White House proposes cutting ONDCP. The Trump administration has revealed plans to gut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The proposed cut: 95 percent of its budget (from $388 million to $24 million). The administration’s acting drug czar Rich Baum said the “drastic proposed cuts are frankly heartbreaking.” The New York Times Trump spoke frequently about combating the opioid crisis while on the campaign trail. While the agency has been known for waging the war on drugs, under Obama, “it became a big advocate of treating drug crises as issues of public health, not solely criminal justice.” One possible outcome: “As ONDCP dwindles down, anti-drug efforts under Trump will be more likely to go through the US Department of Justice, which is led by anti-drug hardliner Jeff Sessions, and the [DEA].” Vox
The Drug Enforcement Administration seeks prosecutors. The agency has proposed hiring its own team of prosecutors to go after drug-related offenses. The DEA said it wants to hire up to 20 prosecutors, citing the opioid epidemic. But drug policy advocates are worried that such a move would “exceed the DEA’s legal authority and reinvigorate the 1980s-era war on drugs.” NPR
Senate, president approve spending bill. The federal appropriations bill passed by the House earlier this week also got approval from the Senate. On Friday, president Trump signed the legislation. The Hill While the bill contained the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment that bars the DOJ from interfering with state-legal medical marijuana programs, an error in the bill leaves two states open to federal prosecution. “For unknown reasons, medical pot programs in North Dakota and Indiana were not listed as being off-limits to federal enforcement in the bill.” A spokesperson for House rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said he didn’t know why the states were omitted. “It could have been inadvertent, evidence that the legalization movement is so fluid members couldn’t keep up.” US News Interestingly, a statement from the White House announcing the signing specifically mentions the medical marijuana amendment. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” reads the statement. Twitter / @CraigCaplan
Changing times for cannabis. Colorado House rep. Jared Polis brought medical experts, advocates, and attorneys, to talk pot in Washington D.C. “To think that we’re at a day and age when the United States Congress can get a briefing on marijuana business 101, or marijuana and veterans and healthy living… it really shows how far we’ve come,” said Polis. Westword In a sign of our strange times, Trump SoHo hosted an event on cannabis and commercial real estate on Thursday. “As panelists spoke of the risks involved with the federally illegal industry, attendees took notes on Trump-branded notepads with Trump-branded pens while sipping on Trump Reserve coffee.” An organizer of the event said the hotel was “immediately excited” to host it. Word on the Tree
The opioid sales guy who became addicted too. Jeffrey Pearlman was a district sales manager for Insys Therapeutics, the maker of the fentanyl spray Subsys. “All the while, Pearlman held a secret: He himself was addicted to opioids like the very ones he was promoting.” Court filings detail his quest to quell the pain from a debilitating car accident. After trying a daily regimen of painkillers, he finally found relief with medical marijuana. Pearlman was indicted as part of a federal investigation into the company’s illegal campaign to push doctors to prescribe the drug. He has continued to use medical marijuana in violation of his bail, and has filed a motion to remove drug testing as a condition of his bail. Stat
The Global Marijuana March. Since 1999, the Global Marijuana March (also known as the Million Marijuana March) has seen 800 cities across more than 70 countries advocate for cannabis policy reform. Here’s a look at some of the major cities hosting protests this Saturday. The Cannabist
Prisoners serving life. A new report found that one out of every nine prisoners in the U.S. is serving a life sentence. Their numbers continue to rise, despite the decline in violent crime rates. Two-thirds of them are serving their sentences for non-violent crimes — one-third of which are behind bars for drug crimes. Mother Jones
Citing drug war, senators want to restrict arms exports to the Philippines. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have filed a bill to restrict U.S. arms exports to the Philippines over concerns about the “the alarming number of deaths under Duterte’s drug war.” The measure also requires the U.S. secretary of state to submit a report to Congress on human rights in the country. ABS-CBN Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, condemned the violence of Duterte’s campaign. “The ‘war on drugs’ does not work,” she said. The AFP
In other international news… The CEO of Loblaws, Canada’s largest drugstore chain, said he remains open to selling recreational marijuana. The company remains focused on medical marijuana. CTV News Canada-based Tilray has gotten approval from the Health Ministry to import medical cannabis products into Cyprus. The Cypriot government has recently eased restrictions on the drug after patients sued the government and won. In Cyprus British banks immersed in the hemp trade wanted to colonize Australia “as a potential hemp colony.” National Geographic
El Chapo trial slated for next April. The trial for drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman is scheduled for April 18, 2018. But the judge said the date was “somewhat aspirational” and could be delayed. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan “refused to order Guzman released from solitary confinement in a New York City federal prison, where his court-appointed lawyers have said he faces needlessly harsh and restrictive conditions that make it difficult for him to mount his defense.” Reuters
Stoner Rock. The genre has evolved from herbal euphemisms (‘Sweet Leaf’) to direct references (‘Space Reefer,’ ‘Bong Thrower’). Our latest playlist features newer acts like Bongzilla and Dirty Fences, who followed in the footsteps of Pentagram and Black Sabbath. Word on the Tree
Word on the States
- In Vermont, it looks like a compromise is coming on marijuana legalization.
- In Texas, medical marijuana refugees who left the state return to voice support for a MMJ bill.
- In Florida, the Senate approved an amended House medical marijuana bill.
- In Hawaii, medical marijuana patients are increasingly denied gun permits.
- In Arkansas, a legislative council approved medical marijuana regulations.
- In Idaho, one entrepreneur found a loophole in the law, and plans to start selling CBD oil in the next few weeks.
- In Colorado, a new report found young people are visiting the ER more for marijuana.
- In Oregon, the black market is alive and well, despite legalization.
Word for Word
“He said that more than five years earlier I had given him a huge break at sentencing. The prosecutor had asked for more than a 180-month sentence for his crack cocaine conviction. But I had been impressed with the man’s solid work record and stable family ties, before he became a crack addict and small-time street dealer to feed his addiction. I gave him a 60-month sentence, lower than even his defense attorney had asked for. It turned out my intuition wasn’t far off.” – Judge Mark W. Bennett for The Marshall Project
“Weed Farm keeps you performing repetitive tasks… All we have to break up this monotony are the occasional unexplained flyover by a cartoon drone and invitations to invite friends to the game or watch an ad in exchange for some productivity booster like LED lights. You’d think a marijuana farm might be susceptible to dramatic setbacks — a parasite infection, or maybe a DEA raid — but nothing of the sort ever happens. We don’t even get to establish a customer base or make business deals. And unlike Khalifa, we never have an opportunity to partake of the fruit of our labors. Maybe I’m just too sober, but this all feels like a colossal waste of time.” – Miles Klee for Mic