Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

British Health Group Advocates Decriminalizing Pretty Much Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, an interesting take on the subject.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Doug Berman on the Situation in Ohio

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

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

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

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

Seattle MMJ Dispensaries: Move or Risk State Shutdown

1Medical marijuana businesses that have been open for years in Seattle are now, as the result of recent legislation, facing a grim choice.  The state liquor and cannabis board says there are too many applications for cannabis facilities in the city, so existing businesses have been given only 14 days to decide whether to (a) move out of the city, or (b) sign a document recognizing that they may not get licenses and releasing the state from liability.  Seattle's KING-TV is reporting the story:

    The CPC in Georgetown has served thousands of patients since 2010. It works with hospitals, specializing in hard-to-find treatments for chronic disease, cancer, seizures and PTSD.

    "We were always going to do this stuff anyways," founder Jeremy Kaufman said while pointing to new security cameras.

    Kaufman is making a lot of changes to his building, adding new security cameras, constructing new walls, removing doorways, and clearing out his basement filled with cannabis plants. It's all part of applying for a new marijuana retail license, required by legislation that's combining medical and recreational pot under one regulatory system.

    The original deadline gave shop owners until this summer to comply with license application requirements.

    "We were supposed to have until July 1, 2016," Kaufman said. "Then this letter came out last week. It's like, 'Get licensed within 14-days or get out of Seattle. And you're just like Ok..."

    Kaufman and other Seattle dispensaries got a notice from the Liquor and Cannabis Board last week. It says there are too many applicants in Seattle and not enough available licenses. It gives shop owners 14-days to choose an address outside of Seattle, or sign a form acknowledging the risk of remaining in Seattle and losing their business.

    "It's beyond frustrating. It's absolutely beyoind frustrating," Maryam Mirnateghi said.

    Mirnateghi's invested more than a million dollars in her new location, outfitting it with 37 security cameras, all without any guarantee. She's refusing to sign the notice, which forces dispensary owners to assume full liability.

    "To ask my to sign away my rights or lose my application? That's extortion," she said.

    Mayor Murray recently sent a letter to the LCB, asking for a delay on the marijuana retail store cap, writing that "it unfairly disadvantages long-time good actors".

    "I've been open for 6-years," Kaufman said. "I pay taxes. I have employees who bought houses and have kids here."

    Kaufman's now forced with making 6-months of business decisions in 10 days, aware the treatment that he credits with saving his life is now at risk for thousands more.

    "That's it? I'm a patient. I built this place - we built this place - for people like me," he said. "I'm absolutely terrified."

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

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)

Arizona Legalization Ballot Proposal Nears Signature Requirement

AThis is good news for Arizona weed advocates.  According to the Arizona Republic, "A marijuana legalization campaign is nearing its goal of gathering 150,000 valid signatures to get on the November ballot."  Details:

The  initiative would ask Arizona voters to legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish a network of licensed cannabis shops where sales of the drug would be taxed.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is a few thousand signatures short of gathering the 150,642 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, spokesman Barrett Marson said Wednesday. However, some of those signatures are likely invalid — gathered from people who cannot vote — and the group aims to collect 225,000 signatures, he said.

"Arizonans are clearly excited about this initiative," Marson added.

Many others are not, including one group that has been educating the public about harms of the drug on children and society. The Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy has pointed to news articles and statistics and a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey that shows Colorado leads the nation in past-month marijuana use following its legalization of the drug in 2012.

Under the proposed Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, adults 21 and older could possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes without obtaining licenses, as long as the plants are in a secure area.

It would also create a distribution system similar to Colorado's, where licensed businesses produce and sell marijuana.

The initiative also would create a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the "cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana" and would give local governments the authority to regulate and ban marijuana stores. It also would establish  a 15 percent tax on retail sales, with proceeds going to fund  education, including full-day kindergarten and public health.

Under the 2016 Arizona initiative language, driving while impaired by marijuana would remain illegal, as would consuming marijuana in public and selling or giving the drug to anyone under 21.

Taxation of the program would pay for the state's cost of implementing and enforcing the initiative. Forty percent of the taxes on marijuana would be directed to the Department of Education for construction, maintenance and operation costs, including salaries of K-12 teachers. Another 40 percent would be set aside for full-day kindergarten programs. And 20 percent would go to the state Department of Health Services for unspecified uses.

Revenue from the taxes could not flow into the state's general fund, which would allow it to be spent for other purposes.

January 14, 2016 in Legislation, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Push for Private Pot Club Legislation in Colorado

AColorado Springs Gazette: Colorado Springs lawmaker joins marijuana social clubs bill:

    Colorado lawmakers will bring bills next session to deal with unregulated social marijuana clubs where pot is both sold and consumed outside of the state's strict licensing regulations for recreational marijuana.

    Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, confirmed Thursday that he and Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, are working on a bill to address the proliferation of pot clubs. He said many ideas are in the works.

    "The first one is modeling something after what you saw with some of the dry towns, people paying an annual membership or a monthly membership to be part of a social club where they can safely consume cannabis," Singer said.

    . . .

    Singer said a bill that's in the works would likely allow consumption at clubs but ban sales. Singer said statewide guidelines are needed on such clubs, but local municipalities would have final say on the issue.

    He said he's also working to allow consumption on the premises of licensed recreational and medical retail stores. Singer said it'd be similar to alcohol tastings at a craft brewery or winery. He said consumption would have to comply with the clean indoor air act, so likely edibles or vaporizers would be used.

    "Everyone agrees there is a problem," Singer said of the conundrum of where to consume cannabis other than a private home. "Tourists come to Colorado, buy our marijuana, and we say 'by the way don't smoke it in the hotel, don't smoke it on the street, don't smoke it in bars ... and make sure you consume it before you leave the state."

    The 2016 session begins Wednesday. Lawmakers have spent time drafting bills, but none have been officially introduced to receive bill numbers and titles.

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

Marijuana Legalization On the Other Side of the Border(s)

ALegalization proponents often seem to forget that whether or not to permit cannabis sales isn't just a problem of national policy.  Cannabis is illegal very nearly everywhere in the world under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and any country that legalizes is in violation of its treaty obligations.  Mike Adams of High Times has this very nice piece on the potential treaty problems for Canada and Mexico if they want to pursue legalization.  The whole thing is worth a read.  Some highlights:

    Before Canada, Mexico or any other country can legalize marijuana across their respective nation, governments must first show the United Nations General Assembly later this year how they plan to make it happen while remaining in compliance with several international drug treaties.

    A briefing memo sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was obtained by The Canadian Press, suggests that the northern nation will have to divulge a plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana without violating three treaties, all of which make the possession and manufacture of the cannabis plant for recreational purposes illegal worldwide. 

    . . .

    International law expert, Errol Mendes, a professor at the University of Ottawa, says that while the Canadian government basically has to tell the tale of “why it feels it has to do it,” the outcome, even if the debate is highly successful, will still result in marijuana legalization taking “many years” before it sees the light of day.

    The three treaties that would need to be amended before Canada or any other nation could effectively end prohibition are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drug of 1961; The Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1971; The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

    The note implies that a number of other countries interested in reforming their drug laws will also be forced to plead their case.

    "At the meeting, several South American countries as well as Mexico wish to discuss what they perceive as more effective policy approaches to respond to the current realities of the drug problem, which could include decriminalization/legalization of illicit drugs, harm reduction, and/or a call to renegotiate the international drug control conventions."

January 8, 2016 in International Regulation, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

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)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Marijuana and the Rise of "Executive Federalism"

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

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

11 states least likely to legalize marijuana

USAToday. . . is the headline of a story today reprinted in USA Today.  Even Texas has medical marijuana in 2016, and there are lots of stories about states moving toward legalization.  But here's the short version of the list (in alphabetical order) of states that probably won't be seeing much action on that front this year:

 Alabama
Arkansas
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Oklahoma
South Dakota
Tennessee
Utah
Wyoming

 

 

January 4, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marijuana Arrives at Midnight in Oregon, Minnesota

Much of the hoopla today surrounds the arrival of medical marijuana in Oregon, where thousands toked up at (and even before) midnight to celebrate legalization.

 

As it happens, midnight also ushered in medical marijuana in Minnesota.  It's a much more limited bill, of course, but the first three families got cannabis a few moments after midnight today.  Here's a good roundup of how the new law works.

July 1, 2015 in Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

California Recreational Weed Measure Clears Ballot Hurdle

From Breitbart News:  CA Marijuana Legalization Clears First Step to Ballot Measure.

    Full marijuana legalization in California inched one small step closer to reality on Monday when advocates were cleared to collect signatures to qualify a measure for the 2016 ballot.

    Supporters of the Responsible Use Act of 2016 have 180 days to collect 365,880 signatures from Californians before the measure can appear on next year’s ballot, reports Reuters.

    The measure, one of at least four being worked on for the 2016 ballot, would impose an excise tax of $8 per ounce of dried marijuana sold in the state, and would allow local governments to tack on an additional sales tax of up to two percent of retail price. The proposal would also set new parameters for marijuana-related criminal offenses and would allow those convicted of marijuana-related crimes the ability to have their sentences reviewed.

    The proposal would not affect medical marijuana’s tax exemption.

Given how easy it is to get an MMJ card in California -- I was repeatedly solicited to apply for one when I took a stroll down Venice Beach at Christmas time -- I'm not sure how many people will want to buy the high-tax version.  But we'll see.

June 30, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Employee MMJ Rights in Oregon: A Good Q&A

With recreational marijuana arriving tomorrow (Wednesday, July 1) the incidence of employees testing positive for weed is likely to go up substantially.  What obligations do employers have to take into account the fact that ingesting THC is now legal?  That's the subject of a very nice Q&A on The Oregonian's web site:  Recreational pot and the workplace: Q&A on Oregon's new marijuana law.

Short answer: there won't be much of a change.   But the whole exchange is worth checking out.

June 30, 2015 in Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"House bill aims to keep D.C. sales of marijuana illegal"

. . . is the title of a new piece in the Washington Times.  The headline is a little misleading -- marijuana is now and will remain, for some considerable time, illegal everywhere in the U.S., the District of Columbia included.

What the author is referring to -- as the article itself makes clear -- is a spending bill pending in the House of Representatives that would continue prohibiting the D.C. government from enacting a tax-and-regulation system for marijuana.  Congress did this in the last spending bill, and the new rider seems to continue the plan:

    A House spending bill introduced Wednesday would block the District of Columbia from using any money "to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties" for possession of marijuana — a move that would keep the drug quasi-legal in the city.

    Voters approved a ballot initiative in 2014 that legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in the District, however without legislative action by local lawmakers it will remain illegal to buy or sell the drug.

    The congressional rider will continue to block city leaders from pursuing legislation to regulate the sale and taxation of marijuana. A similar provision was included in a congressional spending plan adopted in December.

    Marijuana policy experts interpreted the fact the rider did not include more restrictive language as a sign Republican leaders were not interested in engaging in a larger fight over marijuana.

    "I’m pleasantly surprised that the rider that they did include was not more restrictive," said Dan Riffle, director of Federal Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. "I fully expected them to include tougher language explicitly naming the law in the language of the rider."

    Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, is holding out hope that the  rider could be removed from the budget.

    "If there’s a floor vote on an amendment to strip this language from the bill, I think we have a really good shot of assembling a bipartisan majority of lawmakers who will stand up for letting D.C. enact its own marijuana policies without interference," Mr. Angell said.

That last prediction may be correct, but I doubt it.  Congressional Republicans may not want to stop D.C. residents from growing and smoking a little, but Weed Marts scattered around Capitol Hill isn't something many of them will want to see.  Add in the potential for D.C.'s chronically corrupt government to start trading licenses for under-the-table cash, and you've got a recipe for problems.

It's an interesting paradox.  In enacting the spending bill, Congressional Republicans aren't thwarting the will of the D.C, voters -- they've made no attempt to overturn what the voters did.  They merely seem to be thwarting the D.C. government, which wants to license, control, and profit from the trade.

June 10, 2015 in Federal Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colorado Cuts Weed Tax, Targets Black Market

The best way to stop a black market is to allow legal prices to fall to black market levels, and Colorado has taken a step in that direction.  Forbes reports that the rate will be cut from 10% to 8%.  Gov. John Hickenlooper notes that this will reduce the retail price of state-legal marijuana.

The same article reports that the state is doing is best to avoid having to give excess taxes collected back to taxpayers instead of spending them itself.  The state is putting out a ballot initiative to avoid having to rebate excess taxes collected, something which is required under the state constitution.  

June 10, 2015 in Legislation, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Second Ohio Legalization Group Clears First Ballot Hurdle

The well-oiled crony-capitalist marijuana ballot initiative in Ohio may find itself with some competition come election time.  The Buckeye State'sattorney general has initially certified the "Legalize Marijuana and Hemp in Ohio" ballot initiative, sponsored by a group called  "Better for Ohio." which means it can now start collecting some 300,000 signatures by July 1 to qualify as a ballot initiative.

But there's not a lot of difference between the proposal already being pushed by "ResponsibleOhio," a group of rich and politically connected people who are trying to get a state-granted monopoly on weed built into the state constitution.  The LMHO initiative basically sticks to that monopoly -- even using the same 10 properties ResponsibleOhio plans to use for growing and processing weed -- but it does add the options for individuals to own a few plants of their own withpout state registration, which may make it more attractive to some voters.

There's also a strange provision that seems to allocated licenses based on serial numbers of several mysterious $100 bills now locked in a safe, but whose serial numbers would under the bill become part of the Constitution of Ohio.   Owners of those specific bills would apparently get the license.  I'm a lawyer and I find that part of the amendment baffling at first (and second) read -- and the backers don't seem to have offered an explanation about how at works. 

May 8, 2015 in Local Regulation, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Map Shows Marijuana Legalization

Speaking of the Pew Research Center, they've got this very nice new state-by-state map, updated as of April 14, 2015.

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April 17, 2015 in Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)