Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Does medical marijuana decrease opioid use or boost it?"

The title of this post is the title of this effective new WonkBlog piece by Keith Humphreys, which makes these important points:

Studies conducted at the state level show that expanding access to medical marijuana is correlated with lower rates of opioid misuse and overdose.  Yet studies of individuals show that using medical cannabis is correlated with higher rates of using and misusing opioids.  This set of conflicting research has revealed less about the relationship between marijuana and opioids than it has about how science is misunderstood and misused in political debates....

The math underlying why many such apparent contradictions exist across scientific research areas is complicated, but the underlying point is simple: We can’t know what’s happening to individuals by looking just at state data (or county or city data), and we can’t know what is happening to states just by looking at individuals. Thus there isn’t any logical contradiction between marijuana and opioid use having opposite relationships at the state and individual level.

The other statistical point of relevance here is more widely understood: Just because two things are correlated doesn’t prove there’s a causal relationship between them. However, in this particular domain, people tend to apply that rule only to the subset of studies that conflict with their views on marijuana.  Sometimes this is a conscious decision by people who want to spin the evidence, but more often it reflects unconscious, built-in flaws in human reasoning that make us more prone to attend to and trust evidence that confirms what we already believe or deeply want to believe.  That is, people who hold anti-marijuana views will be more likely to accept the individual correlational studies as proving that medical cannabis is harmful and dismiss the state-level studies as “merely correlational.”  Those with positive views of marijuana will do the reverse.  (If you want to see this phenomenon in action, watch how this article is discussed on Twitter today!)

Being human, scientists also sometimes fall prey to the same problem, being too critical of marijuana studies that don’t accord with their beliefs and not critical enough of those that do.  But at their best, scientists design rigorous studies of important questions and then accept the answers whether they (or anyone else) likes them or not.

Solving the puzzle of whether and how medical cannabis and opioids interact will require laboratory experiments and randomized clinical trials in which researchers can control exposure to both drugs rather than relying on correlational data. In one recent such study, Ziva Cooper of Columbia University found initial evidence that marijuana may modify both the pain-relieving effects and abuse liability of oxycodone.

More studies like Cooper’s are needed and should become more common if Congress is wise enough to loosen restrictions on medical marijuana research. In the meantime, the medical marijuana debate will rage on, with many people on each side citing as authoritative whichever study suits their purposes.

April 20, 2018 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Is It Too Late to Stop the Rise of Marijuana, Inc.?"

Because of the date on the calendar, there is today waaaaaay too much mainstream press coverage of marijuana issues for me to cover in this space.  But I cannot ignore it all, and the headline of this post is the headline of this new Atlantic piece by Reihan Salam that seemed worth spotlighting. Here is how it starts and its core proposal:

The marijuana wars are entering a new phase.  The first phase, over whether or not to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, is over.  The partisans of legalization have won the battle for public opinion.  Soon, I suspect, marijuana legalization will be entrenched in federal law.  At this point, to fight against legalization is to fight against the inevitable.  The only question now is what form America’s legal marijuana markets will take.  Will they be dominated by for-profit business enterprises with a vested interest in promoting binge consumption?  Or will they be designed to minimize the very real harms caused by cannabis dependence, even if that means minting fewer marijuana millionaires?  I fear that the burgeoning cannabis industry will win out—but their victory is not yet assured....

The fundamental challenge, as [Jonathan] Caulkins argues, is that cannabis is a dependence-inducing intoxicant, and a cheap one at that.  In Washington state, a marijuana-legalization pioneer, he observes that the cost per hour of cannabis intoxication “has fallen below $1, cheaper than beer or going to the movies.”  This is despite the fact that the state’s marijuana growers and distributors operate in a grey zone — legal at the state level, but not legal at the federal level — which leaves them ineligible for the federal tax deductions to which all more straightforwardly legal businesses are entitled.

If marijuana were largely consumed by adults who partake rarely and responsibly, this would not be much of a concern.  According to Caulkins, though, only about one in three cannabis users fall into this fortunate category, and they account for no more than 2 percent of total consumption.  Meanwhile, daily and near-daily users account for 80 percent of total consumption, and a far larger share of the profits of your friendly neighborhood marijuana business.  Yes, there are cancer patients who use regularly marijuana to ease their pain, and there are traumatized veterans who do much the same.  I am happy to concede that cannabis abuse is preferable to opioid abuse.  But let’s not kid ourselves: Marijuana, Inc., thrives by catering to binge users, many of whom explicitly state that their dependence is getting in the way of their lives.  By the time the cost of an hour of cannabis intoxication falls below $1 nationwide, the picture will start to change: The number of people who will turn to marijuana as a form of self-medication, or as a form of escape, will drastically increase.  And most of them will be poor and vulnerable people, not the affluent bohemians so affectionately portrayed on HBO dramedies.

In a 2014 essay for Washington Monthly, Mark A.R. Kleiman, who along with Caulkins is one of the country’s leading experts on drug policy, anticipated the outsized role the marijuana industry would play in debates to come: “As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana over the next few years, the cannabis industry will begin to get richer—and that means it will start to wield considerably more political power, not only over the states but over national policy, too.” As a result, he warned, “we could get locked into a bad system in which the primary downside of legalizing pot — increased drug abuse, especially by minors — will be greater than it needs to be, and the benefits, including tax revenues, smaller than they could be.”

Is it possible to legalize marijuana without drastically increasing the number of Americans who find themselves dependent on it?  I certainly hope so. In my ideal world, Congess would establish a federal monopoly on the sale and distribution of narcotics, including but not limited to cannabis, with an eye towards minimizing the size of the black market and avoiding the aggressive marketing and lobbying that would inevitably accompany the emergence of a large for-profit industry.  But I recognize that this is, for now, a pipe dream.

April 20, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hoping education and learning might be the focal point of 4/20 activities

I tend not to be a big fan of the unofficial marijuana holiday known as 4/20, but this new CNN article suggested to me the title of this post.  The CNN piece is headlined "Universities meet growing demand with Weed 101," and I am lucky that it mentions the course I teach at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. The article has me thinking that everyone should try to learn something new about marijuana and its impacts today. And here are snippets from the article about some teaching efforts in this space:

The facts about marijuana are still at the center of the debate, because while states are more permissive, federal law still puts marijuana in the same category as heroin: a Schedule I drug with "no currently accepted medical use," at least in the eyes of the federal government. That leaves researchers and universities offering classes in uncharted waters.

Despite the limits, a handful of determined professors have stepped up, without textbooks or well-trod academic territory, and created courses to try to ensure that the next generation is prepared to match the public's interest. There seems to be only one "weed major," the medicinal plant chemistry program at Northern Michigan University, but a growing number of weed-themed classes are being offered on campuses across the country in law, business, medicine and general science.

In 2013, the Washington Attorney General's Office provided Beatriz Carlini, a research scientist at the university's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, with funds to develop training modules for health professionals who can get continuing education credit. They learn about how cannabis works and about its best uses; a second module teaches best clinical practices.

Marijuana is legal in its recreational and medicinal forms in Washington, and with more legal access comes a public desire for more education. But unless your doctor is in his or her late 90s and can remember before 1942, when it was legal to prescribe cannabis, more than likely they learned nothing about its benefits in medical school. "Hopefully, we can help patients make good decisions," Carlini said. "People won't wait for these things to resolve federally."

Yu-Fung Lin teaches the physiology of cannabis at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Physiology is a branch of biology that looks at the functions of living organisms and their parts. The elective focuses on how cannabis and cannabinoids impact the body. It also looks at physiological impact, therapeutic values and history. It's the first class of its kind in the University of California system.

Lin, an associate professor who usually teaches medical students, didn't know what to expect from her 55 undergraduates. "I've been quite impressed by their commitment," she said. She hopes her class will inspire future research. "Just knowing what we know, and the limitations of what we know, should inspire students, and they in turn could do research that would be really helpful in this field."

The Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont can't create classes fast enough. Its on-campus medical cannabis class was so popular, it had to relocate twice, settling into the largest available lecture hall according to the University. Its online continuing medical education program and the cannabis science and medicine professional certificate program have wait lists. Enrollees have come from as far away as Thailand. It has created webinars and a cannabis speaker series, and even the school's farm extension provides original plant research about hemp.

Dr. Kalev Freeman, an emergency room physician, and Monique McHenry, a botanist, helped create these courses to address several needs. Freeman said he's seen too many people taken off ambulances after overdosing on opioids, and he hopes to offer information about a "safer alternative to the public." McHenry wanted to find a topic attractive to "young minds to get them interested in science."

Their classes focus on basic science, the drug's physiology, molecular biology and chemistry. The professional training also drills down on practical issues like effective dosing, delivery methods and drug interactions. "The more we can do to focus on getting evidence-based facts out to more medical professionals and the public, the more we will have a real success,"

[Cat] Packer, the Los Angeles marijuana czar, would agree. "We're in a real moment of transition," she said. "These conversations about marijuana are incredibly complex. I found I can't have a conversation about the law without talking about health and social justice issues and enforcement issues." It sounds like the perfect material for more college.

April 20, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Senate Minority Leader to introduce bill to deschedule marijuana

95ff435c240b91016a0f6a70670077ffVice News has this notable new story under the headline "Sen. Chuck Schumer to introduce bill to 'decriminalize' marijuana." Here are the details:

In an exclusive interview with VICE News, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed he is putting his name on legislation that he said is aimed at “decriminalizing” marijuana at the federal level.

For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy . “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” Schumer said....

The legislation, which Schumer’s office expects will be released within the next week, has six main points. First, it would remove marijuana from Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, which would end federal prohibition and leave it up to states to decide how to regulate the drug. Schumer stopped short of calling it legalization, but de-scheduling would essentially make marijuana legal at the federal level.

His bill would also would create some funding for minority and women-owned marijuana businesses, provide money for research into overall effects of marijuana and it’s specific effect on driving impairment.  And lastly, it would “maintain federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco,” which Schumer said is to make sure marijuana businesses aren’t targeting children with their ads.

Schumer went further saying that he would support legalization in his home state of New York as well as any other state that wants to move in that direction.  “My personal view is legalization is just fine,” he said. “The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own.”

While this looks like an obvious election year-play, Schumer claimed it wasn’t about he looming 2018 or 2020 elections.  “I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do.  I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization,” he said.  “If we benefit, so be it.  But that’s not my motivation.”

When asked if he had ever smoked weed before, Schumer said no, but when pressed on whether he might be willing to try it he said, “Maybe, I’m a little old, but who knows?”

April 19, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Economic Effects of the Marijuana Industry in Colorado"

Images (9)The title of this post is the title of this thorough and effective review of myriad economic impacts of the marijuana industry in the first state to have a functioning recreational marijuana market. This piece was authored by the Federal Reserve Back of Kansas City, and I recommend the piece in full to anyone and everyone interested in certain economic realities flowing from legalization and commercialization of recreational marijuana. Here are some snippets from the start and heart of the piece:

In 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, making Colorado one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, the legalization trend has continued, and today, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., and recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and Washington, D.C. So far in 2018, Vermont’s lawmakers have legalized marijuana starting July 1, and at least 11 other states are considering recreational or medical marijuana legalization.  The marijuana industry has had many effects on the state of Colorado since it was legalized. This issue of the Rocky Mountain Economist focuses on the economic impacts of the marijuana industry in Colorado, the first state to open recreational marijuana stores....

Marijuana Sales in Colorado

To put the magnitude of marijuana sales in perspective, personal consumption expenditures on all goods and services totaled $236.3 billion in 2016 in Colorado. Marijuana sales were $1.3 billion in 2016, or 0.55 percent of all personal consumer expenditures. By comparison, spending on food and beverages purchased for off-site consumption made up 7.2 percent of personal consumption expenditures in Colorado....

To get a sense of the magnitude of the marijuana industry, we can compare the total number of marijuana-related business licenses in the state to the number of new entity business filings for all industries in the state.  Between the first quarter of 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2017, there were about 431,997 new entity business filings in Colorado.  By comparison, slightly more than 3,000 marijuana-related business licenses were active at the end of 2017.  If all of these marijuana-related businesses started during the first quarter of 2014 through the end of 2017, then they would represent about 0.7 percent of total new business filings in the state since 2014.  The actual percentage likely is lower than 0.7 percent because some marijuana-related businesses existed in Colorado prior to 2014, particularly those serving the medical side of the industry....

Employment in the Marijuana Industry

As of March 2018, there were more than 38,000 issued individual licenses in the marijuana industry, including 1,637 business owners.  Of course, not everyone with a license is working in the industry, and the Marijuana Policy Group estimates that one active license equates to 0.467 full-time equivalent positions.  Using this estimate, the marijuana industry currently employs about 17,821 full-time equivalent staff, a 17.7 percent increase in employment over the previous year....

Taxation of the Marijuana Industry

In 2017, the state of Colorado collected more than $247 million from the marijuana industry, including state sales taxes on recreational and medical, special sales taxes on recreational, excise taxes on recreational and application and licenses fees.  Tax collections since 2014 have increased significantly, though at a slower pace over the past year.  Between 2014 and 2015, total collections increased 93 percent. By contrast, collections increased about 28 percent between 2016 and 2017. To put the magnitude of marijuana tax collections in perspective, they equate to about 2.3 percent of Colorado’s 2017 general fund revenue. Although this calculation is useful for perspective, most marijuana revenue does not go into the state general fund....

Potential Costs of Marijuana Legalization

The data on legalization’s impact on public safety is limited, and therefore, the full effects of legalization on public safety are uncertain. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of marijuana arrests fell 46 percent, primarily due to a decline in marijuana possession arrests.  In Denver, the number of crimes reported to the Denver Police Department that were determined to have a clear connection to marijuana increased from 234 in 2013 to 276 in 2014, but then fell to 183 in 2017.  Of the crimes reported with a connection to marijuana in 2017, 54 percent were burglaries and 74 percent were industry-related.xxviii Fifteen percent of DUI summons issued by the Colorado State Patrol in 2015 were for marijuana or marijuana in combination with alcohol or other drugs although the number of these types of DUIs fell 1 percent between 2014 and 2015.  Traffic fatalities with THC-only or THC-in-combination positive drivers rose from 55 in 2013 to 79 in 2014....

Conclusion

As the first state to open recreational marijuana retail stores, Colorado provides a case study to examine the potential economic effects from legalization.  Direct employment in the marijuana sector has risen robustly since the passage of Amendment 64, contributing about 5.4 percent of all employment growth in Colorado since January 2014.  Despite these solid gains, employment in the sector makes up just 0.7 percent of total employment in the state.  Similar to employment, tax collections from marijuana have also increased sharply in recent years, and are equal to about 2 percent of general fund revenues in the state.  Although legalization has contributed to employment growth and tax revenues in the state, it is important to weigh those benefits against the potential costs to public safety and health outcomes.

April 19, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SBNation takes big look at "Sports in the age of cannabis"

DownloadThe sports website SBNation has this big new series of articles under the banner "Sports in the age of cannabis." Here is how the site sets up its coverage along with links to more than a half-dozen article of note:

We, as a nation, are changing the way we feel about cannabis.

Gone are the days of Reefer Madness, the hysteria of the War on Drugs.  As more and more states decriminalize and legalize cannabis, we are seeing a new American attitude that views it as much a business opportunity as something to be feared or banned.

These attitudes are making their way into the sporting world as well. Some professional leagues still test for weed, though how eager they are to actually bust athletes is a matter of debate. And athletes are now seriously turning toward cannabis as a pain-management solution — as we learn more about the dangers of opioid abuse, weed appears more and more like a safer option.

While the changing stigmas around cannabis present exciting opportunities for some, it’s not all that simple. We still live in a country where people, too often people of color, are being arrested for selling and using a product that is already making entrepreneurs, in the sporting world and outside of it, tons of money.

We wanted to look at it all, from the mountains of Colorado to the streets of Atlanta, THC and CBD, oils and smoke, and all the rest.  This is sports in the age of cannabis.

ATHLETES ARE LEADING CANNABIS INTO THE MAINSTREAM

WEED AND SPORTS: A TIMELINE

CANNABIS IS FUELING ONE OF THE BEST RUNNERS IN AMERICA

WHICH WEED IS RIGHT FOR ATHLETES?

HOW ATHLETES BEAT WEED TESTS

THE GENDER DOUBLE STANDARD OF WEED IN SNOWBOARDING

WEED STIGMAS ARE CHANGING, BUT NOT FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR

April 17, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Guest post: "New Database Tracks Local Variation in Implementing Cannabis Legalization in California"

David-Ball-2015Professor W. David Ball, who has served on California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Regulation, was kind enough to alert me to a new database that details how localities in California are implementing the state's marijuana reform laws. He was even kinder to take up my invitation to write up an account of this resource. Here is his terrific guest post:

California's regulated cannabis market is roughly four months old, but within the statewide framework, there are notable local variations.  The ballot initiative that legalized adult-use provided for a strong degree of local control and, as this article details, some areas have been quicker (and more willing) to license activities than others.   This database provides details about which activities county and municipal governments have decided to permit (sales, testing, manufacturing, growing, and distributing) for both the medical and adult-use market.

The database (and accompanying article) point out a number of dynamics likely to be replicated in other nascent adult-use markets.  First, the statewide framework is usually only the beginning -- localities still have a great degree of control over which geographical areas (and which parts of the new market) will be a part of a regulated cannabis regime.  California requires local licensing, but even if it didn't, local governments, via land-use regulations and zoning laws, would still be able to exercise a significant amount of control.  Focusing only on inter-state differences fails to capture the significant intra-state differences that exist within a given statewide regime.  It may be true that, say, the regulations of the San Francisco market have more in common with Seattle than they do with Fresno.

Second, we should remember that regulation is an ongoing process. Proposition 64, the adult-use legalization initiative, gave California the foundation to enact administrative rule-making.  These administrative rules, in turn, will be modified as the market develops.  Indeed, one bill currently under consideration in the state assembly would cut cannabis taxes in order to lure price-sensitive customers to the legal market.  There is no reason to suspect that the database of local regulations won't change on a regular basis.  Some localities might expand the scope and depth of permitted activities, some might contract them.  This is why it is important both to have a flexible framework and to ensure that stakeholders (including those not participating in the market as either consumers or producers) remain engaged.

With almost 40 million people and a population and landscape that contains almost every kind of diversity one sees in the country, a closer analysis of these local regulations is sure to yield insights normally associated with the federalist conception of "laboratories of democracy."  In this instance, though, the laboratories are to be found within a single state, rather than among the 50 states.

April 16, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Joint Tenancies: Property Leasing in Cannabis Commerce"

297462604.Def.LThe title of this post is the title of this revised ABA Book Publishing text authored by Michael Newton Widener. Here is the start of the text's introduction:

Initially published in 2012, in its revised edition, this book remains the only work inviting careful thought about the commercial landlord’s risk and reward scenarios in leasing to marijuana businesses. And Joint Tenancies gives the prospective tenant a valuable background in how to coordinate with potential landlords to address concerns about the occupancy of these businesses. While it is not written to be a pageturner or to offer readers entertainment, there’s no point in ignoring these basic facts: Today, possession, transportation, and sale of Cannabis remain federal crimes under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (sometimes referred to in this book as the “CSA” or the “Act”).

Until Cannabis is rescheduled to permit its use under that federal Act or the CSA is disposed of by federal legislation such as the 2017-introduced Marijuana Justice Act, the operation of a marijuana dispensary or store, or a grow site, is a federal crime punishable under the federal courts’ sentencing guidelines, which impose fines and jail time. The fact that marijuana sales are legal under your state’s law does not change one basic principle. Legal compliance with state laws governing marijuana business operations is not a defense to federal drug or money laundering charges.

As explained in the main text, property leasing to a marijuana business today, whether it’s a retail operation or a cultivation or “grow” location (abbreviated as an “MBE” in this book), exposes a landlord to civil and criminal penalties. One commercial landlord in Montana (Jonathan Janetski) went to federal prison in 2012 for leasing his warehouse to an MBE that violated the law governing cultivation sites.1 Among other penalties available to federal authorities is forfeiture of a landlord’s property. Forfeiture, as explained later, means the government takes away a citizen’s real estate and doesn’t give it back and doesn’t pay money or other consideration for its forfeiture. Nothing lighthearted or entertaining there, is there?

April 16, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Will Prez Trump's pledge to safeguard states' marijuana reforms boost Oklahoma's medical marijuana initiative?

OK-Yes-788November is the usual month for big votes on marijuana reform, and it seems likely that voters in Michigan and Utah will be considering ballot initiative at the usual voting time.  (In Michigan, voters will be considering recreational marijuana reform; in Utah, a medical marijuana reform issue is likely to make the ballot.)  Interestingly, though, this election year voters in Oklahoma will be deciding on the fate of its marijuana initiative, Question 788, on June 26, 2018.  Question 788 seeks to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program for the state, and I have long thought that the seeming opposition to any marijuana reform by the Trump Administration might be a big issue in a state in which Donald Trump carried over 65% of the vote in 2016.

But, as discussed in this post, on Friday, President Donald Trump gave Colorado Senator Cory Gardner his word that he would protect state marijuana reform efforts.  So, while in the past it seems opponents of marijuana reform in Oklahoma could point to actions and words of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to advocate against state voters embracing Question 788, now it would seem proponents of Question 788 can (and likely should) argue that Prez Donald Trump is supportive of state marijuana reform efforts.

Ultimately, who turns out to vote in Oklahoma on June 26, 2018 will likely decide the fate of Question 788 more so than any particular statements by any federal officials.  Nevertheless, I think it interesting to think of all the possible ripple effects for on-going marijuana reform efforts flowing from Senator Gardner's ability to get Prez Trump to commit to safeguarding states' rights in this arena.

Prior related post:

April 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 13, 2018

AG Sessions' decision to rescind Cole Memo ultimately leads to Prez Trump pledge to safeguard states' marijuana reforms

Gardner-trumpAs reported in this CNN piece, "Trump promises GOP lawmaker to protect states' marijuana rights," a little more than three months after Attorney General Sessions decided to rescind the Cole Memo stating that federal prosecutors would not prioritize criminal enforcement against state-compliant marijuana businesses, President Donald Trump gave a Colorado Senator his word that he was eager to protect state marijuana reform efforts.  Here are the basic:

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump told Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that the President will support efforts to protect states' that have legalized marijuana, according to a statement from Gardner released Friday.

The deal, which was first reported by The Washington Post, comes after Gardner said he'd block all Justice Department nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded guidance from the Obama administration, known as the Cole memo, that had adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.

The Department of Justice was not consulted on this promise to Gardner from the President, according to a source familiar.

"Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry," Gardner said in a statement. "Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all."

He continued: "Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees." Gardner said he and his colleagues are working on a bill that would prevent the federal government from interfering in states' marijuana legalization. "My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President's desk to deliver on his campaign position," he said in the statement.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the statement from Gardner "accurate" during Friday's press briefing. "The President did speak with the senator," she said. "The statement that the senator put out today is accurate."

In many respects, it is somewhat amazing that Prez Trump was able to go the first 15 months of his presidency without ever speaking directly about federal or state marijuana policies. But now I think it is even more amazing that the decision by Attorney General Jeff Session to rescind the Cole memo has now directly led to the President of the United States indicating his support for a "federalism-based legislative solution" to modern marijuana reform issues.

Prior related posts:

April 13, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Senators Orrin Hatch and Kamala Harris write to AG Jeff Sessions to push for more medical marijuana research

53352_lgAs reported in this new press release, "US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter today to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to cease efforts to slow medical marijuana research, following reports that the Department of Justice was blocking medical marijuana research efforts by delaying approvals for manufacturers growing research-grade medical marijuana."  Here is more from the text of the letter:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

We write to request that you enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fulfill its charter of lawfully registering manufacturers of the controlled substance of marijuana for research without delay. Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers.

To date, it has been federal practice that only one manufacturer — the University of Mississippi — is licensed to produce marijuana for federally-sanctioned research. Historically, as the DEA has noted, that single manufacturer could meet the minimal demand for research. However, the DEA changed its policy nearly two years ago because, as it explained, “There is growing public interest in exploring the possibility that marijuana or its chemical constituents may be used as potential treatments for certain medical conditions,” and the DEA — along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — “fully supports expanding research into the potential medical utility of marijuana and its chemical constituents.”

As of August 11, 2016, 354 individuals and institutions were approved by the DEA to conduct expansive research on marijuana and its related components. Those researchers needed access to a federally compliant expanded product line—they needed to study different types of marijuana and across various delivery mechanisms. Accordingly, a diverse, DEA-vetted market of suppliers of research-grade marijuana would be critical. Since the DEA’s Federal Register Notice on August 12, 2016, at least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to produce federally-approved research-grade marijuana....

We write this letter because research on marijuana is necessary for evidence-based decision making, and expanded research has been called for by President Trump’s Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In order to facilitate such research, scientists and lawmakers must have timely guidance on whether, when, and how these manufacturers’ applications will be resolved.

The benefits of research are unquestionable. Research will give law enforcement guidance to do their jobs:protecting drivers on the roads, protecting kids in schools, and maintaining law and order. Ninety-two percent of veterans support federal research on marijuana, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is aware that many veterans have been using marijuana to manage the pain of their wartime wounds. America’s heroes deserve scientifically-based assessments of the substance many of them are already self-administering.

By allowing expanded research, the Department of Justice will aid legislators in making sound decisions, help law enforcement in developing critical public safety guidance, and ensure that citizens have the benefit of informed, evidence-based policy.

April 12, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Former US House Speaker and former Massachusetts Gov join advisory advisory board of major marijuana corporation

Weld-boehner-1523466227As reported in this company press release, "Acreage Holdings (“Acreage”) (www.acreageholdings.com), one of the nation’s largest, multi-state actively-managed cannabis corporations, announced the appointments of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner and former Governor of the State of Massachusetts Bill Weld to its Board of Advisors." Here is more from the announcement:

As members of the Board, Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld will bring an immense, collective and unique set of experiences in government affairs, unmatched leadership and guidance to help drive Acreage towards its strategic mission. In concert with this announcement, Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld have issued this joint statement:

While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94% of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.

We need to look no further than our nation's 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.

We are excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their mission to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit.  We have full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue....

Both the Speaker and the Governor have agreed to immediately join the Company’s Board of Advisors and have committed to join the Company’s Board of Directors once it has been formed and other qualified directors have been appointed.

April 11, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Legalizing Marijuana: A View from Among the Weeds"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Michael Vitiello and Rosemary Deck just published in the UC Hastings Law Journal. Here is its abstract:

The United States is on a fast-track to a new era in marijuana law.  The prospect of a federal pathway to legalization opens a Pandora’s Box of issues for states like California. This Article focuses on Humboldt County in the Emerald Triangle, California’s prime marijuana growing area, and examines how the region might be impacted by state legalization.  After a brief look into the development of the marijuana market in Humboldt County, this Article identifies some of the costs that have come with leaving the county outside the legal fold, including a failure to address poor working conditions for seasonal trimmers and an epidemic of sexual harassment that has only recently come to light.

The Article then explores some of the obstacles to bringing the county into the legal economy.  Depending on how policymakers and marijuana producers respond to these issues, Humboldt County may become a boom-or-bust economy.  The Article then examines some of the benefits of bringing producers into the legal economy, including improved working conditions for the scores of individuals employed in the industry.  Failing to bring the county into compliance with county and state cannabis regulations also threatens the goals of marijuana reformers.  The Article concludes with thoughts about how Humboldt County might fare in the new world of legal pot.  Just as in the wine industry, the region’s best hope may lie in the move towards marijuana appellations, which will require entry into the legal market.

April 10, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spotlighting the jobs, jobs, jobs reality of the modern marijuana industry

This recent Forbes article authored by Tom Angell, headlined "Marijuana Is The Fastest-Growing Job Category, Top Recruiting CEO Says," highlights a key economic development story within the modern marijuana reform. Here are excerpts:

The head of a leading firm that connects businesses with job seekers says that employment in the legal marijuana industry is growing faster than any other field. "You know what the fastest-growing job category in the United States is?" ZipRecruiter.com co-founder and CEO Ian Siegel asked. "Marijuana."

And he should know. His company calls itself the "fastest growing employment marketplace" and claims to have "helped over 1 million businesses and 100 million job seekers find their next perfect match."

"Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana.  There's 445% job growth in job listings in the category year over year," he said at a conference hosted by U.S. News & World Report on Friday. "Let me put that in perspective for you," Siegel said, reporting that technology jobs are at 245% growth and healthcare positions are rising at 70%....

"Our Q4 data for 2017 revealed an especially dramatic leap in the number of new cannabis industry job posts," the report said. "The number of cannabis industry job posts increased 693% year over year and 79% quarter over quarter."

At the Friday conference, Siegel used the rapid growth of the marijuana industry as an example of how the education system can't necessarily plan on the continuance of workforce trends from the time kids are in school  "The things that happen societally, and the way we try to predict what you should teach kids, they happen so fast and they often happen in ways that are jarring enough that it's hard to get our brains around it," he said.  "I would never encourage the members of the audience to try to predict the future and adjust curriculum based on that.  I don't think that's a viable strategy."

Though understand the notion that early childhood education cannot easily adjust for predicted job trends a decade later, I think institutions of higher education can and should be recognizing the job-creation potential of modern marijuana reform and be open to developing new curriculum accordingly.  As regular reader know, I have been teaching a Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform class at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law for the last four school years, and next year the College of Law will also be offering a new class focused more on the busines law side of marijuana reform titled "Cannabiz: Exploring the 'Legalized' Cannabis Industry."  I am very proud that my institution is eager to ensure law students have a way to learn about various aspects of an industry that seems to be on a continued significant growth curve.

April 10, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Taxing & Zapping Marijuana: Blockchain Compliance in the Trump Administration"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Richard Thompson Ainsworth and Brendan Magauran.  Here is its abstract:

On January 4, 2018, the Trump Administration through Attorney General Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges in all but the most serious marijuana cases under the federal Controlled Substances Act, as well as under the Bank Secrecy Act.  Federal law is at odds with state law in the majority of states on the legalization and subsequent state taxation of marijuana.  Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have at least partially legalized marijuana. Eight of these states have legalized both medicinal and recreational use. With limited exceptions, legalized sales of marijuana are taxed.

Aside from “compassionate use” of medicinal marijuana, the States have seen real business development and job creation opportunities by legalizing the marijuana trade – estimates of 250,000 new jobs by 2020 are common.

State marijuana revenue measures are not harmonized today. Both the tax rates and the commercial stages at which marijuana transactions are taxed diverge widely. Rates range from zero for medicinal use (in Delaware, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oregon) to roughly 47% (for recreational marijuana, slightly less for medicinal) in Washington. For the most part, state marijuana taxes cascade with excise taxes appearing in the retail sales tax base.

This paper proposes to analyze state marijuana enforcement and taxation through the lens of European value added taxes (VAT).  There is a closer harmony between the EU and the US in this area than might be expected. EU VAT proposals for tax harmonization and enforcement, and applies them to the US. The proposals are technology-intensive. They integrate well with the digital track and trace systems employed by US States to control legalized marijuana.  The first proposal is to place the central portion of the marijuana supply chain on a private blockchain that is shared among the states. Transactions in marijuana will be preserved in real-time (locally and centrally). Data will be shared among State authorities to aid enforcement, and tax collection.

The second proposal is for a limited-purpose cryptotaxcurrency.  This would be a crypto-token like VATCoin that is digitally minted by the government. For example, CALCoin. CALCoin would be the only currency allowed for marijuana-related purchases within California. Frauds related to excessive “home grown” marijuana, and the use of Dark Cloud-based Zappers in retail dispensaries are also considered.

April 8, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Can marijuana reform help reduce binge drinking?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Forbes article headlined "Binge Drinking Rates Drop In States With Recreational Marijuana Laws."  Here are excerpts (with links from the original):

Binge drinking across the United States is at an all time high. Yet, a new report from the Wall Street investment firm Cowen & Company shows that this dangerous alcoholic behavior is on the decline in states that have legalized the leaf in a manner similar to alcohol.

It was just a month ago that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new data suggesting that more Americans are now engaging in regular binge drinking. What was once considered a foolish exploit of College students has now apparently infiltrated citizens from every demographic and all walks of life.  The CDC found that Americans sucked down 17 billion alcoholic beverages in 2015. By definition, the term “binge drinking,” is five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women in a span of around two hours. Thirty-seven million adults (about 1 in 6 people) engage in this activity at least once a week, the report finds.

 But the investment analysts at Cowen published a document earlier this week that provides a little hope for an America headed for cirrhosis of the liver. It seems that binge drinking is on the decline in states that have legal marijuana laws on the books. More specifically, it is those states like Colorado and Washington, some of the first U.S. jurisdictions to legalize for recreational use, where binge drinking is now less prominent.  “In legal adult use cannabis states,” the analysts wrote, “the number binge drinking sessions per month (for states legal through 2016) was -9% below the national average.”

What’s more is legal marijuana states, where adults 21 and older can walk into a dispensary and purchase a variety of cannabis products, experienced 13 percent less binge drinking than areas of prohibition. The writing is on the wall – people with legal access to recreational marijuana are opting to spend either all or a portion of their booze budget on a substance that has been deemed “a safer alternative.”...

As it stands, those states without recreational marijuana laws are experiencing an increase in binge drinking. “Non-cannabis states averaged 7.4 drinks per binge, ~12% higher than the 6.6 drinks per binge seen in adult use cannabis states,” the report reads.

April 5, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Substitutability of Recreational Substances: Marijuana, Alcohol, and Tobacco"

The title of this post is the title of this new article available via SSRN authored by Keaton Miller and Boyoung Seo. Here is the abstract:

Proponents of the legalization of recreational marijuana have argued that the policy would result in increased tax revenues for states.  However, if legal substances are highly substitutable, tax revenues from marijuana may crowd out pre-existing revenues.  We study the interaction between the marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco industries in Washington state using a combination of detailed administrative data on the marijuana industry and scanner data on alcohol and tobacco sales.

We estimate a demand system and find that alcohol and marijuana are substitutes, with the legalization of marijuana in isolation leading to a 12% decrease in alcohol demand, and a marginal cross price elasticity of demand of .16.  Marijuana legalization results in a 20% decrease in tobacco demand, but the marginal relationship is unclear.  When prices are held fixed, 50% of marijuana tax revenue comes from cannibalizing alcohol and tobacco taxes.  When those industries adjust their prices, only 22% of marijuana tax revenue comes from alcohol and tobacco.  Though Washington has the highest marijuana tax rate in the country, a 1% increase in the marijuana tax results in a 1.01% increase in total revenues collected by the state.

April 5, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"Marijuana use is associated with intimate partner violence perpetration among men arrested for domestic violence"

Tps-150The title of this post is the title of this notable new research published in Translational Issues in Psychological Science. Here is the article's abstract:

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health problem. Substance use, particularly alcohol, is a robust risk factor for IPV.  There is a small but growing body of research demonstrating that marijuana use is positively associated with IPV perpetration.  However, research on marijuana use and IPV has failed to control for other known predictors of IPV that may account for the positive association between marijuana use and IPV perpetration.  Therefore, the current study examined whether marijuana use was associated with IPV perpetration after controlling for alcohol use and problems, antisocial personality symptoms, and relationship satisfaction, all known risk factors for IPV.

Participants were men arrested for domestic violence and court-referred to batterer intervention programs (N = 269). Findings demonstrated that marijuana use was positively and significantly associated with psychological, physical, and sexual IPV perpetration, even after controlling for alcohol use and problems, antisocial personality symptoms, and relationship satisfaction.  Moreover, marijuana use and alcohol use and problems interacted to predict sexual IPV, such that marijuana use was associated with sexual IPV at high, but not low, levels of alcohol use and problems.  These findings lend additional support to the body of research demonstrating that marijuana use is positively associated with IPV perpetration in a variety of samples.  Results suggest that additional, rigorous research is needed to further explore why and under what conditions marijuana is associated with IPV perpetration.

April 3, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Two new papers provide further evidence of marijuana reform aiding with opioid crisis

180402-imd-ec-800As reported via this CNN article, headlined "Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find," this weeks bring the publication of notable new research suggesting a link between marijuana access and reduced use of opioids. Here are the basics:

Experts have proposed using medical marijuana to help Americans struggling with opioid addiction. Now, two studies suggest that there is merit to that strategy. The studies, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, compared opioid prescription patterns in states that have enacted medical cannabis laws with those that have not. One of the studies looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2015, while the other looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016.

The researchers found that states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year under Medicare Part D, compared with those states without medical cannabis laws. Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies....

In order to evaluate whether medical marijuana could function as an effective and safe alternative to opioids, the two teams of researchers looked at whether opioid prescriptions were lower in states that had active medical cannabis laws and whether those states that enacted these laws during the study period saw reductions in opioid prescriptions.

Both teams, in fact, did find that opioid prescriptions were significantly lower in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws. The team that looked at Medicaid patients also found that the four states that switched from medical use only to recreational use -- Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington -- saw further reductions in opioid prescriptions, according to Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky and a lead author on the Medicaid study. "We saw a 9% or 10% reduction (in opioid prescriptions) in Colorado and Oregon," Wen said. "And in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant."...

The details of the medical cannabis laws were found to have a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns, the researchers found. States that permitted recreational use, for example, saw an additional 6.38% reduction in opioid prescriptions under Medicaid compared with those states that permitted marijuana only for medical use, according to Wen.

The method of procurement also had a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns. States that permitted medical dispensaries -- regulated shops that people can visit to purchase cannabis products -- had 3.742 million fewer opioid prescriptions filled per year under Medicare Part D, while those that allowed only home cultivation had 1.792 million fewer opioid prescriptions per year.

"We found that there was about a 14.5% reduction in any opiate use when dispensaries were turned on -- and that was statistically significant -- and about a 7% reduction in any opiate use when home cultivation only was turned on," Bradford said. "So dispensaries are much more powerful in terms of shifting people away from the use of opiates."...

This is not the first time researchers have found a link between marijuana legalization and decreased opioid use. A 2014 study showed that states with medical cannabis laws had 24.8% fewer opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010. A study in 2017 also found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 reversed the state's upward trend in opioid-related deaths.

Here are links to the JAMA Internal Medicine articles referenced here, as well as a companion commentary:

Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws and Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees by Hefei Wen & Jason Hockenberry

Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population by Ashley C. Bradford et al

The Role of Cannabis Legalization in the Opioid Crisis by Kevin Hill & Andrew Saxon

 

Some (of many) prior related posts:

April 2, 2018 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

"The Pot Rush: Is Legalized Marijuana a Positive Local Amenity?"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new paper authored by Diego Zambiasi and Steven Stillman. Here is its abstract:

This paper examines the amenity value of legalized marijuana by analyzing the impact of marijuana legalization on migration to Colorado.  Colorado is the pioneering state in this area having legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2012. We test whether potential migrants to Colorado view legalized marijuana as a positive or negative local amenity.  We use the synthetic control methodology to examine in- and out-migration to/from Colorado versus migration to/from counterfactual versions of Colorado that have not legalized marijuana.

We find strong evidence that potential migrants view legalized marijuana as a positive amenity with in-migration significantly higher in Colorado compared with synthetic- Colorado after the writing of the Ogden memo in 2009 that effectively allowed state laws already in place to be activated, and additionally after marijuana was legalized in 2013 for recreational use.  When we employ permutation methods to assess the statistical likelihood of our results given our sample, we find that Colorado is a clear and significant outlier.  We find no evidence for changes in out-migration from Colorado suggesting that marijuana legalization did not change the equilibrium for individuals already living in the state.

April 1, 2018 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)