Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina detective had a thing for "nudish fetish catfights," a Pennsylvania state trooper had a snitch scoring coke for him, an Oregon crime lab tech had a bad case of sticky fingers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, a former Horry County police detective was accused Monday of sexually abusing drug-using women in a civil suit. Three other women have already filed similar suits against Detective Allen Large. In the case of Jane Doe #4, Large is accused of calling a woman and telling her he knew she used drugs, visiting her home and forcing her into a non-consensual sex act, then later providing her with drugs, and continuing "to contact (her) on a daily basis to demand that she engage in nude fetish catfights," the lawsuit said. He gave up on the woman after she entered drug treatment in 2015. The lawsuit doesn't name Large; instead it accuses his supervisors, including the police chief, of knowing what Large was up to and failing to do anything about it.

In Avondale, Pennsylvania, a state trooper was arrested last Friday after he was caught buying cocaine from a confidential informant. Trooper Jose Lebron allegedly gave the informant cash to buy drugs over a period of months and was repeatedly seen snorting cocaine by the informant. Lebron also began paying the informant with cocaine, saying it was too expensive to keep paying with cash. Lebron went down in a controlled buy at a local McDonald's. He is charged with one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is free on $5,000 bail.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a jail guard at the Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility was arrested last Friday after he got caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Mark Wooten went down after consenting to a search in which officials found 200 suboxone strips. He is charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled substance with an inmate and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

In Portsmouth, Virginia, a former Portsmouth police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he went rogue in trying to bust a drug dealer. Mark Anthony Deluca, Jr. is accused of lying to a judge to obtain a search warrant to raid a home where heroin was found. Deluca gave conflicting accounts of what happened, and the charges were dropped against the homeowner. Now, Deluca faces one count of forgery, one count of uttering a forged public instrument, and three counts of perjury.

In Gadsden, Alabama, a former Etowah County sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday on charges he smuggled drugs into the county jail. Detention Deputy Erick Bullock, 33, went down after his name came up in an internal investigation into contraband at the jail and meth, salvia, suboxone, tobacco, and a cell phone were found in his bag. He is charged with one count of first-degree promoting prison contraband, one count of second-degree promoting prison contraband, two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, one count of salvia possession and one count of third-degree promoting prison contraband. He is now residing at his former workplace until he comes up with a $9,500 bond.

In Portland, Oregon, an Oregon State Crime lab forensic scientist pleaded guilty Monday to stealing as many as 700 pills from more than 50 separate evidence specimens submitted to the labs. Nika Elise Larsen, 36, copped to two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, and deception. She admitted stealing meth, morphine, hydrodocone, morphine, and methadone while overseeing cases. She's looking at up to three years in prison, according to her plea bargain agreement. She could have been looking at up to eight years.

Medical Marijuana Update

The federal courts remind the Justice Department that Congress passed a law barring it from using federal funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana operations, Maryland takes a step toward getting its industry up and running, California balks at a medical marijuana grower tax, and more.

National

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court blocked the Department of Justice from going after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Justice Department can't spend money to prosecute federal marijuana cases if the defendants are in compliance with state laws permitting medical marijuana production and sales. The ruling upholds the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment, passed by Congress in 2014, which prohibits the spending of appropriated funds to interfere in medical marijuana states. That amendment "prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws," the court said.

California

Last Friday, a medical marijuana tax bill died in committee. A bill that would have imposed a tax on commercial medical marijuana growers has been killed in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Assembly Bill 2243 would have imposed a tax of up to $9.25 per ounce of marijuana buds, $2.75 for pot leaves, and $1.25 for immature pot plants. The panel killed the bill after patient advocates said it would impose a burden on patients.

Maryland

On Tuesday, the state named medical marijuana growers and processors. The state Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded preliminary licenses to 20 companies to grow and process medical marijuana and has named the companies selected. The licenses were actually awarded on August 5, but the commission did not reveal the names of the licensees until Monday, so state officials could conduct background checks and review financial records.

New Mexico

On Wednesday, a patient's mom and a marijuana growers sued over the state's medical marijuana shortage. The mother of an infant suffering from a rare form of epilepsy has joined with a state-legal grower to sue the Department of Health over restrictive rules they say are harming patients by making it impossible for producers to supply patients with the medicine they need.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: 64% Support Legalization in CA Poll, NM MedMJ Access Lawsuit, More... (8/17/16)

The marijuana legalization campaigns are starting to heat up, a new California poll has the strongest support yet for pot legalization, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New California Poll Has Support for Legalization at Nearly Two-Thirds. A poll released Wednesday by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley has 63.8% supporting legalizing recreational marijuana use. Somewhat surprisingly, when it comes to ethnicity, support was highest among blacks (71.9%) and Latinos (69.3%). The Prop 64 legalization initiative goes before the voters in November.

Sen. Harry Reid "Dubious" on Nevada Legalization Initiative. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is not getting behind the Question 2 legalization initiative. He is "very, very dubious and concerned," he said. "If I had to vote on it now, I wouldn't vote for it," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "That's something we need to look at quite a bit longer. I think it's something that we have to be very careful with. People better start making a case to me. They haven't done it yet."

Barney Frank Supports Massachusetts Legalization Initiative. The former long-time Democratic congressman from Massachusetts is headlining a fundraiser at the Harvard Club for the Question 4 legalization initiative. The fundraiser is August 28. Oregon US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) will also be in attendance. Tickets are priced at $250, and the campaign says it needs to raise $3 million in the next 12 weeks.

Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Patient's Mom, Marijuana Producer Sue Over Medical Marijuana Shortage. The mother of an infant suffering from a rare form of epilepsy has joined with a state-legal grower to sue the Department of Health over restrictive rules they say are harming patients by making it impossible for producers to supply patients with the medicine they need.

Chronicle AM: CA Forfeiture Bill Advances, 9th Circuit Blocks DOJ MedMj Meddling, More... (8/16/16)

California is moving to reform its civil asset forfeiture system, a federal court has told the Justice Department it can't spend funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana businesses, and more.

The federal courts have sent a strong signal to the DOJ when it comes to medical marijuana states: Butt out! (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

Federal Appeals Court Blocks DOJ From Going After Medical Marijuana in States Where It Is Legal. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Justice Department can't spend money to prosecute federal marijuana cases if the defendants are in compliance with state laws permitting medical marijuana production and sales. The ruling upholds the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment, passed by Congress in 2014, which prohibits the spending of appropriated funds to interfere in medical marijuana states. That amendment "prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws," the court said.

Maryland Names Medical Marijuana Growers and Processors. The state Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded preliminary licenses to 20 companies to grow and process medical marijuana and has named the companies selected. The licenses were actually awarded on August 5, but the commission did not reveal the names of the licensees until Monday, so state officials could conduct background checks and review financial records.

Asset Forfeiture

Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes California Assembly. Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and David Hadley (R-Torrance) passed the Assembly Floor by a 67-7 vote Tuesday. The bill has already passed the Senate, but must now go back for a concurrence vote. The The bill will require that in all cases where law enforcement seize cash under $40,000, that there be a conviction in the underlying criminal case, before that money flows to law enforcement coffers. The same protection would be afforded homes, land, and vehicles, regardless of value. Under current law, there is not such protection for cases sent into the federal system, and the current threshold for cash in state law is $25,000, established in 1994. The measure is Senate Bill 443.

It's Official: Five States Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan last week certified a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot, setting the stage for a national election that will see the issue go directly to the voters in five states, including California, the nation's most populous.

Four states have already legalized marijuana at the ballot box, Colorado and Washington in 2012 and Alaska and Oregon in 2014. The District of Columbia also legalized marijuana -- but not commercial sales -- in 2014.

But those states combined only have a population of about 17 million people. Winning California alone would more than double that figure and winning all five states would triple it. If all five states vote for pot, we could wake up on November 9 with nearly a quarter of the nation living under marijuana legalization.

And that could finally lay the groundwork for serious progress on ending federal marijuana prohibition. With national opinion polls now consistently reporting majorities for pot legalization, public sentiment is shifting in favor of such a move, and if voters in these five states actually do legalize it, that sentiment will have been translated into political facts on the ground. Congress may finally begin to listen.

Still, it's not a done deal. Voters have to actually go to the polls and vote. But all five initiative campaigns are well-funded, increasingly with marijuana industry money and are in a position to significantly outspend the organized opposition. They also start from a generally favorable polling position, with leads in most of the states. And they can now point to the examples of the earlier legalization states, where, despite dire prediction, the sky has not fallen, and state treasuries are growing fat with pot fee and tax revenues.

Of the five states that will take up legalization in November, four have initiative campaigns organized under the imprimatur of the Marijuana Policy Project, whose "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol" campaign proved so successful in Colorado. California is the one exception, with its initiative written by a group around tech billionaire Sean Parker and heavily influenced by the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy led by Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Here are the five states and their initiatives:

1. Arizona -- Proposition 205. Sponsored by the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants "in an enclosed, locked space within their residences." It would also create a state agency, the Department of Marijuana License and Control, to oversee legal, licensed marijuana commerce, but would limit the number of marijuana retail shops to one-tenth the number of liquor store licenses, which would be fewer than 180. The measure would allow localities to regulate or ban pot businesses, and it would impose a 15% excise tax on retail sales, with 80% of revenues earmarked for schools and 20% for substance abuse education. The measure does not allow for public use and does not remove existing penalties for possession of more than an ounce or six plants. That means possession of 28 grams is legal, but possession of 29 grams is a felony. The measure does not provide employment rights for marijuana user and it does not change the state's bizarrely strict drugged driving law, which criminalizes the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites, but does not require actual impairment to be proven.

The campaign has raised $2.2 million so far and may need to spend every cent to win. An April poll had Arizonans rejecting legalization 43%-49% and a July poll had legalization losing 39%-52%. Those numbers are going to be tough to overcome, but with normally rock-ribbed red state Arizona shifting to battleground state status this wacky election year, the state could be a pleasant surprise come Election Day.

2. California -- Proposition 64. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) initiative sponsored by Yes on 64 would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants, keeping the fruits of their harvest. It would also allow the unregulated gifting of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana. The measure would also allow for licensed on-site marijuana consumption, or "cannabis cafes." It would allow for legal marijuana commerce regulated by a new Bureau of Marijuana Control, which would replace the existing Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, and would impose a 15% retail sales tax and a $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax imposed at the wholesale level. In a nod to the state's existing ma-and-pa pot growing industry, the measure would license "micro-grows" (under 10,000 square feet), but would not allow "mega-grows" (more than ½ acre indoors or 1 acre outdoors) until 2023 at the earliest. Most remaining criminal offenses around marijuana would be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. Cities and counties could opt out of marijuana commerce, but only by a vote of residents, and they could not ban personal possession or cultivation. The measure provides no employment protections for consumers and does not change existing impaired driving laws.

The campaign has raised $7.1 million so far, including $1.5 million from Sean parker, $1 million from Weedmaps founder Justin Hartfield, and significant contributions from the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Action, the campaign and lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. Fundraising is far exceeding the organized opposition, but in a state with a huge population and massive media markets, the campaign will need to double or even triple what it has raised so far.

The polling numbers are looking good, too. A February Probolsky Research poll had support for legalization at 59.9%, while a May Public Policy Institute of California poll echoed that with support at 60%. And the trend is upward -- the same Public Policy Institute of California poll had support at only 54% last year. California should go green on November 8.

3. Maine -- Question 1. Sponsored by the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the measure would allow people 21 and over to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana, six flowering plants, and 12 immature ones. People could also give up to 2 ½ ounces or six plants to other adults without remuneration. The measure would allow legal marijuana commerce regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, with a 10% retail sales tax. The measure would also allow for on-site consumption, or "cannabis cafes," but would require that all pot purchased at such facilities be consumed there. Localities could regulate or ban commercial marijuana facilities.

Campaign supporters have only raised $692,000 so far, but Maine is a small state with a low population and isn't going to require millions to run a campaign. As in other initiative states, Maine opponents are trailing badly in fundraising, but will probably get some financial assistance from the prohibitionist Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which has vowed to put $2 million into the effort to defeat the five initiatives. Most of that money won't be going to Maine, though.

The polling numbers so far are encouraging, with a March MPRC poll showing 53.8% support and a May Critical Insights poll coming in at 55%. Those numbers aren't high enough for campaigners to rest easy, but they do suggest that victory is well within reach.

4. Massachusetts -- Question 4. The measure sponsored by the Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public or 10 ounces at home, as well as allowing the cultivation of up to six plants and the possession of the fruits of the harvest. It would allow legal marijuana commerce regulated by a Cannabis Control Commission, and it includes a provision that would allow on-site consumption at licensed facilities, or "cannabis cafes." Localities would have the option of banning legal marijuana commerce enterprises. The measure would impose a 3.75% excise tax in addition to the state's 6.25% sales tax, making an effective tax rate of 10%. Localities could add local taxes of up to 2%, but they certainly couldn't collect them if they didn't allow marijuana businesses to operate. There are no employment protections for pot smokers, and the state's drugged driving laws would remain unchanged.

Will Massachusetts go green this year? It will be a nailbiter
Funding looks to be lagging in the Bay State, where supporters have only raised $500,000, less than in Maine, which has a significantly smaller population. Organized opposition in the form of the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts may be the strongest of any of the five states this year, with the governor, the mayor of Boston, and other leading public officials on board.

The polling suggests this will be a very tight race. A July 2014 poll had the state evenly split, with 48% supporting legalization and 47% opposed, and polling from last year was showing slight majorities for legalization. But a May poll had only 43% support, with 45.8% opposed, and a July poll had legalization at 41%, with 50% opposed.

5. Nevada -- Question 2. Sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada, the measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce by people 21 and over and would allow people to grow up to six plants -- but only if they live more than 25 miles from a retail marijuana store. The measure also creates a system of licensed marijuana commerce to be overseen by the state Department of Taxation. The measure would impose a 15% tax on wholesale marijuana sales, and retail sales would be subject to already existing sales taxes. The measure contains no provisions for on-site cannabis consumption, does not alter existing impaired driving laws, and does not provide employment rights for pot smokers.

The campaign has raised more than $1 million so far, including $625,000 from people in the marijuana industry. But it also faces significant opposition in the person of conservative money-bags Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million to the campaign to defeat the 2014 Florida medical marijuana initiative. Adelson hasn't so far kicked in directly to defeat Question 2, but he has bought the state's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and flipped its editorial position from supporting legalization to opposing it.

Polling on the initiative campaign is scarce, but encouraging. A KTNV/Rasmussen poll just two weeks ago had the measure winning, 50% to 41%.

And there you have it. Given all the information available, our best estimate is that California is most likely to win, followed by Maine and Nevada. Arizona looks like the toughest nut to crack, followed by Massachusetts. We will know by the time the sun rises on November 9.

Chronicle AM: Thousands March in Berlin, Denver Could See "Cannabis Cafes," More... (8/15/16)

Look for marijuana legalization ads coming to Las Vegas, South Dakota continues to go after marijuana industry consultants, thousands march for pot legalization in Berlin, and more.

Berlin's 20th annual Hanfparade (Hemp parade) took place Saturday. (YouTube)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Legalization Campaign Prepares $800,000 Ad Buy. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada has reserved more than $800,000 worth of advertising time slots with major news stations in Las Vegas, where three-quarters of the state's population is. The campaign supports the Question 2 legalization initiative on the November ballot. The ads will run beginning in early October and go through Election Day.

Northern Marianas Legalization Initiative Won't Be on the Ballot. A bill that would have led to a popular vote on marijuana legalization has died in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) legislature. Senator Sixto Igi-somar wanted the legislature of the US territory to move on the bill for a popular referendum, but the legislature was "too busy," he said.

South Dakota Indian Tribe Marijuana Consultant Pleads Guilty to Pot Charge. A consultant who worked with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to establish a marijuana resort after the federal government said Indian tribes were free to do pleaded guilty Monday to a state marijuana charge for receiving marijuana seeds sent from Amsterdam to start the tribe's crop. The tribe tore down the crop over fears the federal government spoke with forked tongue and over threats from the state government, which followed through by indicting two consultants. Consultant Jonathan Hunt is the one who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate; consultant Eric Hagen pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer says there is no evidence he ever possessed "even a gram of marijuana."

Denver Cannabis Club Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. The Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Committee has turned in more than 10,000 signatures for a municipal initiative that would allow for cannabis clubs where people can consume on-site. They only need 4,726 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

International

Thousand March for Marijuana Legalization in Berlin. An estimated 5,000 people took to the streets of the German capitol Saturday to call for freeing the weed. It was the 20th annual Hanfparade (hemp parade), and in this one, demonstrators marched under the banner "legalization is in the air." Marijuana is illegal in Germany though possession of small amounts is tolerated by police, and a few hundred people have been given allowances to use it for medical purposes.

New Zealand Poll Shows Strong Support for Marijuana Reforms. A poll commissioned by the New Zealand Drug Foundation finds that nearly two-third of Kiwis want marijuana either decriminalized or legalized. One-third (33%) said legalize it, while 31% said decriminalize it. More than half (52%) said there should also be provisions for people to grow the plant themselves.

Cayman Islands Will Move Forward on Allowing CBD Cannabis Oils. Premier Alden McLaughlin said his government will push through laws to allow the importation and dispensing of CBD cannabis oils, but he warned there are no guarantees patients in the island nation will be able to obtain it. "There are still real and serious practical hurdles to obtaining and importing this drug because it remains illegal in many jurisdictions, including nearby Jamaica," he said.

Chronicle AM: Clinton Renews Rescheduling Call, Kerry Gets MX Human Rights Letter, More... (8/12/16)

The DEA's refusal to reschedule marijuana yesterday elicits reactions from Hillary Clinton and DC activists, a California bill to tax medical marijuana farmers dies in committee, Secretary of State Kerry gets a letter from Congress urging him to prioritize human rights when it comes to financing Mexico's drug war, and more.

DC activists are set to give the White House an earful after the DEA refused to reschedule marijuana.
Marijuana Policy

In Wake of DEA Decision, Hillary Clinton Reiterates Call for Rescheduling Marijuana. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will move to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, her campaign said in a statement after the DEA rejected reclassification Thursday. "As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy," senior Clinton advisor Maya Harris said.

In Wake of DEA Decision, Emergency Demonstration at the White House Tonight. Washington, DC, DCMJ legalization activists are gathering in front of the White House tonight at 8:20 PM to protest the DEA's refusal to move marijuana from Schedule I, the same schedule as heroin. "Here we are, 43 years and millions of marijuana arrests later, and we being told that cannabis is still as dangerous as heroin. WHAT THE HELL?!?!" organizers wrote on Facebook. "The Obama Administration's DEA thinks Americans should go to jail for a non-toxic plant. WE THINK OTHERWISE!"

Medical Marijuana

California Medical Marijuana Tax Bill Dies in Committee. A bill that would have imposed a tax on commercial medical marijuana growers has been killed in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Assembly Bill 2243 would have imposed a tax of up to $9.25 per ounce of marijuana buds, $2.75 for pot leaves, and $1.25 for immature pot plants. The panel killed the bill after patient advocates said it would impose a burden on patients.

International

Canadian Medical Marijuana Patients Will Be Able to Grow Their Own. Health Canada said Thursday that medical marijuana patients will be able to grow limited amounts for themselves or have a caregiver do so. The move comes as the government attempts to comply with a federal court ruling that struck down the previous Conservative government's ban on patients growing their own. Patients would also still have the option of buying from one of 34 producers licensed by the federal government.

Congresspersons Sign Letter to Secretary of State Kerry Urging That US Prioritize Human Rights in Mexico. Some 68 members of Congress have signed onto a letter urging Kerry to make human rights a priority in US relations with Mexico. The letter expresses concern over the "27,000 unresolved cases of people who have disappeared in Mexico since 2007, and the slow pace of reforms in the military, law enforcement and justice sectors," as well as the persistent use of torture in criminal investigations. It calls for US support for the ongoing investigation and search for the 43 disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers' college. And it reiterates the need for accountability and justice in the cases of grave abuses committed by Mexican security forces in Oaxaca and Tlatlaya. The letter comes as the State Department is reviewing the Mexican government's compliance with human rights conditions attached to US anti-drug funding.

(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.)

DEA's Marijuana Rescheduling Rejection Is Disappointing, But Doesn't Have Much Impact [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and an earlier version appeared here.

The DEA's decision Thursday not to move marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) ended months of speculation about whether the agency would finally act in accordance with an ever-increasing mountain of evidence of marijuana's medicinal utility and either schedule it less restrictively or deschedule it altogether.

Supporters of more enlightened marijuana policies were disappointed, but not surprised. After all, the DEA has a long history of rejecting and impeding science when it comes to marijuana. But even had DEA acted (it did ease the University of Mississippi's monopoly on growing marijuana for research purposes), the most likely move would have been grudgingly incremental, shifting marijuana from a schedule where it is grouped with heroin down to Schedule II, where it would be grouped with cocaine and methamphetamines, and still not prescribable absent FDA approval.

Or the agency could have taken some other largely unpalatable stance, such as making cannibidiol a Schedule III substance (like synthetic Marinol) while leaving the whole plant Schedule I. In any case, any move short of descheduling it entirely and treating it like alcohol and tobacco, would have left marijuana medicalized, but not normalized.

The article below was written days before the DEA's decision, but we think the discussion remains germane for understanding the issues around rescheduling and why most reformers are disappointed, but not devastated by the agency's stubborn refusal to budge.

While the DEA may move to reschedule marijuana to a lesser schedule, keeping it within the purview of the Controlled Substances Act means that it would still be illegal, even for medical use in the absence of FDA approval. Even with FDA approval, a years-long process, it would still require a prescription to obtain, which would do nothing to address legal adult marijuana sales, production, or possession in the states. Removing it from the CSA, or descheduling, is what consumers and the industry are calling for, but that is the unlikeliest outcome, even though that's how we deal with the two most commonly used recreational drugs in the United States, alcohol and tobacco.

Schedule I is reserved for substances that have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," the DEA notes. "Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence." Those drugs include heroin, Ecstasy, LSD, peyote…and marijuana.

For more than 40 years, the DEA has blocked efforts to have marijuana placed in a more appropriate schedule, one that reflects the plant's medicinal uses as well as its relative harmlessness compared to other scheduled substances. But that stance has grown increasingly untenable in the face of state-level medical marijuana programs and in the face of an ever-larger mountain of research that fails to find significant serious health consequences from marijuana use.

Now, the DEA is considering a decision on the most recent rescheduling petition. Earlier this year, the agency told lawmakers it "hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016," but that clearly didn't happen. Late in June, DEA spokesman Russ Baer said the agency is "in the final stages" of making its determination. And just last week, Baer said, "We're closer than we ever were. It's a very deliberative process."

If the DEA decides not to keep marijuana in Schedule I, the most obvious incremental move would be for it to bump it down one step to Schedule II, placing pot in the same category as morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine. That could pave the way for eventually allowing doctors to prescribe it, and would remove some roadblocks to further research. It might open the way for broader changes in financial and business regulations, although a shift to Schedule III or greater would be needed to address the debilitating 280E tax provision, which prevents cannabusinesses from deducting ordinary expenses like rent or payroll.

The DEA still doesn't see the "medical" in "medical marijuana." (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
But Schedule II, or any of the lesser schedules, would require that marijuana be approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a lengthy and expensive process that could bankrupt businesses attempting to overcome those regulatory hurdles. And until that happens, there is no approved marijuana for doctors to prescribe. It's also unclear whether the FDA would ever approve smoked marijuana.

Members of the marijuana industry, medical marijuana advocates, and marijuana consumer advocacy groups alike expressed skepticism about the DEA's willingness or ability to respond to the scientific evidence, uncertainty about what the agency was likely to do, and a demonstrated a pronounced -- if not unanimous -- preference not for rescheduling, but for descheduling.

Matthew Huron is a founder and former board member of the National Cannabis Industry Association and founder and current CEO of Good Chemistry Colorado, a vertically integrated cannabis company, as well as the co-founder of the Wellspring Collective, which caters to seniors with health challenges. Huron isn't exactly enthused by the prospect of Schedule II.

"Just to move it to Schedule II is more complicated than we're reading about," he said. "It might just be the molecule that gets rescheduled -- not cannabis. I don't think moving it to Schedule II would really have much effect on the states. It wouldn't hurt, but it wouldn't really help. Most of us in the industry would like to see it descheduled."

The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is pushing for Schedule II, but it's not relying on the DEA to make it happen.

"We don't have a crystal ball, and we don't know what the DEA will do, but based on past history, we don't have high hopes they will reschedule," said ASA spokesperson Melissa Wilcox. "It's possible they will de- or reschedule CBD and leave whole plant cannabis at Schedule I. Who knows? The DEA tends to ignore the science."

Schedule II "would remove barriers to scientists wishing to do research, so we know best how to use cannabis -- targeting, dosing, all the questions we haven't been able to study because it is such a pain to get research done now," said Wilcox.

But with little faith in the DEA, ASA is instead pushing for a legislative solution, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States' Rights (CARERS) Act, also known as S. 683, which is currently bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by octogenarian prohibitionist Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

The CARERS Act would move marijuana to Schedule II, as well as deschedule CBD, open up access to marijuana business banking, and end the NIDA monopoly on growing marijuana for research, among other provisions.

"We're pretty sure this could pass, but Grassley is the gatekeeper, and we're pushing hard to get him to schedule a vote," said Wilcox.

"Moving marijuana to Schedule II is not a solution," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has played -- and continues to play -- a major role in advancing both medical marijuana and legalization at the state level. "It would certainly remove barriers to research, but it would still treat marijuana as if it were as harmful as cocaine and other illegal substances, when it is objectively less harmful than alcohol. We fully support removing marijuana from the schedules and treating it like alcohol," Tvert emphasized.

"We think marijuana should be removed entirely from the Controlled Substances Act," said Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, representing consumers and small growers in the nation's most populous state. "As a fallback position, we've been litigating since 1972 to get it rescheduled to Schedule II. If they do that, that would be good -- they'd only be 45 years overdue," he noted.

"From the standpoint of states that have state-legal suppliers, Schedule II doesn't accomplish a whole lot," Gieringer said. "Those state-legal suppliers wouldn't become federally legal; they'd have to first obtain FDA approval. Until that happens, everybody is an illegal producer of a scheduled drug under federal law," he said.

"Schedule II would allow doctors to write prescriptions -- but nobody could fill them," Gieringer noted. "There are international prescriptions and international suppliers, though. But the main impact would be doctors would feel better and cops couldn't argue that marijuana isn't a medicine. If they're trying to create a niche for existing legal medical marijuana state, putting it in Schedule II is like creating a square hole for a round peg."

Marijuana patients, consumers, and the industry are all waiting for the DEA to act, but aren't really holding out much hope it will do the right thing. And even the half-steps it might take, such as moving it to Schedule II or separating out CBDs for lower scheduling, aren't going to substantially alter marijuana's legal status or resolve the conflicts between state-level legality and federal marijuana prohibition. When it comes to rescheduling marijuana, there's just not that much there there.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Virginia police chief goes down for using the drug buy fund to buy pills for himself, a former Guamanian customs agent goes down for helping a relative import meth, and a former New Jersey police sergeant goes down for peddling weed on the side. Let's get to it:

In Alta Vista, Virginia, the former Alta Vista police chief pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count for using department drug buy funds to buy pills for himself and faking paperwork to hide it. Former Chief Kenneth Walsh, 51, had been charged with 15 felonies, but pleaded guilty to a single count of forging public documents. He also entered Alford pleas -- meaning he maintained his innocence while acknowledging there was evidence to convict him -- to 11 counts of forging public documents, one count of embezzlement, and one count of obtaining drugs by fraud. His sentencing is set for October.

In Linden, New Jersey, a former Linden police sergeant was sentenced last Friday to probation after he was busted for selling marijuana. Former Sgt. William Turbett III, 30, went down after police served a search warrant on his home and found "a small amount" of weed. He was a seven-year veteran of the department and earned a salary of $105,000 last year. He can no longer work in law enforcement.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former Guam customs agent was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison for participating in a scheme to import two pounds of methamphetamine into the US territory. Jayvin Wyll Ueda Remoket pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of warning the subject of a search. Remoket used his position as a customs agent to help a relative get the packages through customs.

Medical Marijuana Update

The DEA again rejects marijuana rescheduling, a North Dakota initiative makes the ballot, a South Dakota one doesn't, a Missouri one hangs on by a thread, and more.

National

On Thursday, DEA again refused to reschedule marijuana. The DEA today again refused to reschedule marijuana, arguing that its therapeutic value has not been scientifically proven. The move rejecting a rescheduling petition from two governors comes despite medical marijuana being legal in half the states and in the face of an ever-increasing mountain of evidence of marijuana's medicinal utility. Today's action marks at least the fourth time the DEA has rejected petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana. The effort to get the DEA to move marijuana off the same schedule as heroin has been going on since 1972, and once again has garnered the same result. The agency did announce one policy change that could make it easier to conduct marijuana research. It said it would end the University of Mississippi's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research purposes by granting growing licenses to a limited number of other universities.

Missouri

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative campaign vowed to go to court to try to overturn invalidated signatures. New Approach Missouri announced that it will go to court this month to overturn invalidated signatures so that its medical marijuana initiative can appear on the November ballot. The campaign has enough valid signatures to qualify in every congressional district except the state's second, where local election officials invalidated more than 10,000 signatures, leaving the campaign roughly 2,200 short of the 32,337 required in that district.

Ohio

On Tuesday, Ohio took the first step toward getting medical marijuana up and running. The state Medical Marijuana Control Program has unveiled a website with the first information on how it plans to implement the state's new medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana will not be available before September 2018, as the state works to develop rules and regulations.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana initiative qualified for the November ballot. The secretary of state's office has confirmed that Compassionate Care Act initiative has submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would allow patients suffering from a list of specified medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow their own if they are more than 40 miles away from a licensed dispensary. Dispensaries would be nonprofits.

South Dakota

On Tuesday, a state court judge rejected a medical marijuana initiative campaign's appeal. The state will not be voting on the issue this November after a state court judge denied a request from the campaign to overturn Secretary of State Shantel Krebs' finding that the group did not hand in enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. South Dakota has twice previously rejected medical marijuana at the polls -- the only state to do so.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: DEA Rejects MJ Rescheduling, AZ Legalization Init Makes Ballot, More... (8/11/16)

The DEA is up to the same old same old, Arizona joins the list of states voting on marijuana legalization this fall, heroin overdoses jump in recent years in New York, and more.

Marijuana Policy

DEA Again Refuses to Reschedule Marijuana. The DEA today again refused to reschedule marijuana, arguing that its therapeutic value has not been scientifically proven. The move rejecting a rescheduling petition from two governors comes despite medical marijuana being legal in half the states and in the face of an ever-increasing mountain of evidence of marijuana's medicinal utility. Today's action marks at least the fourth time the DEA has rejected petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana. The effort to get the DEA to move marijuana off the same schedule as heroin has been going on since 1972, and once again has garnered the same result. The agency did announce one policy change that could make it easier to conduct marijuana research. It said it would end the University of Mississippi's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research purposes by granting growing licenses to a limited number of other universities.

Arizona Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. It's official: State officials have confirmed that the initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has gathered enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative will appear on the ballot as Proposition 205.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Fatal Overdoses Have Jumped in New York City in Recent Years. Fatal drug overdoses have jumped 66% in the city between 2010 and 2015, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Reported Tuesday. Last year, 937 New Yorkers died of overdoses, compared to 541 in 2010. Heroin was involved in 59% of the deaths.

International

Vietnam Sentences Nine to Death for Smuggling Heroin to China. A court in Lang Son has handed out death sentences to nine men for smuggling about 500 pounds of heroin to China. Two others were sentenced to life in prison. Under Vietnamese law, possession or sale of more than 100 grams of heroin is punishable by death.

DEA Once Again Refuses to Reschedule Marijuana, But Does Offer One Sop [FEATURE]

The DEA today again refused to reschedule marijuana, arguing that its therapeutic value has not been scientifically proven. The move rejecting a rescheduling petition from two governors comes despite medical marijuana being legal in half the states and in the face of an ever-increasing mountain of evidence of marijuana's medicinal utility.

"DEA has denied two petitions to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)," the agency said in a press release. "In response to the petitions, DEA requested a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in consultation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Based on the legal standards in the CSA, marijuana remains a schedule I controlled substance because it does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision, and it has a high potential for abuse."

Today's action marks at least the fourth time the DEA has rejected petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana. The effort to get the DEA to move marijuana off the same schedule as heroin has been going on since 1972, and once again has garnered the same result.

The move comes despite the expansion of state medical marijuana laws at least three more states will vote on it this year -- and a growing clamor for change, including from members of Congress. Just yesterday, the National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to move marijuana off Schedule I.

The agency did announce one policy change that could make it easier to conduct marijuana research. It said it would end the University of Mississippi's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research purposes by granting growing licenses to a limited number of other universities.

But that was not nearly enough for marijuana reform advocates, who scorched the agency for its continuing refusal to move the drug off of Schedule I, if not outside the purview of the Controlled Substances Act altogether.

"This decision is further evidence that the DEA doesn't get it. Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach -- leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

The DEA again refuses to acknowledge marijuana's medicinal utility. (Creative Commons/Wikipedia)
"The DEA's refusal to remove marijuana from Schedule I is, quite frankly, mind-boggling. It is intellectually dishonest and completely indefensible. Not everyone agrees marijuana should be legal, but few will deny that it is less harmful than alcohol and many prescription drugs. It is less toxic, less addictive, and less damaging to the body," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"We are pleased the DEA is finally going to end NIDA's monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. For decades it has been preventing researchers from exploring the medical benefits of marijuana. It has also stood in the way of any scientific inquiries that might contradict the DEA's exaggerated claims about the potential harms of marijuana or raise questions about its classification under Schedule I," Tvert continued.

"The DEA's announcement is a little sweet but mostly bitter. Praising them for it would be like rewarding a student who failed an exam and agreed to cheat less on the next one. Removing barriers to research is a step forward, but the decision does not go nearly far enough. Marijuana should be completely removed from the CSA drug schedules and regulated similarly to alcohol," he concluded.

"For far too long, federal regulations have made clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous and have placed unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on marijuana that do not exist for other controlled substances, including some other schedule I controlled substances," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.

"While this announcement is a significant step toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations into cannabis' therapeutic efficacy, ample scientific evidence already exists to remove cannabis from its schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and unscheduled substances, such as alcohol," he continued. "Ultimately, the federal government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.

It is time for Congress to step up, Armentano said.

The DEA's approach. (DEA)
"Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis' criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government's 'Flat Earth' position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana's therapeutic efficacy," he said.

He wasn't the only one.

"It's really sad that DEA has chosen to continue decades of ignoring the voices of patients who benefit from medical marijuana," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "President Obama always said he would let science -- and not ideology -- dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value. This unfortunate decision only further highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation curtailing the ability of DEA and other federal agencies to interfere with the effective implementation of state marijuana laws. A clear and growing majority of American voters support legalizing marijuana outright and the very least our representatives should do is let states implement their own policies, unencumbered by an outdated 'Reefer Madness' mentality that some in law enforcement still choose to cling to."

Given that the DEA and the executive branch have proven -- once again! -- unwilling to remove the ideological blinders from their eyes, it is now indeed up to Congress. Perhaps after this coming election cycle, in which we are likely to see more states vote to approve medical marijuana and even more vote to just legalize it, Congress will see the writing on the wall.

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: CA Pot Foes Sue Over Prop 64 Language, ND MedMJ Init Qualifies, More... (8/10/16)

It grows quiet in the dog days of summer, but there is still some news: North Dakotans will vote on medical marijuana in November, California pot legalization foes sue over ballot argument language, and more.

Medical marijuana shops could be coming to North Dakota. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

California Legalization Foes Sue Over Prop 64 Ballot Language. Opponents of the Prop 64 legalization initiative organized as No on 64 have sued the California secretary of state, alleging that Prop 64 ballot arguments could deceive voters. The group claims the ballot arguments are false and misleading in regard to TV advertising and marijuana delivery services. Last week, Prop 64 supporters also sued, alleging opposition arguments were false and misleading.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot. The secretary of state's office has confirmed that Compassionate Care Act initiative has submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would allow patients suffering from a list of specified medical conditions to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and grow their own if they are more than 40 miles away from a licensed dispensary. Dispensaries would be nonprofits.

International

Philippines' Deadly Anti-Drug Policies Spark Protests. With the death toll from police an vigilante killings of alleged drug users and sellers already climbing into the hundreds just weeks after President Rodrigo "Death Squad" Duterte took office, the public backlash is beginning. On Wednesday, protestors gathered at the Redemptorist Church in Paranaque City to demand an end to the killings.

Chronicle AM: NYC MJ Arrests Rising Again, Dark Web Drug Sales Up Dramatically, More... (8/9/16)

Marijuana arrest numbers are headed in the wrong direction in New York City, Ohio makes a first move toward implementing medical marijuana, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer declares war on new psychoactive substances, and more.

Chuck Schumer wants to play whack-a-mole with K2 and Spice. (LA Dept. of Health)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Marijuana Arrests on the Rise Again. After declining during the first two years of Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) administration, pot arrests are on the rise again in the Big Apple. The 9,331 people arrested on possession charges in the first half of this year is a 30% increase over the same period last year. That's not good news, but it's still nowhere near as bad as it was under Michael Bloomberg. In 2010, more than 50,000 were arrested for pot; this year, if current trends keep up, it will still be under 20,000.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Takes First Step Toward Getting Medical Marijuana Up and Running. The state Medical Marijuana Control Program has unveiled a website with the first information on how it plans to implement the state's new medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana will not be available before September 2018, as the state works to develop rules and regulations.

South Dakota Judge Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign's Appeal. The state will not be voting on the issue this November after a state court judge denied a request from the campaign to overturn Secretary of State Shantel Krebs' finding that the group did not hand in enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. South Dakota has twice previously rejected medical marijuana at the polls -- the only state to do so.

New Psychoactive Substances

Sen. Schumer Responds to New Drugs With Old Prohibitionist "Whack-A-Mole" Strategy. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced today that he is filing a new bill that would criminalize the chemicals used to make new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids ("Spice," "K2"), synthetic stimulants ("bath salts"), and synthetic opioids. "We need a federal hammer to nail these toxic concoctions of synthetic drugs to reverse this troubling trend… This federal legislation will ban 22 synthetic drugs, including powerful forms of fentanyl, crippling the unlawful chemists cooking up these drugs and the cartels that push them to our local stores and streets. Banning these drugs quickly will help the feds step up their game of whack-a-mole so that we can help stem the tide of synthetic drug use here in New York State and across the country."

International

Dark Web Drug Sales Triple Since End of Silk Road. It's been three years since federal authorities shut down the Silk Road dark web drug sales website, but online illicit drug sales have never been higher. Drug sales have tripled since then to somewhere between $12 million and $20 million a month, while revenues have doubled, according to a study published by Rand Corporation Europe. While dark web drugs sales make up only a small fraction of all illicit drug sales, many of the transactions are for more than $1,000, suggesting that drugs are being purchased online for resale on the streets.

Chronicle AM: Gallup Finds MJ Users Nearly Double in Three Years, MO MedMJ Fights On, More... (8/8/16)

A Gallup poll shows a dramatic increase in admitted marijuana use by adults, a Barna poll shows little support for drug prohibition, Garden State needle exchanges are scrambling for money after their funding was vetoed, and more.

Marijuana use is becoming more acceptable. (Darren Frisby Harris/Drug Policy Alliance)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup: Number of American Adult Marijuana Users Nearly Doubles in Three Years. A new Gallup poll reports that the number of people who smoke pot has nearly doubled since 2013. That year, 7% of adults said they were current marijuana users; this year, the number jumped to 13%. It's not clear whether or to what degree the reported sharp increase is attributable to an actual increase in regular marijuana users or whether it's because people are more willing to admit their pot use in an era of growing acceptance of marijuana and spreading legalization of the herb.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Initiative Campaign Asks Court to Overturn Invalidated Signatures. New Approach Missouri announced Monday that it will go to court this month to overturn invalidated signatures so that its medical marijuana initiative can appear on the November ballot. The campaign has enough valid signatures to qualify in every congressional district except the state's second, where local election officials invalidated more than 10,000 signatures, leaving the campaign roughly 2,200 short of the 32,337 required in that district.

Drug Policy

Poll: Only One-Third Thinks All Drugs Should Be Illegal. A new poll from Barna, a firm that surveys on religious issues, finds that only 32% of respondents think all drugs should be illegal. Some 40% think hard drugs should be illegal, but not marijuana, while another 13% think all drugs should be legal and regulated and another 3% believe all drugs should be legal and should not be regulated. If you add those all up, it's 56% for marijuana legalization and 16% for legalizing all drugs.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Needle Exchanges Are Strapped for Cash. The operators of the state's five needle exchange programs have launched an online fundraising drive this week with a GoFundMe account after a one-time federal grant has run out. Lawmakers had allocated $95,000 to cover program costs, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) line item vetoed that funding in June. "Our governor claims to be fiscally conservative and pro-life. So, how is it that he refuses to fund a simple, inexpensive, effective intervention that saves lives at significantly lower cost than the cost of medical care after a person has been infected with HIV or Hepatitis C or both?" said Diana McCague, the founder of the first underground needle exchange program in the mid-90s called The Chai Project. "Can it be that he's willing to risk the lives of human beings because they use drugs? I think 'pro-life' means pro-all-life."

Gallup: Number of Adult American Marijuana Users Nearly Doubles in Three Years (Or Does It?)

A new Gallup poll reports that the number of people who use marijuana has nearly doubled since 2013. That year, 7% of adults said they were current marijuana users; this year, the number jumped to 13%.

Pot becomes a popular pasttime. (Darren Frisby Harris/Drug Policy Alliance)
It's not clear whether or to what degree the reported sharp increase is attributable to an actual increase in regular marijuana users or whether it's because people are more willing to admit their pot use in an era of growing acceptance of marijuana and spreading legalization of the herb.

Gallup reports consistent majority support nationwide for marijuana legalization since 2013, and it found that residents in the West, where four states have already legalized marijuana, were significantly more likely to report being regular users.

Most of the increase occurred between 2013 and 2015, when regular use hit 11% before climbing another two points between then and now.

Colorado and Washington legalized weed in 2012, joined by Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia two years later. This year, legalization will be on the ballot in five states, including California, and medical marijuana will be up for a vote in at least three more.

Now, some 43% of Americans say they have ever tried marijuana, similar to last year's 44% and up slightly from 38% in 2013. In 1969, when Gallup first asked the question, only 4% said they had ever tried it.

According to the survey, the key determinants of marijuana use are age and religiosity. Among adults under 30, nearly one out five (19%) report current use, double the rate seen in any of the older groups. But only 2% of weekly church goers are users and only 7% of less frequent worshippers are. Among people who seldom or never go to church, 14% reported current use.

While 12% of men claimed current use, only 7% of women did. And, as noted above, 14% of Westerners were current users, compared with 9% of Easterners and Midwesterners and only 6% of Southerners.

Marijuana's decades-long move toward social acceptance continues.

Chronicle AM: WA Legal MJ Sales Top $1 Billion, AR Welfare Drug Testing Flop, More... (8/5/16)

Arizona legalizers fight a lawsuit aimed at knocking them off the ballot, Washington rakes in the tax revenue from legal pot, asset forfeiture is in the news in California and New York, and more.

Arkansas forced 800 welfare applicants to do drug screens, one came up dirty. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Campaign Wants Lawsuit Tossed. The group behind the state's legalization initiative has asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by foes seeking to keep the measure off the November ballot. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol argued that the effort is more about politics and ideology than ensuring state law is followed. Foes argued that the ballot measure's summary language does not describe everything the initiative would do. Both sides will be in court a week from today.

In Face of Uproar, Oregon US Attorney Drops Federal Marijuana Charge Against Teen for One Gram of Weed. Rather than prosecute Devontre Thomas, 19, for possession of a gram of marijuana, federal prosecutors have agreed to enter him into a pretrial diversion program. The move comes after Oregon elected officials said the prosecution was overkill.

Washington State Sees Legal Marijuana Sales Push Past Billion Dollar Mark. After a sharp jump in adult sales last month as medical dispensaries were shut down, the state has now seen pot sales edge past a billion dollars, if revenue from processors and producers is included. The state has collected $273 million in excise taxes on the sales since they began two years ago.

Asset Forfeiture

California Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Set to Move After Compromise. After discussions with law enforcement groups, state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has amended her asset forfeiture reform bill, Senate Bill 443, so that only property seizures worth less than $40,000 would require a criminal conviction before permanent seizure. Seizures higher than that amount would not require that standard of proof. Mitchell said the compromise would allow police to preserve their ability to go after large criminal enterprises. The police groups have now dropped their opposition to the bill.

NYPD Sued for Failure to Release Asset Forfeiture Data. NYPD collected more than $6 million in asset forfeiture revenues in 2013, but is ignoring records requests for information on how it collects and distributes the cash it seizes, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by a legal aid group representing low-income people. The group, Bronx Defenders, had submitted a public records request nearly two years, but NYPD has been unresponsive, the lawsuit alleges.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Welfare Drug Test Program Finds Hardly Any Drug Users. According to data released this week by the Department of Workforce Services, exactly one welfare applicant out of 800 has failed a drug test. Another four refused to take it, rendering them temporarily ineligible for benefits. All five taken together constitute 0.63% of welfare applicants. The one failed drug test means 0.125% of all applicants tested positive. Arkansas and other states that have enacted such laws have done so on the unspoken assumption that welfare applicants are using drugs at the taxpayers' expense, but, once again, that has proven not to be the case.

Chronicle AM: UN Agencies Condemn Philippine Killings, Huge Danish Consumption Room Opens, More... (8/4/16)

UN drug agencies join civil society in condemning Philippine drug war killings, the world's largest drug consumption facility opens in Copenhagen, the California marijuana legalization initiative sues to have "false and misleading" ballot arguments removed, and more.

The Copenhagen drug consumption room covers a thousand square meters. (Nanna Gotfredsen, Sune Kehlet)
Marijuana Policy

California Prop 64 Campaign Sues to Disallow "False, Misleading" Ballot Arguments. The Prop 64 marijuana legalization campaign filed a lawsuit in state superior court in Sacramento Thursday seeking to have what it calls false or misleading statements submitted by opponents removed from ballot arguments. Ballot arguments appear in the voter information guide. The campaign wants the judge to reject or amend a number of arguments, including one that claims children will be exposed to edibles advertising and one that claims Prop 64 will remove consumer protections, among others. All legal questions around ballot arguments must be settled by August 15.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Poll Has Support for Medical Marijuana at 58%. A new poll of likely voters has a healthy majority for medical marijuana, with 58% saying they support it. Voters will have a chance to signal that support at the polls in November, when the Arkansans for Compassionate Care initiative will appear on the ballot. A second medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment, is still trying to qualify for the ballot and has received an extension to gather more signatures after coming up just short last month.

New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill to Make PTSD a Qualifying Condition. The Senate Tuesday gave final approval to Assembly Bill 457, which would allow people with PTSD to use medical marijuana. The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Christie (R), who has not indicated whether he will sign or veto it.

International

UN Drug Agencies Join Chorus of Critics of Philippines Drug Killings. In a statement Wednesday, UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Yuri Fedotov said he joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in "condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings" of alleged drug users and dealers in the country under the new administration of President Rodrigo "Death Squad" Duterte. "[Extrajudicial killing] is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms," he said. "Such responses contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions, do not serve the cause of justice, and will not help to ensure that 'all people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity,' as agreed by governments in the outcome document approved at the UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem," he said. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) likewise expressed its concern later the same day. In a written statement, the self-described "quasi-judicial" agency that monitors compliance with the drug conventions wrote that "should these reports prove accurate, this would constitute a serious breach of the legal obligations to which the Philippines is held by the three UN drug control conventions and by the corpus of international legal instruments to which the country has adhered."

World's Largest Drug Consumption Room Opens in Copenhagen. The drug consumption room is 1,000 square meters and includes space for both drug injecting and smoking. It is partially funded by the city of Copenhagen. Users at the site will also be able to engage with medical and social welfare services.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have a real doozey from Oklahoma, jail guards go bad all over the place, and more. Let's get to it:

In Marietta, Oklahoma, the Love County sheriff was arrested July 19 on charges of corruption, neglect of duty, and housing a fugitive. Sheriff Marion "Joe" Russell is accused of turning a blind eye to meth dealing out of his own home by his adult son, covering up a missing person case where another family member is the main suspect, and harboring a fugitive. His son, Willie Russell, has already pleaded guilty to meth dealing. The fugitive, a young woman, was dating Willie and staying at the sheriff's house even though she had four arrest warrants outstanding. He is also accused of arresting drunken women in bikinis and taking them to his house instead of to jail. There, they were allegedly sexually assaulted and given meth. The missing persons case involves a young couple who were last seen in a car owned by Russell's nephew.

In Florence, Alabama, a jail guard was arrested July 23 for trying to smuggle drugs into the jail inside a Bible. Kenneth Lee Lawson, 32, went down when fellow officers discovered suboxone hidden in the holy book. He is charged with bringing contraband into a jail facility.

In Canton, Georgia, a Cherokee County sheriff's deputy was arrested July 23 for stealing drugs from the department evidence locker. Deputy Jeffrey Goettel, 41, went down after the sheriff requested an audit of evidence and found that drugs were missing. An investigation pointed to Goettel, who authorities said pilfered morphine and oxycodone. He is charged with violating his oath of office, possession of a Schedule II drug, and theft by taking.

In Swan Quarter, North Carolina, a Hyde County jail guard was arrested last Friday for smuggling marijuana, tobacco, a cell phone, and knife into the jail. Guard Joshua Carawan is charged with possession of a controlled substance, tobacco, an electronics communication device, and a dangerous weapon inside a jail facility.

In Philadelphia, a former city jail guard was sentenced last Thursday to four years in federal prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband to inmates. John Wesley Herder, 50, was one of six guards charged last September with smuggling Oxycontin and cell phones in exchange for cash. Herder made $2,000 for twice smuggled dope and phones into the jail, but was also fined $2,300 in addition to prison time.

Medical Marijuana Update

A second Arkansas medical marijuana initiative is still alive (one has already qualified for the ballot), Boston gets its first dispensary, Minnesota chronic pain patients now qualify for medical marijuana, and more.

Arkansas

Last Friday, a medical marijuana got more time to gather signatures. Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment initiative, had come up short of the 82,000 valid voter signatures required to qualify for the November ballot, but it handed in 72,000 valid signatures, qualifying it for additional time to gather enough signatures to make the ballot. Another medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, has already qualified for the ballot.

Florida

Last Friday, medical marijuana foes got a big bucks donation from a supermarket heiress. Carol Jenkins Barnett, heir to the Publix supermarket fortune, has donated $800,000 to Drug Free Florida to fight the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative. Jenkins Barnett also donated big time to defeating the medical marijuana initiative in 2014, handing out $500,000 to Drug Free Florida that year.

Massachusetts

On Wednesday, Boston got its first dispensary. The Patriot Cares dispensary is open on Boston's Milk Street as of today. The company says it's ready for 150 patients a day and that 200 patients have already registered.

Minnesota

On Monday, chronic pain patients qualified for medical marijuana. As of August 1, the state's medical marijuana program includes people suffering from chronic pain that is not eased by traditional drugs or therapies.

South Dakota

On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative supporters sued over signature counts. The secretary of state's office said petitions from the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion came up short on signatures, blocking the measure from going to the voters, and now, the coalition has filed a complaint alleging that signatures were not properly counted. The coalition is seeking to have the secretary of state's decision thrown out and that a local judge will order the initiative placed on the November ballot.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Obama Commutes More Drug Sentences, Boston's First MedMJ Shop Opens, More... (8/3/16)

Obama commutes more drug sentences, Boston gets its first dispensary, more signs of how horrid South Dakota is on marijuana, Utah SWAT deployment data, and more.

Utah SWAT is aimed mostly at drug offenders. (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon US Attorney Prosecuting Black Teen Over One Gram of Weed. In the first federal marijuana possession prosecution in the state in five years, teenager Devontre Thomas has been charged over a gram of pot found in another student's backpack at the federal Indian School they both attended. The other teen claimed he got the weed from Thomas, and that's enough for US Attorney Billy J. Williams to charge Thomas with "knowingly and intentionally possessing marijuana." Williams is getting blowback from many, including US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who said "situations like this are best handled by the state."

South Dakota to Prosecute Consultants for Aborted Indian Tribe Pot Grow. Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Wednesday that two men who consulted with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in its effort to grow marijuana have been indicted on a range of marijuana possession charges. The tribe began to grow after the federal government signaled that tribes could do so, but destroyed its crop after federal officials raided other tribes than had entered the business and after state officials threatened to arrest non-Indians who used marijuana there. One of the consultants was hit with felony possession and is looking at up to 7 ½ years in prison, while the other, who cooperated with authorities, only got a misdemeanor charge.

Medical Marijuana

Boston Gets Its First Dispensary. The Patriot Cares dispensary is open on Boston's Milk Street as of today. The company says it's ready for 150 patients a day and that 200 patients have already registered.

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Supporters Sue Over Signatures. The secretary of state's office said petitions from the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion came up short on signatures, blocking the measure from going to the voters, and now, the coalition has filed a complaint alleging that signatures were not properly counted. The coalition is seeking to have the secretary of state's decision thrown out and that a local judge will order the initiative placed on the November ballot.

Law Enforcement

Utah SWAT Used Overwhelmingly for Drug Crimes. Utah is the only state to currently require reporting on SWAT deployments, and the 2015 report has just been released. SWAT was deployed 457 times in 2015, including 281 forced entries into private residences. Three-quarters of those forced entries were drug raids. The data also showed that police were more likely to use "no-knock" search warrants against drug suspects than against violent crime suspects. Go figure.

Pardons and Clemency

Obama Frees More Federal Drug Prisoners, But Time is Running Out. Some 214 federal drug war prisoners saw their prison sentences commuted Wednesday as President Obama took another step toward fulfilling his administration's pledge to use his pardon power to cut draconian drug sentences and free prisoners serving decades-long stretches for non-violent drug crimes.Those whose sentences were commuted Wednesday will walk out of prison on December 1. With Wednesday's commutations, Obama has now commuted the sentences of 562 men and women sentenced under harsh federal drug laws, including 197 people doing life for drug offenses. That's more commutations than the last nine presidents combined.

Obama Frees More Federal Drug War Prisoners, But Time is Running Out

Some 214 federal drug war prisoners saw their prison sentences commuted Wednesday as President Obama took another step toward fulfilling his administration's pledge to use his pardon power to cut draconian drug sentences and free prisoners serving decades-long stretches for nonviolent drug crimes.

"The power to grant pardons and commutations… embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws," the president said.

Those whose sentences were commuted Wednesday will walk out of prison on December 1.

With Wednesday's commutations, Obama has now commuted the sentences of 562 men and women sentenced under harsh federal drug laws, including 197 people doing life for drug offenses. That's more commutations than the last nine presidents combined.

But it's not close to the number whose sentences Obama could commute under a program announced in 2014 by then Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Cole. They called on nonviolent federal drug war prisoners to seek clemency in April 2014.

"In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing unfair disparities in sentences imposed on people for offenses involving different forms of cocaine, but there are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime -- and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime," said Holder. "This is simply not right."

Holder noted at the time that Obama had granted commutation to eight people serving time for crack offenses the previous December.

"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety. The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences," Holder said.

Under Holder's criteria for clemency, low-level drug offenders who had served at least 10 years, had good conduct in prison, had no significant criminal history or connection to gangs, cartels, or organized crime, and who would probably receive a "substantially lower sentence" if convicted of the same offense today would be eligible for sentence cuts.

Of roughly 100,000 federal drug prisoners -- nearly half the entire federal prison population -- more than 36,000 applied for clemency. Many of them did not meet the criteria, but the Justice Department has reviewed nearly 9,500 that did. Of those, only the 562 have actually been granted clemency; applications are still pending for nearly 9,000 more. (An additional 8,000 pending applications are being handled by a consortium of private attorneys, the Clemency Project.)

Many of those might not make it to Obama's desk before the clock runs out on his term because the Justice Department has stumbled in administering the program. Thousands of prisoners doing harsh drug war sentences could lose their chance for early freedom because Justice didn't get around to hiring enough people to handle the flood of applications it generated.

That would undercut Obama's legacy of redressing drug war injustice. There are now only six months to go in his presidency, and nearly 18,000 prisoners who were told to seek clemency are now waiting for a response.

Here is President Obama addressing the commutation issue during an earlier series of sentence cuts:

Washington, DC
United States

Chronicle AM: Filipino Drug War Killings Raise Global Alarm, Legal Pot for Deficit, More... (8/2/16)

Civil society responds as the death toll mounts in the Philippines, Massachusetts politicians endorse pot legalization, a new study finds national legalization could bring in $12 billion a year for the feds, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte (theinfluence.org)
Marijuana Policy

Study: Legal Marijuana Could Bring $12 Billion a Year to Federal Tax Coffers. A new study from the American Economic Association says the federal government could harvest up to $12 billion annually in tax revenues if marijuana were legalized nationwide. The revenue estimate is based on a 25% federal tax on retail pot sales.

Alaska Pot Board Member Fired, Alleges Governor Trying to "Subvert" Legalization. Gov. Bill Walker (R) has fired Marijuana Control Board member Bruce Schulte, and Schulte says it's because Walker and allies are trying to delay implementation of a voter-approved marijuana industry. "There's an underlying agenda to subvert the process, to delay the implementation of a legalized marijuana industry," Schulte said. "It doesn't look like the State of Alaska is really serious about making this happen." A replacement for Schulte has not been announced. Alaska approved marijuana legalization in November 2014.

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects 2018 Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected an initiative proposed by Mary Berry of Summit to legalize marijuana in the state. Rutledge said there were ambiguities in the text that need to be addressed. That initiative was aimed at 2018. A 2016 initiative from Berry, the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment, was approved for signature gathering, but failed to make the ballot.

Boston City Council President to Endorse Massachusetts Legalization Initiative. City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Tito Jackson will formally endorse the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's legalization initiative at a press event at the state capitol tomorrow. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse endorsed the initiative Monday, becoming the first mayor in the state to do so. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker (R), and other high state officials oppose the initiative.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Medical Marijuana Foes Get Big Bucks Donation from Publix Heiress. Carol Jenkins Barnett, heir to the Publix supermarket fortune, has donated $800,000 to Drug Free Florida to fight the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative. Jenkins Barnett also donated big time to defeating the medical marijuana initiative in 2014, handing out $500,000 to Drug Free Florida that year.

International

As Philippines Drug War Death Toll Mounts, Rights Groups Demand UN Denounce Killings. More than 700 suspected drug users or dealers have been killed by police or vigilantes since Rodrigo Duterte took office as president less than three months ago, and now civil society is responding. More than 300 human rights and other organizations have signed letters to the International Narcotics Control Board and UN Office on Drugs and Crime urging them to speak out against the extra-judicial violence. "We are calling on the UN drug control bodies to publicly condemn these atrocities in the Philippines. This senseless killing cannot be justified as a drug control measure," said Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), which coordinated the letter. "Their silence is unacceptable, while people are being killed on the streets day after day."

Australia's New South Wales Now Allows Doctors to Prescribe Medical Marijuana. As of Monday, New South Wales doctors can write prescriptions for medical marijuana. "People who are seriously ill should be able to access these medicines if they are the most appropriate next step in their treatment," NSW Premier Mike Baird said yesterday.

Chronicle AM: IL Gov Signs Decrim Bill, Marijuana Foes Pony Up to Fight Reform, More... (8/1/16)

Your correspondent was on vacation last week, but drug policy and the drug war weren't. Illinois has decriminalized marijuana possession, Republicans are shifting on marijuana prohibition, Minnesotans with chronic pain now qualify for medical marijuana, Floridians can now get naloxone without an individualized prescription, and more.

It's official: Massachusetts will vote on marijuana legalization this fall. (regulatemass.org)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Even Republicans Now Favor Marijuana Legalization. For the first time, a plurality if not a majority of people who identify as Republicans say they support marijuana legalization. A new YouGov poll has 45% of Republicans in favor, with 42% opposed. Only eight months ago, Republicans opposed legalization in the same poll, by a margin of 50% to 36%.

Pot Prohibitionists Put Up $2 Million to Fight Legalization. The political arm of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana has raised more than $2 million to fight legalization initiatives in five states this year, including California, where Prop 64 is on the November ballot. The bulk of the money will go to California. The group is led by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) and former drug czar's office official Kevin Sabet.

Illinois Decriminalizes Marijuana. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) last Friday signed into law Senate Bill 2228, which decriminalizes the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana and creates a maximum fine of $200. The law goes into effect immediately, making Illinois the 21st state to have decriminalized small-time pot possession.

Massachusetts Legalization Initiative is Officially on the November Ballot. State officials last month quietly certified that the initiative from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has overcome the final hurdle to going before the voters in November. Advocates had to hand in a small number of signatures this summer when the legislature refused to act after the campaign handed in tens of thousands of signatures earlier this year. The initiative will be Question 4 on the November ballot.

Northern Marianas Could Vote on Legalization in November. A lawmaker in the US territory has pre-filed a bill that would let residents vote on legalization in November. Senator Sixto Igisomar is the man behind the move. The legislature must approve it by August 10 for it to make the ballot this year.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment Initiative Gets More Time to Gather Signatures. Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment initiative, had come up short of the 82,000 valid voter signatures required to qualify for the November ballot, but it handed in 72,000 valid signatures, qualifying it for additional time to gather enough signatures to make the ballot. Another medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, has already qualified for the ballot.

Minnesota Chronic Pain Patients Now Qualify for Medical Marijuana. As of today, the state's medical marijuana program includes people suffering from chronic pain that is not eased by traditional drugs or therapies.

Harm Reduction

Florida Makes Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Available Without Prescription. The overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) is now available through a "standing order" from a doctor, meaning drugs users, friends, and family members no longer need an individual prescription to obtain the antidote. Additionally, the pharmacy chain CVS will begin stocking naloxone in all its pharmacies in the state beginning this month.

International

Italian Parliament Begins Debate on Marijuana Legalization.Last week, parliament began discussing whether to approve a marijuana legalization bill. The bill would allow for the possession of up to 15 grams at home and 5 grams on the street and let people grow up to five plants. It would also allow growing collectives of up to 50 growers. Rightist opponents of the measure have already filed more than 1,300 proposed amendments aimed at snuffing it. Debate on the bill will resume in September.

Indonesia Executes Four Drug Prisoners. Ignoring a growing global clamor against the practice, Indonesian authorities executed four convicted drug offenders last Friday. Ten others set to be executed at the same time won a temporary reprieve when a storm hit the island where the executions were taking place, but officials said they would be put to death later.

Trump VP Pick Mike Pence is Bad News on Marijuana, Drug Policy

The Republican nominee's choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate means Trump has selected a man who is the very embodiment of last century's "tough on drugs" prohibitionist attitudes.

Trump VP pick Mike Pence doesn't have a great record on drug policy. (flickr.com/gage skidmore)
Pence's anti-drug reform stances are part and parcel of his overall social conservative, Tea Party positions. He has also been a strong opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights and a strong supporter of "religious freedom."

Indiana has tough marijuana laws, with possession of even the smallest amount of pot worth up to six months in county jail and possession of more than 30 grams (slightly more than an ounce) a felony punishable by up to 2 ½ years in prison. Selling any amount more than 30 grams is also a felony, again punishable by up to 2 ½ years in prison.

Mike Pence is just fine with that. In fact, three years ago he successfully blocked a move in the legislature to reduce some of those penalties, saying that while he wanted to cut prison populations, he didn't want to cut penalties to achieve that end.

"I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties," he said. "I think this legislation, as it moves forward, should still seek to continue to send a way strong message to the people of Indiana and particularly to those who would come into our state to deal drugs, that we are tough and we're going to stay tough on narcotics in this state."

Pence did sign emergency legislation allowing for needle exchange programs in some Indiana counties last year, but only after initial resistance, during which more than 150 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in one county alone. His hesitance was in line with his anti-drug values, as evidenced by his 2009 vote as a US representative to keep intact a federal ban on funding for needle exchanges.

Pence is also a gung-ho drug warrior when it comes to the Mexican border, having voted to support billions in funding for Mexico to fight drug cartels and for using the US military to conduct anti-drug and counter-terror patrols along the border.

Bizarrely enough, there is one drug Pence has no problems with, but it's a legal one: nicotine. That's right, the drug warrior is an apologist and denier for Big Tobacco.

"Time for a quick reality check," he said in 2000. "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill."

Pence has been handsomely compensated by tobacco companies for his advocacy against anti-smoking public health campaigns, even though they have proven wildly successful in driving down smoking rates. Pence can be viewed as a man who rejects proven public health interventions for one dangerous substance while insisting on failed punitive, prohibitionist policies for another, less dangerous, substance.

(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.)

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