The DEA Just Got Scolded Over Its Marijuana Eradication Program

The DEA Just Got Scolded Over Its Marijuana Eradication Program

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) got a slap on the wrist from a federal watchdog agency over its management of a multi-million dollar marijuana eradication program.

In a report released on Wednesday, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the DEA had failed to adequately collect documentation from state and local law enforcement partners that received funds through the federal program. And that lapse could prevent the agency from being able to accurately assess “program performance.”

What’s more, the DEA “has not clearly documented all of its program goals or developed performance measures to assess progress toward those goals,” according to the report.

In other words, the agency expends about $17 million in funds to partners across the U.S. each year to help them get rid of illegal cannabis grows. That includes fully legal states like California, where enforcement efforts are generally limited to public lands—namely national forests. But due to inadequate record keeping, the DEA doesn’t really know if that money is serving its purpose.

To fix the problems, the GAO issued four recommendations:

1. The DEA Administrator should develop and implement a plan with specific actions and time frames to ensure that regional contractors are implementing DEA’s requirement for collecting documentation supporting participating agencies’ Domestic Cannabis Eradication And Suppression Program (DCE/SP) program expenditures in the intended manner.

2. The DEA Administrator should clarify DCE/SP guidance on the eradication and suppression activities that participating agencies are required to report, and communicate it to participating agencies and DEA officials responsible for implementing DCE/SP.

3. The DEA Administrator should clearly document all DCE/SP program goals.

4. The DEA Administrator should develop DCE/SP performance measures with baselines, targets, and linkage to program goals.

The DEA was able to review a draft of the GAO report ahead of its release and, in an October 17 letter, a Justice Department official said the agency concurred with all four of the recommendations and would take steps to address them.

You can listen to a podcast about the GAO report here:

Just because it’s the DEA’s program doesn’t mean it’s the only agency dropping the ball on marijuana eradication efforts. In April, a report from the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that agents weren’t adequately cleaning up public lands after cannabis busts, which can pose threats to humans, animals and the environment.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

The DEA Just Got Scolded Over Its Marijuana Eradication Program

Harm Reduction Measures At Music Events Don’t Violate Drug Law, DOJ Clarifies

Harm Reduction Measures At Music Events Don’t Violate Drug Law, DOJ Clarifies

The Trump administration quietly made a major concession to drug policy reform groups earlier this year, newly revealed letters between the Department of Justice and U.S. senators show.

In the correspondence, officials clarified that a federal law—which is aimed at punishing people who operate events that knowingly allow or facilitate illicit drug use—doesn’t actually prevent venue owners from providing certain harm reduction services for drug consumers at their events. Contrary to fears long expressed by activists, making free water and drug safety education materials available won’t be used as evidence of violating the law, the Justice Department said.

The clarification came in response to a request from Deirdre Goldsmith, whose daughter Shelley died from a heatstroke after taking MDMA at a dance concert in 2013.

Goldsmith has since become an advocate for harm reduction reform measures that could prevent similar incidents, and in November 2017, she wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions through her state’s two U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, requesting clarification about provisions of the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation (IDAP) Act of 2003.

The law’s predecessor was called the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act, which, as the name suggests, targeted rave culture and ecstasy use. That version didn’t pass though, so a slightly more nuanced version, the IDAP Act, was introduced and passed in 2003. It was written by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

Goldsmith wanted to know if common sense harm reduction policies violated the law. She said she’s heard from venue operators who were reluctant to provide services such as distributing public health information on-site at their events out of fear of federal prosecution.

“My journey since Shelly’s passing has led me to work to protect our young people from the many risks associated with incidental, illicit recreational drug use,” Goldsmith wrote.

“With your help, by clarifying exactly what is permitted by the Department of Justice under this law, we can give venue owners the assurance they need to implement measures to reduce the risk of harm to attendees’ due to unsafe settings.”

In January, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official replied, writing that the agency’s review of the law “did not identify any provision of the Act that would discourage law abiding venue owners from instituting safety measures for its patrons, including the provision of water.”

Good, but questions remained. Goldsmith said in a follow up letter that she appreciated the agency’s clarification and listed three other harm reduction measures that could mitigate “dire situations” at events like the one her daughter had attended. Would providing “cool down spaces,” distributing public health information on-site or expanding the number of trained medical personnel at these events put venue operators at risk of prosecution?

“Because some venues feel that they are not allowed to provide these common-sense safeguards because they fear prosecution, they continue to be, in my opinion, high-risk and dangerous settings in terms of public safety,” she wrote.

Again, the DEA responded. The agency didn’t weigh in on each specific measure she described, but it did note that it “shares Ms. Goldsmith’s concern that venue owners not be discouraged from providing appropriate safety measures at entertainment venues.”

The law is designed to penalize venue operators who “knowingly opened or maintained a place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using a controlled substance,” the DEA explained. “A variety of indicators may help to demonstrate that an offender had the requisite knowledge.”

“Moreover, dissemination of accurate public health information that outlines both the illegality and dangers of drug use may discourage prohibited conduct.”

That said, “[e]very investigation has its own unique set of facts and circumstances,” the DEA wrote. The agency recommended that venue owners contact the U.S. attorney’s office in their respective jurisdiction for further clarification.

“I’m very encouraged about [the DOJ’s letters], especially because it’s Trump’s Department of Justice,” Emanuel Sferios, founder of the harm reduction group DanceSafe, told Marijuana Moment. “I think they wrote it very clearly to let us, and promoters know that they would not be prosecuting club owners and festival promoters who provided these two services specifically: free water and drug information.”

Goldsmith publicly announced the DOJ clarification in a post on the Amend the RAVE Act website earlier this month.

“These are giant steps forward!” she wrote. “It means that the Department of Justice for the first time explicitly recognizes that providing free water and drug educational materials does not violate the RAVE Act. This is huge!”

Still, there’s work to be done, Sferios said. Advocates would like to the Justice Department to specifically exempt all “harm reduction services” at these events from the law, but the term itself has been stigmatized on Capitol Hill.

That’s “crazy,” he said, “because harm reduction is the preferred approach to dealing with drug use around the developed world.”

Read the letters between Goldsmith and the Justice Department below:

[scribd id=1 key=key-oRF3F8wCx87kOS4965Vj mode=scroll]

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Harm Reduction Measures At Music Events Don’t Violate Drug Law, DOJ Clarifies

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

A Democratic lawmaker who many political observers believe will likely be the next chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee implied in an interview on Wednesday that he supports legalizing other currently illicit drugs in addition to marijuana.

“From everything we have learned, people are going to do drugs. And certainly the softer drugs like marijuana, there’s no good reason at all that they cannot be legalized and regulated properly,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said.

“The major effect of the war on drugs has been to fill our prisons with huge numbers of people to no great effect except to waste money and to ruin lives.”

In the comments, which Nadler made during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, the congressman did not specify with substances he believes should be legalized, but his use of the pluralized phrase “softer drugs like marijuana” and the word “they” suggests his anti-prohibition views extend beyond just cannabis.

There is no precise definition of what constitutes a “soft drug” as compared to a “hard drug,” but some analysts categorize substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA in the former category in light of their lack of addictive potential.

Nadler is currently the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies involved in drug enforcement and prosecution. If Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, as many poll watchers predict, he would likely ascend to the panel’s chairmanship and have the power to bring marijuana and other drug reform bills up for a vote.

Also in the radio interview, Nadler called the war on drugs an “abject failure” that is “not succeeding in reducing crime or doing anything else.”

“We ought to look at drugs as a public health issue.”

The comments came shortly after another key Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), released an eight-page memo to fellow party members laying out a step-by-step strategy for how they can accomplish federal marijuana legalization in 2019 if they take control of one or both chambers of Congress. The plan includes a hearing on marijuana descheduling before the Judiciary Committee.

When it comes to marijuana, Nadler sees it as “far less damaging than nicotine to people’s health and we should probably regulate it similarly,” he said in the interview, adding that its current restrictive Schedule I status “doesn’t make any sense.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

marijuana research bill approved by a key U.S. House committee last month would have a “negligible” effect on direct federal spending, according a new analysis from Congress’s official fiscal analyst.

The legislation would force the Department of Justice to begin issuing more licenses to growers of cannabis to be used in scientific research, an issue that has been a contentious one between the Trump administration and members of Congress, including Republicans.

But its fiscal impact would be slim, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a two-page cost estimate released on Wednesday.

In the closing months of the Obama administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created a process to expand on the sole approved cultivator that has had a monopoly on the U.S. supply of marijuana for studies for half a century. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has refused to act on the more than two dozen applications filed through the new program by would-be legal growers.

The situation has led to a series of bipartisan sign-on letters and testy lines of questioning for Sessions during oversight hearings in both the House and Senate, culminating in the passage of the bill last month by the House Judiciary Committee to force the attorney general’s hand by requiring more licenses on a certain timetable.

The long-term projection is that “enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending or on budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029,” CBO wrote in the new cost estimate about the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the proposal hasn’t yet been scheduled for a floor vote. But while CBO is required to evaluate all bills approved by most congressional committees, the score’s release is a reminder that it’s being taken more seriously than most of the hundreds of other pieces of cannabis-focused legislation that have been filed on Capitol Hill over the years.

“CBO estimates that only a few new manufacturers would be registered each year,” the office reasoned, citing unspecified “information” from the Department of Justice.

Another provision of the bill would direct DEA to work with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration to issue recommendations for good manufacturing practices for growing marijuana.

“The administrative costs associated with publishing such recommendations within 6 months of enactment would be less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period,” CBO found.

A third section would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer military veterans to participate in clinical trials on marijuana’s potential medical benefits and encourage VA itself to conduct research on cannabis, two activities for which the department currently has authority but has been reluctant to pursue without more clear direction from Congress.

“Because VA already has those authorities under current law, CBO estimates that implementing this section would have insignificant costs,” the office’s report says.

The low-cost findings are similar to a previous memo the office released after separate legislation to encourage VA to study medical cannabis became the first standalone marijuana reform bill ever approved by a congressional committee earlier this year when it was reported out favorably by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In that case, CBO determined that the bill would “cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period, primarily to prepare and submit the necessary reports to the Congress” regarding updates on VA’s involvement in cannabis research.

The broader Gaetz legislation on research and cultivation licensing that the Judiciary Committee approved last month is only the second cannabis-focused bill to have cleared a congressional panel.

If enacted, “DOJ would collect registration fees of about $3,000 annually from each registrant,” CBO wrote in its new analysis. “Such fees are treated in the budget as reductions in direct spending, and DOJ is authorized to spend them without further appropriation.”

As a result, CBO also found that the bill would not “would not affect revenues” appreciably.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana Licensing Bill Has ‘Negligible’ Fiscal Impacts, Congressional Budget Office Says

In Follow-Up Move, DEA Wants More Marijuana Grown In 2018 As Well

In Follow-Up Move, DEA Wants More Marijuana Grown In 2018 As Well

The move by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last week to dramatically increase the amount of marijuana that can be legally grown in the U.S. in 2019 for research purposes, combined with its decision to reduce opioid production levels, surprised longtime observers of the anti-narcotics agency.

Now, in a new filing scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, the agency is moving to also boost the cannabis quota for the current year.

Under the proposed update, 1,140,216 grams of marijuana will be needed in 2018 “to provide for the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.”

That amount—more than 2,500 pounds of weed—isn’t nearly as much as the 5,400 pounds DEA proposed for next year, but it is more than double the 978 pounds the agency first proposed for 2018 in its initial filing late last year.

It is not immediately clear why DEA is moving to so dramatically increase cannabis cultivation quotas for 2018 and 2019, but it could have to do with an ongoing process to license more legal growers for research that was initiated under the Obama administration. While more than two dozen interested parties filed applications under the expanded program, the Department of Justice has blocked DEA from acting on the proposals.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress have repeatedly pressured U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on this issue, so it could be the case that the department is feeling the pressure and will soon be giving the green light to more researchers to grow cannabis.

The DEA notice itself says that factors taken into account for adjusted quotas for marijuana and other drugs included:

“(1) Changes in the demand for that class or chemical, changes in the national rate of net disposal of the class or chemical, and changes in the rate of net disposal of the class or chemical by registrants holding individual manufacturing quotas for the class;

“(2) whether any increased demand for that class or chemical, the national and/or individual rates of net disposal of that class or chemical are temporary, short term, or long term;

“(3) whether any increased demand for that class or chemical can be met through existing inventories, increased individual manufacturing quotas, or increased importation, without increasing the aggregate production quota;

“(4) whether any decreased demand for that class or chemical will result in excessive inventory accumulation by all persons registered to handle that class or chemical; and

“(5) other factors affecting medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs in the United States and lawful export requirements, as the Acting Administrator [of DEA] finds relevant.”

“The Acting Administrator also considered updated information obtained from 2017 year-end inventories, 2017 disposition data submitted by quota applicants, estimates of the medical needs of the United States, product development, and other information made available to the DEA after the initial aggregate production quotas and assessment of annual needs had been established,” the notice says. “Other factors the Acting Administrator considered in calculating the aggregate production quotas, but not the assessment of annual needs, include product development requirements of both bulk and finished dosage form manufacturers, and other pertinent information.”

The proposals in the new filing will be open for public comment for 30 days.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

In Follow-Up Move, DEA Wants More Marijuana Grown In 2018 As Well

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