Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this recent report from the Vera Institute of Justice. (The report was released a couple months ago, but I just saw it today.) Here is an overview of the report from this Vera website:
In national research, self-reported marijuana use is similar across races, but in New Orleans, black people are disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses, including simple possession. In recent years, some states have legalized marijuana, while the consequences for marijuana possession in Louisiana remain severe — under state law, repeated convictions for simple possession are punishable by multi-year prison sentences.
This report illuminates through quantitative analysis the persistent racial disparities in marijuana policing from 2010 – 2015 and discusses the impacts of statutory and policy reforms the city has implemented to date. We are hopeful that these findings will guide state and local policymakers toward further improvements to lessen the harm even seemingly minor police encounters inflict on black communities, and inspire other jurisdictions to examine their own practices.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Latest polling suggests Florida voters will approve medical marijuana constitutional amendment by needed super-majority this November
This local article from Florida, headlined "Poll: 73% of voters support medical marijuana ballot initiative," suggests that a needed super-majority of voters in the largest and most important state considering a medical marijuana initiative are supportive of reform. Here are the basics (with links from the original):
The 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative has strong support among Floridians, according to a new poll. A new poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute found 73 percent of voters would support the amendment. The survey found 22 percent were opposed to the ballot initiative....
The 2016 proposal allows people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.
A similar amendment received 58 percent of the vote in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.
The new Florida Chamber Political Institute survey is in line with other recent polls, which showed 70 percent of Floridians supported the amendment.
Though many folks understandably and justifiably are looking at full legalization initiatives in California and a handful of others states in 2016 as the "big" marijuana reform story to watch this election cycle, I continue to think the likely impact of Floridians strongly supporting medical marijuana reform come November could be profound.
Florida is, for various reasons both political and practical, the most significant (not to mention the most populous) state in the southeast region. If Florida voters approve medical marijuana by a huge margin, Florida's elected officials at both the state and federal levels will likely be joining the ever-growing bandwagon of prominent politicians with a vested local interest in at least easing the tensions between state-level marijuana reforms and federal prohibition.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Startled by high numbers of American deaths from opioids, the Obama administration’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch has again declared an offensive. Her plan of action: alert the 94 federal prosecutors to gear up for more of the same war on drugs. This time, physicians who oversubscribe opioids (in the DEA’s suspicions at least), are prime targets. Yet again, no thought was given to harnessing medical cannabis as a far safer alternative.
The epidemic of opioid addiction and death should be resetting the war on drugs. The statistics are harsh: from the year 2000 to the present, opioids deaths have quadrupled, to over 28,000 per year. Deaths (usually suffocation) from opioids now outnumber automobile fatalities. Americans opioid users are so numerous, they now have their own new pharmaceutical drug for counteracting an opioid side effect. Read about it in MarijuanaPolictics.com, at “Opioid-Induced Constipation”: Big Pharma More Interested in Treating Your Bowel Movements Than Saving Your Life.
Regarding the drug war in general, the supremely ludicrous truth is that now drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high. Is this an acceptable outcome for a 45 year, trillion-dollar war on drugs? For this colossal failure, the DEA should be bum-rushed out the door. Instead, we are now essentially offered more of the same war on drugs by an oblivious Department of Justice and Obama administration.
Especially in the context of the opioid crisis, marijuana is a medicine that is saving lives. Cannabis can help prevent, weaken, and even end opioid addictions. Cannabis-based solutions to the opioid problem are becoming more and more obvious to everyone except the drug warriors. Increasingly, headlines shout the connection:
Rejecting opioids, pain patients find relief with marijuana leads in The Boston Globe.
Combination Of Medical Marijuana, Opioids Does Not Increase Substance Abuse Risk, Study Finds reported in Forbes. Lead study author Dr. Brian Perron is quoted, “In states where medical marijuana is legal, physicians should be aware that medical marijuana is a potentially safer and more effective treatment approach than opioids.”
Is medical marijuana the answer to America’s prescription painkiller epidemic? asked Jason Millman at The Washington Post.
The cannabis solution to the opioid problem motivated Senator Elizabeth Warren in February to request the CDC to consider this approach, of preventing, substituting and treating opioid addiction with safe medical cannabis....
With this avalanche of insight that medical cannabis is a viable solution to opioid addiction and death, it is puzzling that Obama’s initiatives have ignored this resource. But yet again the president gives the Justice Department the lead role in intervening in what is basically a public health problem. Joining the prosecutors were representatives of addiction recovery services, a group notoriously dishonest about cannabis.
Nowhere to be seen nor heard were advocates of medical cannabis as preventatives and far safer pain relief alternatives to addictive and death-inducing opioids. Apparently, the administration finds it politically incorrect to even consider medical marijuana as a solution for anything....
The Obama administration’s strict politically correct anti-marijuana line is blatantly anti-science and wounding to public health. And it is no longer even politically correct. A majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal for all adults; an overwhelming majority feel cannabis should legal medically. The Obama administration, most of the Congress, and self-serving bureaucracies such as the DEA are decades behind the American public. Their obsolete and dishonest approach will lead to more American lives lost to opioid addiction and death.
September 26, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
This new local article, headlined "Most Mainers favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, poll finds," suggests that marijuana reformers are poised to add Maine to the list of states that have approved recreational marijuana by initiative. Here are the basic details:
A majority of Maine voters favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new Portland Press Herald poll showing a groundswell of support among residents under age 50 and among those living in southern or coastal areas. Roughly 53 percent of respondents in the newspaper’s statewide survey indicated they support a November ballot question that would add Maine to the growing list of states where marijuana is legal for adults. By comparison, 38 percent of participants opposed marijuana legalization – Question 1 on the November ballot – and 10 percent were undecided. More than 60 percent of poll participants reported having tried marijuana at some point in their lives....
Maine is one of five states – along with Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and California – that will vote on marijuana legalization in November, making 2016 a pivotal year in the long-running policy debate over pot. Experts say the outcomes of those ballot initiatives – particularly California’s – could change the national trajectory of the legalization push. “It is a very big year,” said Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law. He noted that four other states will vote on medical marijuana ballot measures....
The legalization push in Maine is being led by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which succeeded in gathering more than the 61,123 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The referendum proposes allowing adults age 21 and older to use, possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and sets up a licensing system for retail marijuana establishments.
Like roughly 20 states nationwide, Maine has already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana to make it a misdemeanor crime. Maine voters legalized use of medical marijuana in 1999 and have significantly expanded the program since, most recently by creating a regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries and caregivers permitted to grow pot for clients.
The Press Herald poll shows that although the majority of respondents statewide support legalization, that support is by no means uniform throughout the large, rural state. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats supported legalization, along with 56 percent of independent voters. Republicans, meanwhile, opposed legalization by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, with 11 percent undecided.
Mainers also were divided geographically. Legalization drew support from 59 percent of the poll participants in Maine’s more southerly and politically liberal 1st Congressional District, yet only 46 percent of respondents in the more rural and conservative 2nd District were in favor of Question 1. Support was strongest in southern and coastal/Down East Maine – at 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively – but fell to 49 percent in central Maine and just 45 percent in the northern part of the state.
The largest divergences over pot come with age, however. Not surprisingly, legalization was most popular among voters in the 18- to 34-year-old group, 69 percent of whom said they supported allowing recreational use of the drug. A majority of those age 35 to 64 also supported legalization, but just 35 percent of respondents over age 65 were in favor of Question 1....
The Press Herald survey underscored that marijuana is widely used, however. Roughly 62 percent of respondents acknowledged at least “trying” marijuana at some point in their lives, with men more likely than women to have dabbled with pot. Nearly three-quarters of voters age 34 and under reported having tried marijuana. That percentage drops to 64 percent among voters aged 35 to 49 but jumps back up to 72 percent for those between the ages of 59 and 64 – potentially a reflection of the drug’s popularity during the late 1960s and the 1970s.
There have been relatively few publicly released polls on marijuana legalization in Maine. The 53 percent support in the Press Herald poll is similar to the 55 percent support identified in a March poll of statewide voters by Critical Insights in Portland. Yet support for legalization was at 65 percent in a spring 2015 poll conducted by Critical Insights, raising the prospect that some voters are taking a closer look at the issue now that the campaign is in full gear.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new NPR story, which includes these excerpts:
California is one of five states this year where marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Washington and Colorado paved the way for making recreational pot legal back in 2012. Since then marijuana arrests have plunged in Washington. They've also gone down in Colorado, but not by as much. This raises the question, what is the effect of legalizing marijuana on policing?...
Defense Attorney James Clark's office window looks down on the lake. He says [California police's] "stop and smell" practice happens across the state. In California, the smell of marijuana gives police probable cause to search someone's entire vehicle. If cops find something bigger - guns, stolen property - Clark says that can turn a traffic stop into a felony. "You can imagine that if you're trying to advance your career by searching cars along the freeway, that this is a tool that would be difficult to resist passing up," Clark says. [So now people] are wondering, if recreational pot gets legalized in California, could that be the end of this "stop and smell" practice?
Meanwhile, in Washington state, there have been some changes in policing since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Patrol sergeant Nate Hovinghoff has been with the Washington State Patrol for 11 years and works along the scenic Columbia River Gorge dividing Washington and Oregon, another state that recently legalized pot. "Prior to legalization in Washington state, odor alone was enough to arrest," Hovinghoff says.
If Hovinghoff pulled over a vehicle, say, for speeding and smelled marijuana, that gave him license to investigate further. "In my experience as a trooper, probably 90 percent of my felony arrests, they started with the odor of marijuana," he says.
But once pot was legalized in Washington state, the rules of engagement changed. "Now when I stop a vehicle and I go up and I smell marijuana, if they're 21 years or over it doesn't mean automatically a crime's occurred," Hovinghoff explains. He says as long as the driver of the car is compliant with the law and not impaired, and that's key, it's basically, "Have a nice day."
But folks ... aren't convinced that it will go down like that in California.... In fact, recent data from police stops in Oakland show that African-Americans are more likely than whites to be searched, handcuffed, and arrested.
That question of disparity is very much on the minds of researchers who are tracking the effects of marijuana legalization. Mike Males is with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He released a study earlier this year that's been widely cited. It shows that while marijuana arrests dropped dramatically in Washington state, African-Americans are still two times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses.
"So there's still a large racial discrepancy. It doesn't solve that. It does reduce the overall impact of marijuana arrests, but it doesn't change the racial discrepancy as much," Males says. The bottom line, says Males: "If one of the goals is to reduce marijuana-related arrests then legalization appears to accomplish that." But it may not resolve disparities in how the law is enforced or applied.
A few of many prior related posts:
- "Whites Just 8% of New York City's Marijuana Arrests"
- "It’s Not Legal Yet: Nearly 500,000 Californians Arrested for Marijuana in Last Decade"
- Michigan arrest data highlight diverse impact of local decriminalization and continued impact of state-level marijuana prohibition
- "Marijuana Arrests Down In Colorado For White Teens, Up For Black And Latino Teens"
- Massachusetts top court says marijuana reforms limit police authority to stop drivers
- Are any criminal justice researchers or marijuana reform groups taking a very close look at marijuana arrests in recent years?
- "Marijuana Enforcement Disparities In California: A Racial Injustice"
Saturday, September 24, 2016
International Business Times has this up-to-date article, headlined "Marijuana Legalization 2016 Ballot: Which States Are Voting On Cannabis Laws On Election Day?," providing an effective review of where and what voters will be considering as to marijuana reform in numerous states. Here are the basics:
More than 82 million U.S. residents will have the chance to cast ballots on marijuana measures when they go to vote for president come Election Day in November. Marijuana laws – whether it be to legalize or decriminalize – have been added to the ballot in nine states. Here's everything you need to know about the marijuana proposals voters will decide on come Nov. 8.
Arizona – Under the guidelines of Proposition 205, or Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative, adults 21 and up would be allowed to possess and recreationally use one ounce or less of marijuana....
Arkansas – The Natural State is set to vote on two marijuana measures: Arkansas Issue 7 Medical Cannabis Statute and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Issue 6. If the majority of residents vote “yes” for Issue 6, then medical marijuana will be legal and a dispensary and cultivation license fees will receive a cap....
California – Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize recreational weed and hemp for people 21 and older....
Florida – Amendment 2 legalizes medical marijuana for patients suffering from specific debilitating diseases including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis....
Maine – Question 1 (2016) would legalize recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, which has allowed legal medical marijuana since 1999.
Massachusetts – Question 4 would fully legalize marijuana with regulations similar to the state’s approach to alcoholic beverages....
Montana – Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative I-182 is an amendment to the already-passed Montana Medical Marijuana Act. Should the new measure pass, the current medical marijuana laws will be adjusted to allow more patients access to medical marijuana....
Nevada – People 21 and older would be able to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes under Nevada’s Question 2.
North Dakota – Initiated Statutory Measure 5 gives patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, and glaucoma and epilepsy access to medical marijuana with a specific identification card.
September 24, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 23, 2016
Are all opponents of marijuana reform ultimately suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets?
The question in the title of this post came to my mind as I started heading this morning the great book I first flagged here at my sentencing blog: Harvard historian Lisa McGirr's The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. The start of the book highlights how many early alcohol Prohibitionist were much more troubled by and focused on the "liquor trade" and "liquor trafficking" rather than just individuals drinking.
I see, of course, a huge parallel in this sense to the leading modern anti-marijuana-reform group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which repeatedly claims that its advocacy is not driven by support for blanket marijuana prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions, but rather is just concerned about the creation of a legal "Big Marijuana" industry. As SAM explains here at its website:
People often ask us what our biggest fear of legalization is. The answer is simple: Big Pot....
The tobacco and alcohol industries follow similar patterns while hawking their legal, addictive substances. And we know how that story ends: money-hungry industries, targeting the vulnerable, will stop at nothing to increase addiction and profit. Why on earth would we want to repeat that debacle with cannabis?
I bring this up because I have long said and long believed that my affinity for and support of marijuana reform is part of a "conservative" commitment not only to personal liberty but also to capitalism and free markets. Though I fully understand and respect concerns about the long-term political and practical impact of "Big Marijuana" (and/or Big Pharma and/or Big Oil and/or Big Google), I still firmly believe the long-term political and practical impact of Big Government is and should be more worrisome at least to those who are fans of capitalism and free markets. Ergo, I think it is fair to at least suggest that all opponents of marijuana reform (and even a good number of marijuana reform supporters) are likely fundamentally suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets.
September 23, 2016 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 22, 2016
--- in April, Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor signed into law the Keystone State's new medical marijuana law (basics here);
--- in June, Ohio's Republican Governor signed into law the Buckeye State's new medical marijuana law (basics here); and
--- in September, as reported here, Michigan's Republican Governor signed into law new medical marijuana regulations.
As a number of folks know, these three states are always interesting to watch and study politically and practically on an array of issues for an array of reasons. Pennsylvania is at once an urban east-coast state around Philadelphia, an urban midwest state around Pittsburgh, and a rural state in between. Ohio is the ultimate bellwether state with urban, suburban and rural, northern and southern regions and populations that closely mirror many national realities. And Michigan likewise has a diverse array of distinctive regions (and, in this context, has a considerable history of a legal but largely unregulated medical marijuana industry).
I could go on and on about why each of these states with their own distinctive (and still developing) medical marijuana laws justify close study individually. But my point in this post is to highlight the unique and uniquiely important research opportunity presented by the fact that all three of these (connected) states have new and detailed medical marijuana regulations coming on line at roughly the same time. In particular, I am hopeful that some of the independent research entities following marijuana reform developments closely (e.g., the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation) will give particular attention in the months and years ahead to these particular democratic laboratories.
September 22, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I genuinely try to avoid covering what might be thought of as fluff stories about marijuana. But this new Guardian story, which has the headline I am using as the title of this post, was just way too juicy to resist. Plus, the story actually effectively covers some not-so-fluffy legal realities about various connections between marijuana reform and family law. Here are excerpts:
The stoner dude who refuses to put down the pipe and pick up the Pampers is an archetype that Judd Apatow has made an entire career out of mining. Internet forums and advice columns teem with queries from spouses who feel widowed by their partner’s relationship with weed. So the announcement that Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt – and a report by TMZ that Jolie was “fed up” with Pitt’s marijuana and alcohol use – has set off a bevy of speculation that Pitt never fully left behind his 1993 role as a stoner room-mate in True Romance.
Pitt has spoken openly about using marijuana recreationally in the 1990s, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “I was smoking way too much dope; I was sitting on the couch and just turning into a doughnut; and I really got irritated with myself.” But in a 2009 interview with Bill Maher, Pitt said that he had given up marijuana: “I’m a dad now. You want to be alert.”
Allegations of marijuana abuse have no direct bearing on a divorce filing, according to attorney Daniel Beck, who specializes in California medical marijuana law. That’s because California law allows for “no-fault” divorces, meaning a spouse does not have to sue his or her partner for any specific grievance, such as adultery or abandonment. “What I take away from this so-called allegation has more to do with public relations than it does anything else,” Beck added.
However, marijuana use can be a factor in custody decisions, and Jolie is reportedly seeking physical custody of the couple’s six children. “Marijuana, like any other substance, can be abused,” Beck said. “The question is, what is the effect on the children? Even if someone has a medicinal [marijuana] card, if they imbibe with the children in the room, that could be looked at as something that is not in the children’s best interest.”...
Though the legal and social stigma of marijuana use is declining, studies have shown that it can have a negative impact on marriage. Researchers Kazuo Yamaguchi and Denise B Kandel have found that marijuana use tends to decrease once individuals get married, and that smoking pot while married “greatly increases the rate of becoming divorced”. Anecdotally, a mismatch in marijuana use is often cited as a reason for conflict in relationships....
Diana Richmond, a family law attorney with 40 years of experience in California, said that substance abuse was a very common reason for divorce but that marijuana was rarely the sole cause. Much more frequently cited are “alcohol, various prescription drugs, and cocaine”, she said, with occasional instances where “marijuana is used in conjunction with other things”.
Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California, however, the drug has become a frequent topic in custody battles, said Monica Mazzei Potter, a family law attorney with Sideman & Bancroft in San Francisco. But, she added, marijuana – whether used medicinally or recreationally – is treated more like alcohol by family law judges than like other drugs, such as cocaine. “I don’t think it’s seen in the same category for family law judges,” she said. “Even if [parents] don’t have a license for it, I’m not seeing it as an impediment for custody issues.” Parents who use marijuana might lose custody of their children if the case involves abuse and neglect, she said, but added: “I’ve never seen a case where there’s a parent using marijuana responsibly, there’s no abuse or neglect, and a parent has lost custody.”
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this notable new empirical paper authored by Anna Choi, Dhaval Dave and Joseph Sabia now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This study comprehensively examines whether medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have affected the trajectory of a decades-long decline in adult tobacco use in the United States. Using data from three large national datasets — the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements (CPS-TUS), and the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) — we estimate the relationship between MMLs and cigarette consumption.
Our results show that the enactment of MMLs between 1990 and 2012 are associated with a 0.3 to 0.7 percentage-point reduction in tobacco consumption among US adults, though this estimate is somewhat sensitive to controls for state-specific linear time trends. These findings suggest that tobacco and marijuana are substitutes for many users. However, this average response masks heterogeneity in the effects of MMLs among early versus late-adopting states and across the age distribution.
Monday, September 19, 2016
I am very pleased to see the release of this lengthy new policy analysis published by the Cato institute under the title "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations." Here is its executive summary:
In November 2012 voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Two years later, Alaska and Oregon followed suit. As many as 11 other states may consider similar measures in November 2016, through either ballot initiative or legislative action.
Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates think legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, bolsters traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement. Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been largely absent.
This paper assesses recent marijuana legalizations and related policies in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
Our conclusion is that state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes. We cannot rule out small effects of legalization, and insufficient time has elapsed since the four initial legalizations to allow strong inference. On the basis of available data, however, we find little support for the stronger claims made by either opponents or advocates of legalization. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.
Last week, several of California’s largest newspapers weighed in on Proposition 64, the state’s November ballot initiative—also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act—that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle announced support for it. The Times offered the more comprehensive endorsement of the two, writing in part:
In November, Californians will again consider whether to legalize pot, this time with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law?
On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences...
The Times urges a “yes” vote.
The Times and The Chronicle agreed on most of the major points. Marijuana prohibition has burdened more than it has benefited society. Marijuana is already abundantly available in California; cities and municipalities can restrict and even ban marijuana businesses; and, the legislature retains the authority to amend the law. The 2010 legalization initiative was silly, but Proposition 64 fixes most of the previous attempt's shortcomings.
Conversely, The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee (both owned by The McClatchy Group) came out against Proposition 64. The two editorials are strikingly similar—at times they are indeed identical. They claim the aim of legalization advocates is not social justice reform or public health, but big business. Both lament that there is no currently accepted device available to law enforcement to help them detect drivers impaired by marijuana use (although two devices are currently being field-tested). Both worry recreational use will lead to greater exposure of youths to the drug. Both are cynical about the motives of Proposition 64’s advocates, and both conclude with this warning:
[O]nce approved, laws adopted by initiative are all but impossible to roll back without going back to the electorate. For all the spin by backers about how carefully they wrote Proposition 64, the initiative is not fully baked. Or maybe it’s cooked just right for the entrepreneurs promoting it.*
While it's unclear whether old media sources actually retain enough gravitas to persuade readers, the Bees better hope they do because opposition efforts appear to have been futile thus far. Polls continue to show Californians heavily favor legalizing recreational marijuana use. Last week, the USC Dornsife/LATimes poll showed 58 percent of California voters back Proposition 64. Notably, public opposition to legalization actually appears to have declined slightly. In May, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 40 percent of Californians opposed the measure. The most recent numbers show only 34 percent of Californians currently expect to vote against it; and, a California Counts poll released earlier this month found just 26 percent of respondents felt that way.
Regardless of the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers, it’s clear that legalization opponents have failed to gain much traction with Californians. Perhaps the problem stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge the current reality—that, in terms of access to marijuana, the drug is already de facto legal in California. As The Times acknowledges:
The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail.
Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition.
And The Chronicle:
Any serious discussion of marijuana legalization must begin with the acknowledgment of reality: Prohibition is not working. The drug is popular and readily available for recreational use, either through medical marijuana dispensaries, where 18-year-olds can purchase cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, often after a nudge-and-a-wink; or a black market that continues to thrive.
The preceding statements certainly comport with my understanding of the current condition of the marijuana market in California.
Earlier this year, I met a doctor friend for dinner who regularly moonlights for a company that connects potential medical marijuana patients with prescribers. I asked her if she had ever rejected someone seeking a medical marijuana use license. “Of course!” she laughed. But, still chuckling, she added that its exceedingly rare and only happens when patients do not understand what constitutes a qualifying condition under California’s lax medical marijuana statute. When I asked her for an example, she recounted a recent high school graduate who had sought a medical marijuana license for the ankle he had twisted at a recent pick-up soccer match. Tellingly, however, she was not upset that he had tried to get a card. Rather, she was miffed mostly because the young man had not taken the time to “consult the internet” before making the appointment. If he had, she added facetiously, he would have realized that he suffers from recurring migraines.
Put simply, if they hope to move the needle in their direction, marijuana legalization opponents must not only persuade voters that marijuana legalization will result in future societal harm; but also they must convince the millions of California voters living in marijuana-friendly municipalities that their communities are already suffering from it. With a dearth of data to support that view, convincing voters to change their minds could be a tall order.
The San Diego Union Tribune has yet to take a position on Proposition 64, and The Orange County Register so far has declined to either support or oppose it. Earlier this year, both The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times came out in support of the measure.
Here are several recent related posts on marijuana policy reform in California:
- If money really can "buy" elections, marijuana legalization in California should pass with nearly 98% of the vote
- New poll shows substantial support for California recreational pot initiative
- New medical marijuana regulations create rift among California’s marijuana policy reform advocates
- Noting some (unexpected?) pro-marijuana opponents of some 2016 marijuana full legalization initiatives
- “It’s Not Legal Yet: Nearly 500,000 Californians Arrested for Marijuana in Last Decade”
- Highlighting why some (many?) of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in 2016 are not certain to pass
- Poll suggests California marijuana legalization initiative on path to win pretty big
- Recognizing how California’s coming vote on full legalization of marijuana could be a game changer
* In the last sentence The Fresno Bee describes the backers of Proposition 64 as “guys and gals” rather than “entrepreneurs.”
Friday, September 16, 2016
This new FoxNews Health report, headlined "Medical marijuana programs may help cut opioid use," reports on the latest evidence suggesting the availability of medical marijuana helps reduce opioid use. Here are the details:
Making medical marijuana legal may lead to a reduction of opioid use in adults under the age of 40, a new study suggests. The researchers found that the rates of opioid use decreased in adults ages 21 to 40 in states that had legalized medical marijuana and where residents with prescriptions could obtain cannabis from dispensaries or grow their own, compared to states that had legalized medical marijuana but did not yet have an operational program for people to obtain it.
However, the finding didn't apply to adults over 40. For this group, opioid use did not decrease in those states with operational medical marijuana programs, according to the findings, which were published online today (Sept. 15) in the American Journal of Public Health. [Full study available at this link]
These findings seem to support the idea that marijuana may offer a substitute for opioids in people ages 21 to 40 who have severe or chronic pain, said lead author June H. Kim, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. There is other evidence that medical marijuana may act as a substitute for opioids in states that have passed this legislation: A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 suggested that the legalization of medical marijuana in U.S. states appears to be linked with lower death rates from opioid overdoses within that state....
In the study, the researchers looked at data from toxicological tests for alcohol and other drugs that were found in the systems of drivers killed in car crashes. Some states collect this information on a yearly basis for the majority of drivers who die in crashes on public roads, according to the study. Toxicological testing from deceased drivers who crashed in states that did or did not have medical marijuana laws seemed like an interesting data source, and it is an objective way to evaluate prior opioid use, for both medical or recreational purposes, Kim said....
The study found that drivers ages 21 to 40 who died in car crashes after a medical marijuana law was implemented had half the odds of testing positive for opioids, compared to similarly aged drivers who crashed in states before such a law was implemented, Kim said. [7 Ways Marijuana May Affect the Brain] "That's a pretty moderate-to-large reduction," Kim told Live Science.
The practical implication of these results is that fewer individuals may be using opioids in states with operational medical marijuana laws, Kim said. This study's findings are consistent with what is currently known about medical marijuana and how patients have used it, Kim said. Most prior surveys of medical marijuana patients show that they tend to be younger than 45, and most laws set patient age restrictions at 21 and older, he said.
Some states that have legalized medical marijuana are starting to see increases in use by adults over the age of 45, who are seeking out marijuana as a treatment alternative to opioids. It's possible that future studies may find reductions in the prevalence of opioid use in older age groups, Kim suggested. One limitation of the study is that the findings may not be generalizable to all U.S. states, the researchers said. In addition, the results establish an association, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship, between the implementation of medical marijuana laws in states and prior opioid use by individuals, the researchers said.
If money really can "buy" elections, marijuana legalization in California should pass with nearly 98% of the vote
One of many reasons I find the politics of marijuana reform so interesting is because it can often provide interesting and telling (and often unexpected) lessons that can and should inform what we know and what we think we know about modern politics. One theme in modern politics and criticisms thereof concerns the role of money in elections and the notion that an issue or candidate that raises enough money will be sure to prevail in an election no matter what the voters really think of the substantive merits of that issue or candidate. Based on this recent reporting about some recent funding numbers surrounding the California marijuana legalization initiative, if this is true we should expect the pro-reform vote to win by a record-setting landslide:
California law enforcement organizations are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight efforts to repeal the death penalty and legalize marijuana, according to a MapLight analysis. While five of the 17 measures on the state’s November ballot concern crime and punishment, contributions from police groups are focused on three initiative battles [two on capital punishment and one on marijuana reform], the analysis found....
Police groups have contributed about 45 percent of the funding -- or $114,450 -- to the campaign against Proposition 64, a measure to legalize marijuana. The “no” campaign has raised a little more than $254,000, while supporters of the initiative have contributed about $11.5 million. Under state law, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable by a fine.
I have emphasized the line reporting that supporters of the marijuana reform initiative have in hand roughly 50 times more campaign resources to make their case to the voters. I do not find these campaign resource numbers at all surprising, but I also will not be surprised if it does not come anywhere close to translating into a landslide. (And if you want a firm prediction from me, as of this writing I am thinking that the marijuana reform initiative in California will pass by roughly a 55/45 margin.)
September 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 15, 2016
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this MarketWatch article that highlights why I think marijuana ballot initiatives (especially in swing states like Florida and Nevada and Arizona) are an important sleeper story this big election year. Here is how the article starts:
Millennial and youth voters in America care more than any other generation about the legalization of marijuana, but will that be enough to drive them to the polls for November’s pivotal election?
There are as many as 13 pending ballot initiatives to legalize either adult recreational marijuana use or medical marijuana, with initiatives in nine states having already qualified to be on the ballot in November. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Oklahoma will vote to legalize medical marijuana, while Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will decide whether to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
The cannabis industry in the U.S. has arguably never faced a more monumental decision on its future and it’s a decision America’s younger generations care about. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of Republican millennials, and 77% of their Democratic-leaning counterparts, support the legalization of marijuana. And while Democrats across generations are largely in favor of legalization, 47% of Republican gen. Xers, 38% of baby boomers and 17% of the silent generation support the cause.
For a better chance for the nine ballot initiatives to pass in November, millennial voters will need to turn out in droves, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Increased turnout from young voters could also have a substantial impact on the presidential election. According to a July Pew post, Hillary Clinton holds a 60% to 30% advantage over Donald Trump among young voters — ages 18 to 29. Clinton’s lead falls to 47% when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson — who just edges Trump among young voters — is added to the mix.
Historically, about half of all eligible millennial voters head to the polls during presidential elections: 46% in 2004, 50% in 2008 and 46% in 2012, according to Pew. In Colorado in 2012, however, the voter turnout rate among millennials was more than 10 percentage points higher than the national average. More than 55% of Colorado’s eligible youth voted, and the state’s marijuana ballot measure — full legalization — passed.
September 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper authored by Sam Kamin. Here is the abstract:
The 2016 election promises to be a turning point in the history of marijuana regulation in this country. Although the federal prohibition on all marijuana conduct remains in place, twenty-five states plus the District of Columbia currently authorize the medical use of marijuana and four states plus D.C. have legalized marijuana use by all adults. Many more states are expected to vote on marijuana law reform this fall and these numbers are almost certain to grow; the end of federal marijuana prohibition may soon be close at hand.
But it is important to remember that federal drug policy – like the state-level drug reform that has preceded it – is not an all-or-nothing choice. Federal lawmakers will not choose between the current system under which marijuana is prohibited in all circumstances and for all purposes and a world in which there are no limits placed on how marijuana is produced, distributed, and consumed.
My goal in this essay is to describe the current, tenuous status of marijuana under state and federal law and then to investigate the various alternatives to prohibition available to federal lawmakers seeking to reform the nation’s marijuana laws. I situate these alternatives on a continuum between the current federal prohibition and a relatively free market model similar to that in place in a state like Colorado. Each of these models will have pluses and minuses and it is important that lawmakers firmly establish their goals in moving away from the prohibition of marijuana; winners and losers will be chosen in this area far sooner than many realize.
September 14, 2016 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)
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The title of this post is an expansion of the headline of this lengthy Westword article by Joel Warner. Among many virtues in this long-form article is that it includes quotes from one of my former students who examined in my marijuana seminar the connections between marijuana reform and immigration issues. Here is how the article gets started and some excerpt from its legal discussion:
Claudia didn’t think anything was wrong when United States Customs and Border Protection agents flagged her for an in-depth security screening after the early-morning flight from her native Chile landed at Los Angeles International Airport early on October 8, 2015. “It’s normal,” she says. “Sometimes the officers review people.” Besides, Claudia had never been in trouble in her life....
[Agent] Torres asked Claudia about past trips to the States; in her accented but largely fluent English, she told the agent that she’d previously visited Tennessee, Louisiana, New York and Colorado. At the mention of Colorado, he asked to see her phone. Since the device wasn’t password-protected, he quickly clicked to her photo gallery and began scrolling back several months to her visit from April through June of that year... The agent [eventually] arrived at three photos she’d taken inside Native Roots, a marijuana dispensary on Boulder’s Pearl Street. Looking at the images of glass display cases filled with edibles and jars of marijuana, he asked if she’d tried any. “Yes, I tried marijuana in Colorado,” she replied. “It’s legal there.”
With those words, Claudia immediately placed herself in the middle of a growing clash between state cannabis reforms and U.S. immigration law’s unyieldingly austere approach to marijuana. While cannabis may be legal in a growing number of states, it’s still very much against the law for all non-U.S. citizens to use it — even if few people know that. In fact, over the past decade, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has penalized and deported more people convicted of marijuana-related crimes than ever before. As a result of the inconsistencies between state marijuana laws and immigration law, immigration lawyers are finding themselves stymied by legal predicaments that don’t make any sense — and their clients are suffering. Husbands are being separated from wives, parents from children, because of activities that in many states are no longer crimes. And foreigners like Claudia are finding their lives changed forever when they simply admit that they tried something they assumed was completely legal.
But Claudia didn’t know that when she admitted to trying marijuana; she still thought everything was fine. After Torres had finished going through her luggage, two female agents gave her a pat-down and confiscated her belongings, then led her to a locked, windowless cell with security cameras on the ceiling and miserable-looking people of various nationalities lying on bare metal cots. Only then did she realize that something was very, very wrong....
The most famous example of a marijuana-based deportation might be the U.S.’s failed attempt to bar John Lennon from the country in 1973 because of a past cannabis conviction in England. But it was only later, as the War on Drugs heated up, that U.S. immigration policy became increasingly unforgiving regarding marijuana and other narcotics. These days, any drug offense, save for the possession of thirty grams or less of marijuana, is a deportable crime for non-U.S. citizens, including those with green cards. And any offense involving the sale of marijuana — even just peddling $5 worth of the drug — is considered an “aggravated felony” that triggers mandatory deportation.
It doesn’t matter if the conviction doesn’t come with a prison sentence or is expunged through a drug-court program. It doesn’t matter if the convicted individual can prove that his or her expulsion would cause extreme hardship on U.S. family members, a situation that can be used to stop deportation for other crimes such as assault or fraud. If an immigrant is busted for marijuana or other drugs, they’re likely to be taken into immigration custody and deported without any chance of coming back.
While President Barack Obama has long promised to ease the drastic consequences of the drug war, immigrants convicted of drug crimes have faced increased penalties during his time in office. That’s because of the Secure Communities initiative, a program launched under George W. Bush but expanded by the Obama administration that allows immigration agents access to local fingerprint data banks.
The result is more drug-related deportations than ever before. According to a Human Rights Watch investigation of U.S. government data, between 2007 and 2012, drug-possession-related deportations increased 43 percent, and drug-sale-related deportations increased 23 percent. In all during that period, nearly 266,000 people were forced out of the country after being convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, which accounted for roughly one out of every four criminal-conviction-related deportations. More than 50,000 of those deportations were related to a marijuana conviction....
“We are at a really interesting time politically,” says Grace Meng, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the organization’s report on drug-related deportations. “The country is willing to reconsider drug policy and laws, but those same laws passed in the 1980s and ’90s have had really severe immigration impacts — and they aren’t being considered at all.”
According to Alexander Holtzman, a fellow with the Immigrant Justice Corps in New York City who studied marijuana-related immigration sanctions while at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, it’s hard to know exactly how many people are currently being deported because of minor marijuana offenses; most deportation statistics don’t indicate whether a cannabis crime was the cause of someone’s expulsion. (ICE didn’t respond to multiple interview requests from Westword.)
There is some indication that the agency’s stance on marijuana could be shifting, though. In 2014, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that immigrants convicted of minor cannabis crimes should be given a chance to contest their deportation, ICE released a policy noting that marijuana-possession convictions would no longer be an enforcement priority. But it’s clear that at least until recently, cannabis-related crimes were a main priority for immigration authorities. According to ICE deportation records stored and analyzed by Syracuse University, in 2013 marijuana possession was the fourth-most-common offense associated with deportation — above assault, illegal re-entry or any other drug charge. The sale of marijuana was the twelfth-most-common deportation-related crime. Holtzman estimates that slightly more than 6,000 people were deported that year after being convicted of minor marijuana-possession charges.
“If these individuals are deported because of these offenses, then the sanction of deportation strikes me as severe, disproportionate and unjust,” says Holtzman. “Citizens are not similarly punished for identical conduct.”
September 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)
A notable new Live Science article reporting on notable new research has me seriously wondering if marijuana reform could help Americans better tackle our long-running obesity epidemic. The article is headlined "Daily Marijuana Use Linked to Lower BMI," and here are the highlights:
People who smoke marijuana daily may be slimmer than those who don't use the drug, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people in the study who used marijuana daily had about a 3 percent lower BMI (body mass index), on average, than those who did not use marijuana at all.
"There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [they] are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case," said lead study author Isabelle C. Beulaygue, a research support specialist in interventional radiology at the University of Miami.
In the study, the researchers looked at more than 13,000 adults ages 18 to 26. The researchers collected body measurements to calculate the participants' BMIs, and tested the participants for marijuana use. Six years later, when the participants were between ages 24 and 32, the researchers looked again at their marijuana use and BMIs.
The researchers found that the BMIs of women who smoked marijuana daily during the study were 3.1 percent lower than the BMIs of women who did not smoke marijuana daily during the study period. And the BMIs of men who smoked marijuana daily were 2.7 percent lower than the BMIs of those who did not smoke marijuana, according to the study [which is available at this link], published in September in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics....
One of the strengths of the new study was that the researchers controlled for various factors of a person's lifestyle that can normally affect people's weight, such as their diet, exercise and alcohol consumption, according to the study. Even after the researchers took these factors into consideration, the link between marijuana use and lower BMI held, the researchers said.
Beulaygue said that the researchers are not advocating for marijuana as a new weight loss tool. Previous research has linked marijuana use to potential health effects on the brain and the heart. Moreover, the new study does not prove that smoking marijuana causes people to lose weight or helps them to avoid gaining weight. Rather, it merely shows that there is a link between marijuana use and lower BMI, Beulaygue told Live Science.
The researchers said they don't know for sure what mechanism may explain this link. However, previous research has suggested that people who use marijuana regularly may break down blood sugar more quickly, which, in turn, may help to prevent weight gain, the researchers said.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this new Reason article/video, which seems like a fitting topic to highlight on this first big weekend of professional football games. Here is some of the set-up to the five-minute video I have enbedded below:
"I was sitting in the training room one day and I just watched player after player come in to take a Toradol shot just to practice," says former NFL player Ricky Williams. "I realized if we have to take all this medication, all these pharmaceuticals, just to practice it can't be good for our bodies in the long run. And that's when I started to look at my health seriously and look for alternatives."
Williams, the Heisman-winning running back who set multiple rushing records for the Miami Dolphins, was suspended by the NFL and then retired under a cloud of shame in 2003 for testing positive for marijuana. Dolphins fans, the media, and the league all turned on Williams, labeling him an underachiever with a drug problem. Williams ultimately returned in 2005 and played several more seasons in the NFL, but the stigma never went away.
But what if the league and the public were wrong to judge Ricky Williams? What if he was just ahead of his time?
Some researchers are now finding evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have two major benefits for athletes: 1) they act as a non-addictive pain reliever and 2) they can protect the brain from injury. These healing properties could be beneficial in a league where opioid addiction and concussions have become significant health concerns.
Williams is now part of a group of former NFL players who are lobbying the league to reconsider its position on marijuana. The former NFL star was one of several athletes in attendance at the 420 Games in Santa Monica, CA this Spring representing the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group dedicated to the advancement of medical marijuana.
Cannabis is a banned substance under the NFL's player agreement and commissioner Roger Goodell has made clear that he will not change league policy to allow medicinal marijuana until research proves it is a legitimate drug. But marijuana is classified as an illegal substance at the federal level, which makes getting grants and approval for research a long and arduous process. So former players are putting up their own money to get around the government's tight regulations and fund their own studies.
"Cannabis has been in the closet. It's been suppressed. It's coming out," says Constance Finley, founder of the cannabis extract firm Constance Therapeutics. Finley is working with the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition to produce the evidence players need to change NFL policy.
"The owners have to see responsible, smart people who are completely mainstream to have their experiences reflected, have their minds opened," says Finley. "I think that we could move past the impasse with the level of research that we're talking about doing. It will be irrefutable."
Players like Ricky Williams are hoping their participation in these studies can lead to change and help future athletes stay healthy long after their playing days are over. "Hopefully as public opinion starts to change the leagues will soften their stance," says Williams. "Especially the NFL. They could really be ahead of the charge as far as getting this medicine to people who really need it."
Thursday, September 8, 2016
As this Washington Post piece highlights, the "American Legion, a group representing 2.4 million U.S. military veterans, has called on Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and 'reclassify it in a category that, at a minimum will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value'." Here is more (with links from the original):
In a resolution passed at the Legion's annual convention last week, the organization said it hopes that better research into marijuana and an official acknowledgment of its potential medical benefits will hasten the development of new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, ailments that have plagued veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Legion's resolution, published online by Marijuana.com, noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently approved the country's first randomized, controlled trial using whole-plant, smoked marijuana to treat PTSD symptoms. That study will be conducted by Sue Sisley, an Arizona researcher who tried for nearly a decade to get a green light for the research but struggled to find an academic institution to sponsor it. The University of Colorado ultimately agreed to fund the research.
Medical marijuana is extremely popular with voters: A June Quinnipiac University poll found that 89 percent supported the use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. A separate survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 68 percent of responding members supported legalizing medical marijuana in their state, and 75 percent said that the Department of Veterans Affairs should allow medical marijuana as a treatment option.