Death penalty for drugs increasing in Iran and Indonesia as numbers decline in significantly in China, says new Global Report, launched ahead of the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Drug Crimes
Vast majority of 550 executions occurring in China, Iran and Saudi Arabia against a backdrop of increased pressure from UN member states and multilateral institutions to dismantle capital drug laws
The number of people executed for drug-related offenses remains high, at an estimated 550 people per year, but only because a small number of countries who account for the majority of those deaths – China, Iran and Saudi Arabia – are aggressive executioners, according to a new report released on Thursday by Harm Reduction International (HRI).
Of the approximately 549 executions for drugs believed to have taken place in 2013, 546 were carried out in those three countries.
The report, Death Penalty for Drug Offences 2015, is the fourth edition published by HRI since 2007 and coincides with both the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty taking place on October 10 and the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 18-21. The report publishes the latest round of execution and death row statistics for the 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drugs in law.
By Steve Elliott
Voters in Florida and Ohio back legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, while Pennsylvania voters are divided on the subject, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released on Thursday.
Men support legalized marijuana for personal use more than women in each of the states, the poll finds. The Swing State Poll focused on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960, no Presidential candidate has won without taking at least two of these three states.
Voters in all three states, by overwhelming margins, support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. There is no gender gap on this question; men and women support medicinal cannabis equally. "Only about one in 10 voters opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Also in all three states, most voters said they wouldn't use marijuana, even if personal use were legalized.
"If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then the Red Planet might be the more spacey place," Brown said. "That's because men are more likely than women to support legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Not surprisingly support for the change is linked to age, with younger voters more likely to see personal use of pot as a good thing," Brown said. "But despite the support for legalization, a majority of voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania say they would not use the drug if it were legal."
By Steve Elliott
A new package of spending bills from the Senate, intended to keep the federal government operational for the next year, includes several positive changes in marijuana law.
The bills were filed on Tuesday by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and they've just been uploaded to Congress's website, reports Marijuana.com.
The new spending package put forth by the top Senate appropriator "includes, well, everything us marijuana law reformers could have reasonably hoped for this year," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.
“We won bipartisan votes on all of these issues this year on either the House floor, in the Senate Appropriations Committee or both, so this is a rare case of Congressional leadership actually listening to their members — and to the American people," Angell said.
"Just a few short years ago, politicians used to jump all over each other to be seen as the ‘toughest’ on drugs," Angell said. "But now that polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans support legalization, more elected officials are beginning to realize that scaling back failed prohibition policies is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s politically smart."
If enacted, the bills would:
Agreement Comes on Heels of Historic Senate Deal
High Hopes that Congress will soon Pass Criminal Justice Reform
House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on Thursday announced a deal on sentencing reform with his counterpart Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). The bill -- The Sentencing Reform Act -- takes a similar approach to the Senate’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, announced last week, although this bill contains new problematic provisions.
“This is not the legislation we would have drafted, but we are encouraged that we now have bills in the House and Senate that tackle similar issues and that move the ball down the field for sentencing reform,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “We are more optimistic than ever that a bill will land on the President’s desk.”
The Senate deal, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and expansion of reentry programming and early release, among other things.
By Steve Elliott
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday vetoed a bill which would have created new penalties for making hash oil with flammable chemicals like butane. Brown said the state already has enough laws, and a prison overcrowding problem, and doesn't need to make the problem worse.
The Golden State has seen a rise in explosions and fires caused by the extraction of cannabis concentrates using volatile solvents like butane, reports David Downs at East Bay Express. But it's already against the law to make butane hash oil (BHO) in Cali. Arson and criminal negligence are also already crimes there.
Assembly Bill 849, from East Bay Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, would have created a new crime carrying prison sentences of up to six years for BHO blasters who hurt others. The bill passed the California Assembly -- unanimously! -- on August 31.
But Gov. Brown vetoed AB 849 and eight others for good measure, blasting reationary, "get tough" laws that result in prison overcrowding but don't do a damn thing to improve public safety.
"Each of this bills creates a new crime -- usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed," Brown said. "This multiplication and particularization of criminal behavior creates increasing complexity without commensurate benefit.
Leading Cannabis Consumer Safety and Regulatory Compliance Experts Offer Networking and Education Opportunity
The Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program on October 12 will host a Maryland application preparation event for applicants seeking licenses to operate medical cannabis cultivation, processing or dispensary locations in Maryland. This event will consist of a networking reception followed by an educational workshop with industry experts on Maryland’s application process and best practices to meet regulatory requirements.
The Maryland Cannabis Commission began accepting applications on September 28. The commission will issue 15 licenses for cultivation, up to 92 for dispensaries, and an unlimited number for processors.
Maryland has adopted the American Herbal Product Association's (AHPA) Recommendations for Regulators, which require businesses to meet staff training requirements, and robust product safety protocols; undergo rigorous on-site compliance audits; implement lot and batch tracking; and adhere to all local and state regulatory requirements.
“PFC is hosting this event to prepare Maryland’s cannabis industry to meet regulatory requirements and strengthen the commitment of industry professionals to provide quality care and safe medicine to patients,” said PFC Director Kristin Nevedal.
By Steve Elliott
At least one labor union has begun to organize workers in Oregon's marijuana industry.
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 recently negotiated a three-year contract for employees at a Portland dispensary, and the union hopes to broker similar deals across the state as the cannabis dispensary takes off, according to Local 55 secretary-treasurer Jeff Anderson, reports George Rede at The Oregonian.
The initial contract provides for wages starting at $15 an hour for cashiers, $20 an hour for trimmers and up to $32 an hour for master cultivators at Stoney Brothers dispensary. Paid holidays and vacation days are also guaranteed in the contract, along with pension contributions and employer-subsidized health insurance.
"Our UFCW International Union has been involved in cannabis organizing for six to eight years, much of it in northern California involving medical dispensaries," Anderson said. The union represents about 3,000 marijuana workers in 10 legal and medical states and D.C., according to Anderson.
Union officials estimated the cannabis industry could expand to as many as 7,000 workers in Oregon. "Our goal is to have a couple thousand organized in the next five years," Anderson said.
Stoney Brothers president Trevor Reed approached Oregon union officials himself. "I'm a socialist at heart," Reed said. "I knew if I tied my hands to a contract, I would pay a living wage and if I didn't, I may or may not."
By Steve Elliott
Hundreds of opioid addicts in Massachusetts are being treated with medical marijuana, and advocates say the new therapy is a life-changing alternative to the deadly epidemic of painkiller addiction.
"We have a statewide epidemic of opioid deaths," said Dr. Gary Witman of Canna Care Docs, which issues medicinal cannabis authorizations in seven states, and has nine clinics in Massachusetts, reports Chris Villani at the Boston Herald. "As soon as we can get people off opioids to a nonaddicting substance -- and medicinal marijuana is nonaddicting -- I think it would dramatically improve the amount of opioid deaths."
Whitman said he's treated about 80 patients who were addicted to opioid painkillers, muscle relaxers or anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals, using cannabis with a one-month tapering program. More than 75 percent of those patients stopped taking the harder drugs, according to Witman.
Cannabis can treat the symptoms patients had been using opioids and other drugs to manage, such as chronic pain or anxiety, and treat them far more safely, Witman said.
Dr. Harold Altvater of Delta 9 Medical Consulting in Malden, Mass., agreed that he's also seen success with medicinal cannabis as a substitution therapy. "You are basically taking something that can be very harmful for an individual, and substituting with another chemical, just like you would with any other drug, that has a wider safety margin," he said.
By Steve Elliott
The Florida Department of Health plans to award licenses to grow non-euphoric medical marijuana to one nursery in each of five geographical regions of the state as early as this month.
Nursery owners and physicians are preparing as Florida gears up for the official arrival of medical marijuana, expected some time in the next four months, reports Kathleen McGrory at the Tampa Bay Times.
Nearly 50 physicians statewide have taken the eight-hour course required to authorize patients to use high-CBD cannabis, according to state records.
"It's an avenue for patients who are doing terribly and have exhausted all other options," said Dr. Selim Benbadis, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital. Dr. Benbadis completed the course in January.
"In some cases, this could be the treatment that works," he said. Dr. Benbadis didn't explain why he considered safe, effective cannabis only as a last option.
The tremulous Florida Legislature legalized the non-euphoric high-CBD, low-THC Charlotte's Web strain of cannabis in early 2014 for medicinal use. (They were too cowardly to give patients what they actually needed, which is whole-plant cannabinoid therapy. THC and CBD work synergistically to fight cancer tumors, epilepsy seizures, inflammatory diseases, and many other conditions.) Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law in June.
Move Will Right Some Wrongs of Extreme Drug Sentencing Laws
Starting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are set to be released from federal prison, a move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian Drug War-era laws.
“It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence. “The drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”
This development reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama Aadministration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws. More prisoners are expected to be released under the Sentencing Commission guidelines.
The Commission estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for a slightly earlier release.
Over the past year, federal judges have been reviewing cases with prosecutors. Prisoners who were deemed a threat to public safety were denied re-sentencing.
By Steve Elliott
A nonprofit cannabis research institute plans to build a $24 million facility in Ohio and offer medical marijuana insurance if recreational legalization measure Issue 3 passes on November 3.
The International Cannabinoid Institute, a new Ohio-based nonprofit, announced on Tuesday it will rent land in Licking County from, you guessed it, investors who are backing the marijuana legalization ballot issue.
Issue 3 would legalize recreational and medical marijuana sales and use, but would limit commercial growing to just 10 sites owned by the wealthy investors who financed the measure.
Opposition has arisen to Issue 3 because of how it limits commercial growing to those who financed the ballot issue, reports Jackie Borchardt of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The preselection of site owners means that only investors in ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee backing the measure, would get to participate in the new marijuana cultivation industry.
Wealthy investors have contributed more than $20 million to the campaign, which would basically enshrine their marijuana monopoly into the state constitution.
By Steve Elliott
Demand for hemp has grown to the point that it is exceeding the supply in Canada, according to one industry expert.
"You talk about about canola being the miracle crop? Well, hemp has even more uses," said Kim Shukla of the Manitoba-based Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, reports Dave Simns at CNS Canada.
According to Shukla, most of the demand comes from the United States. Smoothies, cereals, hempseed milk, salad dressing aand biodiesel fuel are a few of the most popular uses for industrial hemp.
Protein powder is another common hemp product, Shukla said, and it's now catching on with the general public rather than being limited to its previous niche int eh bodybuilding community.
"That's where we're seeing it," Shukla said, "in the smoothie market for people's breakfasts."
Canada's 2015 hemp crop is estimated at about 100,000 acres, roughly the same size as last year's. The crop looks to offer a typical yield, despite some periods of drought in Alberta according to Shukla.
Yields between 750 and 1,000 pounds an acre are generally considered "decent," according to Shukla. Those numbers were reached last year, and she believes they'll hit them again this year.
"We're expecting decent yields based on the reports back," she said.
An estimated 90 percent of the yield has already been contracted to five key hemp processors across Canada, according to Shukla.
By Steve Elliott
The skunky aroma of marijuana in a rural southeastern Illinois town isn't a source of complaints... in fact, to most residents, it smells like money and jobs.
It's almost harvest timer in the historic town of Albion, which means a new farmland ritual is beginning amid the surrounding cornfields, reports Carla K. Johnson at the Associated Press.
Ataraxia is one of a handful of cultivation centers in Illinois, and it's the first to complete a gauntlet of state requirements. Stores in Albion can't sell liquor, but marijuana has been welcomed as a badly needed source of employment.
A t-shirt for sale in town makes light of the odd juxtaposition: it says Albion is "High and Dry." That's OK; marijuana's safer than alcohol!
"It's brought our little town to life," said Cheryl Taylor, who sells the shirts at her shop on the square.
The history-making cannabis crop is being cut and dried behind the locked doors of a giant warehouse down a country road, behind the New Holland tractor dealer and the Pioneer seed plant. By mid-October, strains including Blue Dream, OG Kush, Death Star and White Poison will be turned into oils, creams, flowers for smoking, and edibles.
By Steve Elliott
Two cannabis users in Colorado -- one of them a medical marijuana patient with a brain tumor -- have sued the largest pot grower in the state for allegedly using a potentially dangerous pesticide on the weed they later purchased.
Brandan Flores and Brandie Larrabee have brought a lawsuit against LivWell Inc., seeking class-action status and alleging the company has for years inappropriately used Eagle 20, a harsh fungicide containing myclobutanil, report David Migoya and Ricardo Baca at The Denver Post.
Neither Flores, who lives in Denver, nor Larrabee, who lives in Grand Junction, claim they were sickened from using the marijuana they got at LivWell, but both say they wouldn't have used it if they had known it was treated with Eagle 20.
"In a larger sense they're saying the marijuana industry can't go on unchecked and someone has to do something to stop these people from using Eagle 20 and other harmful pesticides," said attorney Steven Woodrow, representing Flores and Larrabee.
The two are asking for unspecified financial damages for money they overspent to buy cananbis they said should have been discounted because of the pesticide. The 40-page lawsuit, filed on Monday in Denver District Court, says the fungicide myclobutanil, when heated, produces "poisonous hydrogen cyanide" and alleges that consumers who smoke marijuana treated with Eagle 20 ingest the gas.
By Steve Elliott
Colorado regulators have known since 2012 that some marijuana in the state is grown with dangerous pesticides, but pressure from the cannabis industry and lack of guidance from the federal government delayed their regulatory attempts, and they ultimately decided on a less restrictive approach than originally planned.
Three years of emails and records, along with dozens of interviews, show state regulators struggled with the issue while the marijuana industry protested that proposed pesticide limits would leave their crops vulnerable to parasites and disease, report David Migoya and Ricardo Baca at The Denver Post.
As state officials were preparing a list of allowable pesticides on marijuana last year, officials at the Colorado Department of Agriculture stopped the process -- under pressure from the cannabis industry, according to The Post.
"This list has been circulated among marijuana producers and has been met with considerable opposition because of its restrictive nature," wrote Mitch Yergert, the CDA's plant industry director, shortly after the April 2014 decision. "There is an inherent conflict with the marijuana growers' desire to use pesticides other than those" that are least restrictive.