New Colombian President Calls For End To War On Drugs, Earning Praise From Top U.S. Congressman | Big Indy News
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New Colombian President Calls For End To War On Drugs, Earning Praise From Top U.S. Congressman



The newly sworn-in president of Colombia is calling for an international recognition of failure of the war on drugs, pledging to take the country in a different direction to curb violence and overdose deaths that have resulted from punitive drug policies. And a top U.S. congressman is already answering the call for collaboration on drug policy reform.

In his inaugural address, Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, spoke at length about the harms of prohibition, which has fostered an environment of unregulated manufacturing and sales that has enriched and emboldened transnational drug cartels. Colombia has experienced these problems intimately as one of the chief exporters of illicit substances such as cocaine.

“For peace to be possible in Colombia, we need to dialogue, talk a lot, understand each other, look for common paths, produce changes,” Petro said in his swearing-in ceremony speech on Sunday, according to a translation.

“Of course, peace is possible if you change, for example, the politics against drugs, for example, seen as a war, for a policy of strong prevention of consumption in developed societies,” he said, suggesting a public health approach to drug use that echoes arguments from advocates and experts around the world.

“It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the drug war has failed, which has left a million murdered Latin Americans during these 40 years and that leaves 70,000 Americans dead from drug overdoses each year,” he said. “The war on drugs strengthened the mafias and weakened the states.”

“The war on drugs has led states to commit crimes and has evaporated the horizon of democracy. Are we going to expect that another million Latin Americans will be murdered and that the number of deaths from overdoses in the United States will rise to 200,000 every year? Or rather, will we exchange failure for a success that allows Colombia and Latin America to live in peace?”

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who chairs the powerful House Rules Committee, cheered the official swearing in of Petro, saying that he looks forward to “working together to…rethink drug policy, and much more.”

As a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, Petro has seen the violent conflict between guerrilla fighters, narcoparamilitary groups and drug cartels that has been exacerbated by the government’s aggressive approach to drug enforcement.

According to the United Nations Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Colombia remains a chief exporter of cocaine, despite “drug supply reduction activities in Colombia, such as eradication of coca bush and destruction of laboratories.”

In 2020, Colombian legislators introduced a bill that would have regulated coca, the plant that is processed to produce cocaine, in an acknowledgment that the government’s decades-long fight against the drug and its procedures have consistently failed. That legislation cleared a committee, but it was ultimately shelved by the overall conservative legislature.

Advocates are optimistic that such a proposal could advance under a Petro administration. The newly sworn-in president hasn’t taken a clear stance on the legislation itself, but he campaigned on legalizing marijuana and promoted the idea of cannabis as an alternative to cocaine.

“Statements made by Petro in the past show that he has been very critical of the war on drugs and [he has shown] an openness to drug law reform,” Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, told Insight Crime in June. “His vice president [Francia Márquez], has tweeted about the need to regulate drugs, and she wasn’t just speaking about cannabis.”

“Certainly, senators in their party [Colombia Humana] have embraced the bill. So, I don’t know what the prospects for it are, but they are certainly better now than they were under the past government,” Rolles said.

Former Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has also been critical of the drug war and embraced reform. In an editorial published before he left office, he criticized the United Nations and U.S. President Richard Nixon for their role in setting a drug war standard that has proved ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.

“It is time we talk about responsible government regulation, look for ways to cut off the drug mafias’ air supply, and tackle the problems of drug use with greater resources for prevention, care and harm reduction with regard to public health and the social fabric,” he said.

“This reflection must be global in scope in order to be effective,” Santos, who is a member of the pro-reform Global Commission on Drug Policy, said. “It must also be broad, including participation not only of governments but also of academia and civil society. It must reach beyond law enforcement and judicial authorities and involve experts in public health, economists and educators, among other disciplines.”

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Nevada Marijuana Regulators Announce Lotteries For State’s First Consumption Lounge Licenses



Nevada marijuana regulators announced on Wednesday that they will be holding lotteries at the end of the month to select 20 independent cannabis consumption lounge licensees, half of which will be reserved for social equity applicants.

The state Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) said it will conduct “two drawings via a random number selector” on November 30 to determine which businesses will be the first to receive approval for independent consumption lounge licenses.

“The CCB anticipates the first lounges to be licensed and able to open during the first half of 2023,” a notice says.

Regulators said earlier this month that they received about 100 applications for the new license type during a 10-day application window in October.

These developments come more than a year after Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed a bill from Assemblyman Steve Yeager (D) legalizing consumption lounges.

Current retailers are able to apply for a separate license category to build lounges into their existing operations, and they are not subject to a competitive selection process. The lotteries are for independent lounge licenses for businesses that want to enter into a contract with a retailer to purchase and prepare ready-to-consume marijuana products for resale at brand new facilities.

CCB approved regulations for marijuana lounges over the summer. The law could also allow businesses that couple cannabis with yoga, serve infused food, offer THC-aided massage therapy or incorporate marijuana in other ways.

The governor touted Nevada’s lounge law in a 4/20 op-ed for Marijuana Moment this year, writing: “The idea isn’t new, but no one is doing it like we are in Nevada.”

“While most of the consumption lounges in other states don’t offer food, beverages or other entertainment options,” he said, “Nevada’s lounges will be a one-stop entertainment shop to create jobs, grow the industry and boost our economy.”

Under the board-approved rules, consumption must be hidden from public view. Smoking and vaping must take place in a separate room of the lounge or be prohibited entirely. Single-use or ready-to-consume cannabis products can’t be brought off-site. And businesses must provide water to every guest free of charge.

The lounges will also be cannabis-only. No alcohol, tobacco or nicotine products can be sold.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Other safety-related regulations require lounges to establish plans to limit cannabis-impaired driving and minimize workers’ exposure to secondhand smoke. Guns are prohibited, surveillance is required and procedures must be in place to reduce and respond to potentially violent or harassing behavior.

Single-use cannabis products are limited to no more than 3.5 grams of usable cannabis under the regulations, with “extracted inhalable cannabis products” (such as vaping or dabbing products) limited to 300 milligrams of THC. All single-use products with more than 1 gram of usable cannabis, and all extracted inhalables, must carry written potency warnings.

Individual servings of ready-to-consume edible products are capped at 10 milligrams THC, a fairly standard amount in states that have legalized cannabis for adult use.

Topicals, meanwhile, are limited to 400 milligrams of THC. Transdermal patches and all other cannabis products can have no more than 100 milligrams THC and must carry a written warning if they have more than 10 milligrams.

Marijuana sales totaled just under $1 billion in Nevada in the 2022 Fiscal Year, generating more than $152 million in cannabis tax revenue, officials reported this month. Most of the proceeds are going toward funding schools.

The hope is that the cannabis lounge option will further stimulate sales when those services launch.

Sisolak has committed to promoting equity and justice in the state’s marijuana law. In 2020, for example, he pardoned more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level cannabis possession. That action was made possible under a resolution the governor introduced that was unanimously approved by the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners.

Meanwhile, a Nevada judge ruled last month that the Board of Pharmacy’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance violates the state Constitution and that the agency “exceeded its authority” by making that designation.

The ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit earlier this year, alleging that despite voter-approved legalization police have continued to make marijuana-related arrests because the Board of Pharmacy has refused to remove cannabis from its controlled substances list.

That has effectively created a legal “loophole” that the civil rights group says conflicts with long-standing constitutional protections for medical marijuana patients.

Separately, in August 2021, a former Las Vegas police officer who sued after facing termination for testing positive for marijuana scored a significant procedural victory, with a district judge denying the department’s request for summary judgement and agreeing that state statute protects employees’ lawful use of cannabis outside of work.

Iowa Regulators Recommend Marijuana Task Force Be Formed To Explore Federal Exemption For State’s Medical Program

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Iowa Regulators Recommend Marijuana Task Force Be Formed To Explore Federal Exemption For State’s Medical Program



An Iowa regulatory board has voted to recommend that the legislature create a legal task force to explore seeking an exemption protecting the state’s limited medical cannabis program from federal interference.

At a meeting of the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board last week, activist Carl Olsen proposed the task force, which he said should bring legal experts together to “carefully review the state, federal and international drug laws to come up with an application for an exception” under federal statutes.

Olsen has long been pushing the state to submit such an application, and the legislature did pass a bill in 2020 that required the state to seek the protections. But following months of delay, the advocate filed a lawsuit against the governor last year to compel the state to move forward with the application, and one state department did subsequently take steps to reach out to federal agencies about the process.

Board member Robert Shreck said at last week’s meeting that Olsen “thinks that the state can obtain an exemption from the restrictions on cannabis and, as far as I can tell from reading what he’s done, and he’s been very persistent about this, I think he’s correct.”

“This is the pathway to proceed to do this,” he said. “It’s been done half-heartedly by some parts of our government…at least, it hasn’t gone forward and been successful. But I would whole-heartedly support Carl’s recommendation. And I would propose that the board make that recommendation.”

Owen Parker, bureau chief the Medical Cannabidiol Board at the Iowa Department of Public Health, made a motion to vote on including Olsen’s task force recommendation in the board’s annual report to the legislature, and it passed unanimously.

It’s another modest win for Olsen, whose earlier lawsuit against the governor generated headlines and seemed to motivate the public health department to send letters about a cannabis law exception to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Education.

In 2020, DEA rejected a request for an exemption that was submitted by Olsen himself, but he has been hopeful that the result would be different with the state formally involved.

DEA regulations stipulate that the agency’s administrator “may grant an exemption in his discretion, but in no case shall he/she be required to grant an exception to any person which is otherwise required by law or the regulations.”

Relatedly, the Hawaii legislature adopted a resolution last year seeking an exemption from DEA stipulating that the state is permitted to run its medical cannabis program without federal interference.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Back in Iowa, the board separately voted to recommend to the legislature that it passes legislation to exempt medical cannabis products from the state sales tax and decouple cannabis taxes from a federal code known as 280E that precludes businesses from making tax deductions if they sell a Schedule I controlled substance like marijuana.

At the beginning of the year, Iowa Democratic senators released the text of a joint resolution to put the question of cannabis legalization before voters on the state’s ballot, but that did not ultimately advance.

Sens. Joe Bolkcom (D), Janet Petersen (D) and Sarah Trone Garriott (D), who first unveiled their marijuana reform plan last year, had said that inaction on the issue in the GOP-controlled legislature meant they needed to pursue the alternative route to end prohibition.

A bill to decriminalize cannabis possession did clear an Iowa Senate subcommittee early last year, but it also stalled. Another Senate panel separately approved a bill to reduce medical cannabis patient registration costs last year.

Irish Lawmaker Files Bill To Legalize Marijuana Possession For Adults, Draws Early Criticism From Top Government Official

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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Irish Lawmaker Files Bill To Legalize Marijuana Possession For Adults, Draws Early Criticism From Top Government Official



An Irish lawmaker has filed a bill to legalize marijuana possession nationwide for adults 18 and older—but a top government official has already raised concerns about the reform proposal.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny introduced the long-anticipated legislation on Thursday. It would legalize possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of marijuana resin for personal adult use.

The bill is currently before the Dáil Éireann, the lower chamber of Ireland’s legislature. It’s not clear if lawmakers from competing parties will work to advance it, but the the sponsor said that he expects the body to have a “wider debate” on cannabis reform “next year.”

“The bill itself is quite moderate. It’s amending existing legislation that dates back 42 years ago—and 42 years ago was a very, very long time,” Kenny said on the floor. “We need a different narrative in relation to drug reform, because criminalizing people for small possessions of any drug, particularly cannabis, is a complete waste of time and it’s a waste of resources.”

Watch Kenny discuss the marijuana legalization bill, starting around 4:15:00 into the video below:

While the sponsor has sought to distinguish the bill as decriminalization, rather than legalization, the bill itself says that possession of up to seven grams of marijuana by adults “shall be lawful,” even if there wouldn’t be a commercial market.

“I think there’s a groundswell of opinion, not only in Ireland, but across the world, for something very different—a different narrative and a different status quo, because the status quo at the moment doesn’t work,” he said.

Medical cannabis is legal in Ireland, but patients must be individually approved by the Health Ministry and there’s been some criticism of delays with the government’s rollout of the program, according to Volteface.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who serves as the head of Ireland’s government, has already signaled that he may represent a barrier to advancing the modest reform, warning about the consequences of “glamorizing” marijuana use ahead of the bill’s introduction.

The former health minister said that he’s “not necessarily” in favor of legalizing low-level possession and suggested that he considered the seven gram limit arbitrary, as The Independent reported. He also said “there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people.”

“I will examine it and we will look at data and we’ll take advice from a number of disciplines—be it policing, be it health,” Martin said. “And certainly, I would prefer a system that decriminalizes in the sense that were there to help people with challenges with harmful substances such as cannabis.”

In an op-ed about his bill, Kenny pointed to a growing international movement to reform marijuana policies.

“There is precedent for Ireland to legislate for the decriminalization of cannabis for personal use,” he wrote. “Across the world countries are recognizing that prohibition of cannabis has not worked, it has only enriched and emboldened the black market.”

Indeed, marijuana reform efforts have picked up within governments of several European countries in recent years.

Germany’s Federal Cabinet recently approved a plan to legalize marijuana nationwide. But officials said that its fate ultimately rests in whether international and European policy allows the country to move ahead.

Over the summer, top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.

Malta became the first country in the European Union to legalize marijuana late last year.

A novel international survey that was released in April found majority support for legalization in several key European countries.

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