State and territorial attorneys general have made it a priority to combat the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and to protect military service members from predatory lenders. Their efforts include law enforcement operations, state drug monitoring programs and education campaigns. 

Recent voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington legalizing the use of recreational marijuana have amplified the debate and the uncertain social and legal ramifications. The Future of Western Legislatures Forum featured industry perspectives and insights from officials about how their states are implementing these initiatives. The session also focused on state medical marijuana laws, including state program comparisons and challenges.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced yesterday, according to the Burlington Free Press, restrictions that will make it harder for doctors to prescribe the new FDA approved painkiller Zohydro. His announcement follows last week's ban of the drug by Massachusetts. 

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Concerned about the rise in drug-related health problems among newborns, Indiana lawmakers unanimously approved a measure in February that takes a first step in trying to address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The heroin overdose deaths of actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith of the television show "Glee" have raised public attention about the rising abuse of drugs. Some states are trying to address the increase in overdose deaths from heroin and other opiates by making naloxone more readily available to addicts.

Yesterday the Office of National Drug Control Policy urged that first responders be equipped with naloxone, a medication used to counteract opiate overdoses. Some states already have laws on the books to do just that.

In a CSG research brief...

Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. In 2010, these deaths, from both prescription drug and illicit drug overdoses, surpassed traffic accidents as the number one cause of death for persons less than 65 years old. Sixteen states, beginning with New Mexico in 2001, have passed harm reduction laws to increase the availability of naloxone, an overdose antidote administered by injection or nasal spray. The same number of states have passed Good Samaritan laws to address the fear of criminal repercussions for bystanders and overdose victims who report overdoses. At the beginning of Feb. 2014, seven additional states had new legislation pending and another seven states were considering amendments to current laws.  

Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on the issue of mandatory drug testing for parents enrolled in welfare. Almost as soon as the law was signed in 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven put the law on hold. Gov. Scott appealed the preliminary injunction, but a three judge panel concurred.

Now Scriven has ruled the law unconstitutional, the Miami Herald reports. In her 30-page summary judgment issued Dec. 31, she wrote "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied."

A federal bill to require drug testing of welfare recipients was introduced by Tennessee Representative Stephen Fincher last week. In a move to answer constitutionality concerns, the bill proposes to require applicants to waive their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing before qualifying for assistance. States would be required to certify that they test at least 20 percent of applicants or lose 10 percent of their Temporary Assistance to Families (TANF) funding.

This Act provides immunity, with certain exceptions, from arrest and criminal prosecution for a person who, in good faith, reports an emergency drug or alcohol overdose.

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