Saturday, September 16, 2017
One of the main concerns of opponents to the legalization of marijuana has been the possibility that such legalization would increase adolescent use of the drug. Opponents believed an individual’s future may be negatively affected if marijuana use began at a young age. However, opponents may now have a new concern: adult use of marijuana is increasing “precipitously.” Although the increase in the number of adult users may not be concerning, it is the increase in the number of adults that are “getting high all the time” that is alarming. Based on the latest federal survey data, Christopher Ingraham highlights this new concern by a comparison of marijuana users to alcohol users:
Marijuana users are nearly three times as likely as drinkers to consume their drug of choice daily.
Some of that daily marijuana use is probably inherently moderate and nothing to be concerned about. But public health researchers worry that much of it is a result of problematic use — drug dependency.
"While alcohol is more dangerous in terms of acute overdose risk, and also in terms of promoting violence and chronic organ failure, marijuana — at least as now used in the United States — creates higher rates of behavioral problems, including dependence, among all its users," as Carnegie Mellon University researcher Jonathan Caulkins wrote for the magazine National Affairs earlier this year.
This begs the question if this new concern may be a potential roadblock to legalization of the drug down the road. Considering the latest federal survey data, States may become more hesitant in participating in the marijuana market, thereby delaying or outright prohibiting legalization of recreational marijuana.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program has hit a few bumps on the road so far, and is currently battling lawsuits claiming that regulators improperly granted licenses to the winning applicants. But Philadelphia lawyer Steven Schain of Hobart Law Group is offering praise and support for regulators who, he says, "got it right." He offers his take on things in a new piece on the Cannabis Business Executive site, Lessons Learned From the First Phase of Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Program. A sample:
Ignoring the program’s primary objective of swiftly providing sick people with medicine, the first phase license denials and awards triggered a tidal wave of malevolence to wash across Pennsylvania.
Seduced by their own PowerPoint deck’s glitter, both high and mighty and hardscrabble applicants received a rude awakening in the form of both denied applications and modest scoring. Stunned by their lack of sway and convinced that shenanigans prevented fair consideration, lawsuits ranging from “striking Pennsylvania marijuana law as unconstitutional” to “disqualifying successful applicants for alleged wrongdoing in other jurisdictions” are being loudly threatened across all 67 counties.
Although the program allows each applicant to receive a de-briefing on how respective applications were scored, and for unsuccessful applicants to appeal their scoring, here is what the first phase results revealed:
▪ Life ain’t fair. Mirroring Arizona’s 2016 dispensary permit results (in which 750 applicants sought 31 licenses), each program application had less than 1 in 11 chance of winning. Further, because the program omits any residency requirement, Pennsylvanians, whom had never grown, processed or sold marijuana, had even less of a chance.
▪ Big marijuana carried the day. Approximately 70 percent of the winning applicants were affiliated with growers, processors and dispensaries already operating in multiple legalized marijuana jurisdictions. Beyond being able to demonstrate a history of being a transparent, compliant and profitable marijuana-related business, winning applications were crafted by experts at submitting winning applications, which is distinct from growing, processing and selling marijuana.
▪ Consultant means failed grower. Like a rube swindled by a suddenly exiting town carny, seemingly sophisticated Pennsylvanians got suckered by consultants with shiny trade show booths leveraging claims of “Colorado or California growing experience” and selling fanciful and proprietary lighting, fertilizing and yield optimization techniques. Also, enjoying handsome windfalls at 400 unsuccessful applicants’ expense were lobbyistS and juiced-in lawyers offering connectivity to politicos with jazzy titles and zero decision-making process impact.
▪ Follow the rules closely. Does your diversity definition encompass armed forces veterans or involve third-party certification? Regardless, because Pennsylvania’s marijuana law defines a diverse group as a certified disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small business, the program’s unique criteria disqualified many seemingly qualified applicants.
▪ Pennsylvania’s Program Is Built to Last. Perceived inequities aside, the DOH and the program got it right. Beyond meeting every self-set deadline and blitzing through 500 applications in 90 days, licenses were generally awarded to the best-funded applicants with proven track records of success. In an exceedingly volatile industry hinging upon timing, adequacy of funding, and fullness of regulatory compliance, in the first phase the DOH has positioned the program for its greatest likelihood of swift success.
Read the whole thing.
Rep. 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 Media, GOP 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.”
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."
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Do you know enough about medical marijuana to consider yourself well-informed? Sufficiently informed? According to Amanda Chicago Lewis, even the people who are cool with pot often don't know very much about how they might go about integrating cannabis into their own wellness routines. Some topics covered in her Rolling Stone article:
- Start simple: acknowledge that cannabis has medical properties
- Be familiar with the downsides
- Remember that doctors receive no education about medical marijuana
- Not every medical cannabis option involves getting high
- When you look up info about pot online, consider the source
- Nothing is legal in all 50 states
- Temper your expectations, and the expectations of those around you
"So I wanted to offer up some of the collected wisdom I've managed to gain during years of conversations with scientists, doctors, patients and caregivers. Just as I hoped a few weeks back that my fellow stoners might help spread the gospel about how to be a good weed citizen with their canna-curious friends, this guide aims to provide you with the tools to help introduce someone to the world of medical marijuana."
-- Daniel Carter
Saturday, September 9, 2017
If recent statistics are any indication, looser restrictions on recreational marijuana might not increase usage by adolescents. According to a Washington Post piece by Christopher Ingraham:
Last year, 6.5 percent of adolescents used marijuana on a monthly basis, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The last time monthly teen marijuana use was this low was 1994, according to federal survey data.
With the advent of many states allowing medical marijuana and decriminalizing recreational use, many will find these numbers to be surprising. But Ingraham notes that there was:
. . . a statistically significant drop from 2014, when the nation's first recreational marijuana shops opened in Washington state and Colorado...Adult marijuana use, on the other hand, is rising. Last year 20.8 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 used marijuana at least monthly, the highest number since 1985. Among adults ages 26 to 34, 14.5 percent used marijuana monthly in 2016, also the most since 1985.
This is obviously good news for legalization proponents and more studies will be needed. But given the public concern in protecting minors and avoiding the stagnation of adolescent brain development, the results may show that legalization itself may not lead to greater consumption.
Many industries have seen rapid changes in response to evolving marijuana laws. Next in line seems to be the technology sector. According to an article on the STAT medical site, venture firms and wealthy private investors in Silicon Valley are pumping money into the development of marijuana products--and not just for medicine.
VC firm Benchmark Capital 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.
Investors, in anticipation of a large increase in marijuana consumption due to the legalization of recreational marijuana on January 1st, have been rolling the dice and investing in products that incorporate the federally prohibited drug. But, as with all things, on the other end of the potentially lucrative rewards are great risks: civil and criminal liability under the Controlled Substances Act.
However, this risk is precisely what has given some of these investors the ability to step in. Because many public companies are prohibited from investing in marijuana, either contractually or by other federal law, private investors, though numerous, largely have first pick of which startups to invest in. Only time will tell if the decision to invest in the drug was a wise one.
-- Taylor Wood
Cannabis production in Canada seems to be looking up, as at the country's top licensed marijuana producer, Canopy Growth Corp., is set to double its production. Reuters reports that growers are rushing to ensure product to all Canadians who will be legally capable of purchasing recreational marijuana by July of next year. Canopy's substantial increase, which will involve a C$21 million investment to upgrade its facility, is in response to an unexpected shortage in supply. From the report:
“This is a very big leap, in terms of our output, our capacity, our footprint,” Bruce Linton, Canopy Growth’s CEO, said in an interview.
Canopy Growth is currently licensed to produce 31,000 kilograms of marijuana and related products, and aims to triple that by July next year, the deadline the federal government has given provinces to make pot legal for all.
The deal gives Canopy 450,000 square feet of greenhouses that can be immediately added to its existing 350,000 square foot facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. It is also building an additional 200,000 square feet of greenhouse capacity on its existing property.
Linton said that a 250,000 square foot greenhouse should be able to produce around 10,000 kilograms of marijuana annually, which at an average sale price of C$8 a gram could bring in C$80 million.
The company says it is expanding beyond Niagara to other parts of Canada and expects 3 million Canadians to use legal recreational marijuana next year. It also has partnerships with medical marijuana companies in Brazil and has been exporting marijuana to Germany for sale in German pharmacies for over a year.
Canopy may be expanding in Canada, but the company says it intends to stay far away from United States market due to uncertainty in a country where all aspects of marijuana are federally illegal.
-- Erin Milliken
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
The Illinois Legislature held hearings this week on a bill that would generally legalized marijuana in the state. The bill was introduced by two Chicago Democrats, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Legislators heard testimony from those for and against legalization.
Advocates for legalization said that doing so would allow marijuana use to be safely regulated. But those against legalization said that it would mean even broader use, particularly by teenagers, and lead to more addiction and less-safe roads. The Associated Press reports:
The plan would require cannabis to be tested and labeled for safety and sold by "legitimate, taxpaying business people" in dispensaries similar to where medical marijuana — legal in Illinois since 2014 — is sold. Like alcohol, sales to anyone younger than 21 would be prohibited.
"Right now, anyone can go to a street corner and buy it," Cassidy said. "Drug dealers don't 'card,' but you can't even get into a dispensary if you're under 21."
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin cited statistics that show marijuana can lead to use of stronger narcotics and noted the nation is battling an opioid-abuse epidemic.
Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, said when he was a prosecutor, he saw many cases where marijuana use did not lead to abuse of stronger stimulants. "But I never saw one on harder drugs who didn't start on marijuana," Righter added.
Neill Franklin, a retired Maryland State Police major who is executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, said Prohibition should have taught the U.S. a lesson about banning such a product.
"You cannot regulate any activity that is prohibited," Franklin said. "All you do is drive it underground."
The medical marijuana business in Arkansas, like that in a lot of places, s shrouded in legal uncertainty. And the banking industry, being traditionally risk-averse, apparently isn't prepared to test the waters just yet. From Arkansasonline.com:
The medical marijuana business in Arkansas will not be cash only, as feared by opponents during last year's campaign for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.
But banking services for the business will be expensive, secretive and legally dubious, according to representatives of the financial industry.
Right now, medical marijuana banking is tentatively allowed under guidance from federal regulators. According to federal figures, 368 banks and credit unions were serving the industry nationally in March, an increase of 63 from a year prior.
"The fact is that the legalization in Arkansas is not a defense for nor a cover for the legality by the federal laws, and all banks -- whether they're state chartered, nationally chartered or anything else -- are under the federal laws and regulations," said Bill Holmes, president of the Arkansas Bankers Association.
So without banking, the medical marijuana industry in Arkansas may wind up relegated to operating on a cash basis, which poses numerous financial difficulties. In addition, there is a potential crime and safety issue. Holmes went to to say:
"I'm not on a side for or against medical marijuana, but I understand why folks are concerned when you look at the problems that have arisen in some of the other states. It is a cash business at this point. With what we've had in Little Rock, let's be honest, do you want to inflame that and have cars driving around with bags full of $100 bills? I don't think so."
Little Rock, capital of Arkansas, has one of the highest crime rates in America. Cash-heavy businesses are potential targets for crime, which endangers not only the businesses, but the people involved in them as well—cashiers, delivery drivers, security personnel, not to mention the customers themselves (who better a criminal target than someone headed into a business who must be carrying cash or leaving with marijuana?).
This isn’t to say that droves of violent criminals are suddenly going to be targeting medical marijuana businesses and customers, but it does seem, at least theoretically, that a heightened crime risk exists. And therein lies a paradoxical effect embedded in the current federal drug policy: a criminal law, which among its aims should reduce crime, could actually end up generating more crime.
-- Christopher Daves
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Despite 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
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
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
The lurking dangers of money laundering charges have led most U.S. banks to avoid taking deposits from medical marijuana businesses, but one rather unusual Florida bank has decided to go for it. First Green Bank, headquartered in Orlando, is now working with six of the seven Florida MMJ licensees, and has a crew of six employees dedicated solely to marijuana compliance.
Lex Ford, a senior vice president at First Green Bank, said he couldn't think of a competitor in Florida who was willing to try.
"It was interesting at first, when we're telling these high net worth CEOs how little we could let them dictate the process. We expected frustration," Ford said about working with marijuana companies. "But everyone in it understands this is how it has to go."
First Green Bank is a fairly small operation with just six branches, mostly in Central Florida and one in South Florida. It manages about $622 million in assets. The bank doesn't have a branch in Tampa Bay yet. Ken E. LaRoe, a seasoned banker, founded First Green Bank with a specific purpose in mind. The bank firm actively promotes environmental and social responsibility and is known for offering discounts and low-interest loans on "green" initiatives, like electric cars, LEED-certified construction and solar systems. Now it's added cannabis to that list.
"Ken's wife used marijuana as treatment for seizures and it changed her life," said Ford, who describes himself as LaRoe's "wingman." "That's what started us down this path in 2010, about a year after the bank was founded. By 2012 to 2013, we were coming up with a plan and got approvals by 2014."
It's a risky move for the bank, but one that may carry a substantial reward. The next move is up to federal regulators, who last year shut down a Colorado credit union that sought to serve the cannabis industry.
Medical 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.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
New Jersey, Vermont, and Rhode Island--at least according to predictions from John Schroyer at Marijuana Business Daily. He offers a good rundown of what's up for state legislatures in 2018.
“You will hear about some wins through the legislative process, and there will be wins at the ballot. So I do expect the strong movement forward to continue” in 2018, said Bryan Meltzer, a New York-based attorney who tracks potential new business opportunities and markets for roughly two dozen cannabis industry clients.
Also upbeat about the chances for further legalization victories through legislatures next year are Marijuana Policy Project’s executive director, Rob Kampia, and the Drug Policy Alliance’s senior director of national affairs, Bill Piper.
“I feel pretty bullish overall,” Piper said. “(Legalization efforts are) being driven by strong demand from the public, and all the work that activists – including business owners – are doing at the local level is having an impact.”
Kampia, however, was lukewarm and chose to hedge his bets on potential legislative moves.
“If you ask me about my level of optimism in August of any year, my level of optimism is about the same,” he said. “You maybe pick off one or two, and sometimes you get lucky.”
The piece goes into a good deal of detail and is well worth a read.
Although marijuana is a relatively new area of business and law, the same issues of gender that critics have raised with respect to corporate America generally may be making their way into it. have found their way into this seemingly progressive area. There’s been a decline in the amount of women in leadership positions in cannabis industries. Brett Arends refers to this phenomenon as the “Grass Ceiling”:
The percentage of executives in U.S. marijuana-related companies who are women has collapsed to 27% from 36% in just one year, according to the latest anonymous survey by Marijuana Business Daily.
Not long ago the marijuana business was way ahead of U.S. business overall in the leadership positions held by women. But as the industry has become more mature and more mainstream, instead of building on that leadership, it’s going in reverse. Men are now edging out the women.
. . .
Cannabis companies are increasingly hiring executives from the rest of corporate America, and that favors men, notes Marijuana Business Daily’s Eli McVey.
More disturbing still may be an anti-female bias in financing. Women make up just 10% of the executives in the investment sector of the marijuana complex, the survey found. And men may, either consciously or unconsciously, favor companies run by men.
As the growing trend for state legalization of marijuana continues, Native American Tribes want to begin growing and selling marijuana of their own. Because the marijuana market is earning billions, Native Americans hope selling marijuana will end the poverty currently plaguing their reservations. From the VOA News, Cecily Hillary reports:
“Let’s just look at one small piece of what hemp can do,” said Leslie Bocskor, founder of Electrum Partners, which works with states and tribes looking to enter the cannabis industry. Hemp, Bocskor said, can be used to manufacture plastics that are more environmentally friendly than plastics made from oil and gas, which aren't biodegradable.
“When you put hemp plastic into landfill, it will break down into things that are not damaging, at worst, and, at best, it can be additive to the soil it’s put into,” he said. “It also causes far less pollution to produce hemp plastics.”
Tribes stand to realize even greater profits than states due to their tax advantage.
Native American tribes have an advantage over other companies in the cannabis business. Many businesses in the United States lower their taxes by deducting their business expenses from their profits. But companies that grow and sell cannabis are not permitted to deduct their business expenses. This means they pay a higher tax rate than do other companies.
However, Native American tribes and the companies they own do not pay federal income taxes on money earned on reservations.
Bocskor says this means that a tribe-owned cannabis company could earn a profit margin of up to 85 percent.