Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

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)

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)

Monday, January 18, 2016

This is a very bad chart for legalization proponents

Aaa

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

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

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

And now for something different . . . .

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

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

    We are being bamboozled by Big Marijuana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Oregon Issues Pesticide Regs for Cannabis Growers

AThe OregonianOregon's new list of pesticides OK for marijuana means changes for some growers:

Oregon on Monday issued a list of more than 250 pesticides cannabis growers may be able to use on their crops.

The list represents the first clear guidance from Oregon agriculture officials on what chemicals the state's marijuana industry may use to defeat mites, mold, mildew and other common pests and problems. Top state agriculture officials made clear that the list is a "starting spot" for marijuana growers, who still have to follow pesticide labels.

Lauren Henderson, assistant director of the agency, said regulators combed through more than 12,000 pesticides registered with the state to see which had labels broad enough to include cannabis. Ultimately, the agency came up with about 250 products. The list will be reviewed quarterly, said Henderson.

Brent Kenyon, a longtime cannabis producer and dispensary owner in southern Oregon, said that while he wished marijuana growers had been consulted during the process, he welcomed the technical advice from the state.

"Anytime the state is reaching out and trying to find some guidance instead of ignoring it is a good thing," he said.

January 12, 2016 in State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New York MMJ Rollout is Slow. Really, Really Slow.

ABack in the 1820s it took can-do New Yorkers only 8 years to dig the Erie Canal.  That was an immense 363-mile waterway from Albany to Buffalo, dug with shovels, fitted with 36 ship locks, that tied the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and ensured that New York would become the commercial capital of the young nation.

With any luck, the rollout of New York's extremely modest medical marijuana program will take less time than that.  But given the events of this week, it's possible I'm wrong about that.  Here's a cringe-inducing story about the official non-opening of two Syracuse locations which were slated to open this week.  This is my favorite part :

Even if the two dispensaries here did open today, it's unlikely they would have many customers. That's because the drug will only be available to patients with 10 serious conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDs.  And patients cannot get the drug unless they are approved by a doctor registered with the state. The health department says about 150 doctors statewide have registered with the medical marijuana program, but it has not released their names.

Read the italicized part.  Really?  I mean, seriously, really?  After 18 months, a state with 20 million people and a $1 trillion economy has managed to authorize 150 doctors -- and you can't get their names without a FOIA request?

The CEO of one of the new dispensaries is putting a game face on.  "If there is a registered patient in Syracuse," she said, "we will be ready to serve them.

Sorry, I'm making fun of this because otherwise I'd be throwing stuff at the office wall.

 

January 10, 2016 in Business, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | 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)

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

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

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

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)

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

 by John Montgomery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Louisiana Gets MMJ Law: Proponents Worry About Effectiveness

Louisiana's new medical marijuana law is moving forward after signature by Gov. Bobby Jindal.  Like the Texas version passed earlier this year, advocates are concerned that it uses the term "prescription" in the text instead of the usual "recommendation," which can leave physicians open to having their licenses to prescribe drugs yanked by the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

    David Brown, the director of a group called Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana, said changing out "prescription" for "recommendation" allows doctors and pharmacists to get marijuana to patients without risking their federal license with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

    The federal government, under President Barack Obama's administration, has taken a hands-off approach regarding enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where it's legal. But the word "prescription" automatically triggers certain federal oversight from the DEA. Marijuana, after all, is still considered a schedule I controlled dangerous substance. As far as the technical law is concerned, it would be analogous to writing and filling a prescription for LSD or peyote, other schedule I drugs.

    "It's a big problem," Brown said. "It renders the new law structurally flawed and unworkable in its current form."

    The sponsor of the bill (SB 143), state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, is aware of the concerns of Brown and other advocates. He said, however, that Louisiana Board of Pharmacy Director Malcolm Broussard has assured him the issue of prescription versus recommendation could be "worked through" during the rule-making process.

    Jacob Irving, a medical marijuana advocate and recent graduate of LSU, suffers from spastic quadriplegia -- a rare form of cerebral palsy that causes chronic muscle stiffness and has been effectively treated with marijuana. If the law in its current form is properly enacted, his disease is on the list of those that would quality for medical marijuana. Irving was the one who convinced a House panel to change the wording to "recommendation," before it was stripped out of the bill on the House floor.

    The Louisiana Family Forum, the state's most influential conservative Christian group, requested the word "prescription" be put back into the bill before it reached the House floor. Even the Louisiana Sheriff's Association, who had expressed strong opposition to the bill last year, were OK with "recommendation," Fred Mills said. Family Forum Director Gene Mills said early this month he told Fred Mills putting the prescription language in the bill was a requirement for his group to remain neutral on the bill. Opposition from the Family Forum could have hurt the bill's chance of passing and might have drawn a veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who closely follows Mills' guidance on social policies. Jindal, too, had requested the term prescription be used. 

    Gene Mills said the prescription requirement keeps the proposed law in the realm of medical practice, subjecting it to the oversight and "necessary safeguard."

    "That's why we're in the neutral zone," said Gene Mills, days after the House passed the version of the bill with "prescription" included. 

    Brown said the Louisiana Family Forum and Jindal's hardline position on calling it a prescription provides more evidence that the wording neuters the bill. 

    "Why on earth would you insist so hard on that language being included (in the bill) unless you were fully aware, like we are, that by including it you've essentially gutted the bill?" he said. 

    While Irving is hopeful the wording won't cause a problem as the bill's sponsor has suggested, he can't ignore the potential threat it has to thwart access to patients.

    "If a doctor writes a prescription, he may go to jail or lose his DEA license," Irving said.

    Brown said there's no pharmacist willing to put his or federal license at risk by signing off on dispensing a schedule I substance. By doing so, they would be "risking their whole livelihood -- for just that one prescription that they write."

    Broussard, however, acknowledged in an email provided by Mills that the use of the word "recommendation" has been suggested by other states to reduce risk to doctors and pharmacists. But he also indicated it made little difference.

    "The outcome of the process -- whether it is a 'recommendation' or a 'prescription' -- remains the same," Broussard said. "It is an order generated by the physician for filling at the pharmacy."

Unfortunately, while I'm sure Dr. Broussard is a very fine pharmacist, he's not a very good lawyer, and his view that a "recommendation" and a "prescription" are "the same" is simply wrong under Conant v. Walters.  To put it simply, under DEA regulations a prescription is an "order" to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for a patient.  A recommendation is merely the doctor's opinion, sent to a state-licensed facility, that the patient would benefit from the substance.  The former specifically falls within DEA jurisdiction, and prescribing a Schedule I controlled substance is illegal.  The latter is protected speech under the First Amendment and the DEA cannot punish it.

I suspect there are good reasons why opponents of the bill gave in after the word "prescription" was added . . . because they know it will be extremely difficult to make the system work.

Not impossible, though.  Assuming they get some lawyers involved in analyzing the issues, it's possible to work out a system under which physicians could comply with the statute without triggering license revocation by the DEA.  We'll keep watching.

July 1, 2015 in Legislation, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ohio Legislature Readies its Own Marijuana Ballot Issue

The marijuana legalization ballot measure sponsored by "Responsible Ohio" -- the proposal that would grant a monopoly on marijuana sales to the wealthy backers of the measure and lock it in the state constitution -- is facing blowback from the state legislature.  Ohio legislators yesterday put forth their own ballot measure that would block  the prospective monopoly.

    A campaign to legalize marijuana in Ohio took a step closer to making November’s ballot Tuesday, after its promoters turned in more than twice the required number of signatures.

    But the measure will face competition at the polls. Ohio legislators also approved their own ballot measure on Tuesday to undermine the pot plan, which lawmakers worried would amount to a “marijuana monopoly” because of its provision that only 10 growers would control the wholesale pot market. The lawmakers’ measure would block other measures that benefit select economic interest groups.

    The marijuana ballot measure campaign, dubbed Responsible Ohio, is just one of many ballot measures in recent history that are designed to benefit their backers. The companies funding the Responsible Ohio campaign would control — and likely profit from — the marijuana growth sites should the measure pass.

As detailed by the Center for Public Integrity, the campaign’s director, Democratic activist Ian James, came up with the idea and is planning to pay his own firm $5.6 million to push the ballot initiative.

    Ohio Rep. Mike Curtin, a Democrat, said he sponsored the anti-monopoly measure because he opposes the way Responsible Ohio is using the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, not because he opposes pot legalization.

    “Are we going to allow a small group of investors, who have literally no background in drug policy… to carve themselves a special niche in our state’s founding document?” he said. “To me it’s galling. It’s nauseating.”

    But James said voters should have the right to decide the issue.

    “Some statehouse politicians believe the voters are smart enough to elect them, but they aren’t smart enough to decide ballot issues like marijuana legalization,” he said in an earlier statement.

Well, to be fair to the politicians, Mr. James himself doesn't appear to think Ohio voters are smart enough to understand the issues on their own, so his backers have a $20 million war chest to try to convince them through advertising.

July 1, 2015 in Legislation, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Delaware Gets first MMJ Dispensary

It took four years after Delaware first authorized medical marijuana, but the first dispensary just opened in the First State.  Here's the intro from a piece at philly.com:

    Delaware has become the second state in the [Mid-Atlantic] region to make its debut in the  burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

    A long line formed Friday when its first dispensary, First State Compassion  Center, opened in a former tile market in a bustling Wilmington industrial park.  CannaCare Docs, a company that employs physicians to certify eligible patients,  fielded questions from curious passers-by a few doors away.

    New Jersey led the way in the area when it legalized medical marijuana in  2010. Delaware followed in 2011. Pennsylvania fell behind while nearly half the  states nationwide adopted marijuana programs. Some Pennsylvania senators have  said they plan soon to push a stalled bill with bipartisan support onto the  floor for debate.

    The differences between the programs and dispensaries in New Jersey and  Delaware are stark.

The article is a good overview of current MMJ regimes in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and worth a read.

 

June 29, 2015 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)