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Washington’s Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Washington’s Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot
Source: Brookings Institution

Voters in Washington state decided in November 2012 to legalize marijuana in their state, inspired by a campaign that emphasized minimizing the drug’s social costs and tightly controlling the legal recreational market. Joined to this drug policy experiment is a second innovative experiment that emphasizes knowledge: the state will fund and develop tools necessary to understand the impact of legalization on Washington’s law enforcement officials, communities, and public health.

This second reform, though less heralded than the attention-grabbing fact of legalization, is in many ways just as bold. Washington’s government is taking its role as a laboratory of democracy very seriously, tuning up its laboratory equipment and devoting resources to tracking its experiment in an unusually meticulous way, with lessons that extend well beyond drug policy.

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Spreading information on the risks of drug use: a European challenge

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Spreading information on the risks of drug use: a European challenge
Source: Eurobarometer

Young Europeans are less informed about the effects and risks of drugs than just a few years ago. While they widely use the Internet to gather knowledge, a new Eurobarometer survey shows that compared to 2011, respondents are less likely to have received such information from most sources, in particular from media campaigns and school prevention programmes.

More than one quarter of young people (29%) say they have not been informed at all in the past year about the effects and risks of so-called legal highs – currently legal substances that imitate the effects of illegal drugs. This comes at a time when the number of young people saying they have used ‘legal highs’ has risen to 8%, from 5% in 2011.

More than 13,000 citizens aged 15-24 were interviewed for the Eurobarometer “Young People and Drugs” across the EU. Drug use and drug-related problems continue to be a major concern for EU citizens. They are also a significant public health and public safety issue. According to studies by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), drug experimentation often starts in the school years, and it is estimated that one in four 15-16 year-olds have used an illicit drug. In recent years, the use of ‘legal-highs’ has become increasingly popular, and the European Commission is working to strengthen the EU’s ability to protect young people by reducing the availability of harmful substances, as part of an overall drug policy regulatory framework

CRS — Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress (August 15, 2014)

August 25, 2014 Comments off

Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Synthetic drugs, as opposed to natural drugs, are chemically produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs. When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use. Designer drugs are a form of synthetic drugs. They contain slightly modified molecular structures of illegal or controlled substances, and they are modified in order to circumvent existing drug laws. While the issue of synthetic drugs and their abuse is not new, Congress has demonstrated a renewed concern with the issue.

CRS — Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (August 7, 2014)

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since the 1980s, Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America with a population of 15.5 million, has continued its transition from centuries of mostly autocratic rule toward representative government. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1985, and a democratically elected government was inaugurated in 1986. A violent 36-year civil war ended in 1996.

This report provides an overview of Guatemala’s current political and economic conditions, relations with the United States, and several issues likely to figure in future decisions by Congress and the Administration regarding Guatemala. With respect to continued cooperation and foreign assistance, these issues include security and governance; protection of human rights and human rights conditions on some U.S. military aid to Guatemala; support for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala; combating narcotics trafficking and organized crime; trade relations; intercountry adoption; and unaccompanied children at the U.S. border.

Colorado’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana Is Succeeding

August 12, 2014 Comments off

Colorado’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana Is Succeeding
Source: Brookings Institution

In November 2012, Colorado voters decided to experiment with marijuana, passing a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational cannabis. It was a bold move, but it also required quick, bold, and unprecedented action on the part of the state government to implement the policy. Colorado needed to set up a legal, regulatory, and tax system so that product would be available in dispensaries by January 1, 2014. As part of an examination of Colorado’s implementation and rollout, Brookings’ John Hudak spent a week in Denver interviewing elected officials, regulators, industry officials, and others playing a variety of roles and including supporters and opponents of legalization policy.

Hudak reports that the state of Colorado has largely succeeded in rolling out a legal marijuana system, and its early implementation efforts have been impressive. This report details what has been successful, how Colorado has achieved an effective rollout, and what challenges remain.

CRS Insights — District of Columbia: Marijuana Decriminalization and Enforcement; Issues of Home Rule and Congressional Oversight

July 25, 2014 Comments off

CRS Insights — District of Columbia: Marijuana Decriminalization and Enforcement; Issues of Home Rule and Congressional Oversight (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Decriminalization of marijuana in the District is one of several issues that have engendered controversy and congressional intervention. Like the controversies surrounding the District’s medical marijuana initiative, needle exchange, and abortion services, the District’s marijuana decriminalization act pits the principle of home rule against Congress’s constitutional authority and prerogative to intervene in District affairs.

Supporters of the law point to the shift in public opinion surrounding the legalization of marijuana use; noting that the majority of the country favors legalization. They also note that the act is intended to address the racial disparities in marijuana arrest rates in the District. According to a committee report accompanying the legislation, blacks accounted for 90% of the marijuana arrests in the District despite evidence that they use marijuana at a rate comparable to use by whites. Supporters note that a single arrest for marijuana possession has a significant impact on future employment and career prospects.

Opponents of the law argue that enforcement will be problematic given the unique status of the District as the Nation’s Capital. On the one hand, possession of a small quantity of marijuana on non-federal lands would be reduced to a misdemeanor punishable by a small fine. On the other hand, possession of that same quantity of marijuana on federal lands, including the Mall, the National Zoo, and Rock Creek Park could be prosecuted, at the discretion of the Department of Justice, as a federal offense and subject the offender to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, given that marijuana is defined as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. §811). The matter of enforcement is further complicated by the presence of 32 federal law enforcement agencies that provide assistance to the District’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) through cooperative agreements that expand the area of jurisdiction an agency’s law enforcement personnel may patrol with the power to arrest.

U.S. Sentencing Commission Authorizes Delayed Retroactive Sentence Reductions for Drug Offenders

July 19, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Sentencing Commission Authorizes Delayed Retroactive Sentence Reductions for Drug Offenders (PDF)
Source: United States Sentencing Commission

On July 18, 2014, the Commission voted unanimously to apply a reduction in the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders retroactively. Unless Congress disapproves the amendment, beginning November 1, 2014, eligible offenders can ask courts to reduce their sentences. Offenders whose requests are granted by the courts can be released no earlier than November 1, 2015.

+ Retroactivity Amendment and Synopsis (PDF)
+ Chair’s Remarks on Retroactivity Vote (PDF)
+ Public Comment on Retroactivity
+ Impact Analysis: Retroactive Application of 2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment (PDF)
+ Recidivism Analysis: Offenders Receiving Retroactive Sentence Reductions (PDF)

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