Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

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)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Britain's Times Favors Full Drug Decriminalization

ABritain'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.

June 18, 2016 in Decriminalization, International Regulation, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Microsoft To Launch Marijuana Business Program

ALove 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.”

 

June 17, 2016 in Business, News, Stocks | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

New York MMJ Still Going Nowhere

New YorkIF 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.

 

June 17, 2016 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | 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)

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)

Friday, January 15, 2016

"PTSD-afflicted veteran deprived of his 5 children over medical marijuana use"

AaThis 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.

 

January 15, 2016 in Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Who's the Bigger Cartel Operator, El Chapo or John Hickenlooper?

AaJacob Sullum:  Legalization Lawsuit Shows Conservative Constitutionalists Have Marijuana-Related Memory Loss.   As usual with Mr. Sullum, the whole thing is worth reading.  Some highlights:

    Last week, two days before Mexican authorities recaptured Joaquín Guzmán Loera, a.k.a. El Chapo, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt pointed to another drug lord, this one hiding in plain sight: John Hickenlooper, a.k.a. the governor of Colorado. “The State of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects, and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing, and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 States in 2014,” Pruitt writes in a Supreme Court brief joined by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

    Hickenlooper actually was a drug dealer of sorts before he got into politics, having cofounded Wynkoop Brewing Company, a Denver brewpub, in 1988. But he ended up running the drug trafficking organization described in Pruitt’s brief by accident. He was elected governor two years before Colorado voters decided, against his advice, to legalize marijuana. Pruitt and Peterson are trying to overturn that result, claiming that it hurt Oklahoma and Nebraska by encouraging an influx of Colorado cannabis. Their argument shows how readily some conservative Republicans let their anti-pot prejudices override their federalist principles.

This, of course, is true.  But it goes both ways.  What's also interesting, though, is how many folks who believe the federal government has nearly total power over the states -- e.g., Governor Jerry Brown -- let their pro-pot opinions suddenly turn them into John C. Calhoun states-righters with respect to marijuana.  When it comes to guns, for example, President Obama is all for federal control, but when it comes to pot . . . well, not so much.  Mr. Sullum continues:

The Commerce Clause has been the most important excuse for expanding the federal government since the New Deal, and Raich stretched it further than ever before. It is precisely the sort of decision that an avowed federalist like Pruitt, who has resisted Obamacare as an unconstitutional extension of federal power, should condemn. Instead he is relying on it to force his policy preferences on a neighboring state.

To be fair to General Pruitt, however, that's what lawyers do.  Obamacare is constitutional; it's the law.  He's stuck with it.  He's simply arguing that if liberals are going to force conservatives to have federal health care, conservatives are going to force liberals to follow the Controlled Substances Act. 

Perhaps he even thinks that we'll get a limited Commerce Clause only if liberals find that some of the stuff they like gets taken away.  It was U.S. Grant who said, "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution."

January 14, 2016 in Federal Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Vermont Governor Announces Support of Legislative Legalization

ADemocratic Governor Peter Shumlin has now decided to back legalization in the Green Mountain State.  In his State of the State message, Shumlin said he'll back legalization for the state, which decriminalized weed in 2013 but does not have a licensed market.  His "key requirements" for a bill from the legislature include:

have protections in place to keep adolescents from buying;

feature taxes modest enough to keep prices low, and hence put black-market sellers out of business;

provide tax revenue to expand addiction prevention programs;

strengthen existing DUI laws;

and finally, ban the sale of edible marijuana products that have proven vexing in Colorado and elsewhere, at least until the state can figure out how to regulate them properly.

Not a bad list, although the "modest" taxation thing runs counter to the "provide tax revenue" goal; any tax significant enough to raise a chunk of money is probably significant enough to keep the black market going.   There will probably be a lot of jockeying for special favors in whatever bill comes out of the legislature, but it will be interesting to see what emerges.

January 8, 2016 in News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New York Has First MMJ Dispensary; Patients Still to Come

AThe first medical marijuana dispensary in New York opened, as promised, with a ribbon-cutting this morning.  The Gothamist web site has the story, and a very nice photo essay on what the place looks like.  Check it out.

    New York City's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Manhattan today at 212 East 14th Street, though it's unclear when it will actually start serving patients, as none had an appointment today. Thus far there are 150 doctors registered to provide patient certification in the state's medical marijuana program, and 51 patients have been certified, according to the Department of Health. There's no word yet on how many of those doctors or patients are in the New York City area.

    A registry ID card is required to get past the entryway of Columbia Care, located just off Union Square, and spokespersons at the opening this morning could not speak to whether any patients have successfully made appointments.

    The dispensary is cash-only and does not take insurance, as no plan currently covers medical marijuana. According to Columbia Care reps, patients will pay between $100-$300 in cash each time they pick up a new monthly prescription of tinctures, oil for vaporizing, or capsules. Smokable and edible forms of marijuana are prohibited under New York's law.

    Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who attended the dispensary's ribbon cutting, said she hopes the state's dispensaries will eventually take insurance:

    “I’ve known many people who have been ill with HIV/AIDS, and over the years, they have — illegally at the time — have used marijuana that they purchased illegally. It solved their pain problems. I saw it with my own eyes, with very, very close friends.  We all look forward to having more dispensaries in the state, and insurance, because people have to pay now. But this is a very good beginning."

    There are security cameras in nearly every corner of the dispensary, as well as outside. The exterior security cameras are equipped with image-recognition and loudspeaker capabilities, meaning they can identify when someone standing outside the storefront is not an employee and ask them to stop loitering.

    But conducting any sort of heist would be quite a feat: Columbia Care is comprised of a series of rooms, each of which requires the presentation of a registry ID card to enter, and the THC products are locked up in staff-only restricted areas (and were not on view during the opening today).

    The dispensary is by appointment only, but will likely not be able to announce when it serves its first patient, due to privacy concerns. Columbia Care is currently the only medical marijuana dispensary in the city, but more are expected to open in Queens and the Bronx.

January 7, 2016 in Business, Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shocker: Denver Weed Businesses Increasingly Foisted Onto Poor Areas

1
Marijuana businesses, with their associated smells, traffic, and crime, are not being located in affluent white residential areas. 
That's according to a piece this week in the Denver Post.  Rather, they're being zoned into commercial and industrial areas which is where poor people and minorities disproportionately reside.  The Post has an interactive map, a snapshot of which is above.

    The Denver Post used a city database of more than 600 marijuana business licenses to examine where industry growth has occurred and which neighborhoods faced the biggest transformations.

    Facilities that grow recreational pot have concentrated along the I-70 corridor to the north and the Santa Fe Drive and I-25 corridors to the south, in neighborhoods where residential and light industrial areas mix.

    Other marijuana-related businesses — medical dispensaries, retail outlets and marijuana-infused-product factories — have pocketed along thoroughfares such as Colfax Avenue, Federal Boulevard and Broadway, the analysis shows, and the neighborhoods that surround them.

    "Many low-income neighborhoods are next to industrial sites. That’s just the lay of the land," said Charlie Brown, a former Denver city councilman who led committees that studied and recommended rules on where the businesses could go. "To change the rules today is tricky."

    Neighborhood residents and business leaders say they’ve been concerned since the beginning that Colorado’s new marijuana industry would settle into their backyards and that communities of color and lower incomes would see a disproportionate share of those businesses.

    "You would think we’ve borne our fair share already," said Candi CdeBaca, a member of the Cross Community Coalition in Globeville and longtime resident there. Her home — in the family since her great-grandfather — faces a large marijuana grow operation.

So zoning drives unpleasant uses into poor neighborhoods and away from rich ones?  Who could have seen that coming?

January 7, 2016 in Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Judge Nixes Cannabis Credit Union Appeal

AA proposed cannabis credit union in Colorado lost another round this week.  U.S. District Judge Brooke Jackson threw out a lawsuit by Fourth Corner Credit Union challenging the Federal Reserve's refusal to issue a "routing number" to the FCCU.  Without a routing number, FCCU cannot access the federal check-clearing process and can't function as a credit union.  The Denver Post has details of the decision.

While I haven't seen the opinion, the ruling was hardly unexpected.  As Judge Jackson apparently noted, selling marijuana is a federal crime, handling marijuana deposits and using the banking system for marijuana profits is a separate crime ("money laundering"), and thus the Federal Reserve had no obligation to help further the NCCU's.

The decision leaves cannabis businesses in the banking limbo they've been in since quasi-legal marijuana sales began a decade ago.   But until the Obama Justice Department moves to reschedule marijuana, or Congress changes the law, it's hardly likely that the Federal Reserve (or the National Credit Union Administration, which FCCU is also suing) will change the rules to allow illegal businesses to use the banking system.

 

 

 

January 7, 2016 in Banking, Federal Regulation, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Details of Proposed Georgia MMJ Bill Announced

A A Georgia legislator has announced details of a new bill he plans to introduce Monday, when the new legislative session starts.  State Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) made the announcement on an Atlanta television station.

    On Monday, Peake will begin to introduce new legislation that builds on House Bill 1 which passed in 2015. "We're treating it like medicine which is the way it ought to be treated," said Peake. The representative is pushing for more patients to have access to medical cannabis, and to allow for highly regulated medical marijuana to be grown in the state.

    Currently only eight diseases and illnesses are on the list of approved conditions to qualify for medical cannabis in Georgia.

    In the new legislation, Peake aims to add Alzheimer's, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Aids, Tourette's syndrome, and intractable pain. Intractable pain will be the most controversial because it will allow the greatest number of patients to have access to cannabis.

    Currently, there are 465 patients on the medical marijuana registry in Georgia.

    As part of the legislation, Peake is also pushing for a limited number of licensed growers to provide the state's patients with medical cannabis. Peake foresees anywhere from two to six licenses being issued depending on a number of qualifying factors.

    According to the bill, marijuana would be grown and dispensed to patients in the same location to attempt to keep the product from ending up in the wrong hands."We'll have a seed to sale tracking system too on any plant from the moment it's put in the ground to the moment when it's dispensed, law enforcement will be able to track that product," said Peake.

    Dosage and actual administration will be controlled by an on-site pharmacist.

    Currently, patients in Georgia on the approved medical marijuana registry have to buy their cannabis oil in other states where in state cultivation is legal.

    The medical cannabis currently allowed in Georgia can only be of the low THC variety. Peake would like to strip away the THC limits and allow doctors and pharmacists to prescribe medicine based on need.The bill would also allow patients to administer the product through vaporization."This is the logical next step for our citizens. We brought our medical refugees home let's keep them here and let's keep providing an option for hurting citizens as well too," added Peake.

 

 

January 7, 2016 in Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, 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)

Colorado Cops Still Running Marijuana Sting Operations

ADespite the legal market, Colorado law enforcement is still keeping busy arresting marijuana offenders.  CBS-TV Channel 4 in Denver reports that police are using social media advertisements for illegal weed in sting operations targeting buyers:

    The Internet social media websites have become a high-tech marketplace for drugs. On Instagram one post reads, “Place your order today, gets shipped out before 8 a.m.”

    It was Facebook where Denver police say 26-year-old Sean Edelson responded to a picture placed by them in a well-planned sting. It was a photo of a marijuana grow with the words, “Getting close to peak!! Taking orders now!!”

    The reply, police claim, from Edelson was, ‘I’m the type of person that will take everything, every time.”

    A meeting was then arranged at a Denver restaurant. Court documents allege $64,000 in cash was shown by Edelson to an officer as payment for 36 pounds of pot. Edelson was promptly arrested.

    . . .

    He now faces charges in a case which highlights how law enforcement is using social media to crack down on e-commerce in drugs.

    Gordon Coombes is a former Larimer County Sheriff’s Office drug investigator who would go undercover on the Internet to bust drug dealers.

    “If they wanted to know who I was they could search social media that would confirm my character,” Coombes told CBS4.

    On Craigslist CBS4 has shown there are plenty of ads for marijuana sales on the black market. But what those responding to the ads now don’t know is if they have been placed by police.

The defendants will likely argue entrapment, but that's going to be a hard sell given current law. 

The story is a good reminder that legalizing marijuana does not mean that law enforcement won't be arresting people for marijuana.  It just means the arrests will be for cheating the state of out marijuana taxes instead of for merely possessing it.

 

January 6, 2016 in Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Medical Marijuana Hits Big Apple Thursday

It only took 18 months, but New York's first medical marijuana dispensary is slated to open Thursday.   That's according to an email sent out yesterday by a New York Health Department spokesman.

Columbia Care,  a big nationwide MMJ provider apparently plans to open its Union Square facility at 14th Street and Third Avenue in NYC.  From the company's web site:

Columbia Care Logo    “No joints, no cookies, no brownies — nothing of that sort,” said Ari Hoffnung of Vireo Health of New York.

    The marijuana will be distributed in the form of capsules, liquid cannabis, and vaporizers — using oil to replace rolled joints. That is the law, according to Hoffnung, whose company is preparing to open a business in Queens and in White Plains.

    “People are not going to be served by bud-tenders like in Denver, Colorado, but by licensed pharmacists,” Hoffnung said.

    The first business in the city to open would be here on 14th Street and Third Avenue just east of Union Square — possibly as early as Thursday. Its chief executive officer touted the benefits of the product.

    “Medical marijuana has been shown to be more effective treating a myriad of illnesses in comparison to standard pharmaceuticals,” said Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care.

    The development has caught the attention of people in the area.

    “Oh, we don’t need that,” one passerby said.

    “There’ll probably be lines around the block, don’t you think?” another said.

    Of the four medical marijuana businesses planned for New York City, two will be in Manhattan, one in Queens, and one in the Bronx.

    Under the New York State law, medical marijuana is to be used to treat 10 serious diseases – including, but not limited to, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and some spinal cord injuries.

    Interestingly, the business in Queens — owned and operated by Hoffnung’s Vireo Health, will be providing cannabis products that are kosher. They will be certified by the Orthodox Union and their rabbinic inspectors, Hoffnung said.

    “No gelatin. We only use natural oils like coconut oils,” Hoffnung said. “We are fully natural and kosher, and proud of it.”

January 5, 2016 in Medical Marijuana, News, 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)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Maryland City Takes Equity Stake in Cannabis Dispensary

Kayla Brown 2by Kayla Brown

An Arizona company in November won approval from a town in Maryland to open a cultivation in exchange for offering the city a 5% equity stake in the company.  Residents of Hancock, Maryland (pop. 1,545) were split between excitement over the increased funding and feeling bribed into gaining an advantage for one of the limited number of Maryland licenses.  Lawyers reviewed and addressed the legality of this type of agreement and city officials signed the agreement with Harvest, Inc., in early October.

The State of Maryland is offering 15 growing licenses to the entire state and over 400 applications have been received. The CEO and president Harvest, Steve White said the agreement with the town is not a bribe because it is the state and not the city that determines who gets the 15 growing licensees for all of Maryland. While the agreement with the town does not necessarily seal the deal, they will more than likely be granted a license based heavily on the agreement.

Because marijuana is still federally illegal, states like Colorado and Washington have had to be very careful with cities that do not want legalization in order to sidestep the preemption issue. To have a city that is not only willing, but also invested in a certain company obtaining a license illustrates to officials that there is one less city for them to worry about. It also starts a trend that gets cities on board one way or the other. Currently, Colorado applicants are restricted to a mere 33% of the state allowing operations in their city. In Washington there are zoning disputes left and right because the state law does not expressly prohibit cities from opting out of the state law, and thus cities are finding every way they can to keep these licensees out. If cities were able to bargain reasonably and not extort licensees I could imagine those currently suffering through zoning disputes would gladly offer up 5% equity in exchange for operating under the support of the City.

But how conscionable it is for cities to receive tax benefits from the State from sales generated by retail sales as well as a 5% equity on a cultivation company, just for the ability of the company to operate as normally as any other business would?  The facility White anticipates for his cultivation is gated and all operations take place inside of a large manufacturing plant. There is no eyesore, noise, or other operating conditions which would even merit an additional permit from the city, and yet the company still felt the need to ensure a harmonious relationship by way of a 5% equity. That is unsettling for owners of cannabis businesses, most of whom are mom and pop start-ups with limited start-up capital. The tax revenue generated by retail sales alone should be enough to encourage cities to be supportive, and welcoming to these new highly profitable businesses.

Kayla Brown is a 3L student at Texas A&M Law School and is the Executive Director of the Texas Cannabis Industry Association.

January 4, 2016 in Business, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (0)