Chronicle AM: New Orleans "Decrim" in Effect, Philippine Drug Executions Accelerate, More... (6/21/16)
The Big Easy goes easy on marijuana possession, a California medical marijuana business is back in operation after a misbegotten raid, Danish cops raid Christiania to little effect, suspected drug dealers are being killed in the Philippines, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Maine Legalization Foes Unveil New Website. Anti-legalization forces operating as Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities have launched a new website aimed at doing in the legalization initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. A drop-down menu on the website provides an indication of their approach, with buttons for "Pot Shops on Main Street," "Marijuana Candy," and "Big Marijuana."
New Orleans "Decriminalization" Ordinance Goes Into Effect. A newly passed city ordinance allowing police to cite and fine instead of arrest people caught with small quantities of pot is now in effect in the Big Easy. But not everybody will get a ticket. Those caught with pot in a drug free zone, such as a city park, school, or church will still be charged and jailed.
After Misbegotten Raid, California Medical Marijuana Company Open for Business Again. Sonoma County's Care By Design (CBD) is already back in business after a massive raid including a hundred police officers and DEA agents last week. Business operator Dennis Franklin Hunter was released without charges after initially being held on a $5 million bond. Police raided the business thinking it was using a dangerous and illegal butane extraction process to make cannabis oil, but it was actually using a non-flammable CO2 extraction process. CBD is blaming the botched raid on a disgruntled former employee involved in a competing business.
Danish Cops Raid Christiania's Pusher Street, To No Avail. Police last Friday marched into the Copenhagen hippy enclave, tore down 37 marijuana and hash sales stands, and arrested 18 people, but new stands went up and pot sales recommenced before police even left the scene. The raid is sparking new discussion on marijuana legalization, including from a senior prosecutor in the Copenhagen prosecutor's office. I personally believe we should legalize the sale of cannabis because this is a fight we cannot win," Anna Birgitt Sturup said.
Philippines in Drug Dealer Killing Frenzy. Under the new presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, who earned a reputation as a crime fighter and death squad organizer as the long-time mayor of Davao City, killings of alleged drug dealers are surging. Duterte has vowed to eradicate drugs and other crime within six months and even offered to give medals to citizens who kill them. Police reported killing 11 suspected drug dealers over the weekend, saying they resisted arrest, with more than 40 killed since Duterte was elected on May 9.
The Supreme Court hands down a pair of rulings supporting law enforcement powers, the California and Arizona marijuana legalization efforts gain powerful endorsements, the feds give up on trying to bust Fedex for shipping prescription pills, and more.
[image:1 align:left]Marijuana Policy
Arizona Congressman Endorses Legalization Initiative. US Congressman Ruben Gallegos (D-Phoenix) announced Monday that he is endorsing the legalization initiative from the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Forcing sales of this plant into the underground market has resulted in billions of dollars flowing into the hands of drug cartels and other criminals," Rep. Gallegos said. "We will be far better off if we shift the production and sale of marijuana to taxpaying Arizona businesses subject to strict regulations. It will also allow the state to direct law enforcement resources toward reducing violence and other more serious crimes."
California Democratic Party Endorses Legalization Initiative. Meeting in Long Beach over the weekend, the executive committee of the state Democratic Party voted to endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of weed, allow limited personal cultivation, and allow regulated commercial cultivation and sales.
Colorado Health Department Reports No Increase in Youth Use. Marijuana use among high school students in the state has not increased since legalization, the Health Department reported Monday. The report was based on a statewide student survey. It found that 21% of students had reported using marijuana, in line with earlier figures from the state and below the national average of nearly 22%.
Congressional Pot Fans, Foes Work Together on New Research Bill. Legalization opponent Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is joining forces with Congress's "top legal pot advocate," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to file a bill to overhaul federal policies on marijuana research. The bill would make it easier for scientists to conduct research on the medical use of marijuana. It hasn't been filed yet, but is expected this week.
Arkansas Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. Supporters of the Arkansans for Compassionate Care medical marijuana initiative handed in more than 110,000 raw signatures to state officials in Little Rock Monday. The initiative only needs some 67,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If as many as 30% of the signatures are found invalid, organizers would still have enough signatures to qualify.
Oklahoma Governor Delays Using Card Readers to Seize Money. In the wake of a furious outcry over the Highway Patrol's recent use of ERAD card-reading devices to seize money from debit and credit cards, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last Friday directed the secretary of safety and secure to delay using the the card-readers until the state can develop a clear policy for their use.
Supreme Court Opens Door to More Lawless Police Searches. In a pair of decisions released Monday, the US Supreme Court again demonstrated its deference to law enforcement priorities, in one case by expanding an exception to the long-standing ruling requiring that unlawfully gathered evidence be discarded and in another by holding that drug dealers, even those engaged only in street-corner sales, are engaged in interstate commerce.The two decisions expand the ability of local police to skirt the law without effective punishment on the one hand, and allow prosecutors to use the weight of the federal criminal justice system to come down on small-time criminals whose cases would normally be the purview of local authorities on the other. Taken together, the decisions show a high court that once again give great deference to the demands of law enforcement.
Feds Drop Drug Trafficking Case Against Fedex. Federal prosecutors in San Francisco last Friday suddenly moved to drop all criminal charges against the delivery service, which they had accused of knowingly delivering illegal prescription drugs. In court, presiding Judge Charley Breyer said the company was "factually innocent" and that the DEA had failed to provide it with the names of customers who were shipping illegal drugs. "The dismissal is an act, in the court's view, entirely consistent with the government's overarching obligation to seek justice even at the expense of some embarrassment," Breyr said, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Chronicle AM: Times of London Calls for Drug Decrim, Microsoft Enters MJ Business, More... (6/17/16)
Three reports on marijuana policy are released, Microsoft gets in the marijuana business, the Times of London calls for drug decriminalization and hints at legalization, a Thai minister reiterates his call for regulating meth, and more.
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Brookings Institution Releases Research Papers on Legalization and Regulation. One paper is "Bootleggers, Baptists, bureaucrats, and bongs: How special interests will shape marijuana legalization," in which Brookings Senior Fellows Philip Wallach and Jonathan Rauch ask: Why did marijuana legalization recently break through in the face of what had long been overwhelming interest-group resistance? How might key social and bureaucratic actors reorganize and reassert themselves, and as legalization ushers in a "new normal" of marijuana-related regulation and lobbying, what kinds of pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead? The second paper is "Worry about bad marijuana -- not Big Marijuana," in which Rauch and Senior Fellow John Hudak examine a concern that many critics and proponents of marijuana legalization share: the potential emergence of Big Marijuana, a corporate lobby akin to Big Tobacco that recklessly pursues profits and wields sufficient clout to shape regulation to its liking. Hudak and Rauch ultimately argue against alarmism, concluding that "policy should concern itself with harmful practices, not with industry structure, and it should begin with a presumption of neutrality on issues of corporate size and market structure."
Transnational Institute Releases Report on Marijuana Regulation and UN Treaties. The report, "Cannabis Regulation and the UN Drug Treaties: Strategies for Reform," which was compiled by a group of experts in the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom, makes clear that the problem is not that countries are pursuing reforms to legally regulate cannabis, but rather the antiquated drug treaty provisions that explicitly block such reforms. Overcoming that hurdle, the report argues, does not require a global consensus to rewrite the UN drug treaties -- a difficult task under current conditions -- but can be achieved by procedures available to individual countries and groups of countries under international law.
Microsoft Enters the Marijuana Business. The tech giant announced Thursday that is forming a partnership with a marijuana-focused software company called Kind Financial, which provides "seed to sale" services for marijuana growers. The move makes Microsoft the first major tech company to get involved with the growing legal marijuana industry.
Michigan Legalizers Sue Over 180-Window for Signatures. MI Legalize, the group seeking to get its legalization initiative on the November ballot, filed suit Thursday in the state Court of Claims seeking to overturn a new law and an old policy that render invalid any signatures gathered outside of a 180-day window. Michigan officials ruled that the campaign came up short after they rejected signatures from the beginning of the petition drive because they had been gathered outside that window.
New Jersey Assembly Passes PTSD Bill. The Assembly approved the bill Thursday, and a Senate committee approved a similar measure the same day. The bills would allow patients suffering from PTSD to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
Delaware Legislature Passes Mild Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 309, which would force the state's Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to disclose the specific items and programs its civil asset forfeiture fund paid for. The measure has already passed the House and goes to the desk of Gov. Jack Markell (D). A bill that would have abolished civil forfeiture was filed, but never moved this year.
The Times of London Calls for Drug Decriminalization, Hints at Legalization. England's most prestigious newspaper has declared itself in favor of treating drug use and possession as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. In a leading article, "Breaking Good", the paper supported the call earlier this week from the Royal Society for Public Health for drug decriminalization. The newspaper said that although it is "radical advice," it is "sound" and ministers should "give it serious consideration." In an editorial in the same issue, the Times went a step further: "The government should be encouraged to think of decriminalization not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalizing and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco."
Thai Minister Defends Call for Legalizing Meth. Facing criticism, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya held firm Friday to his call to regulate instead of prohibit methamphetamine. He said it is impossible to eliminate dangerous drugs, so there should be a proper way to live with them. He added that crackdowns on users and sellers had filled the country's prisons, but not prevented drug use.
Busy, busy: There's movement on marijuana banking, Gary Johnson picks up MPP's endorsement, a leading California cannabis oil producer gets busted, the AMA casts on leery eye on patient pain reports, a congresswoman wants to drug test the rich, British public health groups call for decrim, the Thai government wants to end the war on meth, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Senate Committee Approves Measure to Ease Pot Businesses' Access to Financial Services. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 16-14 to approve an amendment that would bar the Treasury Department from punishing banks that do business with state-legal marijuana businesses. The amendment is part of the FY 2017 Financial And General Government Services Appropriations Act, which now heads for a Senate floor vote.
Marijuana Policy Project Endorses Libertarian Gary Johnson for President. MPP has formally endorsed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson for president, saying he was the obvious choice as the most pro-marijuana legalization candidate on the ballot. The group said its endorsement was based solely on his marijuana policies.
New York Assembly Passes Bill to Seal Records for Misdemeanor Marijuana Convictions. The Assembly has passed Assembly Bill 10092, which will seal the conviction records of people charged with misdemeanor offenses. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the move was in response to New York City police charging people with misdemeanors for possession of marijuana in public. Simple possession is decriminalized in the state.
Leading California Medical Marijuana Oil Maker Busted.Police, including DEA agents, raided five properties associated with a well-known medical marijuana products manufacturer in Northern California's Sonoma County Wednesday morning, detaining at least nine people and arresting one on suspicion of felony drug manufacture for his role in cannabis oil production.The operation raided was Care By Design (CBD Guild), which produces CBD-rich cannabis oils for use in sprays, gels, and cannabis oil cartridges for vaporizers. The company offers products with five different ratios of CBD to THC so "patients can adjust their cannabis medicine to suit their specific conditions and personal preferences." Police accused the operation of using dangerous and illegal butane extraction for their oils, but Care By Design says that is not the case.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
AMA Resolutions Aim to Curb Opioid Abuse, Will Ignore Patients' Pain Reports. At its annual meeting in Chicago, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a number of resolutions aimed at curbing the misuse of prescription opioids. One called for removing any barriers to non-opioid pain therapies, one calls for promoting increased access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), but "the group also voted in favor of efforts to remove pain as a vital sign in professional standards, as well as disconnecting patient satisfaction scores from questions related to the evaluation and management of pain," a move that may not bode well for chronic pain patients.
Company Now Offers Asset Forfeiture Insurance to Cannabusinesses. CBZ Insurance Services is now offering coverage to protect state-legal marijuana businesses from the threat of seizure and asset forfeiture. The company's "search and confiscation" coverage applies only to entities that are state-legal and are found innocent of any raid-related charges. "A legally operating cannabis business has unique challenges other types of businesses don't have," said CBZ's Jeffrey Rosen. "One challenge is the threat of being shut down at any time by law enforcement. Whether you're a grower, distributor or manufacturer, search and seizure coverage is the best protection for a company's assets."
Congresswoman Wants to Drug Test the Rich Before Approving Tax Deductions. US Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has called for requiring wealthy Americans to undergo a drug test before approving their tax deductions. Moore said she will file the bill because she is "sick and tired, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, of the criminalization of poverty," referring to efforts pushed by Republican governors and legislators to impose drug testing requirements on people seeking public benefits. "We're not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off SNAP. But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, let's start on the other end of the income spectrum."
British Public Health Bodies Call for Drug Decriminalization. Two leading public health bodies say drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one, and have called for drug decriminalization. The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health said that criminalizing drug use has not deterred people from using drugs, and that those harmed by drug use are harmed again by punishment. "We have taken the view that it is time for endorsing a different approach," said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society. "We have gone to our stakeholders and asked the public and tried to gain some consensus from our community and the public, because that is very important." The society has detailed in its new line in the aptly named report Taking a New Line on Drugs.
Thailand Government Proposes Ending War on Meth and Regulating It Instead. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has suggested removing meth from the country's dangerous illicit drug list and putting it in the same category as medicinal drugs, with controls -- not bans -- on distribution, sale, and use of the drug. Current measures to suppress the drug have not worked, he said. Paiboon's comments came in a discussion of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), which met in April. "The world has now surrendered to drugs, and has come to think of how to live with drugs. It is like a man suffering from cancer and having no cure and he has to live a happy life with the cancer," Gen Paiboon said. The government has drawn up a bill that would do that, he said.
(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org"s lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.
Police, including DEA agents, raided five properties associated with a well-known medical marijuana products manufacturer in Northern California's Sonoma County Wednesday morning, detaining at least nine people and arresting one on suspicion of felony drug manufacture for his role in cannabis oil production.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since voters approved it two decades ago, it was only last year that the legislature moved to bring state-wide regulation to the rapidly growing industry, and that won't actually happen until 2018. In the meantime, medical marijuana businesses are operating in a sphere of unsettled legality where, as California NORML put it in an email alert about the raids, "there's plenty of gray area to generate busts between now and then."
The operation raided was Care By Design (CBD Guild), which produces CBD-rich cannabis oils for use in sprays, gels, and cannabis oil cartridges for vaporizers. The company offers products with five different ratios of CBD to THC so "patients can adjust their cannabis medicine to suit their specific conditions and personal preferences."
CBD (cannabidiol) is more sought after for medicinal purposes; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid that gets you high.
Santa Rosa Police spokesman Lt. Mike Lazzarini told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat that a hundred Santa Rosa police, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies, and DEA agents raided the operations because they were using illegal and hazardous production methods -- producing the oil with the use of butane, which is a fire and explosion hazard, and which is forbidden under state law.
"From a law enforcement standpoint this is not a legal process when it involves processes that are dangerous," Lazzarini said.
The police spokesman also said that Care By Design's facilities were in violation of Santa Rosa municipal codes and not properly permitted.
Care By Design, which is organized as a non-profit collective under the rubric of the CBD Guild, flatly rejected law enforcement assertions that it was illegally using butane to make the cannabis oil.
"Contrary to initial press reports, none of the Care By Design facilities are involved in the production of hash; nor is butane used in the company's extraction process," it said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Care By Design utilizes a non-volatile supercritical CO2 extraction method, and does not produce any hash, rosin, wax, shatter or similar products that are popular amongst recreational users."
And it was not pleased with the raids, in which police seized equipment, computers, product, payroll, and financial paperwork.
"This law enforcement action is unprecedented, unfortunate, and has the potential to deprive thousands of profoundly sick patients of much needed medicine," said collective spokesman Nick Caston. "We will cooperate fully with law enforcement in an effort to resolve this as quickly as possible, and hope to have our several dozen employees in Sonoma County back to work this week."
Later Wednesday, CBD Guild attorney Joe Rogoway, a veteran Santa Rosa marijuana attorney, reiterated the charge that police were mischaracterizing the business, which he said was above board and operating lawfully.
"They weren't using butane, they use a process that includes CO2 which is a flame retardant; CO2 is what's in fire extinguishers," Rogoway told the Press-Democrat. "It's not criminalized in California law."
The Guild suspects a disgruntled former employee provoked the raids by making false claims to law enforcement, Rogoway said.
Police attempted to play up the criminal element in their description of the man jailed in the sole major arrest during the raids. They described operations manager Dennis Franklin Hunter as a criminal with a history of evading arrest, justifying the $5 million dollar bail on which he is being held.
But what he had been busted for was -- wait for it -- growing marijuana in Humboldt County in 1998. But the feds couldn't find him until 2002, when he was sentenced to 5 ½ years in federal prison. On a second occasion, Hunter was the subject of a manhunt in Arkansas after US Homeland Security asked Little Rock authorities to detain him because they suspected he had drugs on his plane. But he took off after refueling as deputies approached and only later met with authorities.
Caston said Hunter's history was one of being a pioneer in California's marijuana industry.
"They're the folks that have been leading the way, breaking down the stigma, breaking down the misconceptions," he said. "He's really a visionary, along with the other folks in our company, trying to bring practices that are safe. This (law enforcement) action is very surprising."
And while this all gets sorted out, thousands of patients in dispensaries across the state who rely on Care By Design's products will just have to tough it out.