Thursday, April 23, 2015
As highlighted in many prior posts, students in my marijuana law school seminar are in the midst of assembling readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for class project(s). This week a student is scheduled to discuss marijuana regulation in the sports industry, and here are some stories she has suggested reviewing on the topic:
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by a number of stories I have seen in the wake of yesterday's news that Michele Leonhart is resigning as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Here are links to some of these stories:
From Bloomberg here, "Marijuana Activists Cheer Michele Leonhart's Exit from the DEA"
From the Daily Caller here, "Marijuana Advocates Thrilled At DEA Administrator’s Expected Resignation"
- From The Hill here, "Marijuana advocates push for new pot-friendly DEA chief"
The last story linked here highlights what will really determine the answer to the question in the title of this post: if President Obama nominates somebody for this position who expresses openness to federal marijuana reforms and a serious commitment to a more public-health oriented approach to all drug enforcement issues (e.g., Dr. Sanjay Gupta?), the transition at the top of DEA could end up being a very big deal.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Regular readers already know that The Brookings Institution has been committed to doing thoughtful and cutting-edge research, reports and blogging on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform. Today, the front-page of the Brookings website has this announcement and link:
In the past few years, marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics. In this post — the first in the FixGov blog's 4/20 blog series — John Hudak lays out 12 people to watch in the future of marijuana policy.
I very much like John's list of a dozen key marijuana reform players, and here I will note how he introduces his list and a few of its first four notable names:
Marijuana policy has emerged as a key issue in American politics, particularly over the past few years. The issue is being debated at local, state, and federal levels, and has captured the attention of media organizations and research institutions nationwide and around the world.
Navigating the policy terrain and understanding what is happening in this fast-paced, dynamic, and changing arena is often tough. Knowing who is influential can be even more difficult. Because of the expansive nature of the policy conversation there are hundreds of key players making a difference — on both sides of this issue — and that list is seemingly ever growing.
In this post, I list 12 people who each bring something interesting to the table and may play an important role in the future of this policy area. They may not be the most important, though surely some of the people on this list could be considered so. Nor is this list ranked in order of importance or impact. Instead, it offers a brief overview of how these 12 individuals may help shape the future of cannabis policy....
1. Hillary Clinton, 2016 Presidential Candidate
2. Rand Paul, U.S. Senator & 2016 Presidential Candidate
3. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
4. Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney General designee
April 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, April 17, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this new CNN commentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which is something of a preview of a new documentary on medical marijuana titled "Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution" airing at 9 pm Sunday on CNN. Here is how the commentary starts:
I see signs of a revolution everywhere. I see it in the op-ed pages of the newspapers, and on the state ballots in nearly half the country. I see it in politicians who once preferred to play it safe with this explosive issue but are now willing to stake their political futures on it. I see the revolution in the eyes of sterling scientists, previously reluctant to dip a toe into this heavily stigmatized world, who are diving in head first. I see it in the new surgeon general who cites data showing just how helpful it can be.
I see a revolution in the attitudes of everyday Americans. For the first time a majority, 53%, favor its legalization, with 77% supporting it for medical purposes. Support for legalization has risen 11 points in the past few years alone. In 1969, the first time Pew asked the question about legalization, only 12% of the nation was in favor.
I see a revolution that is burning white hot among young people, but also shows up among the parents and grandparents in my kids' school. A police officer I met in Michigan is part of the revolution, as are the editors of the medical journal, Neurosurgery. I see it in the faces of good parents, uprooting their lives to get medicine for their children -- and in the children themselves, such as Charlotte, who went from having 300 seizures a week to just one or two a month. We know it won't consistently have such dramatic results (or any impact at all) in others, but what medicine does?
I see this medical marijuana revolution in surprising places. Among my colleagues, my patients and my friends. I have even seen the revolution in my own family. A few years ago, when I told my mother I was investigating the topic for a documentary, I was met with a long pause.
"Marijuana...?" She whispered in a half questioning, half disapproving tone. She could barely even say the word and her response filled me with self-doubt. Even as a grown man, mom can still make my cheeks turn red and shatter my confidence with a single word. But just last week she suddenly stopped mid-conversation and said, "I am proud of you on the whole marijuana thing." I waited for the other shoe to drop, but it didn't. Instead, she added, "You probably helped a lot of people who were suffering."
April 17, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, April 16, 2015
As highlighted in many prior posts, students in my marijuana law school seminar are in the midst of assembling readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for class project(s). This week, in addition to discussions of law enforcement, tax and black market issues, a student is scheduled to discuss international marijuana reform. Here are links to the student-assembled readings on this topic:
CATO working paper, "Marijuana Policy in Colorado"
Article from The Huffington Post, "There's A Lot More To Uruguay's Legal Weed Than The $1-A-Gram Price"
CATO commentary, "International Analysis: Uruguay and Marijuana Legalization"
CNN commentary, "Finally, a nation legalizes pot"
Two notable new stories about notable new marijuana comments made by notable chief executives caught my eye this morning. Here are the headlines, links and the basics:
- From The Daily Caller here, "Obama Reiterates Enthusiastic Support Of Medical Marijuana":
In a CNN special to be aired on Sunday, not only will President Barack Obama state his full support of medical marijuana, he’ll also advocate for alternative models of drug abuse treatment which don’t involve incarceration. The television special, called “Weed 3,” features CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who came to support medical marijuana after reviewing the evidence. This time around, he’ll be delving into the politics of medical marijuana research and interviewing President Barack Obama, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
- From Hot Air here, "Chris Christie: As president, I’ll enforce federal drug laws in states where selling marijuana is legal":
Even within the GOP, which remains skeptical of liberalization on drugs, a majority thinks the feds should defer to the states. You can indeed be anti-marijuana and pro-federalism. Screw that, says Christie. When it comes to deciding whether marijuana’s too dangerous for the citizens of a state to sell, he’ll happily trump your state legislature and local PD. And to think, they call him a big-government Republican.
It is both notable and telling, of course, that a President often accused of trampling state and individual rights is here saying he respects on-going state reforms, while a state Governor representing from a party that claims it favors a smaller federal Government is asserting he wants to make sure states do not even try to forge a different part with respect to the war on drugs. And this is why I find marijuana law, policy and reform so politically interesting: it help reveal, in a way few other issues do, just which particular policies and which particular principles are ultimately most important to which particular politicians.
April 16, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
The question in the title of this post is the focal point for discussion by a student this week in my marijuana law seminar. Here are some key materials that provide background professional normal on this interesting issue:
2010 Rand Working Paper, "Estimated Cost of Production for Legalized Cannabis"
2005 MPP/Miron Report, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition"
The Price of Weed website/resource
As highlighted in many prior posts, students in my marijuana law school seminar are in the midst of assembling readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for class project(s). This week, besides the prior topics noted here and here that still on the agenda, is for review of the impact of a federal tax code provision that creates unique problems for state-legal marijuana businesses. Cribbing from this on-point commentary, my student provides this introduction to this issue:
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
This recent lengthy article from New Jersey, headlined "Lawyers afraid to defend N.J. medical marijuana dispensary," spotlights some of the intricate legal issues and problems created by the disparity between state and federal marijuana laws. The full article merits a full read, but here is the start which provides an overview:
The co-founder of the medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township will appear in court Wednesday to dispute claims he blocked his employees' attempts to join a union in a case that is being watched across the nation. And this isn't even David Knowlton's biggest problem.
Knowlton, board chairman of the nonprofit Compassionate Care Foundation dispensary, is not a lawyer, and he can't find one to represent him before the National Labor Relations Board. State law created a medicinal marijuana program, but to the federal government, growing and possessing marijuana remain illegal activities. Rules of professional conduct say attorneys cannot advise or assist their clients engage in "conduct a lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent."
The law firm of Ballard Spahr of Philadelphia offered to represent the financially struggling dispensary for free but later withdrew the offer out of concern its attorneys could face ethics charges and put their licenses at risk, Knowlton said.
"It's a difficult position to be in," said Knowlton, who is also CEO for a health policy think tank, the Health Care Quality Institute of New Jersey. "I am used to being in a world where everyone knows what the rules are — you have a right to counsel, a hearing and due process — and it is being cast aside because the state and the feds can't agree."
The quandary is just the latest legal landmine people in the medicinal marijuana industry face in the netherworld between state and federal law, where it's nearly impossible to obtain a simple bank loan.
The case pitting the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the dispensary promises to test the murky limits of both state and federal laws in ways that would set a precedent, according to legal experts.
A notable Ohio newspaper has just published a notable Special Report series on marijuana reform in the Buckeye State. All three articles in the series are must-reads, and here in order and the full headlined with links:
Monday, April 13, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Vox article which helps highlight why the 2016 Prez campaign is going to be so interesting for anyone concerned about marijuana reform, law and policy. Here are excerpts:
Hillary Clinton's approach to marijuana legalization can best be described as a cautious, leave-it-to-the-states strategy similar to that of the Obama administration. But her wary approach to the issue puts her at slight odds with most voters, even more of her Democratic base, and even most voters in some key swing states, all of whom flat-out support legalization.
In her most recent comments on the issue during a CNN town hall last June, Clinton said, "On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."
Asked about her views on medical marijuana, Clinton also took an ambiguous stance: "I don't think we've done enough research yet. Although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances. But I do think we need more research, because we don't know how it interacts with other drugs. There's a lot we don't know."
The stance is not out of step with many politicians. The Obama administration, for example, has allowed Colorado, Washington state, Alaska, and Oregon to legalize marijuana without much federal intervention — all while the administration officially opposes legalization. But Clinton's position, just like President Barack Obama's, is different from where many in the public already are right now....
Millennials are particularly strong advocates of legalization, according to a 2014 survey from the Pew Research Center. But there's also majority support among Democrats in the three youngest generations in the US today.
Marijuana legalization also appears to be favored in several swing states. A Quinnipiac University survey conducted in March found a majority of voters support full legalization in Florida (55 percent), Ohio (52 percent), and Pennsylvania (51 percent) — all key states that a Clinton campaign may need to win the general election.
Medical marijuana, meanwhile, has even greater backing from people of all ages and political parties. A 2010 Pew Research Center survey found 73 percent of American voters back medical marijuana, including 80 percent of Democrats. Support has presumably grown since 2010 — but even if it hadn't, Clinton's cautious medical marijuana stance would stand in sharp contrast with four in five Democrats.
Clinton's stance to let states decide whether to legalize is "unnecessarily tepid for a Democrat," Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told me in an email. "There's nothing to lose and a lot to gain for her if she were to take a more aggressive position in favor of regulation. By not doing so, she leaves the door open for a candidate like [former Maryland Gov. Martin] O'Malley, who is trying to outflank her with liberals and young voters, to make marijuana reform part of his platform."
Friday, April 10, 2015
The title of this post is the title for a terrific event scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 12noon in the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. I am so very pleased and excited that this event was constructed and will be moderated by one of the students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar, and here is his description of the event with titles/links for some participants:
What’s Right for Ohio: A Discussion about Marijuana Reform will be a discussion about the central issues and interests surrounding marijuana reform in the state of Ohio. With public opinion polls showing that support for recreational marijuana in Ohio has grown above 50%, and as skepticism about the policy of absolute prohibition abounds, the state of Ohio is at the forefront of the marijuana reform debate unfolding nationwide. This discussion will seek to inform the debate that will develop around Ohio in the coming months and years regarding what we, as Ohioans, think the right policy for our state and our country should be. As we know from history, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation. Confirmed participants in the event include:
Douglas A. Berman, OSU College of Law Professor
Honorable Michael F. Curtin, Ohio House of Representative member for the 17th District
Stephen JohnsonGrove, Deputy Director at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center
Taleed El-Sabawi, J.D. and OSU Ph.D. student in Health Policy
This notable new New York Times article about Colorado's tax revenues and marijuana markets details some important fiscal lessons from the first few years of marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts:
Colorado’s marijuana tax collections are not as high as expected. In February 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office projected Colorado would take in $118 million in taxes on recreational marijuana in its first full year after legalization. With seven months of revenue data in, his office has cut that projection and believes it will collect just $69 million through the end of the fiscal year in June, a miss of 42 percent.
That figure is consequential in two ways. First, it’s a wide miss. Second, compared with Colorado’s all-funds budget of $27 billion, neither $69 million nor $118 million is a large number. “It’s a distraction,” Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, says of the tax issue. And despite the marijuana tax miss, overall state revenues are exceeding projections, which may force the state to rebate some marijuana tax receipts to taxpayers.
In the political debate over marijuana policy, fiscal benefits — bringing marijuana into the legal economy and taxing it — have loomed large. The summary of the marijuana legalization question put before voters in 2012 stipulated the first $40 million raised by one of the three taxes on recreational marijuana would be put toward school construction each year. In practice, Colorado is likely to receive just $20 million from that tax this year.
But it’s not just Colorado. When Scott Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal call-in show to discuss state finances in December, callers repeatedly suggested that legal marijuana could fix budget gaps in other states. One asserted, incorrectly, that legal marijuana had increased Colorado’s tax revenues by a billion dollars.
Colorado’s marijuana taxes are part of a broader trend in recent years: States, looking for ways to close budget shortfalls without raising broad-based taxes, have leaned on “sin” revenues: higher taxes on cigarettes, higher fees and fines and higher revenue from gambling. And as they have sought to squeeze more revenue from these sources, they have often been disappointed....
In the case of marijuana, Colorado’s revenue has disappointed because legal recreational marijuana sales have been lower than expected. State officials thought many customers of medical marijuana dispensaries would migrate to the recreational market. But this process has been slow, in part because there is a financial disincentive to switch: Medical marijuana is subject only to general sales tax, while a 15 percent tax is imposed on recreational marijuana at wholesale and a further 10 percent at retail, in additional to the general sales tax.
But Mr. Freedman says the biggest drag on revenue is that so much of Colorado’s marijuana market remains unregulated. A 2014 report commissioned by the state’s Department of Revenue estimated 130 metric tons of marijuana was consumed in the state that year, while just 77 metric tons was sold through medical dispensaries and recreational marijuana retailers. The rest was untaxed: a combination of home growing, production by untaxed medical “caregivers” whose lightly regulated status is protected in the state constitution and plain old black-market production and trafficking....
But even if Colorado got all this right, improved revenues would not be among the most important effects that marijuana legalization has on the state. “Tax revenue is nice to have, but in most states is not going to be enough to change the budget picture significantly,” Mr. Kleiman says. “The stakes in reducing criminal activity and incarceration and protecting public health are way higher than the stakes in generating revenue.”
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Effective coverage of the legal land mine of the DOJ spending restriction in medical marijuana cases
As previously noted in posts here and elsewhere, a provision buried in H.R. 83, the 1700-page Cromnibus spending bill passed late last year, directed the US Department of Justice not to use any funds to interfere with state-legalized medical marijuana regimes. Today the New York Times has this extended and informative discussion of this provision and its uncertain meaning and impact four months after its passage. The article is headlined "Legal Conflicts on Medical Marijuana Ensnare Hundreds as Courts Debate a New Provision," and here are excerpts:
In December, in a little-publicized amendment to the 2015 appropriations bill that one legal scholar called a “buried land mine,” Congress barred the Justice Department from spending any money to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
In the most advanced test of the law yet, Mr. Lynch’s lawyers have asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to “direct the D.O.J. to cease spending funds on the case.” In a filing last month, they argued that by continuing to work on his prosecution, federal prosecutors “would be committing criminal acts.”
But the Justice Department asserts that the amendment does not undercut its power to enforce federal drug law. It says that the amendment only bars federal agencies from interfering with state efforts to carry out medical marijuana laws, and that it does not preclude criminal prosecutions for violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
With the new challenge raised in several cases, federal judges will have to weigh in soon, opening a new arena in a legal field already rife with contradiction....
The California sponsors of the December amendment, including Representatives Sam Farr and Barbara Lee, both Democrats, and Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, say it was clearly intended to curb individual prosecutions and have accused the Justice Department of violating its spirit and substance. “If federal prosecutors are engaged in legal action against those involved with medical marijuana in a state that has made it legal, then they are the ones who are the lawbreakers,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.
Mr. Farr said, “For the feds to come in and take this hardline approach in a state with years of experience in regulating medical marijuana is disruptive and disrespectful.” The sponsors said they were planning how to renew the spending prohibition next year.
Some prior related posts:
- Defense moves to postpone federal marijuana sentencing based new law ordering DOJ not to prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws
- Should ALL federal marijuana sentencings be postponed now that Cromnibus precludes DOJ from interfering with state medical marijuana laws?
- Impact of the 2015 federal budget's medical marijuana spending restriction remains unclear
April 9, 2015 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
As highlights in many prior posts, students in my marijuana law school seminarare in the midst of assembling readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for class project(s). This week, among the interesting topics on the agenda, is impact of marijuana prohibition and of marijuana reform on law enforcement activities, and here are links to the student-assembled readings on this topic:
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
As mentioned in prior posts here and here, students in my marijuana law school seminar spend the last few weeks of class presenting readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for their class project(s). This week, one group presentation will be focused on the impact of marijuana prohibition and of marijuana reform in minority communities, and students have highlighted these research findings and stories:
- Marijuana Business Daily article, Minorities Avoid Cannabis Industry as History of Arrests, Incarceration Drive Fears
As reported in this local article, the "Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday issued two rulings barring courts and prosecutors from denying marijuana use as a term of probation if the convicted felons have valid medical-marijuana cards." Here is more on these notable rulings:
In one case, a man convicted of possessing marijuana for sale in Cochise County was forbidden from using marijuana by a probation officer after he was released from prison.
In the second, a woman pleading guilty to DUI in Yavapai County refused to accept abstention from marijuana as a term of probation, prompting the prosecution to withdraw the plea agreement. Both had valid medical-marijuana cards.
The Supreme Court ruled that both had the right to use marijuana for their medical conditions and that prosecutors and courts could not block that right as a term of probation.
"The Supreme Court is recognizing what the people decided when they passed the initiative: You can use your medicine," said David Euchner, an assistant Pima County public defender. Euchner argued as a friend of the court in both cases in his role as a member of the executive committee for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice....
"[I]f the state extends a plea offer that includes probation, it cannot condition the plea on acceptance of a probationary term that would prohibit a qualified patient from using medical marijuana ..." [one of the Arizona court's] ruling said.
Prosecutors are not pleased with the ruling. "It's another example of the problems with initiative drafting and unintended consequences," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in an e-mail to The Arizona Republic. "There was no discussion at the time of the election regarding the impact to case resolutions and the ability for parties to negotiate plea agreements."
Montgomery is a staunch opponent of marijuana use. On March 23, he raised eyebrows during a debate in Tempe over the use of recreational marijuana when he called a veteran who admitted to using the drug an "enemy."
But the defense attorney he faced off against, Marc Victor, said Tuesday's court ruling was just, "because the initiative specifically said your right to use medical marijuana can't be taken away."...
The second case Tuesday covered a slightly different probation angle. Jennifer Lee Ferrell was arrested in 2012 and charged with DUI.
Pursuant to Yavapai County Attorney's Office policy, Ferrell's plea agreement required her to avoid marijuana as a condition of probation. The high court said no.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk is also firmly against marijuana use. "I implemented the 'no marijuana condition' after the probation department noted a significant increase in the number of probationers obtaining a medical marijuana card to use marijuana while on felony probation," Polk said in an e-mail to The Republic. "My goal — and the goal of the system — is to set convicted felons up to succeed, to find employment and to turn their lives around. Marijuana is not part of that equation."
Polk said she is considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here are links to the opinions references in this article:
Rebecca White Berch, Author; Scott Bales, Concur; John Pelander, Concur; Robert M. Brutinel, Concur; Ann A. Scott Timmer, Concur
Ann A. Scott Timmer, Author; Scott Bales, Concur; John Pelander, Concur; Rebecca White Berch, Concur; Robert M. Brutinel, Concur
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
The question in the title of this post is the focal point for discussion by a student this week in my marijuana law seminar. Here are some key materials that provide background professional normal on this interesting issue:
ABA Model Rules for Advertising/Specialization:
- Model Rule 7.2 on Advertising
- Model Rule 7.4 on Communation of Practice Specialization
- Related ABA article: "Think twice before you call yourself an expert"
- Rule 7.2 and comments and Rule 7.4 and comments (scroll/click through)
Monday, April 6, 2015
As mentioned in prior posts here and here, students in my marijuana law school seminar spend the last few weeks of class presenting readings and leading discussions concerning the research topic(s) that are the focal point for their class project(s). This week, one of the presentations will be focused on "baking issues pertaining to the marijuana industry, why there has been little movement on these issues, and why these issues may not be that bad for the banks and the marijuana retailers." Here are some background on these topics:
FinCEN - Feb. 14, 2014 Guidance: "BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana-Related Businesses"
Introduction (pp. 1-7) of Julie Andersen Hill article, "Banks, Marijuana, and Federalism"
Planet Money - Big Weed: NPR audio file (relevant material is from 0:01 - 13:00 minutes; last seven minutes discuss marijuana private equity firms and the Canadian medical marijuana system)
As reported in this notable new Time article, "majority of voters in three key swing states support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll." Here are the basic details:
The Quinnipiac survey out Monday shows that 55% of voters in Florida, 52% in Ohio and 51% in Pennsylvania support allowing adults to “legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Legalizing medical marijuana is even more acceptable to swing state voters, with 84% of Floridians, 84% of Ohioans, and 88% of Pennsylvanians supporting medical pot.
Florida and Pennsylvania have pending bills to legalize marijuana this year, and it legalization could become a wedge issue in he 2016 presidential race.
The poll included more than 1,000 voters in each state.