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A leading academic voice on drug and criminal justice policy has left us, skyhigh Virginia pot arrests prompt calls for reform, Brazil's rightist government moves to silence critical voices on drug policy, and more. 

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Virginia Marijuana Arrests at Highest Level in 20 Years. Nearly 29,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges in the state last year, the vast majority for simple possession. That figure is three times the level of 1999 and accounts for nearly 60% of all drug arrests in the state. The spike is leading to calls for decriminalization by some lawmakers, as well as state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who last month when became the state’s highest official to call for legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Medical Marijuana

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Still Looking for Signatures. The Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign is still hunting signatures to qualify its medical marijuana initiative for the November 2020 ballot. The campaign needs to turn in some 86,000 valid voter signatures by October and says it has already gathered more than 100,00 raw signatures.

Utah Regulators Announce Choice of Applicants to Grow Medical Marijuana. The state Department of Agriculture and Food announced Friday it has chosen eight applicants that will be licensed to grow medical marijuana in the state. "Half of the awardees already have existing businesses in Utah and the other half are out of state but have Utah ties. All grows will be located in Utah. Seven of the proposed sites are in rural areas and one is in an urban area," Kerry W. Gibson, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said in a statement. The agency could have awarded up to 10 licenses, but said it wanted to avoid an oversupply of product.

Obituaries

Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Expert Mark Kleiman Dead at 68. Longtime criminal justice and drug policy expert Mark Kleiman died Sunday of complications from a kidney transplant, his family reported. Coauthor with Jon Caulkins and Beau Kilmer of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, Kleiman rejected what he called a false dichotomy between legalization and prohibition, arguing for a middle ground that would end prohibition while avoiding the rise of commercially driven "Big Marijuana." His nuanced approach to drug and criminal justice reform didn't always sit well with reformers, but he was for decades a thoughtful and innovative scholar in the arena.

International

Brazil Removing Independents from Drug Policy Council. Rightist President Jair Bolsonaro is removing most non-governmental representatives from a council that sets policy on drugs. In a presidential decree Monday, he cut the size of the council in half and removed experts chosen by associations of jurists, physicians, social workers and other independent groups, leaving mostly those appointed by the government. Critics say it is a move designed to stifle dissent. It is also a continuation of an approach he has already applied to environmental and cultural affairs.

UNODC Warns of Rising Role of Organized Crime in Southeast Asia. In a report issued last Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that transnational crime groups in the region are generating massive profits from the trafficking of drugs, people, and counterfeit goods, and are becoming increasingly aggressive. UNODC said the methamphetamine trade in particular had exploded, jumping in value from around $15 billion in 2013 to somewhere between $30 and $60 billion now.

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More than 2,000 federal drug prisoners walk free today under First Step Act reforms, the drug czar touts [declining drug overdose numbers and blames Obama, Texas prosecutors balk at low-level pot prosecutions now that hemp is legal, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Texas Governor Tells DAs Not to Drop Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Cases. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent a letter Thursday to all county prosecutors urging them to continue to enforce state marijuana laws even though since the state legalized hemp this year prosecutors have no means of testing the amount of THC in a cannabis sample. Their current drug tests only detect the presence of THC, not whether it exceeds the 0.3%, and prosecutors in some of the state's largest counties have announced they will not prosecute small-time pot possession cases.  Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot is one of them, and he said he's not changing his mind:  "I have the responsibility to protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that people are not prosecuted for possessing substances that are legal. The concentration of THC is a statutory element of an offense that we must prove to establish a person's guilt. Our office will not charge a person with a marijuana offense without a laboratory report stating that the substance has an illegal concentration of THC."

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Trump Drug Czar Touts Progress Against Opioid Crisis. Jim Carroll, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) gave his boss, the president, credit for an apparent decline in drug overdose deaths reported earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This president has made this a priority since day one and we’re beginning to see results. As you know, the billions of pills that were released, without any control or oversight about what was going on in the last administration has resulted in thousands and thousands of people dying," he said. Still, nearly 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year on Trump's watch.

Sentencing Policy

More Than 2,000 Federal Drug Prisoners Walk Free Today Under First Step Act. The federal Bureau of Prisons is set to release today 2,200 inmates who had their release dates recalculated following passage of the First Step Act in December. The measure created an easier pathway for inmates to participate in programs designed to prevent recidivism and earn reductions in their sentences. It also reduced mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders with the goal of accelerating the rehabilitation of criminals and improving their chances for success after release.

International

Colombia Court Upholds Ban on Spraying Coca Fields With Herbicide, but Gives Government an Out. The country's constitutional court on Thursday upheld its restrictions on the aerial spraying of glyphosate to kill coca crops, but also said spraying could be reinstated if the government met certain conditions. The country ended the spraying in 2015 after the World Health Organization linked glyphosate to cancer, and the court ratified that decision. But now, rightist President Ivan Duque wants to overturn that decision. While the court upheld the ban for now, it said it will be up to the national narcotics council to decide whether spraying can resume based on conditions it set in its 2017 ruling.

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The CDC reports that the overdose crisis may have peaked in 2017, El Chapo is sentenced to life in prison for exporting tons of cocaine and other drugs to the US, North Carolina lawmakers want to ban smokable hemp, and more.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

More Than 100 Marijuana Businesses Urge Congress to Include Social Equity in Legalization. A coalition representing more than a hundred marijuana businesses and industry associations sent a letter to the congressional leadership Thursday, urging them to ensure that provisions promoting social equity are part of any marijuana reform legislation. The signatories said they feared people from communities that suffered a disproportionate impact from the drug war would be "left behind because a previous [cannabis] conviction often is a disqualifying factor to become an owner or employee in the new legal ‘green-rush'" and also because "they are unable to come up with the capital necessary to break into the industry."

West Hollywood Okays First Cannabis Cafe. The city of West Hollywood, California, has approved a space for what would be the first cannabis café in the city. The council Tuesday approved a business license for Lowell Farms, which promises cannabis cuisine and a smoking area. Since state law forbids the consumption of alcohol and marijuana on the same site, alcohol will not be served. The doors could open within months.

Medical Marijuana

Bipartisan Lawmakers File Federal Bill to Break Medical Marijuana Research Logjam. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has filed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, which aims to accelerate medical marijuana research by creating a less cumbersome registration process, reforming production and distribution regulations, and allowing for private manufacturing and distribution of marijuana for research purposes. "Forty-seven states have legalized some form of cannabis, yet the federal government is still getting in the way of further progress on the potential for research," said Blumenauer.

Hemp

North Carolina House Committee Votes to Define Smokable Hemp as Marijuana. Acting at the behest of law enforcement, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday amended SB 352 to classify smokable hemp as a controlled substance like marijuana. The move came after police complained that allowing smokable hemp would make enforcing laws against marijuana smoking unenforceable and that it would cause police to lose probable cause for vehicle searches based on the smell of marijuana smoke or a drug dog's alert. "If this bill passes without the ban, we will put 800 of our law enforcement dogs and their handlers out of business," said Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin).

Ohio House Votes to Approve Hemp Bill. The House on Wednesday voted 88-3 to approve SB 57, which clears the way for legal hemp production in the state. The Senate had already approved the bill, but because the House amended it, the Senate voted later Wednesday to concur in those amendments. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine (R).

Drug Overdoses

CDC Says Drug Overdoses Fell Last Year for First Time in Decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday that preliminary data showed nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 5% decline over 201, which saw a record of more than 70,000 deaths, and the first decline since the beginning of the current opioid use wave beginning in 1995. But the rate is still about seven times higher than it was then.

Law Enforcement

El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison. Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison plus 30 years in federal court in Manhattan. He had been convicted in February of smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs into the US. He is headed for the federal maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

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Drivers heading north on I-5 in southern Oregon not only enjoy the region's towering mountains and evergreen forests, they are also treated to the occasional enticement. At various points along the way, giant billboards appear, shouting out messages like "NEED WEED? Exit Here" and the succinct "MARIJUANA! This exit."

[image:1 align:right caption:true]And when motorists pull off the highway and wander into those shops, they're finding weed at unbelievable prices. One shop offered grams of the popular Blue Dream strain for $2, and bargain-hunting buyers could walk out with an ounce for only $45. A number of other strains were also available for $100 an ounce or less.

It's no fluke. Walk into any pot shop in Oregon, and you'll find perfectly acceptable grams of weed for $2 or $3. Yes, it's typically outdoor marijuana, which store clerks will tell you goes for less because it doesn't get the same level of care and attention that indoor or greenhouse weed does. But the real reason is that outdoor weed gets one key input—light—for free from the sun. At $2 gram, indoor and greenhouse growers are barely recovering production costs; outdoor growers have a little more wiggle room.

If you're feeling particularly Californian, you can still pay $10 or $12 a gram if you want, but that $2 weed is going to get you just as high as that $12 weed. And state regulations let you know the THC content of anything you buy, including high octane strains at bargain basement prices.

Oregon's ridiculously cheap pot prices are a boon to consumers—and the state's tax revenues. With retail prices falling by half last year, consumption jumped by around 30% over the previous year, driving tax revenues past the $94 million mark by year's end.  While marijuana consumers are happy and pot tax coffers are brimful, the situation is not so great for the state's legal pot producers.

Unlike other early legalization states, such as Colorado and Washington, Oregon placed few limits on who could grow legal commercial marijuana, and the result has been overgrowth of epic proportions. According to the state Oregon Control Commission (OLCC), the agency that regulates weed, at the end of the fall harvest last year, Oregon produced enough legal marijuana to supply the state's needs for the next six years. You don't need a Ph.D. in economics to understand how the law of supply and demand is driving prices down.

And OLCC has the raw data to show it: The wholesale price of indoor marijuana peaked at around $2,200 a pound in late 2017 before steadily declining to its current level of about $1,000 a pound. For outdoor weed, which accounts for the vast majority of Oregon production, the price peaked at about $1,500 in late 2016, declined to about $1,000 a pound in late 2017, and slid even further to under $500 a pound after last year's harvest.

For the OLCC, the glut is a sign that the system is working: "Oregon oversupply is a sign that policy choices made to attract illegal and grey market producers into the new commercial system have been successful; this was a start-up challenge Colorado and Washington didn’t have to face," the regulators noted. "Oregon medical marijuana growers had long been suspected of diverting into the illegal market so it was important to attract these well-established producers into the OLCC’s new regulated recreational marijuana program. To entice medical as well as formerly illegal growers into Oregon’s legal market the state lowered the barriers to entry with low license fees and taxes and chose not to limit the number of licenses."

Still, the OLCC conceded that while that approach "fulfilled the immediate objective" of absorbing growers into the legal market," it has also "led to industry churn as businesses face mounting cost pressures and attempt to position themselves for the long term."

Now, fearing that "industry churn" could lead some businesses to try to sell their products on the black market or outside the state, lawmakers have moved to rein in production. This year, lawmakers enacted legislation that for the first time allows the OLCC to stop issuing new production licenses when supply exceeds demand.

They also moved to seek broader markets for the state's legal weed, passing a bill that would allow growers to sell their product out of state. But that isn't going to happen without federal approval, and there's no sign of that in the immediate future. Still, two Democrats who represent Oregon in Congress, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, last month filed a bill that would allow for interstate commerce between states with legal marijuana programs.

Some legal pot farmers have gone bankrupt, others have just left the business, but a sizeable number have now switched to yet another cannabis product: hemp. In 2015, there were only 13 registered hemp growers in the state; now there are more than 750. And the number of acres devoted to hemp production jumped dramatically as well, from 105 acres in 2015 to more than 22,000 now. That's because hemp can be exported since it is now legal under federal law and because of the boom in CBD products, which can be derived from low-THC hemp as well as from marijuana. With those push factors, the price of hemp flowers, now going for around $350-$700 a pound, is getting close to and sometimes surpassing the price of outdoor weed.

Oregon's legal marijuana market continues to evolve, and, as the OLCC put it, the industry will continue to churn. There are going to be winners and losers among the producers, but for Oregon marijuana consumers, these are the best of times.

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A Florida sheriff's deputy breaks bad, a New Jersey cop probably shouldn't have done heroin on the job, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:left]In Buena Vista, Colorado, a state corrections officer was arrested July 2 after he was caught bringing a burrito stuffed with drugs to work. Guard Trevor Martineau, 27, went down at the Buena Vista Correctional Facility following a multi-agency investigation sparked by an inmate who snitched him out. Martineau admitted he had drugs in his lunch bag when confronted, and authorities found the burrito stuffed with "roughly 91 grams of meth, 26 grams of heroin and 46 strips of suboxone" — in addition to "10 strips of buprenorphine naloxone, marijuana wax and six small thumb drives." Martineau admted he was paid $1,000 to pick up the drugs. Authorities said they found $960 of that at his house. He is charged with first-degree introduction of contraband and three charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He was also charged with one count each of unlawful distribution of meth, heroin and Suboxone.

In Crawfordsville, Florida, a former Jackson County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday on charges he routinely pulled drivers over for minor traffic infractions, planted drugs in their vehicles, and then arrested them on bogus drug charges. Former Deputy Zachary Foster displayed a pattern of pulling drivers over, claiming he smelled marijuana, then planting baggies of methamphetamine in the cars. Prosecutors have now dropped nearly 120 cases he brought. He is charged with felony counts of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, possession of a controlled substance and false imprisonment. He also faces misdemeanor charges of perjury, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In Franklin Township, New Jersey, a Franklin Township police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to heroin possession and driving while impaired after he suffered a heroin overdose in his patrol car in April. Matthew Ellery had to be revived by a colleague who administered naloxone. As part of the plea deal, Ellery agreed to resign from the police force.

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Utah announces a short delay in medical marijuana licenses, Iowa lawmakers reject even exploring medical marijuana expansion, Hawaii's governor vetoes a bill that would have allowed inter-island transport, and more.

[image:1 align:right]Hawaii

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Iowa

Iowa Lawmakers Reject Plan to Explore Medical Marijuana Expansion. In a meeting Thursday, lawmakers rejected a plan to form a special committee to work on expansion of the state's limited medical marijuana program. This comes after the legislature passed an expansion bill earlier this year, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who objected to a provision allowing an increase in the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products.

Ohio

Hawaii Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Inter-Island Transport of Medical Marijuana. Gov. David Ige (D) has vetoed HB 290, which would have allowed patients to transport their medicine between islands within the state. In his veto message, Ige said air travel was under federal jurisdiction and patients could be exposed to federal prosecution.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Adds Anxiety Disorders, Tourette's to List of Qualifying Conditions. Dept. of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board had added anxiety disorders and Tourette's Syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. That brings the state's list of qualifying conditions to 23. The change goes into effect on July 20.

Utah

Utah Delays Deadline to Award Medical Marijuana Licenses. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Saturday that it is delaying the announcement of who will grow the state’s medical marijuana to the end of the month. State officials had originally estimated a July 15 deadline for the decision. More than 80 farmers and businessmen have applied for the state's 10 grower licenses.

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

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In a sign of marijuana's momentum, a Senate committee will take up a pot banking bill next week, Ohio backs away from barring drug felons from food stamp eligibility, the Berkeley city council takes up decriminalizing natural psychedelics, and more.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Senate Schedules Hearing on Marijuana Business Banking Access. The Republican-controlled Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to examine state-legal marijuana businesses' lack of access to banking services. A House marijuana banking bill has passed out of committee and now has 206 cosponsors. At the same time, though, DEA marijuana arrests increased by about 20%.

DEA Chopping Down Fewer Marijuana Plants but Making More Pot Busts. As more states legalize marijuana, the number of plants seized by the DEA is declining. The DEA reported seizing 2.8 million indoor and outdoor plants last year, a decline of 17% from 2017. At the same time, though, the DEA arrested about 20% more people for marijuana offenses. These increased arrests, however, are not occurring in the legal pot states, but in places such as Kansas and Louisiana.

Psychedelics

Berkeley City Council Committee Considers Decriminalizing Psychedelics Today. Decriminalize Nature, the same folks who successfully got neighboring Oakland to approve a psychedelic decriminalization ordinance, now has a similar ordinance under consideration in Berkeley. The city council's Public Safety Committee will take it up today and can decide to either hold it for further hearings or advance it to the full council.

Collateral Consequences

Ohio Scraps Plan to Ban Food Stamps for Drug Offenders. The state Department of Job and Family Services has abandoned a draft rule that would have denied food stamps to people who had been convicted of felony drug offenses. The department backed down after the ACLU of Ohio posted the draft rule on Twitter, along with a letter of opposition. Kimberly Hall, the department’s director, called it an error. "The draft rule to change Ohio’s policy on SNAP eligibility for those with felony drug offenses was submitted for review in error," she said in an emailed statement. "This error is being corrected. There will be no policy change."

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Columbus, Ohio, is moving to decriminalize up to seven ounces of weed, an expungement bill could clear the records of 235,000 Michigan pot offenders, Sri Lanka's president tells a whopper, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Michigan Expungement Bill Could Clear Records for 235,000 People. State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is set to file a bill this week that would automatically clear misdemeanor convictions for small-time pot possession for some 235,000 people. "We would go in through the Michigan State Police's database and make changes to records electronically and administratively without having to go through all the time and expense of going through the courts," Irwin said. "This is so important to a large number of people in Michigan ... who when they’re applying for jobs or student loans, they're put in a position where their record can affect their future." Both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) have said they favor clearing those low-level marijuana convictions.

Columbus, Ohio, Moves to Decriminalize Up to Seven Ounces. The city council on Monday unveiled a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to seven ounces of marijuana. People caught with less than 100 grams would face a $10 fine, while those caught with between 100 and 200 grams would face a $25 fine. Possession of more than 200 grams would still be a felony. The council could vote on the ordinance as early as next Monday, with a public hearing set for this coming Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Delays Deadline to Award Medical Marijuana Licenses. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Saturday that it is delaying the announcement of who will grow the state’s medical marijuana to the end of the month. State officials had originally estimated a July 15 deadline for the decision. More than 80 farmers and businessmen have applied for the state's 10 grower licenses.

International

Scotland's Record Number of Drug Deaths Prompts Call for UK Drug Policy Reform. National Records of Scotland has reported that 1,187 people died of drug overdoses last year, the highest rate ever recorded and more than double the 574 drug deaths in 2008. The report is leading to calls for radical reforms of United Kingdom drug policies.

Sri Lanka President Falsely Blames Drug Gangs for Easter Church Attacks. President Maithripala Sirisena claimed Monday that international drug gangs orchestrated the deadly Easter Sunday church bombings that left 258 dead, contradicting his own earlier statements blaming the attacks on Islamists, as well as other statements from authorities clearly pointing the finger at the jihadist group Thowheeth Jamaath. Islamic State has claimed credit for the attacks as well. While Sirisena said the day after the attacks that local terrorists and international terror groups were responsible, he blamed "drug barons" on Monday. "Drug barons carried out this attack to discredit me and discourage my anti-narcotics drive. I will not be deterred," he said. Sirisena is fighting to reinstate the death penalty for drug offenses.

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It's an all-marijuana Monday, with New Hampshire's Republican governor signing an expungement bill, North Dakota activists filing a legalization initiative petition, a poll showing near majority support for legalization in the United Kingdom, and more.

[image:1 align:left]Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Governor Signs Expungement Bill. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed into law HB 399, which allows anyone with a conviction for small-time pot possession before September 16, 2017 to petition the court that issued it and have it removed from his record. On that 2017 date, decriminalization of three-quarters of an ounce of pot went into effect.

North Dakota Group Submits Legalization Initiative Petition to State Officials. A citizens' group unhappy with restrictions on medical marijuana use in the state has submitted a petition to state officials for a constitutional amendment initiative campaign to legalize marijuana. The initiative envisions a taxed and regulated legal market and would allow individuals to grow up to a dozen plants. If approved for signature gathering, it needs some 27,000 valid voter signatures to appear on the ballot. A spokesperson for the group said they were aiming at the June 2020 primary election, not the November 2020 general election.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio to Reconsider Adding Anxiety and Autism as Qualifying Conditions. The State Medical will reconsider whether doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for patients with anxiety or autism. Last month, the board considered adding the two conditions, as well as depression, insomnia, and opioid addiction, but rejected medical marijuana for the latter three. But with anxiety and autism, it merely delayed a decision to await more input from medical experts.

International

UK Poll Has Twice as Many Supporting Marijuana Legalization as Opposing It. A new poll commissioned by a group associated with the ruling Conservative Party has support for marijuana legalization at a near-majority 48%, with only 24% opposed. The YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group showed an uptick in support of five points over the same poll last year, while opposition declined by 17 points.

British Virgin Islands Working on Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill. A draft bill to legalize marijuana is being reviewed by government officials, Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio Wheatley said on Saturday. "Even before this current administration led by Premier Andrew Fahie, there was a discussion about cannabis. Perhaps it was a little quieter discussion but … there is actually a draft bill on the legalization of marijuana that I am currently reviewing. It was done by the last administration," the minister said.

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The UN will probe drug war killings in the Philippines, murders in Mexico hit a monthly high, the North Carolina Opioid Epidemic Response Act is now on the governor's desk, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Medical Marijuana

Iowa Lawmakers Reject Plan to Explore Medical Marijuana Expansion. In a meeting Thursday, lawmakers rejected a plan to form a special committee to work on expansion of the state's limited medical marijuana program. This comes after the legislature passed an expansion bill earlier this year, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who objected to a provision allowing an increase in the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products.

Pennsylvania Adds Anxiety Disorders, Tourette's to List of Qualifying Conditions. Dept. of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board had added anxiety disorders and Tourette's Syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana. That brings the state's list of qualifying conditions to 23. The change goes into effect on July 20.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

North Carolina House Passes Opioid Epidemic Response Act. The House on Wednesday voted to approve HB 325, the Opioid Epidemic Response Act. The Senate has already approved its version of the bill, so it now goes to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper (D). Among other provisions, the bill would eliminate the state registration requirement for buprenorphine prescribers, decriminalize drug testing equipment used to identify contaminants in controlled substances, and removes restrictions on the use of state funds to purchase needles, syringes, or other injection supplies.

International

Mexico Murder Rates Tops 2,000 a Month for First Time. The Mexican news outlet Milenio reported 2,249 murders nationwide in June, the highest monthly tally since it began counting in 2007 and the first time the number killed in a month passed the 2,000 mark. The Mexican states with the highest death counts in June were Jalisco with 206, Mexico with 202, Baja California with 181, and Guanajuato with 176. In all four states, the Jalisco Nueva Generation cartel is playing either a direct or indirect role in the violence.

UN Will Probe Philippines Drug War Deaths. The UN Human Rights Council voted Thursday to begin an investigation into mass killings undertaken as part of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. The official death count is 6,600, but activists say it could actually be as high as 27,000. Eighteen countries on the council voted for the resolution and 14 against, including China. Fifteen others abstained, including Japan.

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