Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What came first: the stoner or the law?

 Ever since the state-scale referendums in 2014 began legalizing adult use of marijuana, a
Weedcommon 
concern amongst opponents of marijuana legalization is the overall uptick in marijuana use that will stem from said legalization. Although marijuana use has increased since 2015, a new study from the Addiction journal rejects that the increase was caused by the increased legalization of marijuana and marijuana derivatives. Rather, an Addiction study found that a change in public opinion has led to a change in legislation, not the other way around. According to Tom Angell’s Study: Rise in Marijuana Use Not Caused by Legalization

Researchers at the Public Health Institute's Alcohol Research Group analyzed data from periodic National Alcohol Surveys and stacked its results on marijuana use against changes in state laws.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have comprehensive legal medical cannabis programs, and eight states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults over 21 years of age.

They found that instead of being caused by policy changes, the rise in cannabis use was "primarily explained by period 

effects," meaning societal factors that affect populations across age and generational groups. The authors identify a decreasing disapproval of marijuana use as one such factor potentially at play.

But they are clear that the rise in use was not caused by changes to marijuana laws.

"The steep rise in marijuana use in the United States since 2005 occurred across the population and is attributable to general period effects not specifically linked to the liberalization of marijuana policies in some states," the paper's abstract says.

    Angell furthers his "chicken or the egg" argument by pointing to similar factors. For example: due to the growing acceptance of marijuana use by the public at large, coupled with the changes in regulation that reflect this acceptance, Angell believes that more people are simply willing to admit to using marijuana or marijuana derivatives. This logic leads Angell to believe that increased use and acceptance of marijuana has influenced recent legalization, rather than the other way around.

September 16, 2017 in Drug Policy, Legislation, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Congressman: "We're completely on our asses" on marijuana

AaaRep. Tom Garrett (R-Va) wants Congress to get off its collective derrière and resolve the problem of marijuana legalization by turning it over to the states.  Earlier this year he introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (H.R. 1227), which would remove cannabis (both marijuana and hemp) from the Controlled Substances Act entirely and turn regulation over to the states.

It's basically the same bill that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) introduced a couple of years ago.  In a story on PJ MediaGOP Lawmaker on U.S. Pot Policy: ‘We’re Completely on Our Asses,’ he has some blunt words about why he favors the approach:

On Monday, Garrett doubled down on the legislation, explaining the reasons he supports state discretion over medical marijuana policy. After he outlined his reasoning to his constituents, Garrett said at the Cato Institute, “I didn’t have anyone vehemently opposed.”

 

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, bringing it in line with alcohol and tobacco standards. Decriminalization would eliminate a justice system that Garrett believes disproportionately disenfranchises the poor and politically weak, would allow medical professionals rather than the federal government to make key decisions for conditions like epilepsy, and would allow states to realize hundreds of millions of dollars in economic revenue annually.

 

Garrett’s district grows about seven-eighths of all tobacco in Virginia, and his state, Kentucky and Tennessee, he said, could be economic “monsters” in the industry of agricultural hemp due to climate advantages if marijuana were decriminalized.

 

.  .  .

 

“You should be free to do what you so choose to do so long as it’s not an impact on others that’s negative. That’s easy, and that’s who we’re supposed to be as a nation,” he said, adding that the government closest to the people – local government – governs the most efficiently.

 

Garrett, a former prosecutor, described the Republican Party as “AWOL” when it comes to marijuana policy. At the same time, he said that more dangerous drugs like heroin should be treated differently for their rapid and widespread destruction.

 

“I am not pro-marijuana. I’m not anti-marijuana,” he said. “I’m pro-Constitution. I’m pro-liberty. I’m pro-government that enforces its laws.”

 

September 13, 2017 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, Politics, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Manhattan grants leniency for low-level marijuana offenders

AaaManhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., has announced new sentencing guidelines in low-level marijuana possession cases.  As reported in an article in PoliticoNewYork, the change  will be an encouraging step for supporters of immigrant rights and recreational marijuana use.

The new approach is expected to help some immigrants avoid penalties that could lead to deportation and comes amid backlash from municipalities and states over President Donald Trump's immigration policies — specifically the use of courts to identify and deport undocumented immigrants. Vance announced that his office is also working on a policy, to be implemented in the spring, to end prosecutions for low-level drug possession.

 

The sentencing guidelines for marijuana possession in the Manhattan DA's office previously offered a 12-month "adjournment in contemplation of dismissal" — or ACD — on the first offense, where the case is adjourned for 12 months and then dismissed and sealed if the defendant isn’t arrested again.

 

On a second offense, the previous guidelines allowed for the defendant to plea to either a marijuana violation or a disorderly conduct violation.

 

Now the Manhattan DA will offer an ACD for three months for the first offense and an ACD for six months for the second offense.

 

Vance explained the decision in a statement saying that a year is too long to have an open criminal case for a low-level, non-violent offense because it is publicly searchable online and can interfere with applications for college financial aid, housing or a job.

The city expects that some 4,100 individuals a year will be affected by the change. The program is set to being in the Spring of 2018.  Proponents expect that it will mean fewer deportations for low-level possession.

 -- Clarissa Dauphin

September 8, 2017 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The "Booming" New Demographic of Cannabis Users

  Baby boomersDespite their historical connections with the War on Drugs,  the fastest-growing demographic group of marijuana consumers turns out to be aging Baby Boomers.  According to study published in the journal Addiction, Demographic trends among older cannabis users in the United States, 2006-13, the number of 65-year-olds that admit to using marijuana products has risen approximately 250 percent between 2006 and 2013.

The majority of Baby Boomers that using cannabis products say they are doing so at least in part for medicinal reasons, and a recent research paper  found that 90 percent of Colorado seniors were doing so due to chronic pain.

In HealthOnline's Why Are More Seniors Using Marijuana?, writer Temma Ehrenfeld explores the multiple issues that these changes are bringing, noting that some medical professionals remain skeptical:

However, marijuana can weaken balance and slow reaction time, noted Dr. Lynn Webster, the immediate past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

 

“I’m worried about falls,” he told Healthline. “I wish we had the science to understand who [marijuana] would help, and in what doses, and for whom it would be toxic.”

 

“We really know very little about the effects of marijuana in the elderly. Everything about medical marijuana needs better study, but especially this topic,” Dr. Daniel Clauw, a pain specialist at the University of Michigan, told Healthline.

Ehrenfeld's piece includes a great deal of information and some interesting anecdotes about use of cannabis by seniors, and it's well worth a full read.

-- Jake Wiggins

September 7, 2017 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

House Rules Committee nixes medical marijuana spending amendment

 

Without legislation, states would lose protection they have enjoyed for the past four years, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions could begin his long-sought crackdown on the rapid expansion of legalized pot.  

 

 

Fellow Californian Rep. Duncan Hunter told The Hill that after Rohrabacher “talked about it this morning in conference,” GOP leaders said “it splits the conference too much so we’re not going to have a vote on it.”

 

Rohrabacher had pled with his colleagues in a Tuesday night floor speech to allow the vote.

 

“The status quo for four years has been the federal government will not interfere because the Department of Justice is not permitted to use its resources to supercede a state that has legalized the medical use of marijuana,” Rohrabacher said.

 

He said that without his amendment, “we’re changing the status quo in a way that undermines the rights of the states and the people … to make their policy.”

Rohrabacher’s amendment, co-sponsored with Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), was included in the previous four Commerce-Justice-Science funding measures, when President Obama was in the White House. It was also included in an omnibus funding bill signed by President Trump earlier this year that expires at the end of the month.

 

This doesn't mean that the Amendment is dead, however.  Its language was previously included in the Senate version of the bill, and given the fairly strong support it's had in the past few years, it may well find itself in the final conference bill despite yesterday's action.

 

 

September 7, 2017 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rohrabacher: Conservatives should protect medical marijuana from the feds

AaaIn Washington, D.C., some lawmakers are attempting to dismantle the medical marijuana industry created by individual states. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Dana Rohrabacher, U.S. House Representative of California's 48th District, is calling on his fellow conservatives to keep his amendment intact and declare themselves as proponents of medical progress, according to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post:

 

Surprisingly, given the Obama administration’s generally liberal approach to marijuana, its Justice Department tried to interpret the amendment in such a convoluted way as to allow counterproductive raids on marijuana dispensaries. The courts — most recently the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — repeatedly ruled that our amendment meant exactly what it said.

 

Unfortunately, my longtime friend Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has urged Congress to drop the amendment, now co-sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). This, despite President Trump’s belief, made clear in his campaign and as president, that states alone should decide medical marijuana policies.

 

I should not need to remind our chief law enforcement officer nor my fellow Republicans that our system of federalism, also known as states’ rights, was designed to resolve just such a fractious issue. Our party still bears a blemish for wielding the “states’ rights” cudgel against civil rights. If we bury state autonomy in order to deny patients an alternative to opioids, and ominously federalize our police, our hypocrisy will deserve the American people’s contempt.

 

More than half the states have liberalized medical marijuana laws, some even decriminalizing recreational use. Some eighty percent of Americans favor legalization of medical marijuana. Only a benighted or mean-spirited mind-set would want to block such progress.

 

Part of the reason is the failure of too many conservatives to apply “public choice economics” to the war on marijuana. Common sense, as well as public choice theory, holds that the government’s interest is to grow, just as private-sector players seek profit and build market share.

 

The drug-war apparatus will not give ground without a fight, even if it deprives Americans of medical alternatives and inadvertently creates more dependency on opioids. When its existence depends on asset seizures and other affronts to our Constitution, why should anti-medical-marijuana forces care if they’ve contributed inadvertently to a vast market, both legal and illegal, for opioids?

 

I invite my colleagues to visit a medical marijuana research facility and see for themselves why their cultural distaste might be misplaced. 

 

Better yet, they might travel to Israel — that political guiding light for religious conservatives — and learn how our closest ally in the Middle East has positioned itself on the cutting edge of cannabis research. The Israeli government recently decriminalized first use, so unworried it is about what marijuana might do to its conscript military.

 

My colleagues should then return to Washington and keep my amendment intact, declaring themselves firmly on the side of medical progress. Failing that, the government will keep trying to eradicate the burgeoning marijuana business, thereby fueling and enriching drug cartels. Trust me: Hugs from grateful supporters are infinitely better.

 

 

Representative Rohrabacher chastises his fellow conservatives for failing to uphold a key political platform: state autonomy. Warning politicians to avoid hypocrisy, the Republican from California urges his fellow House members to personally visit medical marijuana research facilities and Israel before siding with the federal government rather than individual states.

 

The Congressman makes strong points, focusing on the question of medical marijuana and not touching on the more controversial subject of recreational use. He seems to be making strong appeals to a core conservative position -- the role of the states in a federal system -- while pointing out America's current opioid problem and how legalizing medical marijuana might help alleviate it.

 

-- Zachary Ford

September 7, 2017 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eleven-year-old Texas girl sues feds over medical marijuana

AaaMedical marijuana may be helping epileptic patients live more normal lives, but it's still illegal under federal law.  the federal government still refuses to acknowledge the medical qualities of cannabis.  A group of plaintiffs, including Alexis Bortell, 11-year-old girl from Rowlett, Texas, is suing the federal government to force a change in that law.  CBS-TV in Dallas has the story, with a video.

Bortell, who calls herself MMJ's "Youngest Advocate" in her book, Let's Talk About Medical Cannabis   (published in April) also now has has her own advocacy web site.

 

September 6, 2017 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Anxiety's New Cure?

David DiSalvoMarijuana, now has the potential to be a game changer for those affected by anxiety, according to a recent piece in Forbes magazine.  Most anxiety medications, writes author David DiSalvo, have heightened potential for addiction, whereas marijuana alternative may decrease this potential.  A sample of the piece:

Research into the potential medical uses of marijuana compounds continues apace. Among the most recent, a study delved into why marijuana is an effective stress reducer. While not conclusive on their own, the results contribute to a longer-term possibility – that marijuana compounds may turn out to be more effective and safer in alleviating anxiety than prescription anxiety meds.

 

The recent study focused on marijuana’s potency in reducing the stress response in regular users. Stress was measured by tracking cortisol amounts in study participants’ saliva. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a reliable indicator of stress; higher or lower amounts correlate closely with a person’s response to stressful situations.

 

The study compared the stress responses of a group of daily marijuana users to a group of non-users. The results were consistent: regular users had a “blunted” response to acute stress. In effect, their internal stress engines had been tuned down by regular exposure to marijuana.

 
 “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effects of acute stress on salivary cortisol levels in chronic cannabis users compared to non-users,” said Carrie Cuttler, study co-author and clinical assistant professor of psychology. “While we are not at a point where we are comfortable saying whether this muted stress response is a good thing or a bad thing, our work is an important first step in investigating potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis at a time when its use is spreading faster than ever before.”

 

"While preliminary, the latest research suggests that the compounds in marijuana could eventually be harnessed to deliver anxiety relief with decreased dependency, fewer side effects and less overdose potential." 

 

Read the whole thing

 

--Élan Moore 

September 2, 2017 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reactions To Senator Booker’s Marijuana Bill That He May Not Want To See

Cory BookerSenator Cory Booker of New Jersey wants to remove the federal ban on marijuana partly because he thinks law enforcement unfairly targets members of minority communities for using the drug. But groups that oppose Booker's proposal have launched efforts to correct what they see is an incorrect premise. They argue that in fact there's no difference in minority impacts in states where marijuana is legal.  From NJ.com:

Instead, minority youth still are being disproportionately arrested for using marijuana when they're under age, or being stopped for drugged driving, they said.

"We want to highlight the false promise that legalization of marijuana will serve social justice," said Kevin Sabet, president and chief executive of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group whose advisers include former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a Brigantine resident who sits on the presidential opioid commission chaired by Gov. Chris Christie.

Separately, Colorado Christian University's Centennial Institute launched a online petition drive against legalization.

September 2, 2017 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, News, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Would Legalization Really Reduce Minor Drug Convictions?

Washington PostThe plight of those who have been convicted for various marijuana related crimes is being used to argue why marijuana should be legalized but these new laws don't seem to be helping the problem.  A recent article in the Washington Post e explores how these new laws are only helping further institutional racism:  Want to See Proof of Institutional Racism? Let Weed Open Your Eyes.

The disparities in Maryland and the District were among the highest in the nation, with blacks up to eight times more likely than whites to be arrested.

There were 145 applicants for licenses to grow medical marijuana. Despite a state law requiring racial diversity in licensing, none of the 15 firms selected to start growing marijuana this summer are owned by African Americans. Turns out, the commission set up to award the licenses decided to ignore racial diversity in favor of “geographic diversity,” which just happened to produce the all-white outcome.

In a one-year period since legalization took effect, arrests for smoking marijuana in public jumped from 142 to 400, according to D.C. police data. If the trend holds, there will be at least as many — if not more — arrests this year. Arrests for selling marijuana have also tripled, from 80 in 2015 to 220 in 2016, police said

September 1, 2017 in Business, Drug Policy, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Maryland's Harris Sponsoring MMJ Research Legislation

AThe White House doesn't have much interest in medical marijuana legalization, but support is now coming from a surprising Congressional source.  Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a physician who strongly opposed D.C.'s legalization last year, is now leading efforts to ease restrictions that prohibit research on marijuana's medicinal benefits.  From the Baltimore Sun:

 

Harris, a Johns Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist who hangs a white lab coat in his waiting room on Capitol Hill, has been working for roughly a year to build a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who want to ease restrictions on marijuana for the purpose of studying its effect on debilitating diseases.

 

Harris and other lawmakers intend to introduce legislation this week to create a less cumbersome process for marijuana researchers seeking Department of Justice approval to work with the drug.

 

Among other changes, the measure would require federal regulators to approve or deny research applications within two months.

 

. . .

 

“Part of my frustration in the entire debate around legalizing medical marijuana is that there really isn’t good scientific evidence about what it’s good for and what it’s not good for,” Harris, who still practices medicine, told The Baltimore Sun. “We really don’t have good data supporting widespread use.”

 

That position is uncontroversial — even some proponents of looser marijuana laws have lamented a lack of peer-reviewed research. The American Medical Association calls for “further adequate and well-controlled studies” in the opening lines of its formal policy on medical marijuana.

 

There is anecdotal evidence that the drug has helped patients who are suffering from seizures, Parkinson’s and other complex conditions. But Harris and others say states are making decisions about which types of disease can be treated with marijuana without a clear sense of the drug’s efficacy.

 

In that sense, both supporters of expanding the use of medical marijuana and opponents can find reasons to back the legislation. Both sides agree that one of the reasons there is so little data is because it’s been difficult for researchers to get their hands on the drug.

June 20, 2016 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 17, 2016

British Health Group Advocates Decriminalizing Pretty Much Everything

ATwo private British public health groups have released a new document calling for decriminalization of marijuana and all other "illegal drugs."  nd The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health, two organizations whose membership works in the public health field, have released Taking a New Line on Drugs, which recommends that the U.K. take law enforcement out of drug policy at the possession level, while keeping it up against those who manufacture and sell the stuff.  The paper's executive summary sets out the suggestions:

From a public health perspective, the purpose of a good drugs strategy should be to improve and protect the public’s health and wellbeing by preventing and reducing the harm linked to substance use, whilst also balancing any potential medicinal benefits. RSPH is calling for the UK to consider exploring, trialling and testing such an approach, rather than one reliant on the criminal justice system. This could include:

a. Transferring lead responsibility for UK illegal drugs strategy to the Department of Health, and more closely aligning this with alcohol and tobacco strategies.

b. Preventing drug harm through universal Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in UK schools, with evidence-based drugs education as a mandatory, key component.

c. Creating evidence-based drug harm profiles to supplant the existing classification system in informing drug strategy, enforcement priorities, and public health messaging.

d. Decriminalising personal use and possession of all illegal drugs, and diverting those whose use is problematic into appropriate support and treatment services instead, recognising that criminalising users most often only opens up the risk of further harm to health and wellbeing. Dealers, suppliers and importers of illegal substances would still be actively pursued and prosecuted, while evidence relating to any potential benefits or harm from legal, regulated supply should be kept under review.

e. Tapping into the potential of the wider public health workforce to support individuals to reduce and recover from drug harm.

There's some special pleading here, of course -- turning things over to the health authorities means more money and jobs for health workers.  And decriminalizing without maintaining penalties against those who make and sell the stuff isn't going to do much to harm the criminal gangs involved in the trade.  

Still, an interesting take on the subject.

June 17, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, International Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Doug Berman on the Situation in Ohio

Ohio FlagOhio voters knocked out a crony capitalist legalization bill last fall.  So what's happening these days in the Buckeye State?  Over at Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform, Professor Doug Berman offers his thoughts.  The whole piece is worth reading, but here's his summary:

    I am encouraged (though not especially surprised) not only that (1) Ohio's elected officials now understand that they cannot and should no longer ignore the significant interest in marijuana reform amoung the citizenry, but also that (2) some state leaders are trying to co-opt into the effort persons who previously raised tens of millions of dollars to support reform in 2015. Thoughtout the 2015 reform effort in Ohio, I had an inkling that, even if the ResponsibleOhio's full legalization efforts went very badly (and it did), the conversations engendered and the monies raised through the reform effort would garner significant attention from significant public officials.

The good news seems to be that medical marijuana is moving forward in the Republican-dominated legislature.  The bad news is that recreational marijuana might not get off the launching pad this year.

January 19, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2016

This is a very bad chart for legalization proponents

Aaa

It's from a new study of youth marijuana use released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  I haven't been able to go over the report in enough depth to assess the validity of the data, and it will be good to see some number-crunchers go at it.  But assuming it's anything like correct, it gives anti-legalization folks some serious ammunition: youth marijuana use is much higher in states with MMJ programs and (potentially) highest of all in states with recreational weed.

This chart is the one that happened to catch my attention, but the whole thing is full of data.  Anybody interested in legalization needs to read it and start thinking about how to respond. 

January 18, 2016 in Drug Policy, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

And now for something different . . . .

AaWe naturally tend to focus on pro-legalization stuff here.  But it's important to remember that there are still intelligent and well-meaning folks who strongly oppose legalization.  One of them is Frank Rapier, a 30-year Treasury Department agent who now runs the Appalachia HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).  He's got a new op-ed in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, entitled Don’t fall for the lies from Big Marijuana

    In response to the column, “Stop waste of money, lives in criminalizing pot,” let me say that I agree with Sen. Perry B. Clark on one point: America is being bamboozled.

    We are being bamboozled by Big Marijuana.

    For several years now, we have witnessed a highly financed, deceptive campaign to legalize marijuana. It started with the premise that marijuana is medicine. Marijuana may contain medical components, but so does opium. We don’t smoke opium to get the pain-killing effects of morphine. How could you dose smoked marijuana?

    While it is entirely possible that the marijuana plant does contain elements that would be useful in treating specific disorders, there needs to be research and a process of approval like all potentially helpful medicines. The Food and Drug Administration performs this procedure daily. Let’s give that a shot before we can get serious about marijuana as medicine.

    Big Marijuana has lied for years in stating that the prisons are filled with people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    With the current opiate addiction crisis in Kentucky and other states, law enforcement is too busy to bother with casual marijuana users. A survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that 0.7 percent of all state inmates were behind bars for marijuana possession only (with many pleading down from more serious crimes).

    In total, one-tenth of one percent (0.1 percent) of all state prisoners in the U.S. were marijuana-possession offenders with no prior sentences, according to a 1999 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Colorado’s passage of a responsible adult marijuana-use law has also resulted in other issues.

    A report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area compared studies of the two-year average of marijuana use during full legalization (2013-14) to the two-year average just prior to legalization (2011-12).

    The latest results show Colorado youth, aged 12 to 17 years old, ranked No. 1 in the nation for past month marijuana use, up from No. 4. Their usage was 74 percent higher than the national average. College-aged adults, 18 to 25, increased 17 percent. This was 62 percent higher than the national average.

    Legalization is about one thing and one thing only: Making a small number of business people very rich. There is indeed some bamboozling going on. Kentuckians shouldn’t fall for legalizing marijuana.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article54768230.html#storylink=cpy

 

January 16, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, News, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Should we expect any major federal marijuana reform developments in 2016?

ADoug Berman asks that question over at Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform.  My answer is the same as his.  No.  Here's his quick take:

But while 2016 could prove historic for marijuana reform on the state level, I am inclined to predict that this year could well be a huge nothingburger on the federal front.  Absent some unexpected developments, I would be shocked if an essentially lame-duck President Obama or his Department of Justice will see any reason to significantly alter its present Cole-memo, leave-the-states-mostly-alone prosecutorial policies.  And though there are lots of marijuana reform proposals and bills kicking around Capitol Hill, I have no reason to believe or expect any leaders in either the House of the Senate have any real interest in moving any marijuana bills forward (or even having hearings on the topic).  

He's hoping he's "missing something" in that assessment, but I don't believe he is.  I don't see anybody at the federal level moving to do anything this year.

The Administration?  President Obama has had seven years to start the process of rescheduling cannabis, and has shown absolutely no interest in doing it.   Given that he's spending his last year doing a victory lap of world capitals and top golf courses (and spending whatever political capital he has left on making it harder for people other than drug lords and gangbangers to get guns), it's hard to see him suddenly get interested.  Attorney General Lynch is an old-line drug warrior whose troops are still busy denying that Rohrabacher-Farr amendment limits them from prosecuting medical marijuana growers.  Think she'll suddenly see the light?

Congress?  It's an election year, which means that despite lots of promises to various constituent groups, virtually nothing will get done.

The presidential candidates?  On the Democratic side, Hillary is an old drug warrior who had eight years as First Lady, eight in the Senate, and four as Secretary of State to do something about it, and has never made the slightest attempt to do anything.  Sure, for enough money she'd come out in favor of it, but compared to investment banks and Silicon Valley, the marijuana industry is small potatoes.  As for Bernie, he'd probably support it as President, but he doesn't seem capable of even talking about any issue that isn't out of Class Warfare 101.

On the GOP side, many of the candidates are conservative drug warriors who are philosophically opposed to legalization.  Of the others, I suspect that they took note of the huge boost that coming out for legalization did not give to Rand Paul.  The number of Republic primary voters whose choice will depend on the candidate's position on marijuana is probably somewhere between "almost none" and "zero."  And in the general election, issues like immigration, the Islamic State, Obamacare, North Korean hydrogen bombs, and Hillary's record will trump (no pun intended) minor stuff like marijuana.  Again, enough campaign cash could change that, but it's hard to see how the industry could come up with enough to make it worthwhile. 

So I'm even less optimistic than Doug.  Of course, if Rand Paul does win the Republican nomination, and a brokered Democratic convention gives us Rocky de la Fuente, things might change.

January 6, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, News, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marijuana and the Rise of "Executive Federalism"

AOne of the legacies of the Obama Administration is likely to be the degree to which Congress gets increasingly excluded from national policy making. The marijuana legalization situation is an obvious example, where a statute overwhelmingly passed by Congress has been seriously undercut by Administration policy makers without any serious attempt to get the law amended.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2687205

In a forthcoming paper in the Virginia Law Review, Executive Federalism Comes to America, author Jessica Bulman-Pozen (Columbia Law) uses the Administration’s changes in federal marijuana policy as an example of a broader trend that involves a wide range of fields, including health care, environmental law, and education. According to Bulman-Pozen, presidents today find it more difficult to get Congress to enact legislation that they favor, and thus have an irresistible urge to bypass legislation in favor of executive action in cooperation with like-minded states. "[I]ntead of Congress shaping national policy and state-federal relations," she writes, "state and federal executives craft national policy, looking to state sources of authority." In the field of marijuana, for example:

Without an amendment of federal law, then, executive federalism has transformed national drug policy. States have taken the initiative, by adopting new state laws and establishing novel regulatory apparatuses, but negotiations between state and federal officials over the enforcement of state and federal law have ultimately determined the contours of today’s drug law. Such executive federalism has allowed for differences among the states even in the context of the federal Controlled Substances Act: as a matter of federal as well as state law, marijuana today is effectively legal for recreational purposes in four states, legal for medicinal purposes in nineteen additional states, and illegal in the remaining states.

The author finds some merit in this approach, which she notes reflects the current approach used in the European Union, in which policy is set by negotiation among states rather than by an elected assembly. This has, she notes, the advantages of less transparency and more room to horse trade rather than attempt to reach "grand" solutions in Congress.

I suspect that the appeal of this approach will differ depending on how much one likes the current president's agenda -- President Obama's precedents could be a blueprint for later inhabitants of the White House.  Trump or Cruz, anyone?

 

January 6, 2016 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Florida MMJ Licenses Raise "Serious Questions" of Improper Influence and Self-Dealing

 by John Montgomery

Last November, five Florida nurseries were selected to cultivate and distribute legal marijuana.  This allows the sale of the non-euphoric strains to treat patients with seizure disorders and cancer.  Sales of medical marijuana by these nurseries will begin around June of 2016.

Florida FlagThe five approved nurseries were selected based on their geographical location in the state: Costa Nursery Farms (Miami), Alpha Foliage (Homestead), Knox Nursery (Winter Garden), Hackney Nursery (Tallahassee), and Chestnut Hill Tree Farm (Alachua).

The favored nurseries were chosen from a pool of 28 applicants by a panel of three state reviewers, based on rules created by a panel that included five growers.  It turns out, however, that four of the growers who set the rules — Costa, Hackney, Chestnut Hill, and Knox — managed to get selected as winning applicants. 

And that's a problem.  Taylor Patrick Biehl, whose consulting firm represented three applicants, stated that the awards to the insider firms raise “serious questions about improper influence and self-dealing.” 

He's right.  States need to go about regulating the cultivation of marijuana in an open and transparent manner that shows people that the process is fair and not tainted by self-dealing.  The situation in Florida is akin to the crony capitalism that Ohio voters rejected with its No vote to legalize marijuana.  The people, while supporting legalization, voted against the back room dealing and the greedy special interests who wanted to set up an insider marijuana oligarchy.  Florida should have taken note from the outcome in Ohio.  Florida's approach in picking winners and losers is pandering to the big corporate nurseries, and disregarding smaller, independent growers.

A better option would be for Florida to open its own marijuana nurseries, and cultivate the plant itself until the free market takes over the task.  This way the state, for the time being, can have total control of the medical marijuana production.  After the state has had adequate time to figure out and perfect the process of growing marijuana, distributing the product, and formulating policies regulating the growing of medical marijuana, then the free markets should take over.  This government-controlled to free market-controlled transition would be less corrupt than having the state pick and choose its economic winners and losers in a smoke filled room.

John Montgomery is a 3L at the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth.

January 5, 2016 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boulder Launches Marijuana Education Initiative

Aaaby Stetson Cromer

Boulder, Colorado, is implementing a marijuana education plan for teenagers, according to a piece on Colorado Daily.com.

A survey last year by the city showed that a substantial majority of teenagers believed that binge drinking was harmful, but that regular use of marijuana was not. The city of plans to make $250,000 available this year to change the perceptions of young people on marijuana.

Those in charge suggest that the program will focus on comprehensive substance abuse education, not just marijuana. The fear is if that you focus on one and not the other then you are telling the kids that one is less harmful than the other. The program wants to instill that the abuse of any substance can be harmful.

Substance abuse, say supporters, rarely happens in isolation and the program will work on helping kids with their “refusal skills.” Those in charge say that the money fueling the program will go to groups that have already been working on substance abuse programs in Boulder. The basic game plan is to fund these groups for three to five years and use an evidenced based approach -- as as opposed to simple scare tactics -- to change public perceptions.  From the article:

    Even as the perception of risk is going down, the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that the number of teenagers who had ever tried marijuana declined from 39 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2013 and those who had used it in the last 30 days declined from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013. The decrease was not considered statistically significant. The 2015 Healthy Kids survey is being conducted now, with results to be released in 2016.

    The city may also give money to efforts to educate parents about preventing accidental ingestion of edibles by young children. Hospital admissions for accidental ingestion have increased threefold since recreational marijuana was legalized, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist who represents marijuana businesses in Boulder, said it's not surprising that the city would put money into education, as that was one of the allowed uses for a special marijuana tax approved by voters in 2013. However, without evidence that teen use is increasing, he would like to see some of that money go for more clerks and inspectors so that it is easier for businesses to renew their licenses and expand their businesses.

    In addition to regular sales tax, Boulder has an additional 3.5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana and a 5 percent excise tax, approved by voters in 2013. The ballot language says that tax revenue should go first for administration and law enforcement resources related to marijuana, then for "treatment, education, responsible use, intervention and monitoring with an emphasis on youth," then for the general fund.

    In 2014, those marijuana-specific taxes generated $1.05 million, and the city had collected $1.6 million as of September of this year, the most recent month for which final sales tax numbers are available.

Stetson Cromer is a 3L student at Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth.

 

January 5, 2016 in Drug Policy, Edibles, Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Investigative Shocker: Big Tobacco Looking at Marijuana Biz

Marlboro MarijuanaWell, it's not exactly man-bites-dog, I suppose.  But an "investigation" by the Daily Caller suggests that tobacco companies -- who already sell paper tubes of dried plant material that provide a drug to users -- are indeed looking to capitalize when cannabis goes legal nationally.  The piece does have some interesting background.  Some highlights:

    Big tobacco, despite its conservative image since the 1970s, has been closely eyeing the marijuana market which venture capitalists regard to be worth $50 billion in annual revenues.

    Tobacco companies are now on a buying spree of e-cigarette companies which produce vaporizers, a smoking device marijuana users prefer because it can offer a higher high.

    . . .

    "We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed," [said a 1970 Philip Morris memo]. . . . "The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs."

    . . .

    [Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine,] said big tobacco has a distinct advantage in marijuana production. "On marijuana, who knows better how to grow a plant that you dry up, wrap up in paper and smoke," he told TheDCNF. "They’re the masters of that worldwide and have wide brand recognition."

    Jonathan Caulkins, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz Center and co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Center, told TheDCNF he believes the tobacco industry is privately looking at the legalization movement.

    "If you’re specifically in the tobacco industry, of course you should be paying great attention," Caulkins said. "It would be unfair to your shareholders if you didn’t at least watch with interest and probably should have several analysts working full time trying to think of different scenarios of how this could play out."

    Dr. Stanton Glantz of the UCSF School of Medicine and the American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control told TheDCNF, "They certainly would deny it if you asked them, but the reality is that tobacco firms are very well positioned."

    "They know how to make the product very well and very efficiently," Glantz said. "More important, they know how to engineer the product to maximize the addictive potential, which is something that the current marijuana enterprises probably aren’t as good at."

    . . .

    "Since at least 1970, despite fervent denials, three multinational tobacco companies, Phillip Morris (PM), British American Tobacco (BAT, including its US subsidiary Brown & Williamson [B&W]), and RJ Reynolds (RJR), all have considered manufacturing cigarettes containing cannabis," the UCSF researchers concluded.

    Glantz asserted tobacco companies "have the financial resources, product design technology to optimize puff-by-puff delivery of a psychoactive drug (nicotine), marketing muscle, and political clout to transform the marijuana market."

    As noted previously, big tobacco is buying up American e-cigarette companies with fervor.

. . .

    "For e-cigarettes, there is a huge crossover in e-cigarette use between marijuana and tobacco," Glantz told TheDCNF.

I suspect that a lot of non-tobacco businesses are also interested.  Do we think that Frito-Lay and Kraft, for example, haven't at least thought about the potential of cannabis-infused edibles"? 

January 5, 2016 in Business, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, News, Recreational Marijuana, Stocks | Permalink | Comments (0)