Monday, September 11, 2017
The ginormous spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump extends the Congressional prohibition on use of Justice Department funds to prosecute state-licensed medical marijuana facilities that are in compliance with state laws. There was some doubt about that earlier this week when the House Rules Committee blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment from the House version of the spending bill, but it made its way into the final bill anyway.
President Trump, in his signing message, signaled that he wasn't necessarily on board with the amendment, however. The Washington Times reports:
MMr. Trump n his statement also questioned a provision in the law that bars the Justice Department from using funds “to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories.”
Mr. Trump said, “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
That appears to be in line with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comments that he opposes the “expanded use” of marijuana. A White House spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance, said Mr. Trump “continues to send mixed messages on marijuana.”
“After stating during the campaign that he was ‘100 percent’ in support of medical marijuana, he now issues a signing statement casting doubt on whether his administration will adhere to a congressional rider that stops DOJ from going after medical marijuana programs,” Mr. Collins said. “The uncertainty is deeply disconcerting for patients and providers, and we urge the administration to clarify their intentions immediately.”
Twenty-eight states have some form of medical marijuana, but the drug is illegal under federal law.
The spending bill’s provision on medical marijuana prevents the Justice Department from arresting or prosecuting patients, caregivers and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. The measure will only be binding through the end of September.
I'm not sure we should read too much into the statement. Given that the amendment now is the law, it is itself one of those that the President will have to faithfully execute. The real issue is whether Trump's DOJ reads the restriction as narrowly as Obama's DOJ did. He may decide that the way to get Congress off its collective backside to address the legalization question is to follow the previous Administration's approach. After all, as President Grant famously said, "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution."
Friday, September 8, 2017
Manhattan 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
Thursday, September 7, 2017
In 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the Texas Compassionate Use Act. This Act, among other things, allows individuals with intractable epilepsy to obtain cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a form of low-THC cannabis. The Act gives authority to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), to regulate and award dispensary licenses.
Now, nearly two years later, Texas has issued its first medical marijuana license to the company Cansortium Texas. Two more proposed growers had their applications accepted previously and it is expected that those two will also be awarded licenses in the next days or weeks. Though these new developments might seem like a step in the right direction, there have been many critics of the Act and the stringent regulations imposed by DPS. Bob Sechler of the Austin American-Statesman, explores what lies ahead for the industry in Texas:
The Texas licenses won’t equate to quick profits, however, and success in Texas over the long haul might depend as much on the Legislature as on business acumen. Cansortium and the two other companies expected to operate in Texas are facing strict state regulations that limit their customer bases solely to patients with intractable epilepsy and that constrain how they formulate their products — on top of investment costs running into the millions of dollars.
“It is safe to say that it is a challenging market,” said Morris Denton, chief executive of Compassionate Cultivation.
Denton said an initial goal for his company will be to prove that medical marijuana can be dispensed safely in Texas and that it is beneficial, with the aim of persuading state leaders to make it available to patients suffering from a wider variety of ailments in coming years.
Hidalgo said Cansortium considers the market among Texas patients suffering from intractable epilepsy potentially lucrative enough and didn’t opt to expand into the state because of the prospect that additional medical conditions eventually will be made eligible. Still, he said he considers it likely that future discussions among the state’s leaders regarding medical marijuana will revolve around “what conditions and for what reasons they are considering expanding” its availability.
“I think it remains to be seen what will happen (in Texas), but the evidence is out there,” Hidalgo said.
Proponents in Texas already are anticipating a major push during the next regular session of the Legislature in 2019 to try to increase patient access to medical cannabis. Some industry experts have said the Texas market for medical cannabis could rival California’s estimated $2.8 billion market, if restrictions are loosened and it becomes more widely available.
As things stand, each of the three companies selected for licenses is required to pay a $488,520 fee upon final approval, followed by a license renewal fee of $318,511 in two years if they want to stay in business. The fees are designed to cover the cost of regulating the new industry, state officials have said.
. . .
The Compassionate Use Act legalized the production and sale of cannabidiol, an oil derived from the cannabis plant that doesn’t produce a high, by the state-licensed dispensaries. But the law limits use of the oil, commonly called CBD, to certain patients suffering from intractable epilepsy — and only if they have a doctor’s prescription for it and already have tried two conventional drug treatments that proved to be ineffective.
Observers of the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in the U.S. say the new Texas law is significantly more restrictive than medical marijuana laws in the 29 other states that have enacted them.
“We have not yet seen any other state try to launch a medical cannabis program based solely on a single condition,” said John Kagia, executive vice president for industry analytics at New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm based in Washington. “Under the (Texas) law as it is currently structured, it is going to remain a fairly narrow, constrained market. It is going to be a relatively limited business environment.”
The Epilepsy Foundation Texas has pegged the number of Texans with intractable epilepsy at about 150,000.
But only a fraction are expected to meet the Compassionate Use Act’s eligibility requirements for CBD, want to try it and know a doctor willing to write a prescription for it.
New Frontier Data hasn’t yet estimated the monetary value of the Texas medical cannabis market under the new law, but Kagia said it’s just a sliver of what it could be.
-- Victoria Olivarez
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.At a Wednesday morning closed-door briefing of House Republicans, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) implored his GOP colleagues to press House leaders to allow a vote on his amendment.
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.
In 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
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Many projected the decriminalization of marijuana would create several job opportunities. However, the legalized marijuana industry has also created a more unexpected career path for some: marijuana wedding planners. A recent article in Time titled Marijuana Is the New Moneymaker for Wedding Planners explains how the trend is all the new rave at weddings of marijuana minded couples.
Specialists have launched entire businesses to meet this new wedding-weed demand. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legally sold since 2014, Bec Koop operates cannabis-friendly Irie Wedding & Events and is one of the founders of the Cannabis Wedding Expo, an event where brides and grooms can meet marijuana vendors. Koop offers a litany of wedding services: day-of coordination, overall planning, floral arrangements, cannabis open bars. She also offers consulting services for venues looking to bring in cannabis-inclusive events.
These individuals have not only been employed to complete the typical tasks associated with being wedding planners, but also have diversified their businesses to provide consulting services for those clients looking to allow the use of marijuana in their venues.
A Connecticut act that protects applicants and employees who are prescribed medical marijuana is not preempted by federal law according to a recent federal district court ruling. The opinion is Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Opeprating Co., LLC, No. 3:16-cv-01938 (JAM) )D. Conn. Aug. 8, 2017). In the opinion, Judge Jeffrey Meyer held that federal law does not preempt the Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA), which prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire employees who use medical marijuana. Over at the National Law Review, lawyer Sara J. Robertson of Polsinelli PC gives a good rundown of the case.
Plaintiff Katelin Noffsinger was prescribed a daily dose of Marinol (capsulated synthetic marijuana) to treat symptoms arising from post-traumatic stress disorder, which she took only at night. Bride Brook, a nursing home, extended an offer of employment to Noffsinger, contingent upon passage of a drug test. Noffsinger disclosed her Marinol prescription to Bride Brook, and, as anticipated, tested positive for marijuana metabolites. Thereafter, Bride Brook rescinded her job offer. Noffsinger filed a lawsuit against Bride Brook alleging a violation of PUMA’s anti-discrimination provision.
[The court . . . held that PUMA did not create an “actual conflict” with any of the three federal statutes. First, the [Controlled Substances Act] did not preempt PUMA because the CSA does not prohibit employers from hiring or employing individuals who use illegal drugs. Second, the ADA did not preempt PUMA because, while the ADA allows employers to prohibit the illegal use of drugs in the workplace, PUMA does not authorize individuals to use marijuana while at work, and the ADA does not address use of drugs outside of the workplace. Finally, the FDCA did not preempt PUMA because the FDCA does not regulate employment, but PUMA does.
The Noffsinger decision creates further complications for employers that conduct drug testing for marijuana, particularly in states that have enacted laws that protect medical marijuana patients from adverse employment actions based solely on their use of medical marijuana. While the Noffsinger decision is not binding on other courts, courts in other jurisdictions with similar medical marijuana statutes might follow its lead. Therefore, employers may wish to reevaluate policies that either automatically deny employment to, or require termination of, an employee following a positive drug test resulting from the employee’s use of prescribed medical marijuana.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
The big money continues to flow into medical and recreational weed. In new industries, small players can often get a head start and find success before the big players intervene. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Apple were started by a few guys working out of their garages. ,Many of the countries young cannabis businesses started the same way, but things are changing, according to a story on the STATnews medical news website, by editor Charles Piller, Big-name tech investors pour millions into marijuana — both medicinal and not. From the article:
The storied Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark Capital has launched a slew of tech companies: Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, Instagram. Now its search for the next big thing has led it to … pot.
Benchmark recently invested $8 million in Hound Labs, a startup here in Oakland that’s developing a device for drivers — and law enforcement — to test whether they’re too buzzed to take the wheel.
And that’s just the start. Wealthy investors are pouring tens of millions into the cannabis industry in a bid to capitalize on the gold rush that’s expected when California legalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. They’re backing development of new medicinal products, such as cannabis-infused skin patches; new methods for vaporizing and inhaling; and “budtender” apps like PotBot, which promises to scour 750 strains of cannabis and use lab research, including DNA analysis of each strain, to help customers find the perfect match.
Among the noted investors: tech and biotech mogul Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and made a fortune with the cancer drug startup Stemcentrx. Thiel contributed $300,000 to the California ballot campaign that paved the way for legalization. And in the first public endorsement of the industry from a major biotech investor, Thiel’s Founders Fund has sent millions to Privateer Holdings, a Seattle private equity firm that backs research into medical marijuana products, among other cannabis-related ventures.
With big companies already investing millions into marijuana startups, will there be any room for small "mom and pop" type businesses? It seems that big investors are already positioned to out-compete small businesses in this new field, reducing business opportunities for small investors.
-- Zac Artim
Senator 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.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Although the health-related NFL issue currently occupying major headlines are focused on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), increasing rates of former and current players becoming addicted to pain killers are quietly becoming the NFL's second largest health issue. In response to the pain killer addiction crisis, the NFL reached out to NFL Players Association and agreed to use a portion of the “joint contribution funds” to study medicinal marijuana effects on treating players dealing with chronic pain. The players' union has claimed that the NFL has not been transparent regarding which players they treat for chronic pain and how the treatment is conducted, but it apparently will push for more study of the issue and ultimately for use of medical marijuana for treating current and former players.
A good overview of the debate is Peter King’s Lesson of the Week: Medical Marijuana, Painkillers Could Be Next NFL vs. NFLPA Battleground. A sample:
The MMQB has obtained the correspondence between the two sides—comprised of four letters, two from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash to the PA, and two from union lawyer Ned Ehrlich back to Pash—and it’s largely what you’d expect. Last week, we said if you give these guys a walking-on-eggshells topic (like domestic violence) then these guys will just fight on the eggshells, and this is more proof of it.
And that is on the heels of comments made by union president/Bengals tackle Eric Winston on the potential damage another work stoppage could do. (Though I’ll agree with Pro Football Talk in that Winston’s “dies out in 20 years” quote was blown way out of proportion.)
But it’s still important, and there’s a lesson in here to be learned. That lesson is this: While the public has focused on the issue of traumatic brain injury and CTE, there’s another topic out there that’s just as important and potentially scary, and that’s how painkillers are affecting the NFL.
-- Jake Wiggins
In Nevada, gambling regulators are refusing to collaborate with the marijuana industry. Taking a harsh stand, the Nevada Gaming Commission disclaimed that there will be no place for marijuana in Nevada casinos as long as the federal government views its consumption and possession as a felony, according to a piece in the Insurance Journal:
Commissioners said the reputation of the gaming industry is at stake and there needs to be clear separation.
“On one hand you have the gaming industry and on the other hand you have the marijuana industry … The two shall not meet,”
Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said.
Commissioners did, however, spend more than an hour discussing what Alamo said would be the least controversial aspects of potentially bringing marijuana into casino resorts – third-party and business associations between licensees and individuals and companies involved in the marijuana industry.
That aspect was shot down, though. No votes were taken, but commissioners unanimously concluded that licensees should be discouraged from hosting shows or conferences that promote the use, sale, cultivation or distribution of marijuana.
Licensees also shouldn’t maintain business relationships with marijuana companies, including landlord-tenant arrangements.
Commissioners also said licensees should not receive financing from or provide financing to an individual, entity or establishment that sells, cultivates or distributes marijuana.
The 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
Monday, June 20, 2016
The 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.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Britain's largest newspaper has endorsed the recent Royal Society of Public Health proposal to decriminalize all illegal drugs. Here's a an editorial take on the proposal from The [London] Times:
Would it ever make sense to jail a chain smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.
Prosecutions in Britain for small-scale personal cannabis use are already rare. To this extent the new proposals would not do much more than bring the statute book up to date with the status quo in most parts of the country. But the change the RSPH has in mind would go much further. It would push Britain into a small group of countries that have switched from regarding the use of drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy as a health issue rather than one of criminal justice.
This is not a switch to be taken lightly, nor one the Home Office under present management is likely to take without sustained pressure from elsewhere in government. Yet the logic behind it and evidence from elsewhere are persuasive. Indeed, the government should be encouraged to think of decriminalisation not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalising and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco.
The RSPH’s model is a drug decriminalisation initiative in Portugal that is now 15 years old. Since 2001 possession of even hard drugs in Portugal has meant at most a small fine and, more likely, referral to a treatment programme. It does not earn the user a criminal record. More importantly, as of last year the country’s drug-related death rate was three per million citizens compared with ten per million in the Netherlands and 44.6 in Britain. Recreational drug use has not soared, as critics of decriminalisation had feared. HIV infection rates have fallen and the use of so-called legal highs is, according to a study last year, lower than in any other European country.
The Times suggests that the ultimate solution is to move to a legal supply chain for all of these drugs -- a step that the authors of the report didn't quite get to.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Love it or hate it, you've got to agree that nobody's better at chasing a buck than Microsoft. The tech giant announced today that it is partnering with KIND Financial -- already a leading player in the cannabis business -- to develop a full seed-to-sale system for tracking marijuana plants:
Three days after investing in LinkedIn Corp. LNKD, -0.14% in a record-setting $26 billion deal, the company announced its first venture into the world of marijuana, striking a partnership with KIND Financial to provide seed-to-sale software to state and local governments for the management of cannabis commerce and distribution.
The deal makes Microsoft one of the first major technology companies—and one of the first major publicly traded companies -- to acknowledge the rapid legalization of marijuana, with recreational use already legalized in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington D.C., and up for vote soon in five other major states, including California.
Major brands have been mute on the controversial topic, but more have started to show their support as acceptance has spread. Last month, Walgreens Boots Alliance posted a blog touting research showing the benefits of medical marijuana, which is now legal in 24 states.
The legal marijuana industry is expected to balloon in coming years. Sales of legalized marijuana are projected to hit $6.7 billion this year, compared with $5.4 billion a year ago, according to industry tracker ArcView Market Research.
KIND Financial is using Microsoft’s cloud platform to build out its services for government agencies. According to Marijuana.com., a team at Microsoft will help clients navigate regulations and laws, while tracking legal cannabis commerce and helping to stop product from reaching the black market.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company “supports government missions to regulate and monitor controlled substances and items, from the Justice Department regulating tobacco and firearms to a state regulating legal cannabis.”
Two 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.
IF YOU LOOK AT one of those national marijuana legalization maps, New York shows up the same color as California. But while the latter actually has a medical marijuana program, the former still manages to make sure that as few people as possible get access. From Doug Berman at MLP&R: New Drug Policy Alliance report highlights problems with access and data in New York medical marijuana program.
It's hard to say whether this is part of some plan to derail the MMJ program or simply an example of New York's generally nightmarish business regulatory. Of course, it could be both.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Ohio 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.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
We 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.
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.
Friday, January 15, 2016
This kind of stuff is really, really sad. From the Denver Post:
Raymond Schwab, an honorably discharged veteran, moved to Colorado last year to get treated for post-traumatic stress and chronic pain with medical marijuana.
He didn't expect Kansas would take his children in return.
. . .
He and his wife, Amelia, say Kansas took the five youngest of their six children into custody last April, and they've only seen them three times since.
. . .
"I don't think what we're doing is illegal, immoral or wrong," Amelia said.
From the article, it appears that Kansas didn't take the children because of the marijuana use -- they were taken into custody after a grandmother reported them as abandoned. There were also allegations of abuse of the children, which were investigated for several months before being dropped. After the children were taken into custody, Mr. Schwab moved to Colorado and began using medical marijuana there. He now wants custody of the minor children again.
The problem now is that Mr. Schwab is admittedly engaging in conduct that both Kansas and the United States consider both dangerous and criminal, and so the question for Kansas officials is whether to release the kids under those circumstances. The state has said they'll release them when Mr. Schwab demonstrates that he is drug-free for four months, but Mr. Schwab is afraid his condition will worsen without cannabis.
The right result in this case appears to be for Kansas to allow the family to be reunited and to let the Colorado child protection authorities take over the matter. But one can sympathize with the Kanas authorities as well -- if they really believe that cannabis poses a danger to young children, they would consider themselves irresponsible to release them into that situation. In other words, they may be wrong, but they're probably not evil.
We'll see more of these situations so long as the Administration and Congress make no attempt to fix the problem.