The District of Columbia's attorney general, Irvin Nathan, has issued an opinion saying that the proposed DC marijuana legalization initiative should not go before the voters because it violates federal law. Nathan sent the opinion to the DC Board of Elections Thursday, ahead of its Tuesday meeting to decide whether or not to approve it.
[image:1 align:right]Nathan's opinion is not binding, board spokesperson Tamara Robinson told the Washington Times.
"We take all comments into consideration, whether they are from the AGs office or written from DC residents," Robinson said. "At times we have agreed with the attorney general's office on certain matters and at times we don't."
But if the board agrees with the city's top lawyer next week, that could mean back to the drawing board for the initiative's proponents, the DC Cannabis Coalition. That in turn could mean its chance of actually gathering enough signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot before the clock ran out would be greatly diminished.
In his opinion, Nathan took issue with a passage in the initiative that says "no district government agency or office shall limit or refuse to provide any facility service, program or benefit to any person" based on the legalization of marijuana."
That language conflicts with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which "requires that public housing leases make 'drug-related criminal activity' on or off public housing premises a cause for terminating a public housing lease," he wrote. "The proposed initiative would prohibit leases from containing such language and prohibit the District from evicting a public-housing tenant who, in violation of federal law and the lease, possessed small quantities of marijuana."
The coalition's Adam Eidinger told the Times said he is working with coalition lawyers from his to see if the questioned wording in the initiative can be changed ahead of the Tuesday hearing.
"It might just be a matter of four words that have to be changed," Eidinger said. "I don't want to lose our opportunity to collect signatures."
The initiative would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and allow for growing up to six plants. It would not legalize the sale of marijuana or allow for marijuana retail stores.
The DC city council is preparing for a final vote to decriminalize marijuana possession next month, and there are efforts underway to get a legalization bill moving in the council, but initiative advocates hope that they can either get on the ballot and let voters decide or use the initiative as a sword over the head of the council to prod it to act.
Colorado is rolling in the marijuana tax dollars, Washington state gets closer to licensing legal grows, a New Hampshire patient grow bill is moving, the Europeans are worried about some new drugs, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Colorado Governor Announces Marijuana Tax Revenues Plan. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Wednesday announced his plan to start spending tax revenues from legalized marijuana. He said he would spend $99 million next fiscal year, with half of it going to youth use prevention, another 40% going to substance abuse treatment, and more than $12 million for public health. His proposal must be approved by the legislature.
Washington State Regulators Announce Rules Modifications. The Washington State Liquor Control Board announced Wednesday that it will limit marijuana business applicants to one pot grow each, down from the three-license limit it originally set. The board also reduced by 30% the amount of grow space that licensees can use. The board is trying to address how to equitably distribute the two million square foot of grow space it has set as a statewide cap. The move also opens the way to the actual issuance of grow licenses, which could come as soon as early next month.
New Hampshire Patient Cultivation Bill Wins Committee Vote. A bill that would allow qualifying patients to cultivate a limited amount of medical marijuana in New Hampshire was approved this morning in a 13-3 vote by the House Committee on Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs. The bill will be considered by the full House sometime in March. Sponsored by Rep. Donald Wright (R-Tuftonboro), House Bill 1622 would patients or their designated caregivers to possess up to two mature plants and twelve seedlings. The cultivation location would have to be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, and patients would lose their ability to cultivate when an alternative treatment center opens within 30 miles of their residence.
South Carolina CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Filed. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) Wednesday introduced a bill to allow for the use of CBD cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy seizures. Senate Bill 1035 has been referred to the Committee on Medical Affairs.
Arizona Bill Would Use Medical Marijuana Fees to Fund Anti-Drug Campaigns. A bill approved Wednesday by the House Health Committee would set up a special fund using fees from medical marijuana user and dispensaries to "discourage marijuana use among the general population." House Bill 2333, sponsored by Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) is being derided by the Marijuana Policy Project, whose spokesman, Mason Tvert, said "It is remarkable how much money some government officials are willing to flush down the toilet in hopes of scaring adults away from using marijuana."
Vermont Law School Symposium Will Address Heroin Addiction and New Solutions. The Vermont Law Criminal Law Society is hosting a symposium on heroin and opiate addiction and responses to it on Monday. "This event is about new ideas from new sources," said Vermont Law JD candidate George Selby ', one of the panel organizers. "We need to fundamentally change the way we treat addicts and the opiates they fall victim to." Panelists will include addiction and pain specialists, a narcotics investigator, and an advocate for revolutionizing drug policy. They will discuss whether drug courts, replacement therapy, and support groups are enough, and tackle a controversial question: Should doctors be allowed to prescribe heroin to treat heroin addiction? One of the featured speakers is Arnold Trebach, JD, PhD, professor emeritus of public affairs at American University and founder of the Drug Policy Foundation, the precursor to the Drug Policy Alliance, who plans to call for action in Vermont. Click on the title link for more details.
Europeans Issue Alert on Four New Synthetic Drugs. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction has issued an alert and announced a formal risk assessment of four new synthetic drugs. They are the hallucinogenic phenethylamine 251-NBOMe ("N-Bomb," linked to three deaths), the synthetic opioid AH-7921 (15 reported deaths in Europe), the synthetic cathinone derivative MDPV ("legal cocaine," linked to 99 deaths), and the arylcyclohexamine drug Methoxetamine (linked to 20 deaths). Click on the link above for more details.
British Columbia Judge Rules Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Unconstitutional. A judge in Canada's British Columbia ruled Wednesday that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders under the federal 2012 Safe Streets and Communities Act are unconstitutional. In November, an Ontario judge struck down a similar sentence for a weapons offense, but BC is the first province to have the drug offense sentences quashed. Crown prosecutors are expected to appeal.
India Asset Forfeiture Bill Passes Lok Sabha. A bill that would increase the Indian government's ability to seize assets from drug traffickers was approved Wednesday by the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the country's bicameral parliament. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011 passed on a voice vote after members took turns worrying aloud about the spread of drug use in the world's most populous democracy.
Chronicle Book Review: Meth Mania: A History of Methamphetamine by Nicholas Parsons (2014, Lynne Reinner Publishers, 241 pp., $58.50 HB)
[image:1 align:right]What is the "drug menace" du jour? Crack cocaine? Nah, been there, done that. Bo-ring. Marijuana? Some people still try to find scary things to say about pot, but it just doesn't seem to really resonate anymore. Meth? Been there, done that, too, several times, as you'll see below.
Heroin seems to be a good candidate. After all, if you read the newspapers, especially after a celebrity overdose death, you'll know there's an "epidemic" of heroin use (and related overdose deaths) happening. Except that, while heroin use has increased in the last few years (primarily as a consequence of crackdowns on opioid pain pills), it is hardly an "epidemic." According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people using heroin on a regular is one-tenth of one percent of the population 12 and over. That number stayed stable from 2010 to 2012, the last year available for the survey, although it has apparently increased somewhat since then. And while overdoses are up, they are nowhere near the number of deaths for prescription pills.
But heroin, too, is old hat. One of the elements of a good drug panic is novelty. On that count, both "bath salts" (synthetic stimulants derived from cathinones) and "Molly" (a powder form of MDMA) are contenders for the crown. There's nothing like a zombie cannibal ripping someone's face off to propel a good drug panic, as was the case with bath salts, even if he didn't actually eat the guy's face and even, as it turned out, if he wasn't on bath salts.
While bath salts users are portrayed as scary insane people who aren't us, Molly users, on the other hand, are our sons and daughters, the innocent victims of evil drug dealers. Innocent victimhood is always good in whipping up a drug panic.
But again, the number of people actually consuming bath salts and Molly is miniscule. By far the biggest psychoactive drug problem in America, in terms of effects on the health of consumers, adverse impacts on others, and criminal justice system impacts, is alcohol. Yet, somehow, the country's most widely used and misused drug doesn't merit the screaming headlines, the hyperbole, the hysteria, and the hand-wringing. Why is that?
In Meth Mania, Nicholas Parsons provides some hints of an answer. While the book delivers what its title promises -- a critical history of meth, written with verve and insight -- it is also an exercise in applying the framework of social constructionism to the way we define and create social problems in general and drug panics in particular. Social constructionists, Parsons explains, attempt to understand how, why, and when certain social phenomenon come to be defined as social problems.
At any given moment, there are a panoply of issues -- child abuse, pornography, homosexuality, drug use, poverty, inequality, among others -- that could be defined as social problems. And social problems require solutions, darn it, otherwise, they wouldn't be problems. What social problems also require is someone to define them as such.
For Parsons and the social constructionists, these people are "claims makers." To be an effective claims maker, you must be credible and you must have access to the media. When it comes to drugs and drug policy, claims makers have traditionally been law enforcement, the medical profession, scientists, and moral entrepreneurs -- individuals or groups who seek power or influence by defining a phenomenon as a social problem and offering to do something about it. (I would posit that the advances we have seen in drug reform are, to some degree, the result of decades of work to both create alternate credible claims makers to cast the debates in new terms and to undermine the credibility ot traditional drug policy claims makers.)
Parsons is especially interesting in his discussion of law enforcement as a claims maker when it comes to drugs. Not only do police have authority and credibility as protectors of the public safety, they also have well-developed PR departments (although they don't call them that) that are constantly churning out press releases, er, I mean crime and arrest reports, they have very close and easy, and long-standing access to the media.
And, of course, law enforcement has its own interests to protect. Parsons notes one particularly brazen example of self-interested panic purveying, the "ice" scare of the late 1980s. The DEA jumped all over that -- until its annual budget was secured, then not so much.
This leads me to something Parsons didn't discuss, but which I have long wondered: Why, exactly, are police considered experts on drugs? Because they arrest drug users? Police arrest domestic violence suspects, too, but that doesn't make them experts on domestic bliss, as their own divorce and domestic assault rates indicate.
Parsons identifies three distinct meth panics -- the Speed Kills! methedrine panic of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the abortive "ice" panic of the late 1980s, and the meth panic that began near the end of the century and peaked around 2005, although its lingering effects still persist. In all three cases, although less clearly so in the latter, Parsons crunches the numbers on meth use and finds that the panics are related less to actual use rates than to media attention paid to the drug. And media attention paid to the drug is likewise driven not so much by actual use as by claims makers managing to get traction for their claims, for a variety of reasons.
Parsons is also good at elaborating how we construct "folk devils" on which to hang our anxieties, and how those folk devils have changed over time. This is the stuff of stereotyping and Othering. Meth users are "zombie McGyvers," tweaked-out tinkerers who haunt Walmarts in the middle of the night. Or they are -- gasp! -- gay nightclub orgiasts in New York City. That's when they're the Other.
In some adumbrations of meth panic, users shift from the scary Other to the innocent victim, who fall prey to evil Other drug dealers. And it's even more helpful when scary Other drug suppliers have brown skins, like the Mexican drug cartels who, in the wake of various moves to repress domestic meth production, such as the current effort in West Virginia to make OTC cold medications containing pseudoephedrine prescription only, have taken an ever-increasing share of the US meth market.
I refer to those bills generically as "The Mexican Methamphetamine Market Share Enhancement Act," and Parsons makes a similar point: All of the efforts to repress the use and manufacture of meth have had unintended consequences that in most cases have only exacerbated the problems they were supposedly designed to solve. The imposition of controls on prescription meth and other amphetamines in the late 1960s led directly to the first round of outlaw biker-manufactured meth, and the switch from "eatin' speed" to "shootin' speed." They probably also played a role in the expansion of cocaine and crack use in the 1970s and 1980s.
Restrictions on precursor chemicals used in the P2P method led to the explosion of pseudoephedrine-based meth cooking. And continuing and deepening restrictions on meth and precursors have created the space for the new synthetic stimulants, the so-called bath salts, whose effects can be even more intense than meth.
The latest meth panic may be receding, but its effects linger. People making small amounts of meth for personal use in the one-pot method are still being arrested and sentencing as if they were major drug lab operators. New anti-meth laws still emerge at statehouses each year. And people who use meth are still demonized as if far outlier worst cases are the normal meth experience.
Meth Maniais an excellent history of America's love-hate affair with its premier stimulant drug, but it is also a guidebook for deconstructing the making of drug panics in general. As such, its value extends far beyond a single drug. This one needs to be on the bookshelf of any serious drug and drug policy student.
California counties continue to struggle with dispensary and growing rules, Reno's mayor has a change of heart, some Oregon cities may have to change their ways, and more. Let's get to it:
Last Friday, a superior court judge threw out Kern County's Measure G, the voter-approved 2012 ordinance limiting where dispensaries can operate in unincorporated areas of the county. Judge Kenneth Twisselman ruled that the ordinance failed to properly consider environmental impacts. But county lawyers said it could clear the way to shut down all dispensaries in the county, so expect more battles to be waged in Kern.
Last Thursday, a petition drive was underway in Shasta County that would put the county's pending ban on outdoor medical marijuana gardens in the voter's hands this November. Organizers need 6,544 valid signatures by February 28. County supervisors last month unanimously voted to ban all outdoor medical marijuana cultivation in the unincorporated parts of Shasta County, and place additional restrictions on in grows. The outdoor ban is set to take effect on February 28 unless the petition proves successful, in which case supervisors could either choose to repeal the ordinance or send it on for voters to decide in the fall.
Last Thursday, the Guam Election Commission's legal counsel said a medical marijuana bill was "inorganic" and could not be acted on. Senate Bill 215 was amended by its sponsor at the request of other legislators to put the measure to a popular referendum, but the legal counsel said Guam's Organic Act, the law which established democracy in the US territory, does not allow for popular referenda.
Last Friday, Reno Mayor Bob Cashdell said he would now push to license dispensaries. That's a change for Cashdell, who was a vocal critic of dispensary legislation when it passed last year. Cashdell said he had a family member who benefited from medical marijuana.
Last Wednesday, the House balked at advancing a bill that would modify the state's yet-to-begin medical marijuana program. House Bill 1616 would expand the program to include more medical conditions, but also limit the amount of marijuana patients could purchase each month. House leaders said they would study the bill for the rest of this year.
On Tuesday, the state Health Department released a patient survey that showed that state-licensed growers were growing nowhere near enough marijuana to supply registered patient demand. Patients are using about 11,000 pounds a year, but licensed growers are producing only about 2,250. The Health Department is "weighing its options about whether to increase production" and whether to increase the number of producers or the number of plants each can produce, a spokesman said.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of people showed up at the state capitol for a hearing on medical marijuana. The hearing addressed the use of high CBD cannabis oil as a treatment for epileptic seizures in children, but others rallied outside calling for full legalization.
Last Tuesday, the Tigard city council voted to ban dispensaries. But the council may be open to lifting it in the future and regulating dispensaries.
Also last Tuesday, the Grants Pass city council voted to ban dispensaries. Officials pointed to a longstanding business license ordinance that bars licenses for activities that would not comply with city ordinances, or state, or federal law."
On Tuesday, the Sherwood city council voted to temporarily ban dispensaries. The ban is set to last 150 days.
Also on Tuesday, the Oregon Senate passed a bill that would bar localities from banning dispensaries. Senate Bill 1531 would let city and county governments regulate certain aspects of medical marijuana dispensaries such as hours of operation, location and the manner in which medical marijuana is dispensed, but not ban them. The legislature approved statewide dispensary regulation last year, which will go into effect March 3. The Association of Oregon Cities is grumbling and threatening to sue. Stay tuned.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
In a new report released this week, neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart and coauthors Joanne Csete and Don Habibi examines common assumptions about methamphetamine use and users and finds them wanting. Instead of careful, evidence-based analysis, rising concern about meth use has resulted in "a barrage of misinformation and reckless policies," Hart finds.
"The scientific literature on methamphetamine is replete with unwarranted conclusions, which has provided fuel for the implementation of draconian drug policies that exacerbate problems faced by poor people," said Hart.
As its title suggests, the report, Methamphetamine: Fact vs. Fiction and Lessons from the Crack Hysteria, finds clear parallels between the tide of distorted facts, faulty assumptions, and misinformation that characterized the crack cocaine scare of the early 1980s and similar claims made about the most recent drug panic over methamphetamine. Both feature the same sorts of claims, made by the same sorts of claims makers -- largely police, health professionals, and academics.
While the report finds real detrimental health effects with sustained meth use, it says those effects are exaggerated and/or the result of factors other than meth use in or by itself, such as poor overall health, poor nutrition, poor dental care, and poverty. It also challenges claims that meth is more powerfully addictive than other drugs.
In the report, Hart calls on lawmakers at home and abroad to revisit laws that harshly punish methamphetamine possession, to invest in treatment instead of punishment, to reconsider restrictions on access to amphetamines for legitimate medical purposes, and to stop supporting "wasteful and ineffective" scare campaigns replete with misinformation about meth use.
"We've been down this road before with other drugs that were poorly studied and misrepresented by media," said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Global Drug Policy Program. "The results included policies that hurt the users, ineffectively addressed the problem and ultimately failed society. We can't afford to repeat these experiences."
NORML endorses a US Senate candidate, pressure mounts for medical marijuana in New York, West Virginia wants to make Sudafed prescription only, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Arizona Poll Has 51% for Legalization. A poll from Arizona's Behavior Research Center has support for marijuana legalization at 51%, with 41% opposed. In recent months, other polls have showed majorities both for and against legalization.
Maine US Senate Candidate Wins NORML PAC Endorsement. NORML PAC, NORML's political campaign arm, has endorsed Shenna Bellows in her campaign to represent Maine in the US Senate. "Shenna Bellows has been at the forefront of the fight for marijuana legalization even before beginning this campaign," stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, "During her tenure leading the Maine ACLU, Shenna has demonstrated she has the skill and determination to fight for sensible reforms and has proven to be a vocal and articulate leader in calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. We believe she will be invaluable in the United States Senate to help move the country away from our failed war on marijuana and towards a new, smarter approach." Bellows is seeking the Democratic Party nomination.
Almost Nine Out of Ten New Yorkers Support Medical Marijuana, Poll Finds.A new Quinnipiac poll has support for medical marijuana at 88%, with only 9% opposed. The poll also had a 57% majority for marijuana legalization. Click on the link for more poll details.
Two New York GOP State Senators Announce Support for Medical Marijuana Bill. Two Republican state senators, George Maziarz (R-Newfane) and Mark Grisanti (R-IP-Buffalo), have announced their support for the pending medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Care Act. They are the first Republicans to do so. The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Assembly four times, and Governor Cuomo's administration has said the governor would sign it, but the legislation has long been stuck in the Senate.
Oregon Bill to Block Cities and Counties from Banning Dispensaries Passes Senate. The Oregon Senate Tuesday passed Senate Bill 1531, which would let cities and counties regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, but not ban them. A number of cities have already passed ordinances banning dispensaries before a new state law allowing them goes into effect next month, and the Association of Oregon Cities is threatening to sue if the bill passes. It now goes to the House.
New Mexico Patient Survey Finds Program Not Providing Enough Medical Marijuana. A state Department of Health survey of patients enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program finds that only about 20% of patient demand is being met through legal channels. Licensed growers are producing about 2,250 pounds a year, but the survey put the annual demand from patients at more than 11,000 pounds. The Health Department is now "weighing its options about whether to increase production" and whether to increase the number of producers or the number of plants each can produce, a spokesman said.
Indiana Food Stamp Drug Test Bill Now Targets Only Those With Misdemeanor Drug Convictions. A bill that would have required drug screening for all food stamp applicants and drug testing for those deemed likely to be using has been amended to now apply only to people who have misdemeanor drug convictions in the past 10 years. (People with drug felonies are ineligible for food stamps under a federal law that Indiana has not opted out of.) House Bill 1351 passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee after being amended. It has already passed the House.
Bill Making Sudafed Prescription-Only Passes West Virginia Senate. A bill that would make access to OTC cold medications containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only passed the state Senate Tuesday. Senate Bill 6 now goes to the House. The measure is aimed at reducing the number of meth labs in the state, although it has had only temporary effects in the other two states where it has been adopted. Pseudoephredrine is a precursor chemical in meth manufacture.
Georgia to Ban Synthetic Cannabinoid Chemicals. Georgian Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs Davit Sergeenko said Wednesday a law on criminalizing the basic biochemical formulas used to create synthetic cannabis has been almost completed. "From now on, these substances will be considered as illegal and all the control mechanisms and limits that are set on other legal or illegal drugs will be valid for synthetic cannabis too," Sergeenko said.
Myanmar Extends Opium Crop Substitution Program in Northern Shan State. The Myanmar government, working in cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, is extending its crop substitution program for poppy farmers in Northern Shan State. The idea is to increase farmers' food security in areas where eradication has taken place. Last year, Myanmar eradicated about one-fifth of the estimated poppy crop.
(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares 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.)
Bad cop, bad cop, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? A Seattle-area drug task force deputy defects to the life, a Louisiana deputy parties too hard with stolen drug evidence, a Georgia cop resigns over pills, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:left]In Lilburn, Georgia, a Lilburn police officer resigned last Monday amid an investigation of improper drug handling. Investigator Kim Banks is under investigation by the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office after an officer assigned to the Evidence Unit discovered irregularities in prescription drug evidence. The matter is under both internal and criminal investigation.
In Seattle, a former King County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Monday on drug distribution charges. Mitch Wright, a 10-year veteran who worked on a joint narcotics task force, went down after an investigation involving local law enforcement and the DEA that began when a woman was arrested using drugs in a car belonging to him. That led to evidence of more criminal activity. Wright then resigned before being fired, but his home was searched and he was arrested on state drug, theft, and evidence tampering charges. He then began hanging out in "high narcotic and prostitution areas" in north King and south Snohomish counties, which sparked the DEA's assistance. He now faces federal conspiracy and narcotics distribution charges.
In Denham Springs, Louisiana, a Livingston Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday after shooting a gun in his neighborhood and wrecking his car, where deputies found a sheriff's office narcotics evidence envelope. Deputy Leo Barthelmy, Jr. That led them to his home, where the shots were fired earlier that day. He is charged with malfeasance in office/tampering with evidence, and illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office says he has been released on a $25,000 bond.
In Los Angeles, an LAPD officer was convicted last Thursday of lying under oath in a drug case. Officer Bernardo Ortiz is the third of three LAPD officers convicted over a 2008 drug possession arrest in which they claimed the defendant had thrown down drugs, but surveillance camera video contradicted their testimony. Charges against the drug defendant were dropped, and Ortiz and the other two cops, Evan Samuel and Rachard Amio, were charged. The latter two were convicted in November 2012, but a jury in that trial deadlocked on Ortiz, and he was retried. Ortiz was convicted of one count each of conspiracy and perjury under oath.
In Dallas, a former Arlington police officer was sentenced last Tuesday to a year in prison for tipping off a steroid dealer the cops were after him. Thomas Kantzos, 45, went down for using a law enforcement data base to run a license plate number for his steroid dealer, who correctly thought he was under law enforcement surveillance. He pleaded guilty in October to an indictment charging exceeding access to a protected computer.