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Another UK Parliament Committee Is Calling For Drug Decriminalization

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Another UK House of Commons panel is endorsing the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use, in addition to supporting the establishment of safe consumption sites to prevent overdose deaths.

The Scottish Affairs Committee said on Monday that after consulting with health professionals, government bodies and academics—as well as touring countries such as Portugal that have pursued far-reaching drug policy reforms—panel members determined that the UK government should address drug use as a public health, rather than criminal justice, issue.

A report the committee released recommends decriminalizing low-level drug possession, providing for safe injection sites and pursuing “evidence-based policymaking” as a means to curtailing overdose deaths and helping people suffering from addition to get into treatment.

“Throughout our inquiry we heard tragic accounts of the pain and suffering that problem drug use is causing in Scotland,” MP Pete Wishart, chair of the panel, said in a press release. “If this number of people were being killed by any other illness, the Government would declare it as a public health issue and act accordingly.”

“The evidence is clear—the criminal justice approach does not work,” he said. “Decriminalisation is a pragmatic solution to problem drug use; reducing stigma around drug use and addiction, and encouraging people to seek treatment.”

This is the second House of Commons committee to embrace decriminalization in as many weeks. A separate panel, the Health and Social Care Committee, said last month that drugs should not be a criminal justice matter and voiced support for decriminalization, safe consumption sites and expanded access to the anti-overdose medication naloxone.

The Scottish Affairs Committee cited that policy stance in its report, stating that it “reflects the weight of evidence in support of this approach.”

On safe injection sites, the panel said the facilities “are proven to reduce the number of drug-related deaths, and can act as a gateway to further treatment which can address the root causes of substance use” and that they “could play a vital role in addressing Scotland’s drug crisis.”

“For too long successive UK Governments have ignored the evidence on how drug policy could be improved,” Wishart said. “The Government must now start listening to the expert advice they are given, starting with our Committee’s Report, to reduce problematic drug use in Scotland and prevent the tragic loss of life.”

Decriminalization is gaining mainstream appeal internationally. Scotland’s ruling party, which is the third largest in the UK Parliament, also came out in support of the policy change last month.

And in Canada, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health released a report this summer urging the government to “work with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities and law enforcement agencies to decriminalize the simple possession of small quantities of illicit substances.”

A number of Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S. are backing decriminalization as well, with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) stating that they’re in favor of removing criminal penalties for possession of all illicit drugs. Businessman Andrew Yang and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) discussed decriminalizing opioids during a debate in October.

Psychedelics decriminalization is also picking up steam stateside, with Denver and Oakland becoming the first cities in the U.S. to make possession and cultivation of the substances the lowest law enforcement priority. The movement is spreading throughout the country, with advocates increasingly pursuing decriminalization throughout the country.

While Congress might be slow to act on the policy reform, a poll released last month showed that a majority of Americans—55 percent—support decriminalizing drugs.

Going beyond decriminalization of possession, a top Mexican lawmaker proposed legalizing the production and sale of drugs to mitigate cartel-related violence.

Five Ohio Cities Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization Next Week

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording

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President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.

“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.

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Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote

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Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.

By , The Texas Tribune

The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.

“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”

The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.

“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.

The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.

Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.

The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.

The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.

Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.

But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Austin City Council Approves Measure To End Most Marijuana Arrests

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Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans

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Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.

“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”

“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”

Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.

He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.

That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.

At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”

“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.

Tom Steyer Calls For Marijuana Legalization And Opioid Decriminalization

Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrew_Yang_(48571382196).jpg

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