability to make arrests for public drug use or possession, arrests will be a last resort, Eby said. Police can ask drug users to leave the area or seize their drugs and will "only arrest for simple possession of illicit drugs in exceptional circumstances."

Drug user advocates were not impressed. Brittany Graham, the executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), said the change seems to be aimed only at the poor and homeless.

"They are going to be recriminalized in every sense of the word and it is very disappointing, in the middle of this overdose crisis when 14,000 people have died, that our current government is blaming our larger problems of homelessness, and poverty, and the welfare state on the individual people who have nowhere to go," she said. "People cannot afford housing anymore," she said. "This is a housing issue, not a decriminalization issue."

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