Analysis: Marijuana Legalization Opponents’ Fears Have Not Come to Fruition in Canada
NORML – August 17,2021
Concerns that legalizing marijuana for those ages 18 and older in Canada would lead to adverse public health consequences have not come to fruition, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The analysis finds that there has been “no marked increase in cannabis youth by use” in the three-year period following legalization. Authors further highlight the positive societal impact of reducing marijuana-related arrests among adults and young people following the policy change. Regulating marijuana has also led to more targeted public health messaging, authors suggest.
They conclude: “In the lead up to legalization, professional associations … suggested that legalization posed a threat to public health, advocated for the legal age for cannabis use to be set at a minimum age of 21 or 25, or that Canada should not legalize at all because it would place youth at greater risk of harm. With such categorical fears now shown to be largely unfounded, this should provide the basis to move forward on more nuanced grounds. … [O]n the balance, cannabis legalization – especially when considering the severe adverse social impacts of criminalization, and especially for youth – continues to offer the potential to better protect and achieve consequential net benefits to public health and welfare of cannabis users and society at large.”
Commenting on the data, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “From a public health standpoint, regulation and education are preferable strategies to criminalization. Overall, adult-use legalization is working largely as voters and politicians envisioned, which is why an increasing number of jurisdictions are shifting their policies in this direction.”
Separate assessments of Canada’s legalization policy have no uptick in the percentage of motor vehicle accidents attributable to marijuana and no changes in either cannabis use or access among higher-risk youth. Additional data published in April in the journal Health Reports finds that Canadians are rapidly shifting from the illicit market to the legal market – with an estimated 70 percent of cannabis consumers now reporting obtaining the plant from legal sources.
Analyses of state-level adult-use regulation laws in the United States have similarly failed to find significant upticks in either youth use or access that could be attributable to legalization. Other studies have reported no association between legalization laws and any increases in either drug treatment admissions, violent crime, or overdose deaths.
Full text of the study, “Youth cannabis use and legalization in Canada – Reconsidering the fears, myths, and facts three years in,” appears in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, ‘Marijuana regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, and Economy.’
Story from – NORML
Senate Leader Unveils Long-Awaited Marijuana Descheduling Plan
NORML- July 14, 2021
Washington, DC: United States Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) unveiled draft legislation repealing the federal prohibition of marijuana at a press conference on Wednesday.
The draft legislation, titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, makes numerous changes to federal marijuana laws while providing deference to states’ cannabis policies.
Upon introducing the legislation, Sen. Schumer said: “This is monumental because at long last we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. … I will use my clout as Majority Leader to make this [legislation] a priority in the Senate. … It makes eminent sense to legalize marijuana.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “The days of federal prohibition are numbered. These actions by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Booker and Wyden reflect the fact that the supermajority of Americans is demanding that Congress take action to end the cruel and senseless policy of federal prohibition. It is time for legislators to comport federal law with the laws of the growing number of states that have legalized the plant, and it is time for lawmakers to facilitate a federal structure that allows for cannabis commerce so that responsible consumers can obtain high-quality, low-cost cannabis grown right here in America without fear of arrest and incarceration.”
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal added: “Our main priority is to ensure that Americans who choose to responsibly consume cannabis are no longer discriminated against under the law. “With one in eight Americans choosing to consume on a semi-regular basis, including nearly one in four veterans, we must end the practice of arresting over 500,000 Americans every year and denying countless others employment, housing, and other civic rights if we are truly to be the ‘Land of the Free’. The federal government can take great strides toward rectifying this situation by advancing the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act through the legislative process.”
Specifically, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act directs the US Attorney General to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act — thereby allowing states to either maintain or establish their own cannabis regulatory policies free from undue federal interference. Under this scheme, state governments – if they choose to do so – can continue to impose criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. However, states would not be permitted to prohibit the interstate commerce of legal cannabis products transported through their borders.
The proposal also mandates for the expungement of the records of anyone convicted of a federal, non-violent marijuana offense. The expungements must take place within one year of the law’s enactment.
The Act also forbids federal officials from taking discriminatory actions against those who legally use cannabis. It prohibits “individuals from being denied any federal public benefit … on the basis of [the] use or possession of cannabis.” It also, for the first time, permits physicians associated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to make recommendations to their patients to access medical cannabis.
The proposal transfers primary agency jurisdiction over cannabis regulation from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to the Food and Drug Administration and to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in manner similar to the ways in which these agencies already oversee alcohol and tobacco products. A federal excise tax of 10 percent would be imposed within the first year of the law’s enactment. Medical cannabis access programs, which are operational in the majority of US states, would not be disrupted under this federal plan.
Pending language in the US House of Representatives, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2021, similarly removes (deschedules) cannabis from the CSA and facilitates the expungement of past federal marijuana-related crimes. House lawmakers passed a previous version of the MORE Act in December by a vote of 228 to 164, marking the first time that a chamber of Congress ever advanced legislation to end the federal prohibition of cannabis. Senate lawmakers, however, failed to take up the bill.
Senators are seeking feedback on the draft legislation through September 1. Public comments may be provided to Cannabis_Reform@finance.senate.gov. In an interview with the publication Politico in April, Sen. Schumer pledged that he would hold a floor vote on the bill “sooner or later” this term. The Senate has never held a floor vote on legislation pertaining to descheduling cannabis.
Story From NORML
After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions
State’s Attorney Mosby stopped non-violent prosecutions for the coronavirus, but then violent crime dropped 20 percent.
So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car.
“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.” In a city that still struggles with a high homicide rate and gun violence, even with the decline in crime, she said the policy shift will enable more prosecutors to be assigned to homicides and other major cases instead of misdemeanor court.
The pandemic accelerated an effort already underway by liberal prosecutors across the country to reduce or eliminate the prosecution of minor crimes. Not long after the coronavirus hit, prosecutors in Seattle and Brooklyn announced they would not pursue low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety. In Washington state last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s drug possession law was unconstitutional because it didn’t account for the defendant’s intent. King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said he already wasn’t pursuing such cases “because we did no good for people struggling with substance abuse disorder.”
But a number of legal experts said they had not seen an effort like Mosby’s in which behavioral health services were actively brought into the mix from the outset of cases. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) issued a statement Friday lauding Mosby for “working with partners to stem violence in Baltimore and ensure residents have the adequate support services they deserve.”
But Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute who studies and has written about Baltimore crime and arrest data, said forgoing the prosecutions of low-level crimes is a mistake in a city he called the “murder capital of America.”
Mosby said her policy decision is unrelated to a federal investigation of her and her husband’s personal and campaign finances. The initial changes in prosecution policy occurred a year ago, and their success caused her to make them permanent, she said.
The decision not to prosecute drug and nonviolent misdemeanor crimes meant a huge paradigm shift for police, Commissioner Michael Harrison said in an interview. Officers who made drug arrests saw prosecutors dismissing the charges at the jail, and so the arrests mainly stopped. Mosby said there were 80 percent fewer arrests for drug possession in Baltimore in the past year.
“The officers told me they did not agree with that paradigm shift,” Harrison said. He said he had to “socialize” both officers and citizens to this new approach. Harrison expected crime to rise. “It did not,” the chief said. “It continued to go down through 2020. As a practitioner, as an academic, I can say there’s a correlation between the fact that we stopped making these arrests and crime did not go up,” though he cautioned that the coronavirus could have had some impact. Mosby noted that the virus did not keep crime from rising in nearly every other big U.S. city last year. Even with its progress, Baltimore had 335 homicides in 2020 and killings are up in the first months of this year.
Harrison enthusiastically supported Mosby’s move to sign an agreement with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., a private nonprofit group that provides services to people with mental health and substance use disorders. With the police, BCRI will launch a 911 alternative dispatch where calls for behavioral health issues are routed to BCRI, which can send a two-person mobile crisis team to a scene or immediately refer people to services. The state’s attorney’s office is also collaborating with three Baltimore groups that offer a variety of services to sex workers.
The head of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police union did not return messages seeking comment.
Edgar K. Wiggins, executive director of BCRI, said that his agency taking a more immediate role in public response “gives us a conduit into a population that, honestly, we’ve not always had access to, and they haven’t had access to us.” He said mobile response teams will have a mental health professional and a registered nurse because “these folks often haven’t managed their health.” Immediate referrals for sex workers can be effective because “more often than not they have problems with substance use disorder and addictions. We want to divert people from involvement in the criminal justice system, which is not going to be helpful for their chronic problems.”
Mosby asked public health researchers at Johns Hopkins University to examine the effect of her March 2020 policy shifts on public calls for police service and on rearrests of those who had charges dropped or warrants quashed. The number of 911 calls for drug or intoxication situations dropped from 131 per day before the pandemic to 88 per day in the eight months between March and December last year. Calls for prostitution or sex work dropped from six per day to three per day, the Johns Hopkins researchers found. The number of 911 calls for violent crimes did not drop significantly in the same period.
They also found that of 1,431 people who had charges or warrants dismissed at the outset, only five were rearrested. Though studies of recidivism typically look at three years to review data on repeat offenders, the fact that only five reentered the system in eight months is “pretty unbelievable,” said Susan G. Sherman, a behavioral health professor at Johns Hopkins who specializes in helping marginalized populations. “In a world where drug decriminalization is happening around the country, the impact on the community is important,” Sherman said, and Mosby “really values having an understanding of these impacts.”
Mosby noted that 13 percent of the American population is Black, but 35 percent of those incarcerated for drug violations are Black. “As a prosecutor, our mission is justice over convictions,” Mosby said. “You have to understand the importance of rectifying the wrongs of the past.”
Millicent Wagner understands that. She said she spent years as a drug addict and prostitute on the streets of Baltimore before going sober and reuniting with her family more than two years ago. But she still had an outstanding prostitution warrant from 2018. Last fall, she reached out to Mosby’s office after hearing of the new policy, and records show it quickly dismissed her case.
Trying to resolve her warrant the old way — surrendering at the jail, possibly going into custody, waiting 30 days for a hearing — “would have devastated my child. It would have hurt him the most. It would hurt me, too. Just having to be back in the Baltimore city jail, all those things I’ve been staying away from.” Instead of being back in the system, she is getting a state identification card that she wouldn’t apply for with an outstanding warrant, plus a Social Security card, and then a job.
“I think this could help a lot of people in my situation that have turned themselves around,” Wagner said. “It’s hard.”
Story from The Washington Post
New York lawmakers agree to legalize recreational marijuana
The agreement reached Saturday would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program and set up a a licensing and taxation system for recreational sales. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill Tuesday, the earliest they could consider it. Legislative leaders hope to vote on the budget Wednesday to meet the deadline of having a budget in place by April 1.
It has taken years for the state’s lawmakers to come to a consensus on how to legalize recreational marijuana in New York. Democrats, who now wield a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature, have made passing it a priority this year, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has estimated legalization could eventually bring the state about $350 million annually.
“My goal in carrying this legislation has always been to end the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana prohibition that has taken such a toll on communities of color across our state, and to use the economic windfall of legalization to help heal and repair those same communities,” Sen. Liz Krueger, Senate sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate’s finance committee, said.
The legislation would allow recreational marijuana sales to adults over the age of 21, and set up a licensing process for the delivery of cannabis products to customers. Individual New Yorkers could grow up to three mature and three immature plants for personal consumption, and local governments could opt out of retail sales.
The legislation would take effect immediately if passed, though sales wouldn’t start until New York sets up rules and a proposed cannabis board. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes estimated Friday it could take 18 months to two years for sales to start.
Adam Goers, a vice president of Columbia Care, a New York medical marijuana provider that’s interested in getting into the recreational market, said New York’s proposed system would “ensure newcomers have a crack at the marketplace” alongside the state’s existing medical marijuana providers.
“There’s a big pie in which a lot of different folks are going to be able to be a part of it,” Goers said.
New York would set a 9% sales tax on cannabis, plus an additional 4% tax split between the county and local government. It would also impose an additional tax based on the level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, ranging from 0.5 cents per milligram for flower to 3 cents per milligram for edibles.
New York would eliminate penalties for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, and automatically expunge records of people with past convictions for marijuana-related offenses that would no longer be criminalized. That’s a step beyond a 2019 law that expunged many past convictions for marijuana possession and reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts.
And New York would provide loans, grants and incubator programs to encourage participation in the cannabis industry by people from minority communities, as well as small farmers, women and disabled veterans.
Proponents have said the move could create thousands of jobs and begin to address the racial injustice of a decades-long drug war that disproportionately targeted minority and poor communities.
“Police, prosecutors, child services and ICE have used criminalization as a weapon against them, and the impact this bill will have on the lives of our oversurveiled clients cannot be overstated,” Alice Fontier, managing director of Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, said in a statement Saturday.
Some other states that have legalized recreational marijuana have struggled to address the inequities that the drug wars have wrought.
Three years after Massachusetts voters passed a ballot initiative making recreational cannabis legal in the state, Black entrepreneurs complained in 2019 that all but two of Massachusetts’ 184 marijuana business licenses had been issued to white operators.
California voters legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2016 as well and invited people to petition to have old marijuana convictions expunged or reduced. But relatively few people took advantage of the provision initially.
Criminal justice reform advocates said New York’s bill avoids that problem by setting up a process for marijuana convictions to be automatically expunged.
“We are very happy that the bill includes automatic expungement. It’s integral to addressing past harms,” said Emma Goodman, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society.
Melissa Moore, the Drug Policy Alliance’s director for New York state, said the bill “really puts a nail in the coffin of the drug war that’s been so devastating to communities across New York, and puts in place comprehensive policies that are really grounded in community reinvestment.”
At least 14 other states already allow residents to buy marijuana for recreational and not just medical use. Cuomo has pointed to growing acceptance of legalization in the Northeast, including in Massachusetts, Maine and most recently, New Jersey.
New York does not have a statewide referendum process as California and Massachusetts do, so only the Legislature has the power to legalize recreational marijuana, as it did with same-sex marriage in 2011.
Past efforts to legalize recreational use have been hurt by a lack of support from suburban Democrats, disagreements over how to distribute marijuana sales tax revenue and questions over how to address drivers suspected of driving high.
It also has run into opposition from law enforcement, school and community advocates, who warn legalization would further strain a health care system already overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic and send mixed messages to young people.
“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the serious crisis of youth vaping and the continuing opioid epidemic, this harmful legislation is counterintuitive,” said an open letter signed by the Medical Society of the State of NY, New York State Parent Teacher Association, New York Sheriff’s Association and several other organizations March 11.
New York officials plan to launch an education and prevention campaign aimed at reducing the risk of cannabis among school-aged children, and schools could get grants for anti-vaping and drug prevention and awareness programs.
And the state will also launch a study due by Dec. 31, 2022, that examines the extent that cannabis impairs driving, and whether it depends on factors like time and metabolism.
The bill also sets aside revenues to cover the costs of everything from regulating marijuana, to substance abuse prevention.
State police could also get funding to hire and train more so-called “drug recognition experts.”
But there’s no evidence that drug recognition experts can tell whether someone is high or not, according to R. Lorraine Collins, a psychologist and professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo. Collins was appointed to Cuomo’s 2018 working group tasked with drafting cannabis regulations.
“I think it’s very important that we approach that challenge using science and research and not wishes or unsubstantiated claims,” Collins said.
Collins pointed to a 2020 report from the American Civil Liberties Union that found that Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to Whites, based on FBI statistics.
“Every New Yorker should be concerned about how these laws will be implemented or how those ways of examining drivers will be implemented in different communities,” Collins said. “It’s not likely to be equal.”
The bill allows cities, towns and villages to opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by Dec. 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt out of legalization.
Peltz and Matthews reported from New York City. – Story from AP News
Liberals introduce new bill to relax penalties for drug offences
Legislation also includes measures to reduce incarceration of Indigenous, Black Canadians
The federal government has introduced a new bill to repeal mandatory minimum penalties for certain drug offences — penalties the Liberals say have disproportionately harmed Indigenous and Black offenders and those struggling with addictions.
Attorney General David Lametti introduced Bill C-22 in the House of Commons this morning and will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. ET to provide more details. CBC News will carry it live.
His office says the bill also will require police and prosecutors to consider alternatives to laying charges in simple possession cases, such as diversion to addiction treatment programs. It will give the courts leeway to use conditional sentence orders in cases where an individual isn’t a public safety threat.
“Serious criminals deserve to be seriously punished and kept away from our communities. But too many lower-risk and first-time offenders, including a disproportionate number of Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians, are being sent to prison and locked up for too long because of policies which are proven not to deter crime or help keep our communities safe,” said Lametti’s spokesperson Rachel Rappaport.
Some mandatory minimum penalties would be repealed
The bill would make changes to both the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
If passed, it would repeal more than a dozen mandatory minimum penalties on the books — including penalties for all drug offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, certain offences involving the use or possession of firearms and one tobacco-related offence.
Mandatory minimum penalties would remain in place for serious offences, including murder, child sexual abuse, firearm trafficking, importing and exporting restricted or prohibited firearms and firearm offences linked to organized crime, according to government documents prepared before a technical briefing on the new bill.
Government officials speaking on background during the briefing said repealing the mandatory minimum penalties will allow judges to consider sanctions other than imprisonment in some cases.
The government said the percentage of Indigenous offenders federally incarcerated for an offence with a mandatory-minimum penalty has almost doubled in over 10 years and that 39 per cent of all Black and 20 per cent of all Indigenous offenders in federal institutions were admitted for an offence with mandatory minimum penalty.
Opposition has shown support
Thursday’s announcement marks a significant shift in the federal government’s approach to illicit drug possession — away from incarceration and toward addictions treatment for non-violent offenders.
BLACK CHANGEMAKERS – This tireless lawyer and activist wants to transform how we see justice
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ruled out decriminalizing simple possession of illicit drug, something the New Democratic Party and the Greens have advocated.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave C-22 a mixed review.
“While there are positive steps in this bill, it’s very disappointing not to see them take the opportunity to right a historic wrong by failing to include expungements and by failing to actually decriminalize drugs,” he said in a statement.
“Today, the Liberals could have made a huge difference by erasing criminal records for simple marijuana possession.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, has said he is open to less severe penalties.
“We must provide assistance to Canadians who have drug addiction and health problems,” he said at a press briefing last month.
When asked why the government isn’t repealing simple possession, Lametti said it remains on the table.
“What I’m focusing on today is the sentencing element within the criminal justice system,” he said.
“Obviously I will continue to work with my colleagues around the cabinet table to look at other approaches, following best evidence, as we move forward.”
The legislation would require police and Crown prosecutors to consider diverting individuals to available alternative measures and to prosecute “only where not appropriate to deal with individual using warning or referral to alternative measures,” said the documents.
The legislation effectively standardizes a directive issued this summer by the Director of Public Prosecutions of Canada. In August, federal prosecutors were instructed to pursue only the most serious offences of possession of hard drugs.
That directive has been applied unevenly across the country, however — particularly in Quebec and New Brunswick, where some of these charges are handled by provincial prosecutors.
Drug treatment courts already exist in several Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.
Lametti said the goal is to have diversion on the table even before someone is arrested.
“We would like to see diversion as a possibility at any point in the system … an off-ramp in multiple points in the system,” he said.
“So it might be first contact with a police officer, where the police officer in better understanding a person in front of them says, ‘I think the best place to go is not the police station, I think the best place is to go is community justice centre.'”
The justice minister said more funding is likely needed to support those kinds of treatment centres.
Article from – CBC
Opioid deaths highlight need to decriminalize hard-drug possession, police chiefs say
“Over the last six years, 18,000 Canadians have lost their lives to drug addiction,” Larkin said. “If 18,000 people lost their lives in traffic collisions, our country and our communities would not accept that. There would be outcry.”Larkin, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, made his comments at a virtual forum called “Policing 2021.”
The issue of decriminalization — as was the case with cannabis — is “polarizing” both within society and within police ranks, he said.Like many others, Larkin said he was raised to believe “drugs are bad and people who use drugs are criminals.” But criminalization, he said, has disproportionately affected the marginalized and people of colour, and there’s now an awareness that addictions are a mental health issue.“Nobody wakes up wanting actually to have an addiction,” said Larkin, chief of Waterloo Regional Police Service.
“The opioid overdose crisis in Canada doesn’t discriminate.”Antje McNeely, who is Larkin’s Ontario counterpart, said that changing the mindset of police officers when it comes to dealing with drug abusers was also important.“We’ve been hard-wired,” said McNeely, police chief in Kingston, Ont.
“It is a mind change for the front line and the rest of us as well.”The national chiefs association raised eyebrows last year when it first began advocating for decriminalization of possession. Discussions on the topic were spurred by the legalization of cannabis and the mounting opioid death toll now exacerbated by the pandemic.In response, the federal government has been looking at Canada’s drug policy, with a view to reducing opioid-related deaths during the pandemic. Prosecutors were instructed last year to prosecute only the most serious drug-possession offences.
Larkin, who said he has been encouraged by Ottawa’s response, noted the nexus between addictions and mental health, saying more than 10 people kill themselves each day in Canada. That is not something police can fix, he said.Peter Sloly, chief of the Ottawa Police Service, agreed police need to become a “diminishing” element when it comes to dealing with people in mental health crises.
While police will always have some role in such responses, there needs to be a different model that takes in social services, education and the health-care sector, he said.“We’ve been not just the last resort, but often the first resort on these types of incidents,” Sloly told the forum. “We’ve become a bit of a Swiss Army knife.”Sloly cited a program in Eugene, Ore., where up to 90 per cent of mental health calls are handled without hard police intervention. Such changes take years to implement successfully and he warned against moving too quickly.“There’s a group of people out there who believe that police should have nothing to do with mental health services,” Sloley said.
“I just don’t think it is practical.”The chiefs also acknowledged systemic racism in policing but said the issue was no longer being swept under the rug. At the same time, Sloly said simply addressing the issue within police services won’t fix the wider problem.
“We’re still going to have the conditions that produce crime and victimization, marginalization and discrimination,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021
Story From – The National Post
Smoke up! NBA won’t test players for weed, could help take the game … higher
Donovan Dooley – December 3, 2020
The NBA will not test its players for marijuana during the 2020-21 season, sources tell Ben Dowsett.
The league did not test the players in its reboot of the 2019-20 season in the Orlando Bubble and according to Dowsett’s sources, the decision to continue not testing these athletes was predicated mostly on COVID-19 precautions. Yet, it seems that we are inching closer to the league permanently getting rid of marijuana testing.
The drug is already legal in nine of the states and districts that the NBA plays in and has been proven to provide healing effects for the body as well as helping with anxiety.
Many athletes have advocated for the use of marijuana during the season as they try to recover from injuries sustained on the job.
Former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson admitted to smoking that green while in the league.
If the NBA decides to stop testing for the drug it could set a precedent for other sports leagues and companies to follow suit. The change could potentially improve the lives of many of its players.
The ramifications of the NBA’s decision could also help to reverse negative stereotypes created during the war on drugs that adversely and disproportionately affected young men of color. After a summer where the NBA was at the forefront of racial justice, this decision to stop marijuana testing could be crucial in repairing the detrimental impact that coincides with punishing people for this drug.
The movement for nationwide legalization of weed is already growing exponentially.
The NBA will tip off the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22 without the presence of a bubble and will look to push through the impact of COVID-19.
Story from Deadspin
From pot to shrooms: What’s next for decriminalization?
Jane Stevenson – August 16, 2020
Are shrooms the new cannabis in Canada?
In the U.S., the Washington D.C. Board of Elections is allowing an initiative to decriminalize psychedelic plants, including “magic mushrooms,” to appear on November’s ballot, after supporters gathered more than 25,000 signatures, according to the Washington Post.
If approved, the U.S. capital would join Denver, Oakland, Calif., and Santa Cruz, Calif., which have decriminalized psychedelics.
But, not so fast, says Canada’s federal government.
Yes, earlier this month, Health Minister Patty Hajdu allowed four incurable Canadian cancer patients to undergo therapy which used psilocybin — the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms — to ease their distress.
But that doesn’t mean magic mushrooms, and other psychedelics, currently banned and only allowed in clinical trials or research in Canada, are on the fast track to decriminalization or legalization.
“The Government of Canada is not proposing to decriminalize psilocybin or other controlled substances at this time, “ said Public Health Agency of Canada spokesman Tammy Jarbeau.
“In 2019, Health Canada authorized psilocybin for use in a clinical trial for patients with treatment-resistant depression.”
Still, CNN reported that the Canadian government’s decision marks the first time since 1974 a legal exemption cleared the way for patients in this country to use psychedelic treatment.
Local cannabis advocate Lisa Campbell believes medicinal mushrooms are following the path of medicinal marijuana in Canada with recreational mushroom use still years away.
“There are so many companies that are pivoting from cannabis to psychedelics, we’re going to see a lot of research to not only decriminalize but legalize psychedelics, at first for medical use, but it could push them to recreational use, as cannabis has done,” said Campbell, the Toronto-based CEO of Mercari Agency Ltd., a cannabis sales and marketing company.
“A lot of universities are finally more open to psychedelic research. It’s finally becoming mainstream,” she added. “It’s really fascinating that this is being done in Canada. For many years, people have been preparing for this paradigm shift in drug policy so the fact that we’re finally here in 2020 is really progressive and inspiring to be at the forefront of this movement.”
Campbell said a Toronto clinic recently opened to treat those suffering from drug-resistant depression and anxiety with ketamine. While abused as a party drug, ketamine is primarily utilized in veterinary surgery.
She also said there are also mushroom dispensaries popping up online.
“In Vancouver, there’s almost de facto decriminalization,” said Campbell. “It’s much more progressive there.
“It has been for years,” she added. “They had the medical cannabis dispensary movement that started in Vancouver on the West Coast. It’s so interesting to see how the same trends that we saw with cannabis, with the medical (use), are happening as well with mushrooms.”
CNN reported New York University Langone Health researchers published a study this year in which 29 patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety and depression were given a single dose of psilocybin with psychotherapy. According to the findings, and 60% to 80% showed improvement.
Story from The Toronto Sun
Police Chiefs Group Calls for Canada to Decriminalize Drug Possession
Canada Should Legalize All Recreational Drugs
The social harms of prosecuting drug users far outweigh any public health benefits from prohibition
Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a professor in the department of sociology at U of T Mississauga. Read a different view of drug legalization by Robert Mann, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Why are most recreational drugs illegal? If the rationale for the war on drugs is to decrease drug use, it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t stopped the production or importation of drugs. Quite the opposite: there are billions of dollars to be made from the illegal drug trade. This often comes with serious violence – sometimes in Canada, but more often in Mexico 1 and other source countries in South America and Central America.
The United States, in particular, has been waging a war on drugs for several decades, 2 and it’s still one of the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. 3 This should tell us that we’re not going to reduce drug use through the enforcement of laws.
Some people use drugs because they enjoy doing so. Many Canadians already consume a number of drugs each week: alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are the most common. People also use harder drugs recreationally, and of course, some of these people develop substance use and abuse problems. But arresting and incarcerating them is not going to help them deal with the issues that are leading them to use or abuse harder drugs in the first place. This is why a public health approach to all drugs, where we’re striving for harm reduction rather than elimination of use, makes the most sense.
For most of human history, drugs haven’t been illegal. It’s only in the last 110 years that we’ve had drug prohibition in Canada. Even so, my neighbours in downtown Toronto often express surprise that cannabis was legalized just recently. Many think it’s been legal, or at least decriminalized, for some time. They think this because of what they look like and where they live: they don’t have to worry about being arrested.
The unequal enforcement of drug laws has profoundly harmed the individuals that are targeted, their families and their communities
As a criminologist, I’m particularly interested in how Black males perceive and experience the police. And you can’t do research around race and policing without focusing on drugs. The war on drugs drives many of the inequalities we see in our justice system.
We know that Canadians use drugs at similar rates across racial groups. 4 But in practice, drug laws are used to intrude into the lives of certain segments of the population. In Toronto and in many other cities, the unequal enforcement of drug laws 5 has profoundly harmed the individuals that are targeted, their families and their communities. A higher proportion of members of these communities have criminal records for drug possession that impede their ability to finish their education, to gain meaningful employment, to find housing and to travel.
It’s this profound injustice that has led me to believe that the social harms caused by drug prohibition far outweigh the potential health harms of legalizing and regulating access to drugs.
One of the imbalances in how drug laws are applied that we’ve seen with cannabis comes with the exercise of police discretion. Because some police officers viewed cannabis possession as a relatively minor crime, they’d confiscate the drug without making an arrest. But that’s not true of everyone the police have caught. The data show that positive police discretion has not been exercised when it comes to racialized people. 6 The difference is in who gets stopped and searched, who’s found in possession and who ends up being arrested and convicted. Black and Indigenous people in Canada are disproportionately arrested for cannabis possession. 7
We’ve spent billions of dollars to prosecute people for the possession of small amounts of drugs. 8 We’re doing our whole country a disservice. We’re locking away people’s talents and potential because we criminalize drug use.
Consider a society in which all drugs are legal; a society in which people can buy a small quantity through a government-approved pharmacy at fair prices and know exactly what they’re getting (unlike on the black market). If they wished, people could take the drug under the supervision of a health-care professional at an injection site or similar facility, greatly reducing the risk of overdose. Under these conditions, the black market for drugs – and much of the associated violence, social harm and health risks – could be virtually eliminated. Opponents cite fears that drug use would soar. But the evidence from Portugal, the only jurisdiction in the world that has decriminalized all drugs, indicates the opposite: problematic use would actually decline, 9 as would the negative consequences associated with criminalization.
Governments could use a percentage of sales revenues for research and services around addictions and mental health. At the local level, the city could use police arrest data to identify neighbourhoods that have been overpoliced with respect to drugs, and direct a portion of the tax revenue to the most criminalized communities. City councillors and members of the public could engage in discussions about how best to use these funds to meet the needs of each jurisdiction. The money might be directed to after-school programs, skills training or community health centres.
Of course, I have concerns about how drug legalization would be implemented. In Canada, one is legally permitted to possess 30 grams of cannabis. The limit for cocaine, opioids and other drugs would have to be set low, recognizing that you can overdose on these drugs in a way that you can’t with cannabis.
There could be no drug advertising, and sales would have to occur through tightly regulated government outlets. There would be strict penalties for selling drugs to underage youth and against using and driving – just as there are now for alcohol.
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the many health harms associated with drug use. But we need to be honest about the reasons people use them – and the potential benefits. We’re seeing that psilocybin, the psychoactive component of mushrooms, and MDMA may have potential for people with PTSD and a range of other mental health issues.
We also must be honest about the substantial social burden associated with criminalizing drug use. Criminalization has utterly failed to stop individuals from using. We’ve spent enormous amounts of money and devastated countless lives – often from racialized communities – enforcing laws that don’t work. Legalization is a sensible alternative.
ALBANY – Shortly before efforts to legalize marijuana failed in the State Senate last June, the measure’s sponsor made a dire prediction: The issue would be dead in 2020.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, believed then that lawmakers would fear taking on such a controversial issue in an election year.
“I’ve changed my mind,’’ Krueger said last week.
The author of the Senate bill, Krueger believes election-year politics are no longer the threat she thought they’d be. Now, she and other lawmakers believe the plan has a better chance of getting approved in the coming months than at any point in 2019.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will present his 2020 state budget plan, a document in which he will also lay out his latest proposal for permitting the cultivation, distribution, sale and use of marijuana in New York.
Much of its contents are expected to mirror plans from last year, and there will still be much tussling over some of specifics. Among the top: how will the state spend the roughly $300 million in projected annual marijuana tax revenue.
There is already rising confidence among marijuana legalization supporters that this is their year, though a broad range of health, law enforcement and other opponents are now engaging to defeat the push again.
A visit to the Berkshires
Last year, legalization had support in the Democratic-run Assembly. But it stalled in the Senate in June over concerns raised by suburban New York City Democrats on Long Island and Westchester County.
Some were firmly opposed and some, such as freshman State Sen. Peter Harckham, wanted efforts to slow down.
Harckham, a Westchester County Democrat who represents parts of three suburban New York counties, last summer visited two communities in western Massachusetts, home to some of the commonwealth’s newest government-regulated stores that sell cannabis products from buds to gummy bears. Harckham talked to operators, to health care and law enforcement officials and to people in public schools. He saw the parking lots filled with cars – most license plates were from New York State, which has seen thousands of people cross state lines to buy marijuana.
Since that visit, Harckham has done more research, and his views have morphed. In an interview last week, he said he’s no longer in the slow-things-down side of the debate. He came away from Massachusetts, where voters legalized marijuana in 2016, with a key observation: “The sky is not falling,” he said.
On marijuana legalization this year in Albany, Harckham said: “I’m certainly in a better place.’’ He added: “The reality is you can buy marijuana anywhere in the state, in any high school. The private market has won, so we should be regulating this and getting the tax revenue.”
Harckham’s support is significant because he is the chairman of the Senate’s alcoholism and substance abuse committee. He said Krueger has heavily amended her marijuana bill to secure backing from him and other senators; he said one change would give a “tremendous shot in the arm” to woefully underfunded substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs by dedicating 25% of marijuana tax proceeds to such efforts.
Not all opponents or those sitting on the fence in the Senate have seen their concerns assuaged, making legalization still not a done deal for 2020.
Sen. Monica Martinez, a Democrat, represents the far eastern end of Long Island. A former educator, she has heard concerns about legalization from school officials, students and parents. If it came for a vote today, she would vote no, in part, because of what she witnesses as the drug’s effect on teens.
“I just think it’s a little bit hypocritical that we’re trying to fight an opioid epidemic but at the same time trying to legalize a drug,” she said of marijuana. Instead, if New York wants to legalize it, officials should hold a statewide referendum, as they did in 2013 for casino gambling.
“It’s an issue that should be in the hands of our voters,” the Suffolk County lawmaker said.
2020 versus 2019
Only two years after dismissing legalization efforts and calling marijuana a “gateway drug,” Cuomo jumped on the legalization bandwagon in 2019. He proposed a massive and complex regulatory and taxing scheme, guiding everything from the licensing of marijuana farms to rules for new smoking lounges.
But the effort faced organized opposition, led by law enforcement and health groups, the state PTA and a number of moderate lawmakers; especially nervous were new or relatively new Democratic senators from districts previously held by Republican senators.
In the end, two things killed the 2019 effort: a split within the Senate Democratic conference and an uneasiness by legalization proponents, including Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, over Cuomo’s refusal to guarantee that a large portion of the drug’s tax revenues would be steered to low-income communities hit hardest by decades of marijuana arrests.
“I’ve been most concerned about that,” Peoples-Stokes said last week. The sponsor of marijuana legalization in the Assembly, Peoples-Stokes recently met with Cuomo advisers to explain “in detail” why the revenue component she wants is so crucial. “I think they get it,” she said of the Cuomo administration. Whether that means Cuomo will embrace it in his budget plan won’t be known until Tuesday.
Cuomo’s office declined comment in advance of the budget release on Tuesday.
‘Momentum is there’
Krueger believes a key thing is playing out in 2020. “The governor is clearly much more interested this year than he was last year,” she said.
Last June, Krueger criticized Cuomo for not getting involved in efforts to convince fence-sitting Senate Democrats to back legalization. Cuomo has since met with neighboring governors to seek a consensus on legalization laws for the region. Today, he is “much more comfortable” with legalization, said Krueger, who is the influential chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.
But would Cuomo jump in this year to move reluctant Democrats? “Yes, my gut tells me he will,” Krueger said.
One way is if he jams the policy matter into the state’s budget. If shoved into budget bills, political cover is created for those who might not support legalization but can’t afford to vote no for a budget that contains everything from public school financing to popular health programs.
What’s driving the legalization optimism in Albany? Part of it is public opinion polling. Part of it is the decriminalization law passed last year when legalization failed. Part of it is the widespread market for CBD products, which are produced from hemp plants but don’t contain the ingredients to get people high. And part of it is legalization efforts that have occurred elsewhere, like Massachusetts.
“The momentum is there and it’s pretty fast and furious,” Krueger said of 2020 legalization. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, recently said she believes legalization is “inevitable,” though she added more work is needed.
Foes ramping up for fight
Opponents are not sitting by. Several groups involved in last year’s battle held a conference call Tuesday to discuss strategy, and there is talk of a renewed focus on health concerns and problems – such as driving while high arrests and accidents – seen in some states that have legalized the drug.
Critics also wonder why the state is looking to ban flavored vaping products for adults at the same time it wants to legalize marijuana. And they note the dangers of marijuana were brought out in full display by the rash of lung-related illnesses and deaths across the nation among people who used THC-containing e-cigarettes, obtained in the vast majority of cases through what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “informal” sources, such as drug dealers or friends. Fifty-seven deaths have been attributed to the outbreak.
“I don’t understand why they would want to move forward with legalization,” said Kyle Belokopitsky, executive director of the New York State PTA, of the vaping crisis that emerged nationwide over the summer.
There is a “disconnect” between state public health efforts to crack down on vaping and tobacco products while at the same time legalizing marijuana, critics say. Moreover, it’s an election year, and Albany already is facing sticky fights over everything from tax hikes for the wealthy to to whether to change a controversial new cash bail law.
“I would agree they are excited,” said Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, of Democrats’ push for marijuana this year. “But they are wrong.”
The state went too far last year, he believes, in decriminalizing possession of marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess up to 2 ounces of the drug. “This is a massive, sweeping change that’s not being properly paid attention to,” Flanagan said of the legalization push.
Backers ‘cautiously optimistic’
Marijuana proponents say the issue has been studied and debated and that legalization will bring thousands of jobs – in the form of retail, agriculture and other sectors – as well as $300 million in annual tax revenue to New York once implemented.
Moreover, these backers believe the vaping crisis that hit states beginning last summer proves their point: that legalization will bring safer marijuana products, regulated by the state, to the marketplace and not be spiked with any range of fillers and other unknown ingredients.
“Consumers need to know what they’re getting,” said Melissa Moore, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York office.
Moore said conversations with lawmakers and Cuomo advisers continued after 2019 session’s end last June.
Proponents also know an Albany truism: Seldom do major policy ideas get approved in one year. For-profit companies that produce and distribute medical marijuana products in New York, which is already legal, are better coordinated in 2020 to lobby with pro-legalization groups in Albany, advocates say.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Moore said of legalization this session.
Those split on the issue could agree on one thing for the coming months in Albany. “It’s going to be a fight,” said Belokopitsky, the PTA leader.
Story from The Buffalo News