Wednesday, October 18, 2017
ACLU of Pennsylvania reports on a "Cannabis Crackdown" in form of increased and disparate marijuana arrests in most of the state
As reported via this press release, headlined "ACLU of Pennsylvania Analysis Shows Statewide Increase in Marijuana Arrests," a new report has some interesting new data on marijuana arrests in the Keystone state. Here are the basics from the release:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a new report [on October 16] that analyzes seven years of arrest data for marijuana offenses in the commonwealth. Based on Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting System data over a period of seven years, the analysis shows a rise in marijuana possession arrests of adults of 33 percent in 66 counties between 2010 and 2016. Philadelphia was exempted from that analysis because its decriminalization ordinance led to a dramatic drop in arrests there in 2015 and 2016, and that drop was a significant outlier in the data set.
The study also shows that black people statewide are more than eight times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates among people of different races....
Among its findings, the report found that the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) is one of the leading drivers of the increase in arrests. PSP’s total arrests per year for possession more than doubled in seven years, from 2,221 arrests in 2010 to 4,612 in 2016. Using fiscal analysis from a 2015 report by the RAND Corporation, the ACLU of Pennsylvania estimates that Pennsylvania taxpayers have spent more than $225 million in enforcing its marijuana laws between 2010 and 2016.
The report, entitled “Cannabis Crackdown,” shows that racial disparities have actually become worse over the last seven years. In 2010, black people in Pennsylvania were 6.5 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. By 2016, that disparity had grown to 8.2 times more likely.
The full report is available at this link, and here is one excerpt from its executive summary:
The report finds that between 2010 and 2016, there were nearly 178,000 marijuana-related arrests in Pennsylvania, nearly 80 percent of which were for possession. Marijuana possession3 accounted for about 48 percent of Pennsylvania’s overall drug possession arrests for adults in 2016.
Adult marijuana possession arrests decreased slightly when looking at all 67 Pennsylvania counties over the last seven years, by less than five percent. That decrease, however, was due largely to a remarkable drop in enforcement in Philadelphia. By far Pennsylvania’s most populated county and its largest city, Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana in October 2014. The city implemented a municipal civil offense for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana and enforced it in lieu of the commonwealth’s misdemeanor offense. Thus, Philadelphia County saw a resulting drop in adult marijuana possession arrests of more than 88 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Eliminating Philadelphia’s extraordinary decreases and looking only at Pennsylvania’s other 66 counties, marijuana arrests surged. Excluding Philadelphia, the commonwealth’s overall marijuana possession arrest numbers for adults and juveniles combined increased by nearly 25 percent between 2010 and 2016. Total possession arrests for adults alone increased by more than 33 percent commonwealth-wide when Philadelphia’s numbers were not included.
As this report from The Cannabist details, there were a few minutes of discussion of medical marijuana during an oversight hearing in the US Senate today with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Here are the basic details:
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said there should be “more competition” among growers who supply marijuana for federally approved research, though he said he thought the current applicant pool of 26 was too many.
His statement came in response to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah. Hatch referred to legislation he recently co-sponsored with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, known as the MEDS Act. “I believe that scientists need to study the potential benefits and risks of marijuana,” said Hatch, though clarifying that “I remain opposed to the broad legalization of marijuana.”
Hatch said he was “very concerned” with reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department “are at odds” over granting additional applications for cultivating marijuana for research purposes. In August, DEA officials said they had been waiting for the Justice Department’s sign-off to move forward on 25 applications, and expressed frustration that the Justice Department had not been willing to provide that sign-off.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The big news this morning in the federal drug law and policy space is reported in the first paragraph of this new NPR piece: "Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., has withdrawn his name from consideration as America's drug czar, President Trump said Tuesday. Marino is stepping back days after reports that a bill he sponsored hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration in its fight against the U.S. opioid crisis." Here is more of the interesting backstory:
A joint report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes found that Marino's bill "helped pump more painkillers into parts of the country that were already in the middle of the opioid crisis," as NPR's Kelly McEvers said earlier this week. The bill had been opposed by the DEA and embraced by companies in the drug industry.
Marino was a main backer of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act; among other things, the measure changed the standard for identifying dangers to local communities, from "imminent" threats to "immediate" threats. That change cramped the DEA's authority to go after drug companies that didn't report suspicious — and often very large — orders for narcotics.
After the Post and 60 Minutes reports on the bill emerged, several members of Congress called for the White House to pull Marino's nomination as drug czar. Sen. Joe Machin, D-W.V., said he was "horrified" by the story, adding that he "cannot believe the last administration did not sound the alarm on how harmful that bill would be for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic."
In a letter to the president, Manchin wrote about the ability of wholesale drug distributors to send millions of pills into small communities: "As the report notes, one such company shipped 20 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to pharmacies in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012. This included 11 million doses in one small county with only 25,000 people in the southern part of the state: Mingo County. As the number of pills in my state increased, so did the death toll in our communities, including Mingo County."
After Marino's name was withdrawn, Manchin tweeted to Trump, "thanks for recognizing we need a drug czar who has seen the devastating effects of the problem." Manchin is a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the changes made by the 2016 law, along with Sen. Clarie McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H.
In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — who also saw it through the markup process. In Congress and on Twitter, Hatch has defended his role this week, calling the Post story "flawed" and "one-sided." Hatch also said the bill was supported by patient groups who "were concerned about DEA's unfettered enforcement authority."
"I spent months negotiating with DEA and with DOJ until they were at a point where they were comfortable allowing the bill to proceed," Hatch said on Capitol Hill Monday. "If they had asked me to hold the bill or to continue negotiations, I would have done so." Hatch noted via Twitter, "President Obama signed this bill into law. DEA and DOJ, who work for the President, could have urged him to veto it. They did not."...
The president had nominated Marino to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In his tweet announcing Marino's decision to withdraw Tuesday morning, Trump added, "Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!"
The opioid story was revealed by whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi, a former high-ranking DEA official, who told 60 Minutes, "This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors' offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs." Of Marino's nomination, Rannazzisi said he was in "total disbelief" after the White House announced Trump's pick. He added, "The bill was bad. Him being the drug czar is a lot worse."
With the head of the DEA now uncertain, this Newsweek story from last month, headlined "Does Marijuana Stand a Chance With New DEA Chief?", becomes timely once again. Here is a segment from that piece:
Many hope the change could serve as a blank slate for the agency and a chance to pick the right battles in the war on drugs, like focusing on the deadly opioid epidemic, which has skyrocketed in recent years and left more than 52,000 dead in 2015.
Despite the troubling statistics, law enforcement has continued to target pot consumers, even though more and more states are moving toward legalization. Nearly 30 states allow the drug for medical use, and eight have legalized it recreationally. The FBI released data this week that showed an increase in the number of people arrested last year on a marijuana possession charge. Nearly 600,000 were charged, and experts say this cost taxpayers billions of dollars as offenders made their way through the criminal justice system.
"I hope that whoever is next will deal with the reality that a lot of states have legalized [marijuana] and it's not a good use of resources for police to be arresting these people and ruining lives," said Bill Piper, a senior director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "These are proven failed ways to approach this issue."
Under Rosenberg, more than two dozen applications to simply research the plant have been blocked, a policy that is unlikely to change, said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes marijuana legalization, even for medicinal purposes, and has called the plant "only slightly less awful" than heroin.... All in all, if Rosenberg's replacement does try to enact new policies or steer the department toward change, it could be difficult. "I'm not optimistic at all," Tree said. "Not during this administration."
Monday, October 16, 2017
I am excited to realize and report that, after spending the first half the current semester preparing various presentations for the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, this week begins the part of the class in which students are to begin making presentations to each other. The first of the student presentation planned for this this coming week is exploring "tax liability." Here are the links the presenting student has assembled in preparation for his presentation this coming week:
Relevant Internal Revenue Code Provisions:
Three Short Articles on the Economic Impact of Marijuana
October 16, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 12, 2017
The evidence suggesting that marijuana reform could and should be a part of the toolbox of responses to the opioid crisis is starting to become overwhelming. I make that statement as a result of this latest study published in the American Journal of Public Health under the title "Recreational Cannabis Legalization and Opioid-Related Deaths in Colorado, 2000–2015." Here is the article's abstract:
To examine the association between Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis use and opioid-related deaths.
We used an interrupted time-series design (2000–2015) to compare changes in level and slope of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado stores began selling recreational cannabis. We also describe the percent change in opioid-related deaths by comparing the unadjusted model-smoothed number of deaths at the end of follow-up with the number of deaths just prior to legalization.
Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month (b = −0.68; 95% confidence interval = −1.34, −0.03) reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.
Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths. As additional data become available, research should replicate these analyses in other states with legal recreational cannabis.
As reported in this local piece, headlined "Colorado’s 2017 marijuana sales reach $1 billion in just eight months," sales of recreational marijuana hit a new benchmark in Colorado. Here are the details:
Legal marijuana is a bona fide billion-dollar industry in Colorado. And it’s hitting the mark faster than ever. In 2017, Colorado eclipsed $1 billion in marijuana sales in eight months; in 2016, it took 10 months.
Colorado’s marijuana retailers logged upward of $1.02 billion in collective medical and recreational sales through August, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state tax data released Wednesday. Year-to-date sales are up 21 percent from the first eight months of 2016, when recreational and medical marijuana sales totaled $846.5 million.
This year’s cumulative sales equate to more than $162 million in taxes and fees for Colorado coffers.
During the month of August, sales of flower, edibles, concentrates and accessories were nearly $137 million — $100.3 million from recreational cannabis sales and $36.5 million from medical marijuana — according to The Cannabist’s calculations....
The special sales tax rate for recreational marijuana increased to 15 percent from 10 percent in July, as the result of a new law that also exempted recreational marijuana products from the 2.9 percent standard state sales tax. Medical marijuana and accessories are still subject to that 2.9 percent sales tax rate. The Cannabist’s calculations for July and August 2017 recreational sales are based on revenue reported for the new 15 percent sales tax.
Economists and state officials have projected that the annual growth rates for Colorado’s cannabis sales will eventually moderate as the local market matures and other states adopt recreational cannabis measures.
Here’s a look at Colorado’s previous cumulative yearly sales totals:
As the title of this post suggests, I think the marijuana industry in Colorado can and should in some sense thanks Prez Trump for the ever increasing sales. The Trump Administration has not yet decided to crack down legally on the industry, but it also has hinted in various ways that a crackdown might be coming. That combination likely contributes to a view among consumers that they ought to be sure to purchase marijuana through "legal" channels while they still can.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
The title of this post is the title of this notable short literature review on a topic that regular readers know I find very interesting. The article by multiple authors appears in Nursing Outlook, which is the official journal of the American Academy of Nursing. Here is its abstract:
A staggering number of Americans are dying from overdoses attributed to prescription opioid medications (POMs). In response, states are creating policies related to POM harm reduction strategies, overdose prevention, and alternative therapies for pain management, such as cannabis (medical marijuana). However, little is known about how the use of cannabis for pain management may be associated with POM use.
The purpose of this article is to examine state medical cannabis (MC) use laws and policies and their potential association with POM use and related harms.
A systematic literature review was conducted to explore United States policies related to MC use and the association with POM use and related harms. Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases were searched to identify peer-reviewed articles published between 2010 and 2017. Using the search criteria, 11,513 records were identified, with 789 abstracts reviewed, and then 134 full-text articles screened for eligibility.
Of 134 articles, 10 articles met inclusion criteria. Four articles were cross-sectional online survey studies of MC substitution for POM, six were secondary data analyses exploring state-level POM overdose fatalities, hospitalizations related to MC or POM harms, opioid use disorder admissions, motor vehicle fatalities, and Medicare and Medicaid prescription cost analyses. The literature suggests MC laws could be associated with decreased POM use, fewer POM-related hospitalizations, lower rates of opioid overdose, and reduced national health care expenditures related to POM overdose and misuse. However, available literature on the topic is sparse and has notable limitations.
Review of the current literature suggests states that implement MC policies could reduce POM-associated mortality, improve pain management, and significantly reduce health care costs. However, M C research is constrained by federal policy restrictions, and more research related to MC as a potential alternative to POM for pain management, MC harms, and its impact on POM-related harms and health care costs should be a priority of public health, medical, and nursing research.
Some (of many) prior related posts:
- Given latest opioid death data, should Ohio officials be fast-tracking access to medical marijuana?
- "The Case for Pot in the Age of Opioids: Legalizing medical marijuana could save lives that may otherwise be lost to opioid addiction."
- "Can medical marijuana be used to treat heroin addiction?"
- Yet another study suggests link between medical marijuana availability and decreased opioid use
- "Could medical marijuana solve Ohio's opioid problem?"
- "Legalize marijuana and reduce deaths from drug abuse"
- "Obama’s Opioid Offensive Again Ignores the Cannabis Solution"
- "Is marijuana a secret weapon against the opioid epidemic?"
- "Cannabis as a Substitute for Opioid-Based Pain Medication: Patient Self-Report"
Monday, October 9, 2017
Effective use of marijuana reform revenues, in my view, is essential to both the arguments supporting reform and to the sustainability of those arguments over time. For that reason and others, I always find interesting and important any accounting of reform revenues, and this local article from Oregon provides just that. The piece is headlined "Oregon pays out $85 million in pot taxes to school fund, cops, other services," and here are excerpts (with a few comments to follow):
The checks are in the mail. That's the message the Oregon Department of Revenue sent Friday when it announced it will pay out $85 million in marijuana taxes for schools, public health, police and local governments by next week.
The payouts represent the first distributions of state marijuana tax revenues since Oregon opened its legal recreational cannabis market. Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. The state put $9.56 million toward the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s “start-up costs” for regulating the industry and toward the Department of Revenue's work to collect the taxes.
The rest was divvied up according to a formula spelled out by law: The state school fund gets 40 percent, or $34 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services get 20 percent, or $17 million; Oregon State Police get 15 percent, or $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority gets 5 percent, which comes to $4.25 million.
Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91, which legalized recreational cannabis sales in Oregon, said the amount of tax revenue exceeded supporters’ early projections. He hopes the idea of marijuana taxes flowing into schools and public health and safety spur other states to legalize marijuana, he said. “I am glad to hear that the revenue is finally being distributed,” Johnson said. “This is what the voters intended. It shows that legalizing and regulating cannabis can help generate revenue for important governmental services.”
The largest share goes toward schools. The ballot measure said tax revenue would go to the Common School Fund, an endowment or trust fund of sorts for K-12 schools that makes distributions to districts twice a year. Lawmakers this year voted to move marijuana tax revenue to the State School Fund, which flows directly to school districts for costs such as teachers and textbooks. The fund has a budget of $8.2 billion for the biennium, the vast majority of which is made up of general fund and lottery dollars....
Otto Schell, legislative director for Oregon PTA, said while voters often assume marijuana tax revenue is providing major funding for schools, the reality is that it's among the "tiny fixes" the state has come up with to solve a major problem. To put the amount of pot taxes headed to schools in context, Schell said it's important to keep in mind how much it costs to operate the state's K12 system: roughly $30 million a day. "We keep using Band-Aids to fix something that is a systemic problem and challenge," he said.
A spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority said Friday that marijuana tax revenue will replace general fund dollars spent on existing programs, such as outpatient treatment, housing, transportation and detox. About $1 million will be spent on drug and alcohol abuse prevention, the state’s youth marijuana prevention campaign and drug and alcohol use data collection.....
Local governments may get marijuana tax revenue in two ways: Many levy their own sales tax or they are home to marijuana businesses, making them eligible for a slice of the revenue from the 17 percent state tax on pot sales. Ninety-five Oregon local governments impose a local sales tax of up to 3 percent; the Department of Revenue collects those taxes on behalf of 71 local communities, including Portland.
In the first quarter of this year, the state collected $1.2 million in local sales taxes. Scott Winkels, a lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities, said pot tax dollars are welcome but dwarfed by revenue generated by local liquor sales. “It’s helpful, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But we aren’t going to smoke our way to fiscal bliss.”
As this final quote highlights, even though many millions are being raised through marijuana reform, the amounts are still relatively small for a lot of "big ticket" items in the state budget like schools or municipal funding needs. That reality means, for good of for bad, the revenue from marijuana reform with have different impacts and different meaning to different recipients. I think advocates and opponents of reform will be well-advised to take a very close look at how these revenues are being utilized in order to have a refined understanding of some critical echo effects of modern reforms.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
CNN Money has this new article focused on the three states about to have their recreational marijuana markets up and running in the wake of 2016 legalization votes. The piece is headlined "Retail marijuana is spreading to California, Massachusetts and Maine," and here is how it gets started:
The mainstreaming of marijuana is about to get huge boost. Recreational marijuana sales will launch in three states next year, including the biggest one of all: California.
It's already for sale in five states, but the addition of a legal retail marijuana market in California, with its massive economy and population, will dramatically change the landscape. California is aiming to open retail marijuana stores by January 1, Massachusetts and Maine plan to open stores next summer.
"We obviously still have a lot to do, but yes, we're going to be ready to go on January 1," said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California. "We will be issuing new regulations in November, so we're hard at work on those at the present time."
Among the checklist of expected regulations is new oversight on water usage -- like drip irrigation and reusing waste water -- that could prove expensive for marijuana businesses. Other rules will require licensing and background checks for distributors and safety and education training for consumers.
Dispensaries like Green Alternative, which has 10,000 patients in San Diego, are getting ready to add non-medical customers to their clientele. "We are in the process of stockpiling cannabis in order to fulfill the market needs," said Zach Lazarus, COO of the Green Alternative. "We believe there will be a huge rush. We go through two to four pounds [per day] on average, and we anticipate going through three to four times as much when we open the doors for recreational." This requires not only stockpiling pot, but negotiating hurdles on the state and local level, for licensing, zoning, taxation and other issues.
Erik Altieri, executive director of the pro-legalization group NORML, said it might take longer than January "to set up the regulation process and to work out how the new recreational market will exist alongside its already quite large medical market."
The Bureau of Cannabis Control in California put its proposed regulations up for public review and began holding community workshop meetings in Long Beach, Fresno and Sacramento in September.
Massachusetts will implement retail marijuana sales on July 1, once state officials finalize whether certain localities will be able to maintain a marijuana ban in their respective towns, said Altieri. "We are committed to make that deadline," said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission in Boston, which held its first meeting on September 12 on developing and implementing regulations.
Maine would have the smallest market, and it's unclear when they'll get it off the ground. Dan Tartakoff, clerk for the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee of state lawmakers, said draft regulations were released in September proposing a 20% tax rate.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article, which includes these passages:
As the cannabis industry continues to grow, a debate is brewing over whether those with drug convictions should be allowed in the industry. Marijuana businesses are in a position of uncertainty amid U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' anti-drug rhetoric. Meanwhile, the fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar industry is drawing investors and entrepreneurs.
Indeed, there is a hypocrisy evident in some corners of the newly legal marijuana market. Earlier this year, Massachusetts medical marijuana provider Patriot Care drew controversy after it opposed a proposal to remove the ban on felony drug convictions from the state's medical cannabis program. "Permitting those who have demonstrated the interest and willingness to ignore state and federal drug laws sends the wrong signals to those who would participate in the legal, regulated industry," wrote Robert Mayerson, CEO of Patriot Care, in a letter to the Massachusetts Public Health Council. While companies like Patriot Care operate legally under state law, all state-legal cannabis companies are violating federal drug laws.
Many states have marijuana laws that bar drug offenders from entering the cannabis industry in an effort to legitimize the trade and help prevent out-of-state diversion. In practice, the ban does not prevent trafficking. But it does shut out individuals with marijuana-related convictions, who are disproportionately black and Latino. And in a twist of absurdity, many of these felony bans apply only to drug-related crimes.
“You can go to a cannabis investment conference and no one is talking about the fact that just down the road there are people who are incarcerated for smoking or dealing or growing this very same product,” said Ryan Anslin, who has been investing in the industry for nearly four years. “To entirely leave that out of an investment conversation is fundamentally wrong.” Anslin believes that those in the industry are obligated to put resources towards changing drug laws. "There's a level of complacency that has emerged in the early industry," he said. While that may be the case for many investors and operators, other players are working towards creating an equitable industry.
Derek Peterson, the CEO of Terra Tech, thinks it's a "disaster" that there are executives in the marijuana space who oppose social justice reforms. Terra Tech is a publicly traded cannabis company that operates in California and Nevada, and has a cultivation facility in Oakland, Calif. with minority interest. Peterson says the company supports equity programs like that in Oakland, and it is working with lobbyists to insert criminal justice-reform language into legalization legislation in New Jersey. "We don't feel very comfortable about the opening up of markets and economic development [while] watching people sit in prison," he said. "There needs to be allowances in new legislation that allows for people who have been incarcerated for drug crimes to [enter] this industry."
Barring those with experience in the illicit market could also shut out people with relevant expertise. "[It's] doing a disservice to some of the best knowledge base in the cannabis industry. These are the guys who paved the way," said Rob Hunt, principal of the consulting firm ConsultCanna who was formerly a founding partner of the cannabis private equity firm Tuatara....
For Anslin, the key to crafting reforms is focusing on record expungement. "As an employer in the space… I would always be really careful to hire people who have knowingly done things against the letter of the law," he said. But when it comes to certain marijuana offenses, "they shouldn't have been convicted of anything to begin with."
October 5, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Marijuana Business Daily article that might be of special interest to my Ohio-based students and really to anyone thinking about how the laboratories of democracy in the marijuana reform space still have inter-state elements despite the persistence of national prohibition. Here are excerpts from the article:
Out-of-state medical cannabis companies are jumping into the nascent Ohio market because the state lacks a residency requirement for business owners. While a majority of the applicants are listed as Ohio-based companies, at least a dozen either have an out-of-state business address or are connected to companies based elsewhere.
That’s according to the business information of 185 applications for 24 available cultivation licenses recently released by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program....
Regulators decided against a residency requirement when they drafted the law. Tom Haren, a Cleveland cannabis attorney, said the state went back and forth on the residency issue. “This was the subject of a lot of debate as the rulemaking process moved forward,” he said. “Ultimately what the regulators decided was to err on the side of experience operating in other regulated markets.”...
While there isn’t a strict residency provision, regulators scoring applications can take into account whether a company’s principal place of business is in Ohio. “What we’ve seen is a lot of the out-of-state investment was done in partnership with Ohio residents,” Haren said. According to Haren, a majority of applicants were Ohio citizens who partnered with out-of-state groups to help strengthen the experience section of their applications. “It’s hard to have experience in a market that’s been illegal here for the last 70 years,” he added.
I receive a press release this week spotlighting that Tom Angell, who had been providing a great marijuana newsletter titled Marijuana Moment since the start of this year, decided to transform his work from a daily e-mail into a "full-scale cannabis news portal." That portal is likewise titled Marijuana Moment and is available here. As is Tom Angell's signature, this site tracks and reports on various developments before other news organizations notice them. Here are recent postings, some of which reflect this reality:
"The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers' Compensation Benefit Claiming"
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new empirical paper available via SSRN authored by Catherine Maclean, Keshar Ghimire and Lauren Hersch Nicholas. Here is the abstract:
We study the effect of state medical marijuana laws (MMLs) on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Workers' Compensation (WC) claiming. We use data on benefit claiming drawn from the 1990 to 2013 Current Population Survey coupled with a differences-in-differences design. We find that passage of an MML increases SSDI, but not WC, claiming on both the intensive and extensive margins. Post-MML the propensity to claim SSDI increases by 0.27 percentage points (9.9%) and SSDI benefits increase by 2.6%. We identify heterogeneity by age and the manner in which states regulate medical marijuana. Our findings suggest an unintended consequence of MMLs: increased reliance on costly social insurance programs among working age adults.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Unpacking marijuana arrest data in Massachusetts for the year the state voted for recreational reform
This recent Boston Globe article canvasses some interesting data on marijuana arrests in Massachusetts under the headlined "Marijuana arrests plunge in 2016, but racial disparity remains." Here are some of the details:
Police officers in Massachusetts, which in 1911 became the first US state to make cannabis illegal, arrested fewer people for marijuana-related offenses last year than they have in decades. But look at the people who were arrested in 2016, and there’s a clear pattern: They’re disproportionately black. That’s the upshot of new data collected by the FBI from most of Massachusetts’ municipal and statewide law enforcement agencies for an annual compendium of crime statistics.
While Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana in a statewide referendum last November, that law only took effect in mid-December. The arrest numbers, therefore, mostly reflect the earlier legal landscape in which possession of less than one ounce was decriminalized but growing and selling the drug were illegal. That means arrests for possession concerned larger amounts.
The FBI sorts arrests into two somewhat broad categories: those for possession, and those for “sale/manufacture,” which in the case of marijuana includes growing it. Also, because of the way the federal government defines race, a portion of the “white” category includes Latinos. With that in mind, here are the findings:
- 545 people were arrested in Massachusetts in 2016 for selling or growing marijuana. That’s down from 1,031 in 2013, and roughly 1,500 each year from 2006 to 2012, according to the ACLU.
- 308 people were arrested in Massachusetts in 2016 for marijuana possession, down 96.5 percent from the 8,695 marijuana-related arrests made in 2008, the year before decriminalization took effect. It’s also half of the 616 arrests in 2014. The law didn’t change between 2014 and 2016, but thousands of people in Massachusetts during that period signed up for medical marijuana cards that make it legal to possess more cannabis and, in some cases, grow it.
- 28.9 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in 2016 were black, in a state whose population was 8.6 percent black last year.
- The arrest rate of black people for marijuana possession offenses in 2016 was 15.19 per 100,000, about four times that of white people (3.79 per 100,000).
-42.2% of those arrested for growing or selling marijuana in 2016 were black. That’s up a tick from 2014, when 41 percent of those arrested for dealing were black.
- The arrest rate of black people for marijuana sale or cultivation was 39.3 per 100,000, seven times higher than the rate at which whites were arrested for the same offenses (5.35 per 100,000). Still, that’s lower than in 2014, when according to the ACLU the figure stood at 70.73. In 2008, it was ever higher: 106.58.
On one hand, the numbers suggest that campaigners for liberalizing marijuana laws (and the corresponding decrease in enforcement) are accomplishing one of their key goals, however slowly: reducing the impact of drug arrests on minority communities. However, even as fewer and fewer black people are sent to prison for marijuana offenses, the FBI data show they are still arrested at significantly higher rates than white people.
Meanwhile, it seems likely that black and white residents of Massachusetts use marijuana at similar rates. According to some admittedly stale federal data collected between 2002 and 2009, about 16.6 percent of black Massachusetts residents reported using marijuana once a year or more, while 14.4 percent of white residents said the same. It’s a modest gap, one that hardly accounts for the disparities among arrests.
Shaleen Title, a former marijuana activist who earlier this month was appointed to the new Cannabis Control Commission, said the findings were consistent with what happened in other states when marijuana laws were liberalized. “Arrests decline dramatically, but the racial disparities in the remaining arrests don’t necessarily disappear,” she said. “As our state law specifically acknowledges and addresses, the war on drugs has been disproportionately waged against certain communities. This new data confirms that legalization alone does not solve the disparity.”
Monday, October 2, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable recent AP article, which starts this way:
Scientists. Tax collectors. Typists. Analysts. Lawyers. And more scientists.
Recreational marijuana sales become legal in California in 2018, and one of the things to blossom in the emerging industry isn't green and leafy. It's government jobs.
The state is on a hiring binge to fill what eventually will be hundreds of new government positions by 2019 intended to bring order to the legal pot economy, from keeping watch on what's seeping into streams near cannabis grows to running background checks on storefront sellers who want government licenses. Thousands of additional jobs are expected to be added by local governments.
The swiftly expanding bureaucracy represents just one aspect of the complex challenge faced by California: Come January, the state will unite its longstanding medical cannabis industry with the newly legalized recreational one, creating what will be the United States' largest legal pot economy.
Last January, just 11 full-time workers were part of what's now known as the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the state's chief regulatory agency overseeing the pot market. Now, it's more than doubled, and by February the agency expects to have more than 100 staffers. The agency is moving into new offices later this year, having outgrown its original quarters. It's expected new satellite offices will eventually spread around the state.
There also will be scores of jobs added to issue licenses for sellers, growers, truck drivers, manufacturers and others working in the projected $7 billion industry. The state has taken to Facebook to lure applicants. The bureau is using a video snippet of actor Jim Carrey, hammering his fingers into a computer keyboard, to catch the eye of prospective applicants online. "Get those applications in ... before this guy beats you to it," it reads. "New job just ahead," reads another post. "We're hiring."
This year's state budget contained about $100 million to fund regulatory programs for marijuana, which includes personnel to review and issue licenses, watch over environmental conditions and carry out enforcement.
Planned hiring into 2018 covers a range of state agencies: Fifty people are bound for the Public Health Department, 65 are slated to join the Water Resources Control Board, and 60 new employees are expected at the Food and Agriculture Department, which will oversee licensing for cultivators.
Some of the work is highly specialized. Environmental scientists will be responsible for developing standards for pot grows near streams, to make sure fertilizer or pesticides do not taint the water or harm fish. An engineer will monitor groundwater and water being diverted to nourish plants. Lawyers are needed to help sort out complex issues involving the state's maze of environmental laws.
Pay varies with position but can be attractive, with some scientist posts paying over $100,000 annually. Special investigators with the Consumer Affairs Department could earn in the $80,000 range.
Though not mentioned in this article, most states have funding government jobs in the marijuana arena through the fees and taxes that the marijuana industry produces for state coffers. In a black marketplace, of course, there are no fees and taxes going to the government, though taxpayers are still paying for the costs of trying to enforce prohibition -- which, ironically, largely serves to drive up the tax-free profits that black market participants can secure. With legalization and regulation, the monies paid by marijuana consumers gets channeled to fund state regulatory jobs that should help ensure the consumer gets a safer product at a lower cost. From an economic perspective, it should be a win-win if all goes well (though all does not always go well, and there are other obvious concerns such as public health).
October 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, has this new commentary detailing positive elements of economic development that can be linked to marijuana reforms. The full headline of the piece serves as a kind of summary: "Making the case for Marijuana Is Now a Driving Engine of the American Economy: From increased tax revenue to rising home prices, legalization is stimulating economic growth." And here are excerpts, highlighting more what has not to been previously highlighting on this blog:
The legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes is having a positive impact on states’ economies in ways that go well beyond tax revenue. From job creation to increased tourism, marijuana legalization is driving economic markets. Here’s how.
The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of nearly 150,000 new full-time jobs, according to data compiled by the online content provider Leafly.com. Their September 12 analysis identified 149,304 jobs in the marijuana sector – a 22 percent increase over the number of jobs that existed one year ago. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).
The state of Colorado has experienced an unprecedented increase in tourism following the passage of marijuana legalization. According to data released last year by the Colorado Tourism Office, a record-setting 77.7 million people visited the state in 2015, spending over $19 billion. It is the fifth year in a row that tourism has set records in the state, which is experiencing a rapid growth in tourism that is nearly double the national average. And while not all of Colorado’s visitors are coming there for legal weed, many of them are. Among vacationers surveyed by the state’s Tourism Office in 2016, 49 percent responded that marijuana’s legal status positively influenced their decision to visit the state, and 22 percent of Colorado vacationers said that marijuana’s legal status was “extremely influential” in shaping their decision.
WORKPLACE PARTICIPATION AND WAGES
Lifting cannabis criminalization is linked with greater participation in the workforce and an increase in weekly income. A 2016 University of California at Irvine study reported that ending marijuana possession arrests is associated with an increased probability of employment, particularly among young African American males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. According to separate data published last year in the journal Health Economics, medical cannabis regulatory laws are associated with fewer workplace absences. Data published by the National Bureau of Economic research similarly reports that medicalization is associated with a "9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over 50 years of age. “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women,” researchers concluded.
The growth in the number of cannabis retail facilities is associated with an increase in nearby home values. That’s according to a just published economic analysis by researchers at the University of Georgia at Athens, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and California State University Sacramento. They reported that single family residences within 0.1 miles of a retail marijuana establishment saw an increase in value of approximately 8.4 percent compared to those located slightly further – between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles – from the site. That increase in property value was estimated to be almost $27,000 for an average house in the area.
October 1, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 29, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this local article reporting that "Nevada dispensaries raked in more than $27 million during the first month of recreational marijuana sales, generating more than $3.6 million in taxes, according to figures released Thursday by the Nevada Department of Taxation." Here is more:
How does that stack up against the other states with legal marijuana? It’s nearly double. Colorado and Oregon each sold about $14 million in marijuana during their respective first months of sales. Washington sold $3.8 million in its first month.
“We came out of the gate like a shotgun,” said Matt Morgan, CEO of Reef Dispensaries. Morgan said that, even three months into recreational sales, Reef’s dispensary located behind the Fashion Show Mall has a line inside the store at nearly all times and outside about 40 percent of the time.
Nevada’s market will only grow, he said. “I still don’t think everyone understands that it’s recreational in Nevada yet,” Morgan said.
For Nevada, $2.7 million in tax revenue came from the 10 percent special excise tax on recreational marijuana, all of which is destined for the state’s rainy day fund. That falls right in line with Nevada’s marijuana sales estimates even though there were no state projections for July because of uncertainty about when stores would begin sales. State officials have projected that special sales tax will generate $63.5 million over the first two years of sales....
Tax Department spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said the state expects that excise tax to grow over the next two years as more cultivators get licensed and begin to operate. The state has also pulled in $6.5 million for marijuana license and application fees. Those revenues will be used to cover the administrative costs to regulate the industry for the Tax Department and local governments, and all remaining funds go to the state’s public education fund.
Recreational sales started on July 1, and the state has issued 250 recreational marijuana licenses thus far, 53 of those to dispensaries.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
The controversial former Prez candidate Al Sharpton has this notable new commentary in The Guardian under the (anglicized) headline "Why the decriminalisation of marijuana is a civil rights cause." Here are excerpts:
There is no greater act of resistance than continuing to march towards the sweeping, systemic victories that have changed our nation’s trajectory for the better: voting rights, anti-employment discrimination measures, and most recently, President Obama’s success in securing health coverage for the 20 million Americans who were previously denied this universal human right. Determined to punish the rising majority of Americans he thinks have slighted him, our president may erode these freedoms, but he will not succeed in taking them.
This is why I am proceeding undaunted towards our country’s next transformative victory – a fight I planned to pick under a Democratic administration, but one we should pursue just as vigorously in the reactionary Trump era: decriminalization of marijuana. It is a civil rights cause that we should not postpone, but accelerate during these dark and difficult times.
For Democrats and progressives, the arguments have always been clear: generations of Americans, overwhelmingly people of color, have been imprisoned and starved of access to higher education, housing, and economic opportunities, and stripped of their inalienable right to vote thanks to non-violent acts. Billions of dollars in funding have been diverted from healthcare, jobs, and schools and have entrenched a prison-industrial complex built on a foundation of racism.
But in truth, the conservative case for marijuana decriminalization is no less resonant. Archaic drug laws have fueled wasteful government spending, and made millions of Americans who dream, achingly, of being their family’s breadwinner dependent on the charity of others. And they have given rise of the epidemic of opiate drugs – often legally manufactured and prescribed – devastating communities that pundits have taken to calling the ‘white working class.’
The often-repeated reference to the ‘white working class’ has grown counterproductive as it focuses on a narrowly defined group instead of using more broader, inclusive categories. It also stifles the creative thinking and organizing needed to guide our efforts for the remainder of this presidency. On the issue of medical marijuana, a more accurate term for the residents of these hard-hit towns and regions – many of whom voted for President Trump – would be natural allies to the movement to decriminalize marijuana.
In the coming weeks, I will be joining Decode Cannabis, a powerful new alliance of faith leaders, criminal justice reformers, healthcare practitioners, medical marijuana industry leaders and labor unions. For years, these groups have labored toward shared goals, but have too often done so in their respective silos. This initial coalition is impressive, but it is not enough to succeed. At least not on its own.
To notch proactive policy wins in the Trump era, we must not retreat to the comfort of those of share our viewpoints. We must enter the lion’s den – even uninvited – to confront and cultivate the prospective allies who will mutually benefit from this cause. We must not allow the unique opportunities resulting from the intensifying rift between the White House and conventional Republicans to be squandered.
The District of Columbia — which, if anyone cares, is where I was born a long, long time ago — has long been a distinct part of the United States as a matter of law and practice. For that reason and others, it should come as no surprise that marijuana reform takes on distinctive dynamic in our nation's capital. This new AP piece, headlined "Giving the gift of green in the ‘District of Cannabis’," provides a profile of this interesting story, and here are excerpts:
A 2014 ballot initiative to legalize recreational use passed overwhelmingly. But unlike the eight states that have legalized recreational use, the Washington initiative also maintained it was still illegal to buy or sell the drug.
So instead of the straightforward marijuana storefronts common in Colorado or Nevada, Washington has developed a thriving “gift economy” marijuana industry. These businesses — many offering delivery — sell everything from coffee cups to artwork — all overpriced and all coming with a little something extra.
It’s a curious legal and semantic tightrope, and one the District’s politicians and police seem determined to keep walking. “It’s definitely unique,” said Morgan Fox of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. “The DC city council and the city government don’t want to be busting people for weed. They want this to work and work smoothly.”
Washington’s local government didn’t choose to make the District a real-time sociology lab for alternative legalization. The roots of this strange legal middle ground lie in the District’s tortured relationship with the federal government. “We would have regular stores if we had the normal rights of a U.S. state,” said Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ, a pro-legalization group that helped draft the initiative’s text.
All District laws are subject to review by a congressional committee, which can veto them or alter them by attaching riders to federal appropriations bills. After the initiative passed, Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from neighboring Maryland, introduced a rider prohibiting the District government from spending any funds or resources on developing a regulatory or taxation system for marijuana sales.
Harris, an anesthesiologist and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, remains a staunch opponent of recreational marijuana use and has no regrets about complicating the District’s legalization model. “I think the District of Columbia made a bad decision,” Harris said in an interview. “I would hope the District comes to its senses and realizes the dangers.”
According to marijuana merchants, the change has resulted in spiraling supply and demand. The relative ease of availability without risking arrest or having to maintain a relationship with a dealer has brought a wave of consumers of all ages and demographics. And that wave of demand has brought a wave of new suppliers. In addition to the dozens of different businesses working through the gift loophole, there are now hundreds of marijuana-themed public events taking place across the city — most openly advertised on social media. “Seven days a week, you can find an event going on,” said Gregory Moorer, whose Laid Back Lords company offers marijuana gifts to accompany $50 baseball caps and $80 sweatshirts.
One such event, known as Cannemania, happens weekly at a closed Ethiopian restaurant. Inside isn’t so much a stoner party as a fairly businesslike trade show. On a recent night, about 150 people crowded in to peruse about 25 different vendors’ tables offering large jars of buds and a huge variety of edibles, from brownies to marijuana-infused gummi bears. There were also marijuana vape pens and “concentrates” — a substance that looks like candle wax and requires a waterpipe and a blowtorch to consume.
Vendors hawked their wares like THC sommeliers and offered free hits of concentrates. But there was, according to the rules, no smoking of marijuana buds. For the most part everyone kept to the necessary gift loophole script: your money technically bought you a raffle ticket, some expensive rolling paper or, in one case, the baseball card of former Cleveland Indians shortstop Julio Franco.
Despite the ubiquity of the drug, it would be inaccurate to describe the District as some sort of marijuana free-for-all. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government has worked hard to establish clear lines on what is and is not permitted. It remains illegal to smoke in public. Arrests for public consumption have actually spiked since the legalization initiative came into effect. Bowser also personally lobbied the city council to defeat a proposal to permit pot smoking in bars or restaurants — fearing it would lead to private cannabis clubs.
The police have also pounced on entrepreneurs who push things too far. In late 2015 they arrested Nicholas “Kush God” Cunningham, who had deployed a fleet of cars covered in marijuana-leaf decals that would hand out pot edibles in exchange for “donations.”...
Police maintain that the gift loophole isn’t fooling anyone. “In our estimation, that’s still illegal,” said Lt. Andrew Struhar of the Narcotics and Special Operations division of Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department. But Struhar also admitted that police aren’t “actively out hunting” for marijuana violators as long as everything stays low-key and the neighbors don’t complain.
“We serve the citizens and if they say there’s a problem on this or that block, we’re going to do something about it,” he said. “If you’re going to flaunt it and you’re going to stick it in our face and force us to take action against it, then we’re going to take action.”
For now the model seems to be staggering along, but it’s debatable how long this can continue. Legalization activists say that a quasi-legal grey area was never their goal. Members of the District’s government are even less enthusiastic; they complain about the intrusiveness of the congressional oversight and point to a study which estimated $130 million in potential annual revenue from taxing marijuana sales. “I don’t think it’s sustainable,” said City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “We have legal marijuana but we can’t regulate it. It’s stupid, it’s just stupid.”
September 28, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
I noticed this morning these two very different articles looking at issues of inclusiveness in the marijuana reform space in two very different ways:
From Slate here, "By Excluding LGBTQ People, the Growing Cannabis Industry Is Betraying Its Roots"
The burgeoning industry has one glaring problem: The gatekeepers of cannabis’ culture and commerce are overwhelming white, cis, straight, and male — not to mention downright bro-y. White-appropriated rasta colors and women clad in weed-leaf bikinis abound, and on the buttoned-up side of things, the ubiquitous influence of the tech-bro is essentially turning the cannabis industry into the next Silicon Valley — a space not exactly known for its inclusivity.
Thankfully, there is an ongoing push for diversity of color and gender, to varying degrees of success. Women now make up 36 percent of leadership roles in the cannabis industry (compared to just 5 percent in the rest of the business world) and municipalities across the country are attempting to build reparations into their practices and policies for the communities of color that have been disproportionately negatively affected by the criminalization of cannabis. This includes the city of Oakland’s Equity Permit Program, which reserves a portion of permits for people of color and those convicted of marijuana-related crime; Washington, D.C.’s, local effort to give local minority-owned companies a preference when applying for licenses to operate medical marijuana businesses; and the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s plan to create template legislation that addresses issues of inclusion to distribute to states and local municipalities.
But there’s another marginalized group that has largely been left out of the diversity conversation, and stigmatized in the cannabis industry: the LGBTQ community. Brewing within the bro culture of mainstream weed is a big dose of homophobia, and no one knows this better than Jay Jackson, aka Laganja Estranja, the choreographer, drag queen, and cannabis activist best known for competing in the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. As suggested by the name, Laganja Estranja is a pro-weed queen who often dons marijuana-leaf prints and pendants and speaks about the need for gay visibility within the cannabis community
From Leafy here, "Can an Inclusive Cannabis Industry Include Roger Stone?"
Whatever Roger Stone’s personal beliefs, he’s very clearly made a career out of delivering the “hateful little shit” vote to guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — who both loved nothing more than busting hippies and minorities for weed. In fact, Stone’s done his job so well that the hateful little shits of the world now feel like they own the place.
Keep in mind, there’s long been a conservative wing of the marijuana legalization movement (Limited Government! Free Enterprise! Personal Liberty!), identified with principled voices like William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman on up to Gary Johnson and Grover Norquist. There are currently bipartisan cannabis bills in Congress, sponsored by a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. So this rift at the expo isn’t about electoral politics or ideology. And it isn’t even really about Roger Stone—as much as he loves the attention....
And therein lies Roger Stone’s true political genius. Through long practice, he’s perfected a signature blend of hyper-partisan politics, spectacle-grade entertainment and absolute gutter fighting that’s really hard to ignore. His persona comes across like an evil wisecracking Pro Wrestling manager in a fancy suit who’s forever throwing sand in your eyes and smiling.
September 27, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)