The GOP is yet to give up the ghost on blocking DC marijuana reforms, NYC Mayor de Blasio's new no-arrest pot possession policy is having an impact, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's pet welfare drug testing bill gets rejected by a federal appeals court, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Republican Effort to Block DC Decriminalization, Legalization Still Lives. Key Republican House and Senate members are set to decide whether to accept a policy rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that would block federal funds from being used to legalize or reduce penalties for pot, Roll Call reports. The rider is the form of an amendment to the DC appropriations bill. "It seems like the marijuana issue has been kicked up to the 'big four.' So that'll get settled," Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) said Tuesday, referring to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees who are negotiating the spending package. Harris's amendment passed the House in June, but was not included in the Senate version of the bill.
Alaska Could Generate $7 Million in Pot Tax Revenues in First Year, Report Finds. A Legislative Research Service report commissioned by Alaska lawmakers estimates that the state could take in $7 million in marijuana taxes in its first year. But the report also noted that the cost of implementing rules and regulations to govern the newly legal industry could be about as much.
Georgia Lawmaker Files Legalization Initiative Bill. Sen. Curt Thompson (D-DeKalb County) has pre-filed Senate Resolution 6, which would, if passed, put a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana before the voters. "I anticipate us having a discussion this session. I don't know where it will lead, but if you don't ask you don't get," Thompson said.
New York City Mayor Says Pot Arrests Down Dramatically With New Policy. In the first two weeks of a new policy directing the NYPD to merely ticket -- not arrest -- people for small-time marijuana possession, pot arrests have dropped more than 60%, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
Wyoming Not There Yet on Legalization. A University of Wyoming poll found that only 35% approved of the personal use of marijuana by adults, with 60% opposed. But, hey, that's up 12 points from a similar question asked by the same pollsters in 2000. Cowboy State residents, however, do come down in favor of medical marijuana, with 72% approving. That number is unchanged from the 2000 poll.
California Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills Filed. Legislators will try again next year to bring statewide regulation to the state's medical marijuana industry. Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) has filed Assembly Bill 26, which largely revives Tom Ammiano's failed AB 1894 from this year, while Rep. Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has filed Assembly Bill 34, which is a one-sentence placeholder bill saying it is intended to regulate medical marijuana.
DC Council Passes Bill to Ban Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing. The council Tuesday approved a bill that will bar employers from drug testing potential new hires before a job offer is made. The bill is B20-0728, the "Prohibition of Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Emergency Act of 2014." While the bill bars pre-employment testing for marijuana, it does allow for on-the-job testing for marijuana, noting that employees "must still adhere to the workplace policies set forth by their employer."
Federal Appeals Court Blocks Florida Welfare Drug Testing Law. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has upheld a lower court ruling that Gov. Rick Scott's pet welfare drug testing law is unconstitutional. The ruling came in Lebron v. Florida Department of Children and Families and is in line with other federal precedent on the issue. The federal courts have held that, with few exceptions, suspicionless drug testing is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unlawful searches and seizures.
Michigan House Approves Suspicion-Based Welfare Drug Testing Bill. The House voted Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 275, which would create a pilot program mandating suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients. The measure has already passed the Senate, but now awaits a concurrence vote after the bill was amended in the House. One of those amendments stripped a provision from the bill that would have allowed the Department of Human Services to provide cash assistance to "an appropriate protective payee" for children if their parents lose benefits because of failing the drug test.
New Synthetic Drugs
Another Bill to Ban New Synthetic Drugs Filed in Texas. Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) Wednesday filed Senate Bill 199, which would add specified newly discovered synthetic drugs to the Texas Controlled Substances Act and create a provision designed to ban analogues as well. Two other bills aimed at new synthetics have already been filed for next year's session.
Drugs Unlimited: The Web Revolution That's Changing How the World Gets High by Mike Power (2014, Thomas Dunne Books, 316 pp., $25.99 HB)
[image:1 align:left]Thanks, Mr. Power, for making me feel like an old fogey. My personal psychedelic career ended sometime back in the last century. I wouldn't know N-Bomb (25C-NBOMe) from Europa (2C-E), and I wouldn't know MDPV (Ivory Wave) if it came up and bit my face off (which, lurid press reports notwithstanding, it won't).
Fogey that I may be, I was in Austin, Texas, in the mid-1980s and remember quite clearly the arrival of Ecstasy (MDMA) on the scene, first in the gay clubs, then spreading into the student party scene. Just as Ecstasy was a substitute for amphetamines, and amphetamines were a substitute for cocaine, many of these new synthetics appear aimed at getting a niche in that perpetual psychedelic-tinged stimulant club drug circle currently dominated by Ecstasy.
Thousands danced the Texas night away on Ecstasy for a few halcyon months in the 1980s before the feds realized that the drug had escaped into the mainstream and criminalized it. They could ban the drug, but they couldn't ban the rave/club culture that both nurtured and evolved from it. Instead, that culture has gone worldwide. Now, whether you're in Joliet, Illinois or Jakarta, Indonesia, you can go and dance the night away to thumping beats under the influence of a drug (almost) nobody ever heard of a decade ago -- and, thanks to the wonders of the Internet age, you can have it delivered to your door with little threat of problems with the police.
In Drugs Unlimited, British journalist Mike Power provides an authoritative, well-researched, and engagingly written account of the rise of these new drugs and the inextricably interwoven links between the new drugs and the rise of the Internet. Along the way we drop in on the godfather of the new drugs, Sasha Shulgin, visit the Chinese chemical factories where many of them are produced, revisit the first economic transaction made on the Internet (a drug deal), and investigate the Dark Web drug marketing scene made famous by sites like Silk Road.
Drugs Unlimited is actually the American edition of Drugs 2.0, which was published more than a year ago in Great Britain. I mention this only because that will explain why it doesn't have the absolute latest information on the newest new drugs, or why it seems like Power was unaware that Silk Road had been busted. (He does add a new chapter at the end of the American edition to examine the Silk Road bust.)
Power traces -- pretty accurately, I think -- the rise of the new synthetics back to Dr. Shulgin and his astounding work of synthesizing hundreds, if not thousands, of compounds of the phenethylamine and tryptaminegroups. That work was made publicly available in the books PIKHAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved) and TIKHAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved), and people have been synthesizing and experimenting with the results ever since.
Some of those same psychonauts were also involved in the genesis of electronic information technologies, holding dear to the principles of individual autonomy, intellectual freedom, and disdain for an overweening state in both cases. Power is very good at tracing that tangled evolution.
And now, we are in a spot where we can open our TOR browsers, find our way to any of the dozens or hundreds of online drug supermarkets, and buy whatever drug we want -- including not just those new-fangled ones, but old favorites like cocaine, LSD, heroin, and weed -- using encrypted communications and crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, and have them delivered to our doors in nice packages.
The genie is out of the bottle and, as Power shows, no one is going to get it back in. Governments are hopelessly ham-handed, reactive, and behind the game. They don't even know about these new drugs until thousands of people have tried them, and then they move to ban a new drug or a class of them, and some chemist tweaks a molecule or two, and then there's a whole other set of drugs to ban. They bring down places like Silk Road, but up pops Silk Road 2.0, or the Agora Marketplace, or Evolution or any number of heavily-protected competitors.
And some young people die using them, and we have another drug panic. Just this week, for instance, CNN is running a special, "Deadly High: How Synthetic Drugs Are Killing Kids," and the British media seems to trumpet every Ecstasy death it comes across (too often without considering the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who took Ecstasy at the same time without dying).
These drugs can kill, but they rarely do, and the media spotlight on each death distorts reality. It's difficult to know how prevalent use of these drugs is, but the number of deaths that can be fairly attributed to them is in the single- or double-digits each year. Compare that to the 21,000 or so opiate overdose deaths reported in 2012, and you see what I mean.
Anything can be a "killer substance" if you take too much of it, even water. And that's what appears to be behind the deaths and other adverse consequences associated with these drugs. People died because they didn't know what they were taking. They may be used to a drug whose active dose is measured in milligrams, but now have a substitute drug whose active dose is measured in micrograms. Take a hundred times the recommended dose of anything and see what happens.
That has happened. And so have labeling mistakes at Chinese factories with poor or non-existent quality controls. And so has the criminally stupid packaging of very strong new synthetics cut with substances that feel superficially like cocaine. Users get the cocaine taste and the cocaine numbness and make cocaine-sized lines to snort, and ingest way too much of the drug. And die.
These problems, tragic as they can be, are largely functions of drug prohibition -- not the drugs themselves. Anything is less dangerous when you know what it is, what it is supposed to do, and how much you can safely take. But criminalized substances are unlikely to be quality-controlled. The problem is different, but related, with new synthetics that are not yet criminalized. In these cases, manufacturers and vendors strive not to identify what the substance is or what its effects are in hopes of coming in under the radar of regulators. That's why we have new synthetics marketed as "plant fertilizer" or "bath salts." Those can get through Customs when something marked "New amphetamine-type psychedelic, recommended dose 100 micrograms" can't.
It almost goes without saying that neither Power nor the people involved in or studying this phenomenon have use for dealing with it through prohibition and criminalization. But that doesn't mean that laissez faire rules.
"We are currently unprepared legislatively, socioculturally, and practically for this, the next phase in the drug market," he writes. "Legalization is not the answer, banning drugs is not the answer, leaving things as they are -- in complete unregulated anarchy in both the old and the new drug markets -- is not the answer… There must be a concerted effort not only of harm reduction, but of urgent damage limitation… The explicit and implicit message from drug users themselves is that no law will ever change nor has ever changed their desire to get high."
Ultimately, the lesson of the new synthetics and the increasingly easy access to them is one of responsibility, both personal and collective. Drug users have the responsibility to be smart, educated consumers, and they can do that. The answers are out there, and these days, they're just a click or two away. And we as a society have a responsibility to understand that people are going to take drugs regardless of whether we want them to or not, and to find ways to minimize -- not increase -- the harm.
Drugs Unlimited is a guided tour through this new world of new drugs and new ways to get at them. And it's provocative, unsettling, and eye-opening along the way. Highly recommended.
Chronicle AM: TX Marijuana, TN Asset Forfeiture Reformer, LA DA MedMJ Delivery App Lawsuit, More (12/314)
Houston's police chief criticizes marijuana prohibition, marijuana reform will be before the Texas legislature, LA's DA sues to block a medical marijuana delivery app, a Massachusetts activist pushes boundaries, a Tennessee DA vows to end civil asset forfeiture, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Marijuana Reform Bills Coming in Next Texas Legislature. There will be at least two bills seeking to reform the Lone Star State's marijuana laws when the legislative session begins next month. Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) has pre-filed HB 00414I, which would move simple possession from a more serious to a less serious misdemeanor, but would leave intact the possibility of arrest, as well as impose a stiff $500 fine. The Marijuana Policy Project says the bill doesn't go far enough and that it is working with Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) to introduce a full-blown decriminalization bill, with no arrest and a maximum $100 fine.
Houston Police Chief Says Marijuana Prohibition Failed Policy, Feds Need to Step Up. In an in-depth interview with Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland described marijuana prohibition as a failed policy and said the federal government needed to address it. "Most police chiefs understand that when it comes to marijuana use, we cannot (continue) to criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use," McLellan said. "We can't, you just can't continue to do that, we understand that." Click on the links to hear the full interview.
Head of Epilepsy Foundation Wants CBD Cannabis Oil Available Nationwide. Warren Lammert, chairman of the board of the Epilepsy Foundation, and father of an epileptic child, has said he wants CBD cannabis oil used to treat seizures made available nationwide. The Epilepsy Foundation has determined that "an end to seizures should not be determined by one's zip code," and that more research is essential.
Massachusetts Activists Pushes Boundaries With Allston CBD Shop. Veteran Bay State marijuana reform activist Bill Downing has opened a shop called CBD Please in Allston. He claims that his operation is legal because the products he offers are made from high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oils. And he's not too concerned about any reaction from authorities. "The state can do anything they want. They can throw me in jail. They can do whatever they want," said Downing. "But I know I'm doing the right thing and I'm doing it for the right reasons. I'm doing it for the patients here in the state and I really don't care about the bureaucracies trying to stop me because they're immoral. And because the public does not support them." When asked if what he was doing was legal, Downing replied: "I don't know, and I don't care."
LA City Attorney Sues to Block Medical Marijuana Delivery App.The LA city attorney's office Tuesday filed a lawsuit to close down a mobile phone app that sets up home deliveries of medical marijuana. The lawsuit alleges that Nestdrop is a "flagrant attempt" to get around restrictions imposed by voters last year. The city argues that its medical marijuana ordinance only allows patients or caregivers to pick up the medicines themselves and does not allow delivery services. Nestdrop isn't the only the only app offering deliveries in Southern California, but it's the only one that's been targeted.
Tennessee DA to End Civil Asset Forfeiture. Ray Crouch, DA for the 23rd Judicial District, has announced that his office will no longer pursue civil asset forfeiture cases. The state's civil asset forfeiture has come under repeated criticism for abuses, and Crouch is responding. "I will sit here and guarantee you do not have to be afraid of our office, of the Drug Task Force seizing your property if you're not committing a criminal act," Crouch said. "We're not going to be using civil forfeiture to take anybody's money. If we do, it will be in criminal court because you will be charged with a crime." Click for more detail on the policy changes under Crouch.
Federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Gets New Sponsor. The measure, S 2839, is a wide-ranging effort to deal with rising levels of opiate addiction and addresses prevention, naloxone access and training, alternatives to incarceration, "criminal justice medication-assisted treatment and interventions," and more. It has seven cosponsors -- five Democrats and two Republicans. The latest is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Federal Second Chance Reauthorization Act Gets New Sponsor. The measure, HR 3465 (companion legislation is S 1690) would extend and expand grants for drug treatment, "offender reentry substance abuse and criminal justice collaboration," and other grants under the 1968 omnibus crime control act. It has 46 cosponsors -- 37 Democrats and nine Republicans. The latest is Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). It is currently before the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
A Houston cop gets caught transferring cocaine, a New York narc gets nailed for tipping off his neighborhood buddies about looming drug raids, and another prison guard goes down for contraband. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Houston, a Houston police officer was indicted November 20 for transporting cocaine. Officer Jasmine Renee Bonner, 26, had been arrested in August after a "lengthy ongoing investigation" led by DEA and ATF officers when she was observed removing cocaine from the trunk of her car and giving it to a coconspirator. Both were then pulled over separately in traffic stops. She is charged with first-degree felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and is being held in the Montgomery County Jail on a one million dollar bond.
In Troy, New York, a Troy police officer was indicted last Friday on charges he tipped off a friend about an impending drug raid. Patrolman Brian Gross had been arrested in July, and the arrest and the indictment were part of a five-month investigation by the attorney general's office and the State Police. Gross was assigned to the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, "and thus had knowledge of and access to investigative intelligence, suspect information and details concerning the timing and location of search warrants," according to an attorney general's office. The investigation started after police raids aimed at known drug houses turned up no activity. The houses were all in Gross's neighborhood. He was indicted for tampering with physical evidence, a felony, and misdemeanor counts of divulging an eavesdropping warrant, two counts of official misconduct and a count of obstructing governmental administration.
In Orlando, Florida, a former prison guard was sentenced last Monday to 18 months in prison for smuggling marijuana and tobacco into the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex near Leesburg. Jason Epstein, 29, copped to receiving hundreds of dollars in payments in return for smuggling in goodies "at least three or four times." He had pleaded guilty to one count of bribery.
The Kettle Falls Five case gets postponed, ASA starts a petition to protect California patients who need organ transplants, Minnesota begins implementing its new medical marijuana law, and more. Let's get to it:
On Tuesday, the head of the Epilepsy Foundation said he wants CBC cannabis oil available nationwide. Warren Lammert, chairman of the board of the Epilepsy Foundation, and father of an epileptic child, has said he wants CBD cannabis oil used to treat seizures made available nationwide. The Epilepsy Foundation has determined that "an end to seizures should not be determined by one's zip code," and that more research is essential.
On Monday, ASA announced a petition drive seeking support for a California Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act. The medical marijuana defense and advocacy group Americans for Safe Accessis leading a petition drive to garner support for state legislation to patients who are being denied access to organ transplants because of their medical marijuana use. The proposed legislation is the Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant. It would bar the denial of organ transplants because of medical marijuana use. Click on the title link for more information and to sign the petition.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles announced it had shut down more than 400 dispensaries.The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer says it has shut down 402 dispensaries since Feuer took office in the summer of 2013. The office has also filed more than 200 criminal cases related to dispensaries, with 743 defendants. It is unclear what the actual impact is, however; new dispensaries seem to pop up at the rate of one a day.
Also on Tuesday, the LA city attorney sued to block a medical marijuana delivery app. The LA city attorney's office filed a lawsuit to close down a mobile phone app that sets up home deliveries of medical marijuana. The lawsuit alleges that Nestdrop is a "flagrant attempt" to get around restrictions imposed by voters last year. The city argues that its medical marijuana ordinance only allows patients or caregivers to pick up the medicines themselves and does not allow delivery services. Nestdrop isn't the only the only app offering deliveries in Southern California, but it's the first to be targeted by authorities.
Last Thursday, an Arizona professor fired for medical marijuana research got new funding to continue her work. Researcher Dr. Sue Sisley, who was fired from her job at the University of Arizona over her medical marijuana research, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the state of Colorado to continue her research into the effects of medical marijuana on veterans with PTSD.
On Tuesday, a Massachusetts activist went public with his boundary-pushing Allston CBD shop. Veteran Bay State marijuana reform activist Bill Downing has opened a shop called CBD Please in Allston. He claims that his operation is legal because the products he offers are made from high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oils. And he's not too concerned about any reaction from authorities. "The state can do anything they want. They can throw me in jail. They can do whatever they want," said Downing. "But I know I'm doing the right thing and I'm doing it for the right reasons. I'm doing it for the patients here in the state and I really don't care about the bureaucracies trying to stop me because they're immoral. And because the public does not support them." When asked if what he was doing was legal, Downing replied: "I don't know, and I don't care."
On Monday, the state named two medical marijuana growers. The state Department of Health today named two groups that it has selected to grow marijuana under the state's new law. LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions ("MinnMed") will be allowed to grow, process, and distribute medical marijuana products. Medical marijuana is supposed to be available for patients by next July.
Late last month, the state decided to appeal a lower court ruling that cities can ban dispensaries. The state earlier this month filed an appeal of a circuit court ruling that the city of Cave Junction can deny a business license to a medical marijuana dispensary. Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke ruled that the state's dispensary law, enacted last year, did not block the ban, but didn't rule on state constitutional issues involved. The city has also appealed the ruling.
On Monday, trial in the Kettle Falls Five federal medical marijuana case was postoned.A new judge assigned to hear the widely watched federal medical marijuana case of the Kettle Falls Five has continued the federal trial scheduled to begin Monday in Spokane, Washington. Senior Judge Fred Van Sickle has been replaced by Judge Thomas O. Rice, who set a new trial date of February 23. This comes as the US Senate plans to consider a measure later this week that would prohibit Department of Justice funds from being spent on medical marijuana enforcement in states where it's legal. Advocates say that federal prosecutions like the Kettle Falls Five, as well as pending asset forfeiture cases in California, would be impacted by the passage of such a measure. The change in trial date also came soon after CNN ran the latest national media piece on the Kettle Falls Five, discussing the contradictions between Washington's adult-use and medical marijuana laws and the prosecution of state compliant patients like the Kettle Falls Five.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]