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.
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.]
The Los Angeles Times reported today that a deep-pocketed marijuana reform coalition including the Drug Policy Alliance had decided not to move forward this year with an initiative to legalize the weed in the Golden State. Instead, the coalition will aim at 2016.
[image:1 align:left]That means marijuana legalization will most likely not be on the ballot in California this year. Three other legalization initiatives have been filed, but two of them appear to lack the funds to complete expensive signature gathering efforts -- 504,000 signatures are needed by April 18 -- and the third has yet to be cleared for circulation.
The coalition, which is supported by billionaire financier George Soros, and which included the late Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, had consistently argued that 2016 was more doable than this year, but filed the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act late last year after polling numbers suggested victory was within reach.
At the time, spokesmen said they would make a decision on whether to move forward or not around the beginning of February. Now, that decision has been made.
The decision to wait was a "very close" call and "one that came down to the wire," Graham Boyd, counsel to Lewis, told The Times. "We see this as a trial run or dress rehearsal for 2016," he said.
Boyd and DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann told The Times in interviews Monday that they wanted more time to do outreach with elected officials, law enforcement, and public health leaders, an approach they said worked in Washington state. They also said money was an issue, and that the death of Peter Lewis had an impact.
"We believe the best way to go forward with any state ballot initiative is to have a strong funding base in place before launching the campaign," Boyd said. "It is certainly true that Peter Lewis' death made that a much more difficult process to do in the time we had."
The initiatives that in the signature-gathering phase are the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, sponsored by Americans for Policy Reform, and the Hererite California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014. A legalization initiative sponsored by "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal, the Cannabis Policy Reform Act of 2014, is still awaiting approval at the attorney general's office.
With the prospects slim for any of those initiatives making the ballot this year, at this point, Alaska is the only state that will definitely vote on a marijuana legalization initiative this year. Oregon is another likely contender, but it remains to be seen whether either of the two initiatives filed there will make the ballot.
Olympic drug testers back off on marijuana, a surprise marijuana vote in New Mexico, a bad medical marijuana bill in Michigan, NYPD's most sued cops are all narcs, a new South Australian law criminalizes some speech about synthetic drugs, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
New Mexico Senate Committee Votes to Remove Marijuana from Schedule I. In a surprise move, the Senate Judiciary Committee Saturday voted to remove marijuana from the state's list of controlled substances. The move came in the form of an amendment by Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) to a synthetic cannabinoids ban bill, Senate Bill 127. The bill goes now to the full Senate.
Poll Finds Majority Support for Legalization in New York. A new Quinnipiac University poll released today shows that New Yorkers support the legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana 57% to 39%, while 45% of those voters say marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and 36% say it's less dangerous. The poll also found whopping 88% support for medical marijuana. Click on the poll link for more details.
Michigan Bill Would Allow Landlords to Prohibit Patient Use on Private Property. A bill that would allow Michigan landlords to ban the use, possession, or cultivation on private property is set for a committee hearing this week. Senate Bill 783, sponsored by Sens. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) and James Marleau (R-Lake Orion), gets a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow afternoon. Foes called the bill "hostile" and "unnecessary."
Synthetic Drug Ban Bill Passes Alabama Senate. A bill that would expand Alabama's ban on new synthetic drugs passed the Senate last Thursday and now heads to the House. Senate Bill 333, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-3rd District), would add additional synthetic cannabinoids and other analogues to the ban. Next stop is the House Judiciary Committee.
(See the international section below for another synthetic drugs item.)
Meet NYPD's Most Sued Cops -- They're All Narcs. The New York Daily News reveals that 55 NYPD officers have been sued 10 times or more at a cost to the city of over $6 million. The Daily News then profiled the four officers with the most lawsuits filed against them. All four are narcotics officers. And for some reason, all four are still on the job.
Senators Still Looking for Answers on Customs Searches of Domestic Private Aircraft. It took holding up the nomination of current drug czar Gil Kerlikowske to head Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but a pair of US senators finally got a response from CBP to their months-old question about how and why the border protection agency was stopping and searching private aircraft that had never left the US. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jim Risch (R-ID) put the hold on the nomination, and while CBP has responded, they say they are still not satisfied with the response and sent a February 12 letter requesting a briefing and additional written responses from DHS. Click on the title link to get all the details.
California Defelonization Sentencing Reform Initiative Cleared for Circulation. A sentencing reform initiative whose proponents are San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and San Diego Police Chief William Landsdown has been approved for signature gathering. The initiative would require misdemeanor sentences instead of felonies for a number of petty crimes, including certain drug possession offenses. It would also require resentencing for people currently serving felony sentences for those offenses. It needs 504,000 valid voter signatures before the end of spring to qualify for the November ballot.
Olympics Drug Testers Raise Permissible Levels for Marijuana. The World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) has raised the permissible level of marijuana in athletes' urine from 15 nanograms per millileter to 150 nanograms. Although WADA considers marijuana to be a performance enhancing drug, it also conceded that it also "is a socially more or less an accepted drug being used in social context" and raised the threshold accordingly. "That's a reasonable attempt at dealing with a complicated matter and that was agreed upon as the best way to proceed with this particular issue," Arne Ljungqvist, head of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission, told reporters Saturday in Sochi. "There is a big debate on it."
Harsh New Synthetic Drug Laws Now in Effect in South Australia. New laws that heighten criminal penalties for selling or manufacturing synthetic stimulant drugs went into effect across South Australia today. In addition to increased prison sentences, the Controlled Substances (Offences) Amendment Bill 2013 also outlaws the "promotion" of synthetic drugs or causing another person to believe they caused effect similar to an illegal drug or similar to a legal stimulant. Those speech-crime offenses are punishable by up to two years in prison.
Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Filed in Bermuda. Members of the opposition People's National Party filed a marijuana decriminalization bill Friday. The Decriminalization of Cannabis Act would remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to half an ounce, but Attorney General Mark Pettingill seemed quite perturbed by it, accusing the PNP of coming "swashbuckling in" with a "very badly thought out" bill.
Norway Approves Use of Naloxone for Overdose Reversal. Norway has Europe's worst overdose rate, and now the Scandinavian country is preparing a pilot program that will offer the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) in its two most populous cities, Oslo and Bergen, later this year. Since 2002, about 240 people have died each year in Norway from heroin overdoses, more than have died from traffic accidents.
Vancouver Clinic Seeks Federal Approval for Long-Running Safe Injection Site. The Dr. Peter Center, which has quietly provided supervised injection services for its clients since 2002, is now seeking a formal exemption from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to be able to do so legally. The move, which comes in the wake of a 2011 Canadian Supreme Court decision stopping the federal government from shutting down the Insite supervised injection site in the Downtown Eastside, has the support of the city and provincial governments.
Marijuana legalization is dead in the Hawaii statehouse this year, but still kicking at the Oregon capitol, the annual Monitoring the Future survey is out, Uruguay's president chides the US and Europe on drug policy, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Hawaii Legalization Bill Killed, But Decrim Bill Still Lives. A bill that would have legalized marijuana in the Aloha State died in a state Senate committee Thursday, but a decriminalization bill still lives. Senate Bill 2733 was "deferred" in committee, or, as Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Public Safety Committee said in remarks reported by the Associated Press, "At this time, the legalization bill is dead." But a decriminalization bill, Senate Bill 2358, remains alive.
Oregon Bill to Put Legalization on November Ballot Advances. A bill that would put marijuana legalization to the voters in November advanced on a 3-2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. Senate Bill 1556 must now pass the Senate Rules Committee before going to a Senate floor vote. Supporters said it would give the legislature more control than a legalization initiative sponsored by New Approach Oregon.
Maryland Bill Would Ban Cooperation With Feds on Marijuana Prohibition. A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that would refuse cooperation with federal marijuana prohibition laws. House Bill 1016 prohibits enforcement of any federal law or regulation prohibiting cannabis by any state agency, political subdivision of the state, or any agent or employee of the state or political subdivision of the state acting in their official capacity, or a corporation providing services to the state or political subdivision. The bill relies on the "anti-commandeering" doctrine that says states cannot be compelled to enforce federal laws. Click on the link for more.
Tennessee Poll Reveals Splits on Marijuana Policy. A Middle Tennessee State University poll has found that only 33% said it should be legalized, with 57% saying it shouldn't. But when that 57% was asked if adults should be allowed to have marijuana if prescribed by a doctor, nearly two-thirds of them said yes. When the one-third that said legalize is combined with the 36% that said medical was okay, that creates a strong majority at least for medical marijuana.
Kansas Legislative Foes Snub Debate. Key legislators blocking the advance of medical marijuana bills added insult to injury Friday by failing to show up to an informal debate on the issue at the state capitol to which they had been invited. Sen. David Haley (D), author of Senate Bill 9, invited Senate President Susan Wagle (R) and Committee on Public Health and Welfare Chair Sen. Mary Pilcher-Clark to the event sponsored by Kansas for Change, but they were no-shows.
Guam Medical Marijuana Bill "Inorganic," Election Commission Says. The legal counsel for the Guam Election Commission said Thursday a pending medical marijuana bill violates the Organic Act that established democratic government in the US territory. At the request of legislators, Senate Bill 215 sponsor Sen. Tina Muna Barnes (D-Mangilao) amended her bill to have it approved by voters in a referendum, but the legal counsel said the Organic Act has no provision for such referenda.
New Hampshire Medical Marijuana Modification Bill Stalled. A bill that would expand the state's medical marijuana program to include several more diseases, but also limit the amount of marijuana patients could purchase in a month is on hold after key lawmakers said it needed more work. House Bill 1616 has some problematic provisions, including one that would criminalize patients for possessing their medicine in a motor vehicle unless it is in a locked container, legislators said. Lawmakers will continue to review it, they said.
Annual Monitoring the Future Teen Drug Use Study Released. The annual survey of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders was released Thursday. There's not a whole lot shocking in it. Illicit drug use is generally down slightly, except for marijuana, which is up slightly, although in "non-significant" amounts among 8th and 10th graders, and flat for 12th graders. The complete survey is at the link.
Uruguay's Mujica Says US, European Drug Policies Must Change. In an interview with Reuters Thursday, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, whose country recently legalized marijuana commerce, said the US and Europe need to find a new strategy to deal with drugs. "The industrial societies are the ones that have to change," he said. "For a small country, it's possible to experiment with this, but it's also very possible for a developed country because of the resources it has. There are big markets, they have great buying power, and that is a big economic attraction. Until things change there, it will be very difficult to change elsewhere," said Mujica. "Any North American state is more important than Uruguay, in dimensions, in its economic force," he said. "But it's still a bit like a lady embarrassed to admit her natural sins and lying to herself. What we are doing is much more open."
UNODC Calls on Sri Lanka to Enact More Prohibitionist Laws to Stop Sea Smuggling. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Thursday called on Sri Lanka to enact mechanisms allowing it to prosecute those caught drug smuggling on the high seas. UNODC complained that without such a law, smugglers caught at sea off Sri Lanka are simply set free after their drugs are dumped into the ocean. The Sri Lankan government said it would have to consider the idea. [Ed: The thriving global drug trade and dim interdiction statistics demonstrate the futility of the approach that UNODC is calling for.]