Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In new ad campaign, "Marijuana Industry Battling Stoner Stereotypes"

Crprintad_sep2014bThe title of this post is drawn from the headline of this notable new AP article.  Here are excerpts:

Tired of Cheech & Chong pot jokes and ominous anti-drug campaigns, the marijuana industry and activists are starting an ad blitz in Colorado aimed at promoting moderation and the safe consumption of pot. To get their message across, they are skewering some of the old Drug War-era ads that focused on the fears of marijuana, including the famous "This is your brain on drugs" fried-egg ad from the 1980s.

They are planning posters, brochures, billboards and magazine ads to caution consumers to use the drug responsibly and warn tourists and first-timers about the potential to get sick from accidentally eating too much medical-grade pot. "So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's biggest pot-policy advocacy group.

The MPP plans to unveil a billboard on Wednesday on a west Denver street where many pot shops are located that shows a woman slumped in a hotel room with the tagline: "Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation." It's an allusion to Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist who got sick from eating one on a visit to write about pot.

The campaign is a direct response to the state's post-legalization marijuana-education efforts. One of them is intended to prevent stoned driving and shows men zoning out while trying to play basketball, light a grill or hang a television. Many in the industry said the ads showed stereotypical stoners instead of average adults.

Even more concerning to activists is a youth-education campaign that relies on a human-sized cage and the message, "Don't Be a Lab Rat," along with warnings about pot and developing brains. The cage in Denver has been repeatedly vandalized. At least one school district rejected the traveling exhibit, saying it was well-intentioned but inappropriate.

"To me, that's not really any different than Nancy Reagan saying 'Just Say No,'" said Tim Cullen, co-owner of four marijuana dispensaries and a critic of the "lab rat" campaign, referring to the former first lady's effort to combat drug use....

The advocacy ads tackle anti-drug messaging from year past. Inside pictures of old TV sets are images from historic ads. Along with the fried-egg one is an image from one ad of a father finding his son's drug stash and demanding to know who taught him to use it. The kid answers: "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!"

The print ad concludes, "Decades of fear-mongering and condescending anti-marijuana ads have not taught us anything about the substance or made anyone safer." It then directs viewers to consumeresposibly.org, which is patterned after the alcohol industry's "Drink Responsibly" campaign.

September 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Florida is such an interesting marijuana reform state: "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana"

Fla med mjThis lengthy local article from Florida, headlined "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana," highlights just some of the many reasons I think Florida is the most interesting state to watch in the near future concerning marijuana law, policy and reform. Here are excerpts from the article:

Sunshine and beaches are great attractions, but there could be another reason snowbirds flock to Florida if Amendment 2 passes: The availability of medical marijuana. Whether that happens depends on several unknowns as Florida heads into the last seven weeks before people vote on the question of legalizing medical pot.

State and local tourism officials don't believe the amendment will have an effect on tourism if it passes. They say the impact on snowbird residents would be miniscule. They also say they have no intention of using medical marijuana as a marketing tool.

Others say it's too early to tell. "I'm a snowbird with pain associated with MS," said David Dillabough, of Syracuse, N.Y., who winters in St. James City. "I avoid hydrocodone, oxycodone and the like. Marijuana is my choice whenever I need a break from persistent pain.

"Like other retired/older people, Florida is attractive to me because of the warmth and sunshine. Legalized medical marijuana wouldn't be the icing on the cake (that would be my friends), but it would be the flowers on the icing."

The state Department of Health financial analysis estimating the possible impact of the passage of Amendment 2 says snowbirds are a potential pool for medical marijuana tourism. "An estimated 17,178 to 41,271 may apply for an ID," the analysis says. That estimate has not been updated since the analysis was released in early November, said Phil E. Williams of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, the multistep process someone will have to go through to get an ID for medical pot would discourage shorter-duration visitors, the analysis says....

If the amendment passes, the effective date would be Jan. 1. The health department would have six months from that date to come up with rules; nine months to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers; and nine months to register medical marijuana dispensaries.

Tamara Pigott, executivwere director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said you have to remember tourists and snowbirds are two different things: Snowbirds are considered part-time residents who are here for a month or longer and often own property. Many snowbirds have established Florida residency, an attractive option because the state has no income tax. Tourists are short-term visitors.

Even if up to 41,000 snowbirds could apply for a medical pot ID, that number pales in the context of the actual numbers of state visitors, she said. Visitors reached 94.3 million last year according to Visit Florida, the state's official tourism and marketing entity, and the state is aiming for 100 million in 2014. One conference alone could bring in 40,000 people in a big city, Pigott said. "I don't anticipate that we would see a significant bump."

The legalization of medical marijuana might affect seasonal residents, said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But it probably would not have much effect on short-term visitors, which is what we do and how we promote," he said. Snowbirds aren't even counted in their statistics, he said. "I guess we're going to watch it and see where it goes from here."...

Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry, agrees with Florida officials when it comes to tourism and medical marijuana. The reason is states that have legalized medical marijuana have a residency requirement, she said. However, one possible exception is that Nevada is planning to allow reciprocity in their medical program, so people who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients in other states can purchase medical marijuana in Nevada, she said. "But that hasn't actually started yet, and it's still not going to create a tourism boom, since anyone it would affect is able to access medical marijuana in their home states already," West said....

Kathy Lowers of Naples said Amendment 2 will not make Florida a more attractive place to visit or live. Lowers, who has six children, said she moved here from California in part to avoid what she called the "sleaziness" of pot shops that popped up there. "To me, if Florida goes the way of California, I will just be so depressed," she said. "I am not against medical marijuana, but against pot shops dispensing it. There is a big difference.

"The Florida amendment is way more liberal than even the California one, so goodbye to family-friendly Florida," Lowers said. "People like me come here because it is more wholesome than other places; pot will ruin that benefit of visiting or living in Florida."

September 16, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wisconsin police chief advocate marijuana legalization to fund treatment for harder drugs

54121e3ad6951.image

This Wisconsin State Journal article, headlined "Police chief: Legalize marijuana, use tax revenue to fund drug treatment," reports on a local police chief's notable response to reports highlighting racial disparities on who gets arrested for marijuana offenses. Here are excerpts from the article:

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval endorsed the legalization of marijuana last week, saying the drug should be regulated and taxed, with revenues used to fund treatment programs for harder drugs.

The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African-Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.

Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure,” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.

Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sell it at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.

Koval said he would like to see the state “acknowledge the failure” of marijuana prohibition and instead focus on the “infinite amount of challenges” posed by drugs such as heroin. Taxes from the legal sale of marijuana, he said, would create state revenue that could then be used to fund drug treatment and expand the capacity of drug court programs that divert addicts from the criminal justice system....

The cause has not advanced as far in Wisconsin, though, where the drug remains completely illegal. State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced a bill to legalize marijuana earlier this year, but the legislation stands little chance of becoming law.

September 15, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Are cities being racially discriminatory in banning legal marijuana?"

Marijuana-map-620x410The title of this post is the headline of this very intriguing piece from the Seattle Times, which spotlights a very interesting new lawsuit filed in Washington concerning a local ban on marijuana sales.   Here are the details:

The growing number of cities and counties in Washington opting out of Washington’s marijuana legalization experiment is eating away at the foundation of Initiative 502, as a Seattle Times editorial in Thursday’s paper suggested. The lack of stores in widening swaths of the state perpetuates the black market and maintains underground access of youth.

A new lawsuit filed in Benton County Superior Court against Kennewick’s ban takes the argument further: Bans are also racially discriminatory. The suit, filed on behalf of a would-be marijuana company, suggests that Kennewick’s ban (as well as similar prohibitions in all three Tri-Cities and Franklin County) push the underground marijuana trade to poorer neighborhoods. Since marijuana is a cash cow for gangs, they’ll continue to battle for turf.

The lawsuit makes some broad assumptions, including that white marijuana users primarily buy from “friends,” and most transactions occur in private homes.... “Minorities and minority children, who reside in racially segregated, high poverty rate neighborhoods in Kennewick, where black market transactions do not occur in private between friends, but instead on the public streets, are therefore disproportionately subjected to violence as a product of the black market trade as compared to whites.”

Attorney Liz Hallock, who filed the suit on behalf of American Weed LLC, summed it up: “This is white people who don’t see the effect of a ban on their street corners.”

The case is scheduled for a hearing next week. Whether it is successful or not, the legality of these municipal bans is likely headed to the state Supreme Court, as another lawsuit, against Fife, is being directly appealed to the high court. These cases will hinge on a lack of specific authority in I-502 for cities and counties to opt out. Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a non-binding opinion in January that they have an implied right under the state Constitution, which spurred jurisdictions queasy about marijuana to drop the curtain on I-502.

The ACLU’s Alison Holcomb, the architect of the initiative, believes the question about the bans falls to the Legislature: “Are we going to allow opt-out (from I-502), and under what circumstances?” State liquor laws, for example, require an alcohol ban to be put to voters. If state law now treats marijuana like liquor, shouldn’t voters get a say on pot bans?

The Legislative debate is likely to center on whether cities and counties get some of the 25 percent marijuana excise taxes in exchange for accepting state-licensed I-502 businesses. Holcomb said municipalities should have to justify their costs, because legalization, in theory at least, would lower criminal justice costs. “Cities and counties need to make the case and tie the request to the needs,” she said.

Until the Legislature, or the court, acts, the bans are here to stay.

September 13, 2014 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Watch now: Case Western's Marijuana, Federal Power, and the States conference

As Rob noted yesterday, Case Western Law is hosting a conference today on Marijuana, Federal Power, and the States.  The first panel has just begun and Rob's presentation will be beginning soon.  Doug and I will both be speaking on a panel this afternoon.  There is a fantastic lineup top-to-bottom today (myself excluded).  Best of all, if you'd like to watch, you don't have to buy a last minute ticket to Cleveland.  The event is being webcast--the webcast link and the conference agenda are both here.  The conference's organizer, Jonathan Adler, has a post with some additional background on the conference here.

Photo2

September 12, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Watch Friday's Conference on Marijuana and Federalism

Case Western is holding a conference  Friday, September 12 on Marijuana and Federalism. The conference will take place at the Law School from 8:30-4:00. Jonathan Adler has graciously organized the event, which will feature presentations from a number of legal and policy scholars (including Doug, Alex, and myself -- I'll be presenting my marijuana localism paper). The website for the event is here; the webcast of the proceedings is here –tune in and enjoy!  

September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Does nearly every NFL player really have a "certifiable need for medical marijuana"?

Jackson1The question in the title of this post is prompted by the very first sentence of this provocative recent New York Times op-ed authored by former NFL player Nate Jackson.   Here are excerpts from a piece headlined "The N.F.L.’s Absurd Marijuana Policy":

Virtually every single player in the N.F.L. has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.

The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it.  Some players choose marijuana to manage this pain, which allows them to perform at a high level without sacrificing their bodies or their minds.

I medicated with marijuana for most of my career as a tight end from 2003 through 2008. And I needed the medication.  I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc.  Most players have similar medical charts.  And every one of them needs the medicine.

Standard pain management in the N.F.L. is pain pills and pregame injections. But not all players favor the pill and needle approach.  In my experience, many prefer marijuana.  The attitude toward weed in the locker room mirrors the attitude in America at large.  It’s not a big deal.  Players have been familiar with it since adolescence, and those who use it do so to offset the brutality of the game.  The fact that they made it to the N.F.L. at all means that their marijuana use is under control.

Had marijuana become a problem for me, it would have been reflected in my job performance, and I would have been cut.  I took my job seriously and would not have allowed that to happen.  The point is, marijuana and excellence on the playing field are not mutually exclusive....

Nearly 17,000 Americans overdosed and died from prescription painkillers in 2011, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These are the same pills I was handed in full bottles after an injury.  The same pills that are ravaging our cities.  The same ones that are creating a population of apathetic adults, pill-popping their way through the day and dead behind the eyes. The same ones that are leading high schoolers to heroin because the pills no longer get them high and are too expensive. Yeah, those....

In my playing days, the marijuana smokers struck me as sharper, more thoughtful and more likely to challenge authority than the nonsmokers.  It makes me wonder if we weren’t that way because marijuana allowed us to avoid the heavy daze of pain pills.  It gave us clarity.  It kept us sane....

Professional football is a violent trade that could use some forward thinking.  The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association, which agreed to the league’s substance abuse policy in collective bargaining, should rethink their approach.  The policy reflects outdated views on marijuana and pain management, punishes players who seek an alternative to painkillers, keeps them in a perpetual state of injury and injury management, and risks creating new addicts.

September 10, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New York Times highlights and assails employment law challenges in wake of marijuana reform

MARIJUANA-master675-v3The Gray Lady continues to do important reporting and advocacy concerning marijuana reform as evidenced by this recent article headlined "Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules." Here are excerpts from this piece:

Brandon Coats knew he was going to fail his drug test. Paralyzed in a car crash when he was 16, he had been using medical marijuana since 2009 to relieve the painful spasms that jolted his body.  But he smoked mostly at night, and said marijuana had never hurt his performance answering customer calls for a Colorado satellite-television provider....  “There are a lot of people out there who need jobs, can do a good job, but in order for them to live their lives, they have to have this,” said Mr. Coats, who is 35. “A person can drink all night long, be totally hung over the next day and go to work and there’s no problem with it.”

But when it comes to marijuana, Mr. Coats and other users are discovering that marijuana’s recent strides toward the legal and cultural mainstream are running aground at the office.  Even as 23 states allow medical or recreational marijuana, employment experts say that most businesses are keeping their drug-free policies. The result is a clash between a culture that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it....

Employers and business groups say the screenings identify drug-abusing workers, create a safer workplace, lower their insurance costs and, in some cases, are required by law.  But marijuana advocates say the prohibitions amount to discrimination, either against people using marijuana to treat a medical condition or against people who smoke it because they simply have the legal right to do so, off the clock and away from the office.   “It wasn’t like I was getting high on the job,” Mr. Coats said. “I would smoke right before I go to bed, and that little bit would help me get through my days.”

On Sept. 30, he will take that argument before the Colorado Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging his 2010 firing. For years, courts in Colorado and across the country have ruled against marijuana users, saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies. But legal experts say that if Mr. Coats prevails — he lost 2-1 in an appellate ruling — his case could transform how businesses must treat marijuana users.

Relatedly, the NYTimes had this editorial headlined "Obsolete Zero Tolerance on Pot."

September 9, 2014 in Court Rulings, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 8, 2014

The notable (new?) reality of tokers and NFL tailgating in Denver

Regular readers of this blog may surmise that I think (as do perhaps some other blog contributors) that the ways in which the National Football League formally and informally deals with marijuana issues in the months and years ahead could play a huge role in how much of the nation formally and informally deals with marijuana issues.  Consequently, I found notable this new New York Times piece by Michael Powell, headlined "Football’s in the Air, and in Denver, So Is the Sweet Smell of Herb: Marijuana Seeps Into Tailgating Rituals at Mile High in Colorado." Here is an excerpt:

I’m standing in a parking lot overlooking the stadium known prosaically as Sports Authority and poetically as Mile High.  That handle is metaphorically apt, too, as I’m engaged in the all-American sport of tailgating, with Corey and the Wookie and four friends....

The tall, red-bearded professional chef with excellent shades who insists his friends know him as the Wookie fires up the pipe and, amid clouds, talks legalized weed and the world that has followed on its heels.  “Why do you think Peyton Manning invested in pizza places after legalization? Boom! Stoners love pizza.”...

Herbaceous tailgating, truth be told, is in its infancy.  The Mile High Cannabis dispensary stands across the street from the stadium, and watching its game-day traffic of orange-clad customers calls to mind the week leading up to Christmas. “We’re glad to do our part in getting people amped for the game,” says budtender Erin Catalano....

But the Broncos, following in the prim footsteps of the N.F.L., have taken a position of sniffy disapproval.  Go to the team’s website under the heading of marijuana. “Any form of marijuana consumption,” it says, “is prohibited on Sports Authority Field at Mile High property during public events, including in stadium parking lots.”  That goes for edibles; you must leave the gummy bears at home.

The N.F.L. insists it is enforcing Colorado law.  Whatever.  The Colorado Symphony has taken a laid-back path of no resistance whatsoever.  It has “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series.” (This is not to argue that all has gone well with legalization. Meth heads have embraced the herb and hash oil explosions have become a clear and present danger in Colorado, proving that stupidity grows apace with social change.)

Less comprehensible is why the N.F.L., that most gladiatorial of our major sports, continues to embrace reefer madness.  It tests for pot in infinitesimal quantities and suspends repeat offenders for entire seasons....

A linebacker in Colorado can limp into the locker room with dislocated fingers, twisted ligaments and bruises like leprosy splotches.  He will get legally shot up and prescribed various and many opiates.  Or he can grab a 12-pack of the N.F.L.’s official beer and drink himself into sweet oblivion.  But if he goes home and dips into his legal stash of cannabis indica and dozes off in front of his television?  He is a threat to American sport, not to mention that one-armed bandit of an industry known as the N.F.L.  The players union is trying to force the league to negotiate a more sane policy on marijuana as part of a new drug testing program.

Colorado fans, let it be said, do not put herb in your face.  No one gets gnarly....  The fans insist that pot leaves them mellower.  They get their orange jerseys and scream fiercely and all that.  But this isn’t New York or Philadelphia.  Fighting is extremely unchill.

My colleague Ken Belson was in Seattle on Thursday for the Seahawks’ opener. Parking spots there go for $80 a pop, which is a buzz kill itself. And cops enforce the same sanctions against public consumption of weed.  That said, he reported that stoners tended to persevere.  The sweet smell of herb mixed with the tang of organic, grass-fed, much-loved cows as they became burgers on the grill.  After the game, he shared a Trickster IPA or three, and he reported having to first sweep a few grams of loose buds off his table.

As the title of this post suggests, I would be surprised to learn that use of marijuana at some tailgating locales is truly a new reality. But prominent articles about marijuana tailgating in the New York Times surely is.

Some prior NFL related posts:

September 8, 2014 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 5, 2014

The latest episode of the Marijuana Today podcast is up

If you're in the market for something to listen to while you do chores around the house this weekend or during your Monday commute, look no further.  The most recent episode of the Marijuana Today, which covers marijuana policy news, podcast is now available.  I served as one of the panelists this week, alongside Adam Smith and Dan Goldman, with host Kris Lotlikar.  We talk about a new poll showing significant support for marijuana legalization, a Berkeley ordinance that requires marijuana dispensaries to distribute 2% of their product free of charge to patients below the poverty line, and a recent study that suggests medical marijuana legalization may reduce pain killer overdoses. You can download or listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.    

September 5, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Legal pot, murky jobs: Marijuana laws put workers in tough spot"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new USA Today article, which gets started this way:

Every time he goes to work, Harvard-trained lawyer Andrew Freedman faces federal prosecution thanks to the source of his paycheck: Colorado's burgeoning marijuana industry.

Freedman, the governor's chief marijuana adviser, faces prison time if federal prosecutors decide to step in.  That's because federal law still considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin or cocaine, and prosecutors could easily bring drug-trafficking charges if they choose. Freedman's salary is paid by the taxes collected on legal marijuana sales.  "I'm in murky territory every day," Freedman said.

He's not alone.  Tens of thousands of marijuana growers, bud tenders, edibles makers, store owners and couriers working in Colorado and Washington and any of the other 21 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana face the same penalties.

The risk is even greater for dozens of former cops and soldiers working as armed guards in the marijuana industry because federal drug-trafficking laws prescribe far stiffer penalties for anyone using a firearm while handling drugs and money.  Several of the guards interviewed by USA TODAY say they chose to work for Blue Line acknowledged the legal risks they're taking, but said it was safer than being shot at by insurgents or dealing with violent criminals daily.

So far federal prosecutors have held off bringing charges against security firms protecting and servicing the marijuana industry, even though they're aware of the flagrant violations.  USA TODAY in July published numerous photos of a Colorado-based security-firm workers carrying pot, cash and weapons -- photos federal agents and prosecutors confirm they saw.

The situation highlights the tenuous balance federal prosecutors strike as they monitor the sale of legalized marijuana.  Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, even though voters in Colorado and Washington have allowed adults to possess and consume it for fun.  Federal officials say they're trying to balance state law while keeping pot out of the hands of kids and profits away from drug cartels.

Marijuana-industry workers acknowledge the risks they're taking, but say they're assuming federal prosecutors will leave them alone as long as they keep to the strictest interpretation of the state law.  "If you touch the product, then you're at risk for federal prosecution," said Michael Jerome, a spokesman for Blue Line Protection Group, which provides armed guards to transport marijuana and cash for pot-shop owners. "That's why we're trying to make it safe and legitimate and responsible, so we can respect the wishes of the voters of the state of Colorado and keep the federal government out of it."

September 4, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 1, 2014

How the alcohol industry sees marijuana legalization

A few weeks ago, Talkingpointsmemo.com posted a long-form article, available only to TPM Prime subscribers, title "Can Big Pot and Big Alcohol Get Along?".  I finally had a chance to read it.  Though a lot of points in the article will be familiar to those who follow this issue, it has one of the most comprehensive looks at the alcohol industry's reaction to marijuana legalization that I've seen.  And, as the article notes, the alcohol industry now views legalization as inevitable:  

Beer, wine and liquor do not care that legalization isn’t technically on the books. For them, it’s already a foregone conclusion. And that means that weed is already a real competitor.

 

...

 

Beer and wine may be as American as a baseball game, but Big Alcohol doesn’t feel at all relaxed about this debate. At alcohol trade association meetings, pot is already spoken of as a key competitor. A vigorous internal discussion has been taking place within the industry to figure out how they can establish working relationships with the marijuana world, and what to do if they can’t.

 

...

 

At the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association’s annual legal symposium, which draws state regulatory agency officials, corporate counsel, industry policymakers and private attorneys, a representative from the Marijuana Policy Project spoke. Attendees said that during the Q&A, “a couple people stood up and kind of attacked her” about MPP’s alcohol-bashing tactics.

 

...

 

While Big Alcohol has expressed that they would prefer to co-exist amicably in the marketplace, in their minds, the marijuana industry has to make a choice: pot can choose to be their friend, or to be their enemy. And if Big Pot decides they want to continue to launch regular attacks on alcohol, then alcohol will ultimately fight back.

The whole piece is well worth reading.  Unfortunately, to do so, you'll need a subscription (at $50/year)--not really worth it for just this one article.  But TPM is one of the best independent journalism sites around and subscribing is a great way to support a valuable news source (not to mention a good value for those who closely follow political/policy news.)  So, if you're a TPM reader who has thought about signing up for the Prime subscription before, this article could provide a bit of an extra incentive.  

September 1, 2014 in Food and Drink, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Campaign over marijuana legalization heating up in Alaska

Images (2)This lengthy new local article, headlined "Alaska marijuana legalization initiative: Supporters, opponents rally," provides an effective review of the state of debate concerning marijuana reform in The Last Frontier:

With two months left to sway Alaska voters, the dueling groups in support and opposition of a ballot measure to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana in Alaska are ramping up their campaigns, and Friday they offered glimpses of what’s to come in the weeks leading to the general election.

The group backing the initiative -- the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska -- gave insight into an upcoming advertising campaign and a new website to be unveiled in early September.

Meanwhile, opposition group “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2” said new constituency groups were in the formation stages, and touted recent endorsements by businesses and organizations.

The campaigns are setting their sights on Nov. 4, the day Alaskans will cast their votes on Ballot Measure 2. The initiative would legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older and levy a tax of $50 per ounce of pot. Should it pass, the eight-page initiative would leave much of the regulation-making process in the hands of the state. The state would have nine months to craft these regulations, including labeling and health and safety guidelines and security requirements for marijuana businesses.

Summer polling shows Alaskans split on whether to legalize. Public Policy Polling data released in early August showed that of 673 voters polled, 44 percent were in favor of the initiative, 49 percent opposed and 8 percent unsure. Those numbers show a slight decrease in support since May, when PPP showed 48 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed, and 7 percent unsure.

Deborah Williams, deputy treasurer of Vote No on 2, said the August poll was evidence that public support for the initiative is wavering. Campaign to Regulate spokesperson Taylor Bickford disagreed. “We aren’t concerned at all. Our internal polling tells a different story,” he said....

A major component of the new campaign is a new website, TalkItUpAlaska.org. That website will provide supporters with a comprehensive resource database. It’s set to go live in early September, he said. The website will host an online phone bank pulled from the campaign’s database, allowing volunteers to call voters directly. Another section will compile information on canvassing, public and private events, and general volunteer opportunities. Downloadable fliers, campaign merchandise, and online fundraising tools will also be available, among other resources....

Vote No on 2 has criticized the group’s influx of money from the Marijuana Policy Project, saying that outsiders are pushing marijuana commercialization on the state. Bickford said Friday that such criticism was simply a distraction. Meanwhile, Vote No on 2 had filed $40,487 in contributions as of Friday, according to APOC. The largest donation, $25,000, came from Chenega Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation....

Deputy treasurer for Vote No on 2, Deborah Williams, said Friday “tremendous momentum” was building to defeat the ballot measure. Constituency groups working within Vote No on 2 are “in the formation stage,” Williams said. Those include “Attorneys Against Ballot Measure 2,” “Physicians Against Ballot Measure 2,” and “Athletes Against Ballot Measure 2,” the latter being spearheaded by Alaska Olympian Rosey Fletcher.

Karen Compton, a stay-at-home mother of two, is heading “Mothers Against Ballot Measure 2.” So far the group is comprised of a handful of “influential moms,” Compton said. The group isn’t trying to raise money, but would be using social media to get its message out and talking with various organizations about its position. As part of Vote No on 2, Compton said the group’s role is to help mothers identify with the campaign. “I think people identify (with a group) when they see people like them or people they know who have taken a stand,” she said.

Meanwhile, numerous organizations continue to come out against the initiative. The Alaska Republican Party passed a resolution in May opposing the ballot measure. The Alaska Chamber of Commerce issued a resolution in opposition in late August. The Alaska Conference of Mayors, Doyon Ltd., and Alaska Asthma Coalition are among the other groups that have come out in opposition of the measure.

Bickford said the Campaign to Regulate wasn’t surprised, or concerned, by the endorsements. “Ultimately, it won’t be politicians and business groups and organizations deciding this issue,” he said. He noted the ballot measure endorsements from the Alaska Libertarian Party and the Alaska Democratic nominee for U.S. House of Representatives, Forrest Dunbar, among others.

In the weeks ahead, Vote No on 2 will be “getting the word out through community forums, through one-on-one conversations, (and) through the debates that are coming up,” Williams said. Eight public hearings on the initiative will be held in the month of September, in Nome, Barrow, Juneau, Ketchikan, Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Bethel and Fairbanks. The complete schedule is available on the lieutenant governor’s website.

September 1, 2014 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Leading Anti-Marij​uana Academics Are Paid by Painkiller Drug Companies"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent report from the website VICE. here are excerpts:

As Americans continue to embrace pot—as medicine and for recreational use—opponents are turning to a set of academic researchers to claim that policymakers should avoid relaxing restrictions around marijuana. It's too dangerous, risky, and untested, they say. Just as drug company-funded research has become incredibly controversial in recent years, forcing major medical schools and journals to institute strict disclosure requirements, could there be a conflict of interest issue in the pot debate?

VICE has found that many of the researchers who have advocated against legalizing pot have also been on the payroll of leading pharmaceutical firms with products that could be easily replaced by using marijuana. When these individuals have been quoted in the media, their drug-industry ties have not been revealed.

Take, for example, Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University. Kleber has impeccable academic credentials, and has been quoted in the press and in academic publications warning against the use of marijuana, which he stresses may cause wide-ranging addiction and public health issues. But when he's writing anti-pot opinion pieces for CBS News, or being quoted by NPR and CNBC, what's left unsaid is that Kleber has served as a paid consultant to leading prescription drug companies, including Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin), Reckitt Benckiser (the producer of a painkiller called Nurofen), and Alkermes (the producer of a powerful new opioid called Zohydro)....

Other leading academic opponents of pot have ties to the painkiller industry. Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is a frequent critic of efforts to legalize marijuana. She is on the board of an anti-marijuana advocacy group, Project SAM, and has been quoted by leading media outlets criticizing the wave of new pot-related reforms. "When people can go to a ‘clinic’ or ‘cafe’ and buy pot, that creates the perception that it’s safe,” she told the Times last year.

Notably, when Evins participated in a commentary on marijuana legalization for the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the publication found that her financial relationships required a disclosure statement, which noted that as of November 2012, she was a "consultant for Pfizer and DLA Piper and has received grant/research support from Envivo, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer." Pfizer has moved aggressively into the $7.3 billion painkiller market. In 2011, the company acquired King Pharmaceuticals (the makers of several opioid products) and is currently working to introduce Remoxy, an OxyContin competitor.

Dr. Mark L. Kraus, who runs a private practice and is a board member to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, submitted testimony in 2012 in opposition to a medical marijuana law in Connecticut. According to financial disclosures, Kraus served on the scientific advisory panel for painkiller companies such as Pfizer and Reckitt Benckiser in the year prior to his activism against the medical pot bill. Neither Kraus or Evins responded to a request for comment.

These academic revelations add fodder to the argument that drug firms maintain quiet ties to the marijuana prohibition lobby. In July, I reported for the Nation that many of the largest anti-pot advocacy groups, including the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions for America, which has organized opposition to reform through its network of activists and through handing out advocacy material (sample op-eds against medical pot along with Reefer Madness-style videos, for example), has relied on significant funding from painkiller companies, including Purdue Pharma and Alkermes. Pharmaceutical-funded anti-drug groups like the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and CADCA use their budget to obsess over weed while paying lip-service to the much bigger drug problem in America of over-prescribed opioids.

August 29, 2014 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Does an increase in marijuana seizures in Colorado mail mean more Coloradan's are mailing marijuana? Not necessarily.

There's a new law enforcement report out saying postal inspectors saw a big spike in marijuana seizures from Colorado mail headed to other states between 2010 and 2013. 

The amount of Colorado marijuana being seized en route to other states through the U.S. mail has more than quadrupled since 2010 and was destined for more states than before, according to a new report by a federally funded drug task force.

 

Postal inspectors seized more than 493 pounds of pot from packages in 2013, up from 57 pounds in 2010, the year after medical marijuana dispensaries proliferated in Colorado, according to the figures released this month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

 

Just 15 packages were bound for 10 states in 2010, compared to the 207 parcels destined for 33 states in 2013. Top destinations were Florida, Maryland and Illinois, the report states.

Does this news mean Coloradans are actually sending more marijuana to other states than they used to?  No, not necessarily.  

The increase in seizures could just as easily be the result of more vigilant enforcement as the result of more Coloradans mailing marijuana to friends.  Perhaps inspectors have started to look more closely at Colorado packages in response to the state's marijuana reforms.  Similarly, it is not incoceivable that legalization opponents are pushing to up enforcement to try and boost numbers to give legalization a black eye (certainly, it seems like this HIDTA report was released with that in mind.)

On this point, it is worth recalling that marijuana arrests more than doubled between 1990 and 2002. Did marijuana use double during that same period?  Not at all.  The numbers were the result of increased law enforcement attention to small marijuana cases (broken windows, stop and frisk style enforcement, etc.).  

To be sure, the numbers could reflect a real increase in Coloradans sending marijuana out of state.  (Or, it could be a mixture of both causes.)

But the only thing this data tells us is that more marijuana is being seized, not what caused the jump in seizures.  

August 28, 2014 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

New research suggest marijuana might help combat Alzheimer's disease

As reported in this notable new FoxNews piece, headlined "Marijuana compound may slow, halt progression of Alzheimer's," some more interesting marijuana research has produced some more reason to hope that marijuana reform could be a real boon for public health.  Here are the details:

Neuroscientists found that extremely low doses of a compound found in marijuana may slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that neuroscientists using a cellular model of Alzheimer's found low doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduced the production of amyloid beta, and prevented abnormal accumulation, which is one of the early signs of the memory-loss disease.

“Decreased levels of amyloid beta means less aggregation, which may protect against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Since THC is a natural and relatively safe amyloid inhibitor, THC or its analogs may help us develop an effective treatment in the future,” said lead author Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist and PhD at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy.

Neuroscientists also found THC enhanced mitochondrial function which is needed to supply energy, transmit signals and maintain a healthy brain.  “THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function,” Cao said.

The research noted that the therapeutic benefits of THC at low doses appear greater than the associated risks of toxicity and memory impairment....

As many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with the numbers projected to reach 14 million by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

August 28, 2014 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

California appeals court reaffirms the legality of retail medical marijuana sales

Although California passed the first modern medical marijuana law in 1996 and saw the first wave of medical marijuana dispensaries, the legal status of dispensaries in the state is still somewhat unsettled.  While government officials in places like Oakland have backed large scale retail outlets, in other parts of the state a handful of District Attorney's offices have argued that retail marijuana stores are illegal under state law.  San Diego, where I live, has arguably been ground zero for this view--with one Deputy District Attorney going so far as to write a lengthy law review article (PDF) on why medical marijuana sales are actually illegal under California law.  

For the most part, appellate courts have held that retail medical marijuana outlets are permitted under California law (though the state Supreme Court has yet to weigh in.)  Last week saw another decision reaffirming the legality of retail medical marijuana sales in CA v. Baniana (PDF).

Here are a few relevant excerpts:

[California's Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA)] permits qualified patients and their designated primary caregivers to join together “in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes” without being subject to “state criminal sanctions under Section 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11366, 11366.5, or 11570.” (§ 11362.775.) 

 

In 2010, the Legislature added section 11362.768 to the MMPA. (Stats. 2010, ch. 603, § 1.) This section implicitly recognizes the lawfulness of a “marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment or provider who possesses, cultivates, or distributes medical marijuana pursuant to” the MMPA, but prohibits such entities from operating “within a 600-foot radius of a school.” (§ 11362.768, subd. (b).) “This section shall apply only to a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider that is authorized by law to possess, cultivate, or distribute medical marijuana and that has a storefront or mobile retail outlet which ordinarily requires a local business license.” (§ 11362.768, subd. (e).) 

 

The prosecutor argued defendant was not entitled to the defense because the MMPA did not legalize the sale of medical marijuana. He asserted that while it may be lawful for a qualified patient unable to take part in the actual tending to the plants, or to devote time and effort on behalf of Herbal Run, to support the organization strictly through monetary contributions, the prosecutor argued any monetary contribution could not be contemporaneous with an exchange of marijuana. According to the prosecutor, such an individual would have to make his or her monetary contribution prior to the planting of the marijuana the patient would eventually be given.

 

The MMPA does not impose this limitation on qualified patients. First, the purpose of the MMPA is to ensure the promise of the CUA is fulfilled and qualified patients have safe access to affordable medical marijuana. We do not think the Legislature intended a seriously ill individual whose physician has recommended use of medical marijuana, and who is physically or otherwise unable to participate in the acts involved in cultivating medical marijuana, cannot simply pay money to his or her collective in exchange for the recommended medicine. It would be cruel for those whose need for medical marijuana is the most dire to require that they devote their limited strength and efforts to the actual cultivation of the marijuana, and then wait months for it to grow so they can use it, or to require that they make their monetary contribution and then wait months for the marijuana to be planted, grown, and harvested before they may lawfully be provided medical marijuana. Moreover, for some the cultivation and processing would not be completed until it was too late to provide any relief. The MMPA does not anticipate a patient who has received a physician’s recommendation must thereafter wait months to lawfully acquire medical marijuana.

 

Of course, the MMPA did not make lawful all sales of marijuana. The defense it provides is limited to those qualified patients and primary caregivers who associate together in a collective or cooperative. (§ 11362.775.) Additionally, sales for profit remain illegal. However, given the MMPA’s purpose, one provision in the MMPA implicitly recognizes the legality of store front dispensaries, collectives or cooperatives (§ 11362.768), and another provision specifically provides a defense to violation of sections 11360 (sale or transportation of marijuana) and 11359 (possession of marijuana for sale), we conclude a member of a collective or cooperative may purchase medical marijuana from the collective or cooperative so long as the sale is not for profit. The district attorney’s limited interpretation of section 11362.775 defeats the stated purpose of the MMPA to make access to medical marijuana easier for patients, and is contrary to a fair reading of the section. Section 11362.775 was written to provide a defense to a charge of selling marijuana in appropriate circumstances. Were this not the Legislature’s intent, there would have been no need to list section 11360 or section 11366 [opening or maintaining a place for the purpose of selling or giving away marijuana] as statutes to which the defense applies. 

It is getting harder and harder for recalcitrant prosecutors to argue that California law does not permit retail medical marijuana dispensaries.  But, as this opinion suggests, there are still other ways that California's horribly vague law can be a trap for the unwary in the hands of a drug war-style prosecutor.  The particulars of the non-profit operation requirement remain almost entirely unclear, for example.  A Los Angeles-area appellate decision from the spring highlights some of the problems.  (Frankly, I think the "collective and cooperative" statute would almost certainly be found unconstitutionally vague if it were not for the fact that a vagueness holding would presumably mean striking down the defense entirely, which would obviously be of no help to defendants.  I'm fairly certain this is why the issue is never raised in these cases.)

This recent holding is good news for medical marijuana advocates in California.  But unless and until the legislature gets their act together and passes comprehensive statewide regulations, a steady stream of appeals attempting to make sense of the mess in place now will almost surely continue.

 

August 27, 2014 in Court Rulings, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The local option for marijuana, Part II: the theory of local control

In my last two posts, I’ve highlighted the emerging struggle between state and local governments for control of marijuana policy. My latest article tries to provide some guidance on whether states should give local governments the option of banning marijuana sales.

This Part of the article discusses the theory of local control. It illuminates the competing considerations that help determine whether local control over marijuana (or any other issue) is normatively desirable. (I’ve eliminated the footnotes for this post, but they’ll be available once I post the completed draft on SSRN.)

A. The case for local control

Local control is supposed to promote economic efficiency. In particular, empowering local governments to tackle divisive issues is supposed to enable more people to get the policy they desire. The reason is that minorities in statewide contests sometimes comprise majorities in local communities; there are, after all, more than 3,000 counties and 15,000 municipalities sprinkled throughout the 50 states. These residents would be happier if they were allowed to pursue the policy they prefer through these local communities, rather than live under the policy the state as a whole would choose. Mobility of the population arguably enhances the efficiency of local control. The idea is that residents who are dissatisfied with the policy espoused by one local government can relocate to a community with a more appealing policy. To be sure, residents could also relocate from one state to another, but the comparatively large number of local governments increases the chances that dissatisfied residents will find more appealing matches and it also lowers the cost of relocation.

Continue reading

August 26, 2014 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Washington's Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot"

The title of this post is the title of this terrific new Brookings research paper which takes a close look at Washington state’s early experience in legalization of recreational marijuana. Here is how the report is summarized on the Brookings website:

Voters in Washington state decided in November 2012 to legalize marijuana in their state, inspired by a campaign that emphasized minimizing the drug’s social costs and tightly controlling the legal recreational market. Joined to this drug policy experiment is a second innovative experiment that emphasizes knowledge: the state will fund and develop tools necessary to understand the impact of legalization on Washington’s law enforcement officials, communities, and public health.

This second reform, though less heralded than the attention-grabbing fact of legalization, is in many ways just as bold. Washington’s government is taking its role as a laboratory of democracy very seriously, tuning up its laboratory equipment and devoting resources to tracking its experiment in an unusually meticulous way, with lessons that extend well beyond drug policy.

Brookings’ Philip Wallach interviewed advocates, researchers, and government policymakers in Washington to learn about the state’s novel approach. In this report, he highlights several noteworthy features:

  • Building a funding source for research directly into the law: a portion of the excise tax revenues from marijuana sales will fund research on the reform’s effects and on how its social costs can be effectively mitigated.
  • Bringing to bear many perspectives on legalization by coordinating research efforts across multiple state agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health, and the Liquor Control Board.
  • Mandating a cost-benefit analysis by the state’s in-house think tank, which will be nearly unprecedented in its scope and duration.

Wallach makes a number of suggestions to ensure that Washington’s knowledge experiment can be made to work, including:

  • Ensure political independence for researchers, both by pressuring politicians to allow them to do their work and by encouraging the researchers themselves to refrain from making political recommendations
  • Gather and translate research into forms usable by policymakers
  • Counter misinformation with claims of confident uncertainty
  • Have realistic expectations about the timeline for empirical learning, which means cultivating patience over the next few years
  • Specify which reliable metrics would indicate success or failure of legalization

August 26, 2014 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Come on vacation, leave on probation" says Idaho lawyer about state's pot policy

The quote in the title of this post is drawn from this new Businessweek article headlined "Marijuana Law Mayhem Splits U.S. as Travelers Get Busted."  Here is how the lengthy article gets started:

America is two nations when it comes to marijuana: in one it’s legal, in the other it’s not. The result is that people like B.J. Patel are going to jail.  The 34-year-old Arizona man may face a decade in prison and deportation following an arrest in 2012.  On a trip in a rented U-Haul to move his uncle from California to Ohio, he brought along some marijuana, which is legal for medicinal use in his home state.

Headed eastbound on I-44 through Oklahoma, Patel was stopped for failing to signal by Rogers County Deputy Quint Tucker, just outside Tulsa.  He was about to get off with a warning when Tucker spotted a medical marijuana card in his open wallet. “‘I see you have this card. Where’s the marijuana?’”  Patel recalled Tucker asking him. “I very politely and truthfully told him, ‘I’ll show you where it is.’”  That’s where things started to go bad for Patel.  He now faces trial next month on a felony charge.

Possessing pot for recreational use is legal in Washington and Colorado, and allowed for medicinal purposes in 23 states.  The other half of the country, which includes Oklahoma, largely prohibits any amount for any purpose.

While challenges may land the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, what exists now is a legal checkerboard where unwitting motorists can change from law-abiding citizens to criminals as fast as they pass a state welcome sign.  The difference is especially clear in states like Idaho.  Surrounded on three sides by pot-friendly Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana, Idaho State Police seized three times as much marijuana this year as in all of 2011.

“The manner in which a person acquires the drug is not relevant,” Teresa Baker, an Idaho police spokeswoman, said.  “This is important to know for those who may purchase it legally elsewhere, believing that it will be overlooked.”  

James Siebe, a lawyer in Coeur d’Alene, put it another way: “Come on vacation, leave on probation.”

August 22, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)