Thwarted activists in one state are already preparing for 2018, Trump chooses an ardent, unreconstructed drug warrior as attorney general, the surgeon general endorses harm reduction, and more.
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Michigan Legalizers Gear Up for 2018. This year, legalization advocates came up just short in their bid to qualify an initiative for the ballot after state courts ruled that some of their petition signatures came outside a specified time-frame for signature gathering. But, buoyed by election results in other states where weed was on the ballot, MI Legalize say it is preparing to try again in 2018. The group will need to come up with about 250,000 valid voter signatures in a six-month period to qualify.
Donald Trump Selects Drug Warrior Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. The Alabama Republican senator, who once said that the Ku Klux Klan was, "OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana," has a track record of opposition to marijuana reform. Earlier this year, Sessions spoke out against marijuana legalization in a Senate hearing, and urged the government to send the message to the public that "good people don't smoke marijuana." He has also said in a separate hearing that marijuana cannot be safer than alcohol because, "Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it and it is not harmless." Sessions is also a proponent of harsh sentences for drug offenses. Sessions was the chief opponent of recent bipartisan efforts to reduce sentences for drug offenses, demagoguing that "this proposal would provide for leniency for illegal alien drug traffickers," and voting against the bill in the Judiciary Committee.
US Surgeon General Issues Addiction Report Endorsing Harm Reduction. The office of the Surgeon General has released a report on alcohol and other drug use that endorses harm reduction and calls needle exchanges "an important strategy." The report by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy also acknowledges the role of harm reduction in "meeting people where they're at," saying that such programs meet the "needs of those who are not yet ready to participate in treatment" and those "who may not be ready to stop substance use -- offering individuals strategies to reduce risks while still using." The report identifies drug abuse and addiction as the nation's number one public health problem.
Singapore Hangs Nigerian Man for Five Pounds of Weed. Chijoke Stpehen Obioha, 38, a Nigerian citizen, was hanged Friday in Singapore after being convicted of trafficking 2.6 kilograms of marijuana. He had been jailed for nine years after his 2007 arrest. Under Singapore law, anyone caught with more than a pound of marijuana can be sentenced to death. In 2015, Singapore executed four people, one murderer and three drug offenders.
Chronicle AM: No More Small MJ Arrests in Vegas; NM & RI to Consider Legalization, More... (11/17/16)
Marijuana, marijuana, marijuana. The news today is almost all about marijuana, plus an asset forfeiture bill pre-filed in Texas.
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Maine Recount to Proceed. Opponents of the Question 1 legalization initiative, which won by around 4,000 votes (less than 1% of the total votes cast), have handed in petitions seeking a recount. Now, state officials must verify that at least 100 signatures on the petition came from registered voters who voted in the November 8 election. Once that hurdle is passed, the actual recount will begin. The recount will cost Maine taxpayers about $250,000. "With thousands of votes in the margin, the recount is not going to be successful," said Yes on 1 campaign spokesperson Alysia Melnick, "and it's unfortunate the opposition would go against the will of the people and use taxpayer dollars for a recount that will not change the outcome."
New Mexico Democrats Eye Legalization Bills Next Year. Democrats now control the state legislature, and they are vowing to introduce new legalization bills despite the opposition of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla Park) has filed a legalization bill the last two years, and says he will do it again next year. "It's not an academic exercise anymore," he said. And Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) also says he will be introducing a constitutional amendment that would take the issue to a popular vote.
Rhode Island Governor Ponders Legalization in Wake of Election Victories. Gov. Gina Raimundo (D) said Tuesday she's ready to more seriously consider legalization after voters in neighboring Massachusetts approved it last week. Democrats control both houses of the legislature, and both House Speaker Thomas Mattiello and Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio say they are ready to take up legalization bills.
Tennessee Attorney General Says Municipal Decriminalization Measures Not Enforceable. The state's two largest cities, Memphis and Nashville, have both passed decriminalization ordinances this year, but in an opinion issued Wednesday, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery ruled that the measures are unenforceable because there are pre-empted by state laws that continue to make pot possession a criminal offense. "A municipal ordinance that attempts to regulate a field that is regulated by state statute cannot stand if it is contradictory to state law," he wrote.
Las Vegas Prosecutors Announce End to Small-Time Pot Prosecutions. Prosecutors in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, say they will now quit pursuing charges against people caught with small amounts of marijuana and won't file any new charges for pot possession. Prosecutors in the city of Las Vegas say the same thing. The moves comes in the wake of last week's victory for the Question 2 legalization initiative.
Texas Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Filed. State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa has pre-filed a bill for the session beginning in January that seeks to raise the burden of proof in asset forfeiture proceedings. The measure, Senate Bill 156, would raise the burden of proof from "a preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence."
Last week's legalization victories are reverberating throughout New England, and the city of Oakland is moving toward a publicly-owned bank that could serve pot businesses.
Connecticut Governor Says He's Considering Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) has said that given last week's votes to legalize marijuana in nearby Maine and Massachusetts, he is reevaluating legalization in his own state. Malloy had previously supported decriminalization, but said that was far enough. But now: "We might have to reexamine our legal position, our position of enforcement, based on what some surrounding states are doing," said Malloy.
Slow Action on Certifying Legalization Vote Could Mean No Legal Weed in Maine Until January. The state's legalization initiative will not go into effect until 30 days after the state certifies and the governor proclaims the results. That could push legalization back until January 7 if the secretary of state's office and the governor take all the time allowed before acting. Legalization supporters had said pot should be legal there by Christmas.
Vermont Legislators Ready to Try to Pass Marijuana Legalization Again. A pair of key lawmakers said they are ready to try to get legalization through the legislature again, but incoming Republican Governor Phil Scott says don't bother. Still, Sen. Dick Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said legalization votes in Maine and Massachusetts are forcing the state's hand. "For me, that's a game-changer, that Massachusetts has voted to legalize," Sears said. Sears' counterpart in the House, Judiciary Committee chairwoman Rep. Maxine Grad, is also ready to go, saying the Maine and Massachusetts votes will make lawmakers more amenable to moving forward.
City of Oakland Eyes Public Bank for Marijuana Industry. The city of Oakland has taken a first step toward opening a public bank in a move aimed at allowing marijuana businesses access to financial services. Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is leading the charge." Creating a local bank in the city of Oakland could benefit lots of local businesses," said Kaplan. "But, it's also a great match for the needs of our growing cannabis industry to have access to safe banking." The issue has already been before the city council and will be again on November 29.
As more states legalize weed, Colorado's governor warns of gray market dangers, Texas sees a slew of early marijuana decriminalization bills, the British Medical Journal calls the drug war a failure, and more.
Colorado Governor Warns of Dangers of Gray Market. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Monday that the state's gray market in marijuana is a "clear and present danger" that demands tougher regulations and enforcement. The state must "move swiftly and aggressively to make sure illegal activity is stamped out," he said. "If we don't stamp it out right now, it becomes acceptable. And then, all of a sudden, people are going to start getting hurt. If you let crime grow, it will breed on its opportunity." Hickenlooper's remarks come as he asks lawmakers to set aside $16 million in pot tax revenues for new efforts to control the gray market.
Texas Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Filed. Lone Star State lawmakers filed several decriminalization bills Monday, the first day of filing for the 2017 legislative session. One would create a special court for first-time possession offenders; another would reduce criminal penalties for possessing up to a half ounce. Similar bills have been offered in Austin in the past, but have so far failed to pass. House Bill 58 by state Rep. James White (R-Woodville) would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders based on the principle that first-time defendants are often self-correcting. House Bill 81, filed by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. The bill also allows Texans to avoid arrest and possible jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana. House Bill 82, filed by Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston), would make a pot possession a Class C misdemeanor, down from a Class B. And Sen. Joe Rodriguez has filed Senate Bill 170, which would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce.
Canadian Federal Study Calls for Drug Decriminalization. A research paper from the Canadian Justice Department has noted that that are healthier and less costly ways of dealing with drug users than arresting them, and urges the Canadian government to seriously consider drug decriminalization. "It is becoming more challenging to justify the criminalization of drug users," the study says.
British Medical Journal Says War on Drugs Has Failed. The prestigious British Medical Journal has called for ending penalties against drug users and for governments to regulate legal drug markets. "All wars cause human rights violations, and the war on drugs is no different," the Journal said in an editorial, "Prohibition and stigma encourage less safe drug consumption and push people away from health services."