Chronicle AM: OR Top Cops Want Defelonization, SC County Wants to Jail Overdosers, More... (9/27/16)
NORML updates its congressional scorecard, Bay State legalizers cry foul over a misleading voter guide, the number of babies suffering from opioid withdrawals has jumped dramatically, Oregon top cops want to defelonize simple drug possession, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
NORML Releases Updated and Revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. To mark national Voter Registration Day, NORML has released its updated and revised guide to members of Congress. The guide gives letter grades to our representatives based on the comments and voting records. Only 22 of the 535 senators and congressmen got "A" grades, while 32 members got an "F" grade.
Massachusetts Legalizers Cry Foul Over State-Issued Voter Guide. Campaigners behind the Question 4 legalization initiative say a state-issued guide sent to voters across the state inaccurately describes the fiscal consequences of the measure. The guide says they are "difficult to project due to lack of reliable data" and cites a report from a committee headed by a top opponent of legalization to the effect that taxes and fee revenues from legal marijuana sales "may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs. The Yes on 4 campaign points out that there is "reliable data" from legal marijuana states and that those states have easily covered administrative and other expenses.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
Study: Number of Babies Born Suffering Withdrawal Symptoms More Than Doubles in Four Years. Researchers studying neonatal abstinence syndrome, which results from withdrawal from opioids to which fetuses were exposed in utero, report that the incidence of the syndrome has jumped from 2.8 cases per thousand live births in 2009 to 7.3 cases in 2013. At least some of the surge may be a result of drug policies aimed at cracking down on prescription drug use. "The drug policies of the early 2000s were effective in reducing supply -- we have seen a decrease in methamphetamine abuse and there have been reductions in some aspects of prescription drug abuse," said lead study author Dr. Joshua Brown. "However, the indirect results, mainly the increase in heroin abuse, were likely not anticipated and we are just starting to see these." The researchers also noted wide variations by state, from 0.7 cases per thousand in Hawaii to 33.4 cases in West Virginia.
New Psychoactive Substances
Bill to Criminalize More New Synthetics Passes House. A bill sponsored by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-TX) to add several new synthetic cannabinoids and opioids to the Controlled Substances Act passed the House Monday. The measure, HR 3537, now goes to the Senate.
Oregon Law Enforcement Calls for Defelonizing Drug Possession. The Oregon Association of Police Chiefs and the Oregon State Sheriff's Association have jointly called for people caught with "user amounts" of illegal drugs to face misdemeanor charges -- not felonies -- and be sent to treatment. Elected officials and prosecutors should "craft a more thoughtful approach to drug possession when it is the only crime committed," the top cops said, because felony charges "include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities."
South Carolina County Ponders Mandatory Jail Time for People Who Overdose. The chairman of the county council in Horry County, where Myrtle Beach is located, has inquired during a council meeting about whether to make people who suffer opioid overdoses spend three days in jail. Chairman Mark Lazarus would also like to see mandatory drug treatment required. He added that jailing people who overdose wouldn't discourage them from getting medical help because they're usually unconscious and someone else calls for emergency assistance.
New polls show marijuana legalization initiatives leading in California and Nevada, Michigan will soon see medical marijuana dispensaries, Missouri won't get to vote on medical marijuana this year, Attorney General Lynch rejects the gateway theory, and more.
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Latest California Poll Has Prop 64 Winning Handily. A new Public Policy Institute of California poll has the Prop 64 legalization initiative with 60% support and only 36% opposed. Support is at 65% in the Bay Area, 60% in San Diego and Orange County, 57% in Los Angeles, and even 55% in the conservative Inland Empire. This poll is in line with other recent polls, which all have the initiative winning in November.
Nevada Poll Has Question 2 Leading By 14 Points. A new KTNV-TV 13 Action News/Rasmussen poll has the Question 2 legalization initiative with 53% support, with 39% opposed. This is an increase in support of two points over the same poll in July.
New Jersey Assemblyman Filed Legalization Bill. Conservative Republican Assemblyman Michael Carroll has introduced Assembly Bill 4193, which "Legalizes marijuana and provides for records expungement for certain past marijuana offenses; treats marijuana products similar to tobacco products, including use of civil penalties for providing marijuana to persons under 19 years of age."
Arkansas Court Throws Out Challenge to Medical Marijuana Initiative. The state Supreme Court has rejected a bid to throw the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (Question 7) off the November ballot. Foes had challenged the initiative's ballot language, but the high court said they had not proven it was insufficient. Two court challenges remain, one against Question 7 and one against the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (Question 6), both of which have qualified for the ballot.
Colorado Legislative Panel Approves PTSD as Medical Marijuana Condition. An interim committee of the Legislative Council has backed a proposal to make PTSD a qualifying medical marijuana condition. If the measure is approved by the Council as a whole, it would then be favorably introduced at the start of the next legislative session.
Illinois Judge Orders State to Add Post-Operative Chronic Pain to List of Qualifying Conditions. A Cook County judge has ordered the director of the Department of Public Health to add the condition within the next 30 days. The judge has also set a hearing for November 3 "to ensure the Director's compliance with this order."
Michigan Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Package. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Wednesday signed into law a package of bills that will clarify the state's medical marijuana law and explicitly allow for dispensaries to operate. The bills also set taxes on dispensaries, allow for the use of tinctures and lotions, and establish "seed to sale" tracking systems.
Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Will Not Make November Ballot. A Cole County circuit court judge has ruled against overturning petition signatures ruled invalid by local officials. New Approach Missouri came out just shy of valid signatures after local election officials denied about 10,700 signatures, leaving their initiative about 2,000 signatures short of qualifying.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch Rejects Notion Marijuana is Gateway Drug. In an address as part of a week-long emphasis on heroin and opioid misuse and abuse, Lynch forthrightly dismissed the gateway theory that marijuana is a stepping stone to more serious drug use. "When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin," Lynch said. "It isn't so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids -- it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it's not like we're seeing that marijuana is a specific gateway."
Vietnam Sentences Nine to Death for Heroin Trafficking. A court in northern Vietnam has sentenced nine people to death for trafficking nearly 1,400 pounds of heroin from Laos and Thailand over a four-year period. Another three people were sentenced to life in prison.
Seattle and surrounding King County are on a path to establish the country's first supervised drug consumption sites as part of a broader campaign to address heroin and prescription opioid misuse. A 99-page report released last week by the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force calls for setting up at least two of the sites, one in the city and one in the suburbs, as part of a pilot project.
[image:1 align:left]The facilities, modeled on the Canadian government-funded InSite supervised injection site in Vancouver, just 140 miles to the north, would be places where users could legally inject their drugs while under medical supervision and be put in contact with treatment and other social services. There have been no fatal overdoses in the 13-year history of InSite.
Although such facilities, which also operate in various European countries and Australia, have been proven to reduce overdose deaths and drug use-related disease, improve local quality of life, and improve the lives of drug users, they remain controversial, with foes accusing them of "enabling" drug use. Thus, the report refers to them not as "safe injection sites," or even "supervised consumption sites," but as the anodyne "Community Health Engagement Locations" (CHELs).
"If it's a strategy that saves lives then regardless of the political discomfort, I think it is something we have to move forward," said County Executive Dow Constantine, discussing the plan at a news conference last week.
The safe sites will address the region's high levels of opioid and heroin use, or what the task force called "the region's growing and increasingly lethal heroin and opioid epidemic." As the task force noted, the number of fatal overdoses in the county has tripled in recent years, with the rate of death rising from roughly one a week (49) in 2009 to one very other day (156) in 2014. The current wave of opioid use appears centered on young people, with the number of people under 30 seeking treatment doubling between 2006 and 2014, and now, more young people are entering detox for heroin than for alcohol.
[image:2 align:left caption:true]Overdose deaths actually dropped last year to 132, thanks to Good Samaritan laws that shield people who aid overdose victims from prosecution and to the wider use of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. But that's still 132 King County residents who needn't have died. Task force members said the CHELs would help reduce that number even further.
"The heroin epidemic has had a profound effect not just on our region, but across our country as a whole," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. "It is critical that we not only move forward with meaningful solutions that support prevention and treatment, but that we remove the stigma surrounding addiction that often creates barriers to those seeking help.
Not only are key local elected officials on board, so is King County Sheriff John Urquhart. He said the safe site plan was workable.
"As long as there was strong, very strong, emphasis on education, services, and recovery, I would say that yes, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks," he said. "We will never make any headway in the war on drugs until we turn the war into a health issue."
The region may willing to embrace this ground-breaking harm reduction measure, but it is going to require some sort of federal dispensation to get around the Controlled Substances Act and the DEA. How that is going to happen remains to be seen, but Seattle is ready.
The task force wasn't just about CHELs. In fact, the safe sites are just a small, if key, component of a broad-based, far-ranging strategy to attack the problem. The task force report's recommendations come in three categories:
[image:3 align:right caption:true]Primary Prevention
- Increase public awareness of effects of opioid use, including overdose and opioid-use disorder.
- Promote safe storage and disposal of medications.
- Work with schools and health-care providers to improve the screening practices and better identify opioid use.
Treatment Expansion and Enhancement
- Make buprenorphine more accessible for people who have opiate-use disorders.
- Develop treatment on demand for all types of substance-use disorders.Increase treatment capacity so that it’s accessible when and where someone is ready to receive help.
Health and Harm Reduction
- Continue to distribute more naloxone kits and making training available to homeless service providers, emergency responders and law enforcement officers.
- Create a three-year pilot project that will include at least two locations where adults with substance-use disorders will have access to on-site services while safely consuming opioids or other substances under the supervision of trained healthcare providers.
Will Seattle and King County be able to actual implement the CHELs? Will the federal government act as obstacle or facilitator? That remains to be seen, but harm reductionists, policymakers, and drug users in cities such as Portland, San Francisco, and New York will be watching closely. There have been murmurs about getting such sites up and running there, too.
The California legalization campaign heats up, the Massachusetts legalization campaign is sitting pretty with lots of cash, a North Carolina town becomes the first in the South to adopt Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) for drug users, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
California Legalization Supporters File Complaint Against Opposition Committee. Diane Goldstein, one of the proponents for the Prop 64 legalization initiative, filed a complaint last Friday against Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, the lobbying and campaign arm of the prohibitionist Project SAM. The complaint claims the committee misreported donations, failed to file contribution reports, and left some contribution reports incomplete, including one for Pennsylvania millionaire Julie Schauer, who gave $1.3 million the opposition.
California Highway Patrol Says It Is Neutral on Legalization Initiative. The state Highway Patrol last Friday clarified that it has not taken a position on the Prop 64 legalization initiative. The move comes after the head of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen criticized the measure for not setting a legal driving limit for the amount of THC in drivers' blood. CHP provided technical assistance to the measure's authors and is involved in implementing medical marijuana regulations signed into law last year.
Massachusetts Legalization Initiative Getting Big Bucks Backing. Supporters of the Question 4 legalization initiative have taken in more than $2.4 million since January, most of it from the New Approach PAC, a group based in Washington, DC, that is led by Graham Boyd. Groups opposing Question 4 have only raised less than $400,000, giving supporters a six-to-one funding advantage.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
Report Names Chicago's West Side as "Epicenter" of State's Heroin Crisis. A new report from Roosevelt University, Hidden in Plain Sight, examines heroin arrests, hospitalizations, and deaths on the city's West Side and finds that the area accounts for one out of four hospitalizations for overdoses in the entire state. The response to rising heroin use has focused on enforcement, not treatment, said report coauthor Kathy Kane Willis. "Incarceration or arrest is an extremely ineffective and expensive way to treat a health crisis like this. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," she said. In response to the report, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) has launched the West Side Heroin Task Force to help find evidence-based solutions to the problem.
Fayetteville, NC, Starts First Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program in the South. This month the Fayetteville Police Department and a number of partners, including the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), are launching a new program to divert low-level drug and sex work (prostitution) offenders to treatment instead of jail. Currently, Fayetteville faces one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the nation. Last year alone over 500 people were arrested for drug possession in the city. Under the new law enforcement assisted diversion program (LEAD) launched this month, police officers will be able to divert eligible citizens (people with under 4 grams of drugs, no violent record, etc) to treatment providers and social services instead of funneling them through the criminal justice system, where often the cases are thrown out or people serve minimal jail time and wind up back on the streets.
Rampant Meth Use is Driving Asia's Drug War. The Philippines isn't the only country in the region waging a deadly "war on drugs." In Thailand and Myanmar, drug users are sentenced to long prison terms, while Indonesia has declared a "narcotics emergency" and resumed the execution of drug convicts. But that tough response is only likely to make things worse, experts said.
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.
[image:1 align:left]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.
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.