Other business opportunities include advanced delivery services for homebound patients. However, there are still some remaining hurdles. Local jurisdictions could limit sales and there could be some barriers to doctors who want to participate. Plus, there is uncertainty surrounding the new Federal administration. Still, it's full steam ahead for medical marijuana in Florida unless someone says otherwise.
Monday, March 20, 2017
As noted in recent posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students, after a well-deserved Spring Break, are hearing presentations this week about marijuana reform's intersection with immigration (background here) and education (background here). If these presentations (or other realities) end up inspiring my students to want to get into the marijuana industry in the Buckeye State, a third student presentation this week has them covered. Specifically, a student this coming week is presenting on "advising a marijuana dispensary in Ohio," and here are the materials this student has assembled for the planned presentation:
Article discussing 501(C)(4) tax emption (webpage includes link to a law review article for those interested)
Posting on taxation of marijuana dispensaries (includes text of 280E as well as a link to the IRS memo regarding taxation, Memo 201504011, for further optional reading)
---- For further reading on the taxation issue: "Tax Planning for Marijuana Dealers"
Memo summarizing Ohio dispensary rules (with changes after comment period)
---- For further reading, check out the “Dispensary Rules” section of OMMCP website
For more information (not Ohio specific) about industry activity as cultivator or processor and for more general business advice, see "Marijuana Business: How to Open and Successfully Run a Marijuana Dispensary and Grow Facility" (free on Amazon’s Kindle unlimited)
Sunday, March 12, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy new local article from Buffalo. Here are excerpts:
The state health commissioner last year declared New York’s medical marijuana program a success. But the five companies that the state selected in 2015 to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering from debilitating and sometimes terminal diseases such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis tell a different story.
“Our company is not close to break-even yet," said Ari Hoffnung, president of Vireo Health of New York, which has a marijuana-growing facility in Fulton County and dispenses its products in two downstate and two upstate locations. “And based on my understanding, no one has made a dime here in New York."
If other states were a guide, New York should be preparing for at least 200,000 patients enrolled in the program, the industry estimates. But since medical marijuana went on the market in New York State a little over a year ago, just over 14,000 patients have enrolled to buy the drug at one of the 20 dispensaries scattered around the state. Only half of those are regular customers. Many stopped taking the drug because of high costs, distances they must travel to get it or because they died, industry executives say. Fewer than 900 doctors signed on to certify patients to use the drug.
“There are two things the program is lacking: physicians and patients," said Sen. Diane Savino, author of the bill that opened up medical marijuana treatment in New York State. Now, while the five companies producing medical marijuana struggle to stay alive for lack of customers, the Cuomo administration wants to add five more grow-and-distribution licenses.
At the same time, the administration is not opening up a new bidding process. Instead, the Cuomo administration is turning to five companies – from the original 43 bidders – that lost in the application process two years ago. All of this is worrying the companies still trying to stay afloat. “Every single one of them is financially struggling," Savino said....
Instead of adding new grow facilities, the existing licensees say, New York should more aggressively attract physicians to participate and put dispensaries in more locations. Savino, the Staten Island senator who sponsored the legislation, said she is pushing the Cuomo administration to award new “retail license” dispensaries, but to bar the five existing grower/dispensary firms from owning them. She said the administration does not understand how the medical marijuana marketplace works and that adding new growers while supplies exceed demand is “a big mistake.”
Marijuana companies say they are not arguing more licenses should never be issued to grow and sell marijuana. “No one is making any money here. Twenty percent of us have already failed," said Hoffnung, president of Vireo Health, referring to one of the original licensees that sold out to a California company because of financial problems.
March 12, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, March 6, 2017
Pennsylvania's Auditor General suggests marijuana legalization could help state close budget deficit
A notable bean-counter is making a notable case for marijuana reform in the Keystone State. This official press release, headlined "Auditor General DePasquale Recommends Regulating, Taxing Marijuana as Right Move to Help Deal with Critical Issues: Result would bring in revenue, create jobs, reduce corrections costs," explains:
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today Pennsylvania should strongly consider regulating and taxing marijuana to benefit from a booming industry expected to be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 in the next decade. “The regulation and taxation of the marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” DePasquale said during a news conference at the state capitol.
“I make this recommendation because it is a more sane policy to deal with a critical issue facing the state. Other states are already taking advantage of the opportunity for massive job creation and savings from reduced arrests and criminal prosecutions. In addition, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that could help tackle Pennsylvania’s budget problems.”...
In 2012, Colorado voters approved legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. Last year, Colorado – which has less than half the population of Pennsylvania – brought in $129 million in tax revenue on $1 billion in marijuana sales from the new industry that had already created an estimated 18,000 jobs. “The revenue that could be generated would help address Pennsylvania’s revenue and spending issue. But there is more to this than simply tax dollars and jobs,” DePasquale said. “There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional, and financial devastation that may result from such arrests.”
In Colorado’s experience, after regulation and taxation of marijuana, the total number of marijuana arrests decreased by nearly half between 2012 and 2014, from nearly 13,000 arrests to 7,000 arrests. Marijuana possession arrests, which make up the majority of all marijuana arrests, were nearly cut in half, down 47 percent, and marijuana sales arrests decreased by 24 percent. “All told, this decrease in arrest numbers represent thousands of people who would otherwise have blemished records that could prevent them from obtaining future employment or even housing,” DePasquale said. “Decriminalization also generates millions in savings from fewer arrests and prosecutions.”
DePasquale said Pennsylvania has already benefited by some cities decriminalizing marijuana. In Philadelphia, marijuana arrests went from 2,843 in 2014 to 969 in 2016. Based on a recent study, the RAND Corporation estimated the cost for each marijuana arrest and prosecution is approximately $2,200. Using those figures, that’s a savings of more than $4.1 million in one Pennsylvania city. Last year, York, Dauphin, Chester, Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties each had more arrests for small amounts of marijuana than Philadelphia. Those counties had between 800 and 1,400 arrests in 2015.
“Obviously, regulation and taxation of marijuana is not something that should be entered into lightly,” DePasquale said. “Should Pennsylvania join the growing number of states benefiting financially and socially from the taxation and regulation of marijuana; there are many things to consider, including details about age limits, regulatory oversight, licensing, grow policies, sale and use locations, and possession limitations.
“As I said earlier, the train has indeed left the station on the regulation and taxation of marijuana,” DePasquale said. “It is time for this commonwealth to seriously consider this opportunity to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.”
March 6, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
This new Forbes article, headlined "Marijuana Industry Projected To Create More Jobs Than Manufacturing By 2020," highlights some of the economic development potential that is forecast by some in the marijuana arena. Here are the details:
Jobs. That is what the marijuana industry hopes will keep the Trump administration from cracking down on cannabis companies.
A new report from New Frontier data projects that by 2020, the legal cannabis market will create more than a quarter of a million jobs. This is more than the expected jobs from manufacturing, utilities or even government jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS says that by 2024 manufacturing jobs are expected to decline by 814,000, utilities will lose 47,000 jobs and government jobs will decline by 383,000. This dovetails with data that suggests the fastest growing industries are all healthcare related.
The legal cannabis market was worth an estimated $7.2 billion in 2016 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17%. Medical marijuana sales are projected to grow from $4.7 billion in 2016 to $13.3 billion in 2020. Adult recreational sales are estimated to jump from $2.6 billion in 2016 to $11.2 billion by 2020. New Frontier bases these projections on the markets that have already passed such legal initiatives and don't include additional states that could come on board by 2020....
“These numbers confirm that cannabis is a major economic driver and job creation engine for the U.S. economy,” said Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, Founder and CEO of New Frontier Data. “While we see a potential drop in total number of U.S. jobs created in 2017, as reported by Kiplinger, as well as an overall expected drop in GDP growth, the cannabis industry continues to be a positive contributing factor to growth at a time of potential decline. We expect the cannabis industry’s growth to be slowed down to some degree in the next three to five years, however with a projected total market sales to exceed $24 billion by 2025, and the possibility of almost 300,000 jobs by 2020, it remains a positive economic force in the U.S.”
New Frontier based its projections on analysis from the Marijuana Policy Group which was hired by Colorado for an economic analysis. According to annual surveys of cannabis professionals by the Marijuana Business Daily, the industry already employs 100,000 to 150,000 workers and nearly 90,000 are in plant-touching companies....
Many employees in the industry seem thankful for their jobs and are genuinely happy with their employment. The alternative culture appeals to many who have no interest in cubicle jobs or working for a big corporate giant. It is increasingly pulling professionals from more traditional industries who are looking for new challenges and different work environments. “The governments and the programs that they've instilled into these (legalized) states have created great job opportunities and excellent business opportunities for entrepreneurs,” said Mark Lustig, Chief Executive Officer of CannaRoyalty. “They've created the right competition.”
February 22, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, February 18, 2017
This Florida newspaper commentary by John Romano, headlined "Doesn't medical marijuana deserve a free market too?," effectively shines a light on the notable fact that the affinity of some Republican leaders for less government regulation and more marketplace freedom often wanes when the commodity at issue is marijuana. Here is a portion of the commentary:
Around here, free market is the answer. And it doesn't even require an actual question.
Education gap? Let the business community fix it. Health insurance? Keep the government out of it. Minimum wage? Leave it up to the job creators. Yes, free market competition will always be the solution in Tallahassee.
Except when it comes to medical marijuana. Apparently, that's an industry in serious need of a government-sponsored cartel.
When first venturing into the marijuana business a couple of years ago, the state handpicked a small group of well-connected nurseries in a highly suspect procurement process. Now that a constitutional amendment has marijuana on the precipice of becoming a billion-dollar industry, the state is considering a plan to reward that same group of nurseries with a huge head start in the marketplace. And that contradicts everything our state leaders normally preach.
Think I'm exaggerating? State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, recently introduced legislation to repeal the state's "certificate of need" programs for hospitals. The program allows the state to regulate where hospitals open, ostensibly to make sure private facilities do not cater to an affluent population and ignore the poor. Bradley calls it a "cumbersome process" used to "block expansion" and "restrict competition." He says eliminating the program will create jobs and drive down prices.
And yet Bradley is also the sponsor of a bill that restricts the number of nurseries allowed to produce medical marijuana, which critics say will create price gouging and limit available product. In effect, it would create the same problems Bradley says hamper the hospital industry....
Personally, I'm waiting for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to get involved. This is a man who does not believe in compromising his principles. He's so committed to free market ideals in education that he called teachers "evil" for pushing back against the privatization of public schools. He once said he would go to war to fight Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
Not long ago, Corcoran laid out his political principles in a forceful speech: "No economic system has done more to benefit mankind than the free enterprise system … but when judges or legislatures or local governments continually rewrite the rules or attempt to pick winners and losers, that is when markets fail. We need to reverse the damage that has been done, untangle the red tape and tear down all these barriers to entry."
Glad to hear it, Mr. Speaker. Looking forward to you joining the fight.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
"The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on the Labor Supply of Older Adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study"
The title of this post is the title of this intriguing paper available via SSRN authored by Lauren Hersch Nicholas and Johanna Catherine Maclean. Here is the abstract:
We study the effect of state medical marijuana laws on labor supply among older adults; the demographic group with the highest rates of many health conditions for which marijuana may be an effective treatment. We use the Health and Retirement Study to study this question and estimate differences-in-differences regression models. We find that passage of a state medical marijuana law leads to increases in labor supply among older adults. These effects should be considered as policymakers determine how best to regulate access to medical marijuana.
Friday, February 3, 2017
A busy week prevented me from finding time earlier to blog about this notable Stateline piece headlined "As More Voters Legalize Marijuana, States Left With Regulatory Hurdles." Here are some highlights:
The battle to legally grow, sell, buy and smoke pot in California has been a long one. Voters in the state ushered in medical marijuana 20 years ago, but took until last fall to approve a plan to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana.
Now, California officials are faced with setting rules for a product that has been outlawed by the federal government since the 1930s — a challenge that lawmakers and regulators in the other states that chose some form of marijuana legalization in the November election also are confronting.
Like California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana. They also will need rules about where pot shops can be located and whether dispensaries can sell food and candy infused with marijuana. They will also have to dovetail their recreational regulations with an existing medical marijuana industry, while Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota will be building medical systems from the ground up.
It could take several years. Colorado and Washington paved the way for recreational marijuana by legalizing it in 2012, but they are still sorting out policy details.
There is often a gap between the language of ballot measures like California’s and the detailed regulations needed to get marijuana markets off the ground. And the referendums that voters approve often call for quick implementation, giving legislators and regulators little or no time to enact policies before the drug becomes legal. “There’s no perfect implementation, there’s no perfect legalization effort,” said Michael Correia, a federal lobbyist for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “There’s going to be hiccups.”...
Arkansas and Massachusetts already are discovering the difficulty of setting up a regulatory system. Arkansas has delayed the launch of its medical marijuana program to give public agencies more time to prepare and lawmakers have introduced bills to restrict how the drug is used. Massachusetts lawmakers delayed the opening of marijuana shops by six months and proposed bills that would limit how much can be grown and possessed.
States also face banking challenges, licensing skirmishes and drugged driving debates. But despite all the difficulties, more states are expected to jump into the legalization fray. Already this year, at least 12 states are considering legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana. Another seven are looking at measures to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and nearly 30 ballot measures related to marijuana are being considered for elections in 2017 and 2018....
Three years after marijuana could first be bought and sold in Colorado, officials are still working through regulatory changes. This year already, bills have been introduced that would create a licensing system for marijuana smoking clubs, prohibit advertising marijuana without a sales license, and allow the use of medical marijuana for stress disorders.
Similarly in Washington, which legalized marijuana on the ballot in 2012, lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow retailers to sell marijuana merchandise like clothing that bears a store’s logo, regulate in-home marijuana production, and standardize the packaging and labeling of edible marijuana products....
One test of how well legalized marijuana is working will be when California, with about 39 million people and the sixth largest economy in the world, opens its recreational marijuana shops. Market researchers estimate that the California cannabis market will grow by 18.5 percent annually over the next five years, reaching $6.5 billion by 2020. By comparison, revenue in Massachusetts and Nevada, which also legalized recreational marijuana in November, is expected to be about $1.07 billion and $629.5 million, respectively.
But regulating the California market won’t be easy. Already there are rumblings of pushing implementation back a year from 2018 to 2019. And it won’t be entirely up to the state. Local governments will have a lot of say in determining when and where marijuana is bought and consumed.
The title of this post is the title of this notable new Los Angeles Times commentary authored by Mark Stefanos. Here are excerpts:
Trump himself has been all over the board on pot, expressing support for medical marijuana but also concerns about Colorado, where it’s recreationally legal. He generally seems to favor leaving it up to the states to decide.
Sure, it’s hard to picture Trump as marijuana’s champion. Unlike the last three presidents, Trump claims he’s never toked. He doesn’t drink, he orders his steak well-done and it’s unlikely anyone will ever pass a blunt to the self-described germaphobe.
But if legalizing marijuana federally isn’t on Trump’s legislative agenda, it should be. And a conservative Congress should back him. It’s politically expedient, fits neatly into Trump’s game plan and there are principled conservative arguments to be made on legalization’s behalf.
Outside of his core issues, our new president is no ideologue, and instead seems to be fixated on — and can be swayed by — public opinion. If his inauguration speech was any indication, Trump is doubling down on populism — and legalizing pot is incredibly popular.
The latest Gallup poll shows 60% of Americans favoring legalization, including 77% of 18- to 34-year-olds. With some of the weakest approval ratings for an incoming president, he should be looking to capitalize on low-hanging-fruit policies like these. Trump shouldn’t worry too much Trump shouldn’t worry too much about legalization alienating his base. The same Gallup poll shows that 42% of Republicans support legalization, up from 20% in 2005. And if anyone needs convincing, Trump can make the case.
He can appeal to the right by reminding us that the government isn’t our mommy. We’ve already learned the lesson that prohibition doesn’t work from alcohol, a far more dangerous drug. Enforcement of prohibition is a pointless and wasteful priority. After all, why should the government work so hard to keep people from smoking weed when China is manipulating its currency and Islamic State is burning people alive in cages?
Perhaps most importantly, however, legalization makes sense fiscally. If there’s one issue Trump has been consistent on since he launched his presidential bid, it’s economic protectionism. Today, the American marijuana industry employs 100,000 to 150,000 people nationally. Marijuana spending is estimated at $30 billion annually, according to market-research firm the Cowen Group, but only a fifth of that is spent on legal products. If legalized, the market is expected to grow to $50 billion annually by 2026.
For the same reasons Trump believes we should be buying cars and air-conditioners manufactured domestically, it follows that he should be making every effort to ensure America dominates the global marijuana industry. Americans should be smoking American weed. This requires the government’s ban be lifted so the market can flourish.
Legalization should be particularly attractive to Trump and his base, considering the main competitors to America’s pot industry are the very criminals and gangs he likes to target in his speeches. In 2008, nearly two-thirds of the pot consumed in the United States came from Mexico, according to the Rand Corp. Since then, Mexican drug cartels have had to compete with American pot farms operating in an increasingly legal landscape that produces a higher quality product and drives profits down.
Today, consumption of Mexican weed in America has been decreased to less than a third, according to an estimate by Alejandro Hope, a Mexico City based security and drug analyst. Full American legalization may put the nail in the coffin on cartel profits from weed. Trump knew this in 1990 when he said, “We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."
Finally, legalizing marijuana would allow Trump to make good on his campaign promise to help “inner-cities.” Instead of paying lip service to urban communities and insulting them with rhetoric describing them as crime-ridden, Trump could actually help those communities by legalizing pot, and making sure no one else has their life ruined because they got caught smoking a joint....
The policy benefits of legalization are many, and Trump shouldn’t wait to capitalize on the political opportunity. Legalization would be a deal that allows the government to save on the costs of enforcing prohibition and fighting a failing drug war. Pot would become safer as it becomes controlled and regulated, and the government could do a better job at youth drug prevention. Taxation from legal pot sales will provide state and local governments a healthy revenue stream, at the expense of our trade competitors. Most importantly, it would shore up support for his presidency from demographics he needs, while growing the economy and jobs.
That would be a lot of winning.
February 3, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
I’m happy to announce that my first-of-its-kind textbook on Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority will soon be published by Aspen. It will be out in April (in e form) and May (in print). The teacher’s manual and a companion website will be available soon thereafter. Many thanks to Doug and others who have provided helpful feedback on this book over the last 2.5 years!
The book covers a lot of ground, befitting a field that implicates so many different areas of law. The first chapter of the book is now available on SSRN. That chapter provides more details about the book’s coverage and approach, and it also explains why this is such an interesting and worthwhile area of law to study – and not just for those who are interested in practicing in this burgeoning field.
Not coincidentally, I will be posting more this month (both here and at Prawfsblawg) on topics drawn from the book. My first post at Prawfsblawg briefly laid out the case for teaching and writing about marijuana law. Even though most people who read this blog are already sold on the subject, I’ll copy the relevant passage here:
“For one thing, state marijuana reforms and the federal response to them have sparked some of the most challenging and interesting legal controversies of our day. May the states legalize a drug while Congress forbids it? Even so, are state regulations governing marijuana preempted by federal law? Does anyone (besides the DOJ) have a cause of action to challenge them as such? Can the President suspend enforcement of the federal ban? Do state restrictions on marijuana industry advertising violate the First Amendment? These are just a handful of the intriguing questions that are now being confronted in this field.
Just as importantly, there is a large and growing number of people who care about the answers to such questions. Forty-three (43) states and the District of Columbia have legalized possession and use of some form of marijuana by at least some people. These reforms – not to mention the prohibitions that remain in place at the federal level – affect a staggering number of people. Roughly 40% of adults in the U.S. have tried marijuana, and more than 22 million people use the drug regularly. To supply this demand, thousands of people are growing and selling marijuana. In Colorado alone, for example, there are more than 600 state licensed marijuana suppliers. There are also countless third parties who regularly deal with these users and suppliers, including physicians who recommend marijuana to patients, banks that provide payment services to the marijuana industry, firms that employ marijuana users, and lawyers who advise all of the above.
All of these people need help navigating a thicket of complicated and oftentimes conflicting laws governing marijuana. Colorado, for example, has promulgated more than 200 pages of regulations to govern its $1 billion a year licensed marijuana industry. Among many other things, Colorado’s regulations require suppliers to carefully track their inventories, test and label their products, and limit where and how they advertise. These regulations are complicated enough but doubts about their enforceability (highlighted in the questions above) only add to the confusion and the need for informed legal advice.”
In the coming weeks, I will blog about some of the questions noted above. In the meantime, if you are interested in teaching a course or a unit on any aspect of marijuana law, contact me – robert<dot>mikos<at>vanderbilt<dot>edu -- I would be happy to chat.
February 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Books, Business laws and regulatory issues, Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
Thursday, February 2, 2017
The Hill has this notable lengthy article, headlined "Marijuana lobby goes mainstream," highlighting the . Here are excerpts:
In a sign that the budding marijuana industry is moving away from the fringes and into the political mainstream, into the political mainstream, a number of officials once tasked with managing the growing legal cannabis sector are leaving their government positions to take jobs in the sector.
Many are advising states and cities as voters loosen marijuana restrictions across the country. Others are becoming industry advocates, lobbying the former colleagues and coworkers they left behind to craft more favorable rules and regulations.
In Colorado, Andrew Freedman, once the state’s director of marijuana coordination, and Lewis Koski, who headed the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, teamed up to form a consulting firm that advises local and state governments on crafting new marijuana regulations. Laura Harris, Koski’s predecessor at the Marijuana Enforcement Division, took a post this month as director of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
Manny Munson-Regala, who oversaw Minnesota’s medical marijuana program, now runs a consulting firm of his own. John O’Brien resigned his post overseeing New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to take a job as chief compliance officer of a New York cannabis company. And several former top officials at Washington State’s Liquor and Cannabis Board have left in recent years to form their own firms.
“That’s how America works. You work for the government, then you become a lobbyist,” said Ian Eisenberg, a leader in the legal marijuana industry who runs Uncle Ike’s, a dispensary in Seattle, Wash. “I don’t think it’s any different than the defense industry.”
Those who have made the jump from the government sector to the private sector say they offer a valuable service, both to governments that need to establish new rules and to the businesses that need to navigate complex regulatory schemes that have never been implemented before. “We’re the only ones to have stood this up before,” said Freedman, who now consults with governments looking to set up their regulatory structures. “There’s a real opportunity to come in and show lessons learned quickly.”...
But opponents of legalized pot, and some government transparency groups, say the relationship between the marijuana industry and its regulators should be treated like any other. “The revolving door from government to private sector isn’t anything new, but it represents the worst of our politics. This isn’t the paper clip or oven mitt lobby, this is the drug lobby,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization. And we know that the pot lobby wants to make money, just like big tobacco executives do.”
Aaron Scherb, legislative affairs director at the government transparency group Common Cause, said states should implement a cooling-off period between the time when a regulator leaves government service and when he or she begins working on behalf of the industry. “These individuals are the most familiar with the rules and regulations of a particular industry, and their experience means they’re able to exploit loopholes,” Scherb said. “At least some minimal amount of time is appropriate so we can avoid this revolving door problem.”
At least one state, Minnesota, required its regulators to take a year off before returning to work in the field they oversaw. Munson-Regala, the former head of the state’s medical marijuana program, said that reminded him of other industries he helped regulate, like the insurance business. “Embedded in that one-year cooling off period was an understanding that regulators are in a good position to help folks who are being regulated, in part because they understand what it takes to be compliant,” Munson-Regala said in an interview.
The revolving door is just one of the ways an industry that was once seen as the domain of hippies is trying to professionalize. Just a few years ago, proponents of legalizing marijuana brought 1970s-era stoner icon Tommy Chong to Capitol Hill to woo lawmakers. Today, Chong is gone, replaced by a booming industry of cultivators and retailers — and the trade shows, consultants and lobbyists who offer services to boost their business.
On Tuesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association kicked off a two-day Seed to Sale trade show in Denver, focusing on business practices for producers and retailers. The group’s first trade show several years ago attracted 800 participants; this year, they expect 2,000 vendors — and 4,000 to 5,000 at the annual Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, said Taylor West, the group’s deputy director. In November, 10,000 people showed up to another trade show in Las Vegas. “This industry is not slowing down,” West said.
Around the country, hundreds of lobbyists are already bending lawmakers’ ears on marijuana measures. In Colorado alone, 81 lobbyists reported advocating on marijuana proposals before the state legislature, according to data filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
February 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, January 23, 2017
Terrific UC Davis Law Review Symposium papers on "Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana"
I just realized all the great articles from the UC Davis Law Review's Symposium on "Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana" are now in print (and now available at this link) in the December 2016 issue of the UC Davis Law Review: Here is the great set of article with links to the pieces:
Keynote Speech — The Surprising Collapse of Marijuana Prohibition: What Now? by Richard J. Bonnie
Marijuana Legalization and Horizontal Federalism by Brianne J. Gorod
Legal Cannabis in the U.S.: Not Whether but How? by Sam Kamin
Tax Benefits of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores by Benjamin M. Leff
The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana by Steven W. Bender
The Economics of Workplace Drug Testing by Jeremy Kidd
Marijuana Legalization and Pretextual Stops by Alex Kreit
Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise? by Michael Vitiello
Drug War and Peace by Erik Luna
January 23, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, January 8, 2017
This local article, headlined "Judge: Insurance company must pay for medical marijuana for injured N.J. worker," reports on what would seem to be a significant ruling from an administrative law judge in New Jersey. Here are the details from the press report:
In what could be a precedent-setting decision, a New Jersey administrative law judge has ordered an insurance company to pay for medical marijuana for an injured worker who suffers from lingering neuropathic pain in his left hand after an accident while using a power saw at an 84 Lumber outlet in 2008.
Judge Ingrid L. French took testimony from the worker, a 39-year-old Egg Harbor Township man, and a Cherry Hill psychiatrist/neurologist who said the marijuana treatment was appropriate because it would allow the patient to reduce his prescription opiate use and lower the risk of serious side effects.
Andrew Watson was seeking reimbursement for marijuana he had purchased at a dispensary in his Atlantic County township over three months in 2014 after enrolling in the state's program. He also sought a ruling that would allow him to be covered for the treatment in the future.
French issued her opinion last month, saying "the evidence presented in these proceedings show that the petitioner's 'trial' use of medicinal marijuana has been successful. While the court is sensitive to the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana, whether or not it should be prescribed for a patient in a state where it is legal to prescribe it is a medical decision that is within the boundaries of the laws in the state."
The opinion did not state the reimbursement owed Watson, although his attorney said the marijuana itself cost less than $1,000 because it was only three ounces.
John Gearney, a Mount Laurel lawyer who writes a weekly blog on workers' compensation cases, says the written ruling may be the first in New Jersey to address whether an insurer should pay for marijuana. "It's not binding, but it's really an important decision. There are about 50 workers' compensation judges in the state, and they will read it and see what the judge thought when a case like it comes before them," he said.
Gearney, of the Capehart Scatchard firm, said the only other court ruling he had heard of involving medical marijuana and workers' compensation came when a New Mexico appeals court decided a few years ago that an injured worker was entitled to marijuana treatment. In that case, the court ruled that marijuana was "reasonable and necessary" for an injured worker who had reported that traditional treatments had not alleviated his pain.
John Carvelli, a Mount Laurel lawyer who represented Gallagher Bassett Services, a third-party administrator for 84 Lumber's insurance company, said in an email Thursday: "With respect to the recent decision, we respect the court's decision. . . . At this juncture there is no plan to appeal."...
Philip Faccenda, a Cherry Hill lawyer who represented Watson, said the decision might benefit insurance companies, too. "We believe this will offer very powerful cost savings with respect to the entire workers' compensation industry in New Jersey. . . . More costly pharmaceuticals can be reduced and medical marijuana would be a less expensive treatment modality," he said.
Faccenda said that his client stopped using marijuana in 2014 because he could not afford to continue paying for it. The insurance carrier continued to pay for his use of opiates to treat his pain. The decision means Watson can resume using marijuana, he said.
French wrote in her eight-page decision that Watson's testimony was credible. "He testified that the effects of the marijuana, in many ways, is not as debilitating as the effects of the Percocet (which is how he refers to his prescriptions for Endocet or Oxycodone). . . . Ultimately, the petitioner was able to reduce his use of oral narcotic medication. . . . The court found the petitioner's approach to his pain management needs has been cautious, mature, and overall, he is exceptionally conscientious in managing his pain."
French also wrote that Watson's expert witness, Cherry Hill psychiatrist Edward H. Tobe, described the benefits Watson can obtain by using marijuana and also described the risks of taking opiates. "Opiates can shut down breathing (whereas) marijuana cannabinoids won't . . . Marijuana does not affect the mid-brain. The mid-brain is critical in controlling respiration, heart rate, many of the life-preserving elements," he said, according to an excerpt of his testimony that was included in the judge's opinion.
Tobe said using marijuana, combined with less opiate use, would likely benefit Watson and help him "achieve better function." French said the evidence convinced her that Watson was entitled to participate in the marijuana program and that doing so was "reasonable and necessary" to relieve his continuing pain.
I cannot find the ruling discussed here on line, but more about the ruling can be gleaned from this posting at the NJ Workers' Comp Blog.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Legal marijuana sales in 2016 in North America over $6.5 billion after another year of remakable growth
As reported in this new Forbes article, "North American marijuana sales grew by an unprecedented 30% in 2016 to $6.7 billion as the legal market expands in the U.S. and Canada, according to a new report by Arcview Market Research." Here is more reporting on a new report on the legal marijuana marketplace:
North American sales are projected to top $20.2 billion by 2021 assuming a compound annual growth rate of 25%. The report includes Canada for the first time as it moves towards implementing legal adult use marijuana.
To put this in perspective, this industry growth is larger and faster than even the dot-com era. During that time, GDP grew at a blistering pace of 22%. Thirty percent is an astounding number especially when you consider that the industry is in early stages. Arcview's new editor-in-chief Tom Adams said, "The only consumer industry categories I've seen reach $5 billion in annual spending and then post anything like 25% compound annual growth in the next five years are cable television (19%) in the 1990's and the broadband internet (29%) in the 2000's."
ArcView's analysis uses data provided by BDS Analytics that has access to millions of individual consumer transactions from dispensary partners. “One of the biggest stories was the alternative forms of ingestion,” said ArcView Chief Executive Officer Troy Dayton. “Concentrates and edibles are becoming customer favorites versus traditional smoking.”
Even though the market is putting up huge sales numbers, there is still a great deal of uncertainty that comes with the new administration's approach towards legalization. Dayton believes that President-elect Donald Trump has been consistently in favor of states rights when it comes to legalization. “It's one of the few things he has been consistent on,” he said. Dayton also believes that even if Trump backed away from adult use, he would still favor medical marijuana.
The proposed attorney general Jeff Sessions is a confirmed critic of legalization, but Dayton believes that marijuana will be a low priority for the new administration. In any event, the group is reviewing and preparing for a more aggressive stance toward marijuana from the federal government should that happen. Even with this cloud of uncertainty, Dayton is bullish for the market. He said investment dollars are pouring into California, Florida, Massachusetts and Nevada. “Twenty-one percent of the total U.S. population now live in legal adult use markets,” said Dayton. He also noted that Colorado, Washington and Oregon saw their sales jump 62% through September of 2016 over 2015.
Investors are predominantly interested in investing in new technology within the industry like testing technologies and new growing technologies. Retail also remains attractive as new brands vie to win market share. Dayton also said there is a great deal of interest in Canada. That country's market is smaller than the U.S., but without the overhang of government conflict, it is a good indicator for which businesses could be replicated and thrive in the U.S.
January 3, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
As reported in this local article, "Massachusetts lawmakers quietly shuttled a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk delaying the implementation of recreational marijuana by six months." Here is more:
The bill does not affect the provisions that are already in effect: Personal possession inside and outside a person's primary residence, as well as home growing. Those provisions went into effect on Dec. 15, 2016. Under the new law voters passed in November, retail pot shops were likely to open in 2018, after the set-up of a Cannabis Control Commission.
But the bill on its way to Baker's desk changes the deadlines for the commission to draft and approve regulations, vet applicants and issue retail licenses for selling and cultivation. The commission was originally due to be set up by March 2017. The Massachusetts House and Senate passed the bill on Wednesday. Marijuana legalization advocates have repeatedly called for the timelines and deadlines to stay the same, saying they are doable.
"The legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety. This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law," Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said in a statement. "Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country," he added, referring to states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
December 28, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper available via SSRN authored by James Neil Conklin, Moussa Diop and Herman Li. here is the abstract:
Using publicly available data from the city of Denver and the state of Colorado, this study examines the effects of retail conversions (conversions from medical marijuana to retail marijuana stores) on neighboring house values in Denver, Colorado for the years 2013 and 2014. The time period was chosen to reflect a time before (2013) and after (2014) retail marijuana sales became legal in Colorado. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we compare houses that were in close proximity to a conversion (within 0.1 miles) to those that are farther away from a conversion.
We find that after the law went into effect, single family residences close to a retail conversion increased in value by approximately 9% relative to houses that are located slightly farther away. We perform a battery of robustness checks and falsification tests to provide additional support for this finding. To our knowledge this is the first study to examine at a micro-level the highly localized effect of retail marijuana establishments on house prices and hope that it can contribute to the debate on retail marijuana laws.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
As this local article details, during "the first 10 months of 2016, Colorado marijuana shops reached a significant milestone they had barely missed in all of 2015: $1 billion in legal, regulated cannabis sales." Here is more:
When 2015’s year-end marijuana tax data was finally released in February, Cannabist calculations showed $996,184,788 in sales at Colorado marijuana shops that year — spurring a leading industry attorney to tell us at the time, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”
That same lawyer, Vicente Sederberg partner Christian Sederberg, celebrated the billion-dollar news on Monday by also pointing to the Colorado cannabis industry’s increasing economic impact and skyrocketing tax revenues for the state as well as numerous cities and counties throughout Colorado.
“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” said Sederberg, “and so the economic impact of this industry — if we’re using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Group’s recent report, which is totally reasonable — it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.”
Nearly $82.8 million of retail cannabis and more than $35 million of medical pot was peddled at Colorado shops in October 2016; The totals are down from September 2016, when marijuana sales hit an all-time high in Colorado — but October’s sales are cumulatively up year over year by more than 46 percent.
Sederberg and his colleague Andrew Livingston, the law firm’s director of economics and research, also estimate that 2016’s overall tax totals will amount to more than 2014 and 2015 tax totals combined, “and that’s a conservative estimate,” Sederberg added.
Depending on November and December’s forthcoming pot tax totals, that scenario is possible. Not accounting for licensing fees imposed on cannabis businesses, $63.4 million in marijuana taxes were collected by the state in 2014 along with another $120.6 million in 2015. Since 2016 taxes through October sit at $151.4 million, each of the year’s final two months would have to top $16.3 million apiece to best the two previous years’ totals combined. Either way, it’s going to be close.
There are three different taxes on Colorado’s recreational cannabis — the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax, a special 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers, which is earmarked for school construction projects. The $6 million collected in October excise tax brings the yearly total to $49.7 million — already well over the $40 million mark, which was a point of discussion in 2012’s Amendment 64 campaign. While the first $40 million will go toward school construction projects, any additional tax revenues from the excise tax will go directly to the state’s public school fund.
December 13, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Are Rhode Island and other New England states now sure to follow Massachusetts on the path the marijuana legalization?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "R.I., Mass. marijuana markets intertwined: It's one reason legalization in Rhode Island is seen as inevitable." Here are excerpts:
If you want a sense of the connections between the Massachusetts and Rhode Island marijuana markets and the growth that entrepreneurs imagine, look no further than Rhode Island's first approved marijuana cultivator.
Medici Products and Solutions Inc., of Warwick, hopes to have a final license in hand by the end of the year. Its owners, John M. Rogue and Christopher E. Roy, have been selling marijuana to the state's three medical dispensaries as caregivers in a joint grow for two years.
Roy, a retired Woonsocket police officer, has been involved even longer, selling through a separate company, Grow Smart Solutions. With the state shutting down caregiver sales to dispensaries on Jan. 1 and converting to a licensed commercial-grower system, the pair needed a license to keep doing business. State startup fees for a 10,000-square-foot facility, the smallest category: $25,000.
But that's a drop in the bucket compared to their plans in Massachusetts. Rogue and Roy have three medical dispensary and cultivation applications pending in the Bay State under the name Hope Heal Health Inc. They've already received provisional approval for a flagship site on West Street in Fall River. The investment they'll need to make in the building they hope to open next year: $4 million to $7 million, according to Rogue.
Massachusetts documents show the company's projected revenues for the first year at $5.3 million, with $3.1 million in expenses. They expect to sell 952 pounds of medical marijuana at $350 an ounce. "I saw this as an opportunity where we could provide to patients the medicine they need," said Rogue, 65, of Warren. "... My wife passed away from cancer. My partner's mother passed away from cancer. We're just trying to give back."
On Thursday, the pair will be at a North Attleboro selectmen's meeting, seeking town approval for a second cultivation site. They're eyeing Berkley for a third site, said Rogue, whose career before marijuana ranged from technology company management to real estate development. In all matters in Massachusetts, the pair are represented by former Fall River Mayor William Flanagan.
And with Massachusetts voting to legalize marijuana last month, Rogue said the company is interested in moving into the recreational market as well. He acknowledged there are many unknowns, but the ballot question appears to give those who have opened or applied for medical dispensaries preference when recreational sales begin, possibly by 2018.
Massachusetts, which has roughly double Rhode Island's population of marijuana patients, at 33,000, currently has nine medical dispensaries. Another 67 applications for dispensaries, cultivation and processing sites, including Hope Heal Health in Fall River, have received provisional approval....
As for Medici's future in Rhode Island, Rogue — like so many others — says legalization here is inevitable. If not this year, then the next, was his guess. At a Publick Occurrences forum co-hosted by The Journal last Monday, 84 percent of the audience members polled said it was just a matter a time before the state legalizes marijuana.
In an interview last month, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello noted that, given Massachusetts' legalization, soon Rhode Island will have "a lot of the concerns that marijuana creates" and "none of the revenues to help us address that." Asked if Rogue will be up on Smith Hill pushing for movement this year, he said he'll leave that to the membership. "It's going to happen," he said.
December 11, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, December 10, 2016
In the run-up to the November 2016 election, I suggested that Florida's vote over a significant medical marijuana ballot initiative could be as important as any of the recreational marijuana reform votes taking place in other states. This new Forbes article, headlined "Florida Medical Marijuana Sales Could Rival Colorado By 2020," reinforces my view. Here are excerpts (with links from the original):
Colorado and California may be ground zero for medical marijuana, but Florida could quickly catch up. A new report from New Frontier Data with market data provided by Arcview Market Research projects that Florida's market will grow to $1.6 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate of 140%. That would make it half the size of California's projected $2.6 billion market and top the projected $1.5 billion medical marijuana market for Colorado.
Florida voters legalized medical marijuana during this past election with more than 70% of the vote. Florida has the fifth-highest median age and is one of the most popular places to retire in the country. It is considered to be well-positioned to serve the aging population with medical cannabis products. The New Frontier report believes that Florida could end up becoming 7.5% of the total legal U.S. cannabis market and 14% of the medical marijuana market by 2020.
“Florida has the potential to be one of the largest medical markets in the country. The state is home to the nation's largest percentage of people 65 and older, a demographic for whom chronic pain and catastrophic illnesses are commonplace and expensive to treat. Amendment 2 gives this large patient pool access to legal cannabis as an alternative therapy to their diverse medical needs,” said New Frontier Data Founder & CEO Giadha DeCarcer.
Troy Dayton of The Arcview Group said, “The opportunity for good jobs, tax money and wealth creation created by Amendment 2 passing cannot be understated. And, thankfully, seriously ill patients will no longer need to go to high school parking lots or drug dealers to get their medicine.” Dayton also noted that cannabis entrepreneurs are pretty excited at their prospects in the state.
One example of this is the decision by High There!, a social media site that caters to the cannabis crowd, to move from Colorado to Florida. “When we launched 18 months ago, we felt Denver was the right city to be home to High There!, as it was a legal state. But with Florida legalizing medical marijuana, we realized the opportunity was really in our home state, and High There! could be a model of the economic impact a legal marijuana market can bring to a region,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Darren Roberts.High There! is bringing jobs with it as it moves its headquarters back to the founders home state. The company plans to add positions in operations, and marketing in the coming months, and continues to add strategic partners as the company solidifies itself as a leading technology platform for the cannabis community. The company wants to promote accessibility of medical marijuana and has partnered with United For Care, the largest organization that worked to pass Amendment 2....
December 10, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this lengthy and interesting recent California Sunday Magazine article. Here are excerpts:
Last year, U.S. legal marijuana was a $5.4 billion business, and that figure is expected to quadruple by 2020. According to one 2016 estimate, the industry and supporting businesses already employ between 100,000 and 150,000 people in the U.S., more than General Motors. California’s recent vote to legalize recreational marijuana — medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996 — created the world’s largest legal market and sent the clearest signal yet that widespread legalization is inevitable. (Seven other states legalized medical or recreational marijuana as well.)
The most glaring irony of legalization is that for decades black and Latino communities have disproportionately suffered under harsh drug laws, and now, with those laws in retreat, the entrepreneurs cashing in on the booming business are overwhelmingly white. California, like the four states that had previously legalized recreational pot, imposes restrictions on convicted felons joining the industry; some states also require business-license applicants to demonstrate cash reserves of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Both criteria weigh heavily against minority entrepreneurs seeking to enter the industry....
A diverse city with a history of tolerant pot laws, Oakland was hoping to lead the way in creating an industry that compensates for the racial inequalities of the past, but it was struggling with how to translate decades of injustice into still-hypothetical profits. Weeks earlier, Oakland’s city council had passed a remarkable, first-of-its-kind “equity amendment,” guaranteeing 50 percent of cannabis business licenses to former marijuana felons and to residents of several neighborhoods considered especially damaged by the war on drugs. In public statements, Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks, who introduced the amendment, made clear that her intention was to foster minority-owned businesses. “When you look at the cannabis industry here with respect to the ownership, it is predominantly white,” she said from the podium in the drab chamber of Oakland’s city council. People of color “are tired of simply being employees. When do they get an ownership piece of the pie? That is what this is about.”....
Most jurisdictions consider cannabis businesses something between a nuisance and a threat, but the city government in perennially broke Oakland was quick to recognize the economic opportunity in legal pot. It was an early jurisdiction to decriminalize adult use of marijuana, in 2004, and it became the first in the country to license medical marijuana dispensaries, also in 2004. Harborside, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in October, was one of the first dispensaries to open in the city, and it helped pioneer the widely imitated idea that dispensaries should be clean, welcoming spaces, more like Apple stores than smelly, cramped head shops. It now brings in a reported $30 million in annual sales and is an important Oakland taxpayer. After the Justice Department initiated a case against the dispensary in 2012, Oakland took the unprecedented step of suing the federal government on behalf of a cannabis business. (The Justice Department dropped its case earlier this year.)...
As legalization has spread, other jurisdictions have recognized the moral urgency of creating diversity in the industry. So far, none has succeeded. This past summer, Maryland issued its first 30 medical marijuana business licenses, but the process was thrown into disarray once it became clear that none had gone to a woman or an African American. It’s a “very complex problem,” the head of Maryland’s cannabis commission told The Baltimore Sun. Time sensitive, too, since the established companies are getting bigger and richer. Ohio’s medical marijuana law reserves 15 percent of business licenses for minority owners, but this aspect of the law immediately came under legal scrutiny and the program has yet to become operational.
December 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 14, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Wall Street Journal article. Here are excerpts:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s husband and sons ordered her a new Benelli 12-gauge shotgun as a gift, but when the Alaska Republican — and enthusiastic duck hunter — went to pick it up, she was puzzled by a question on the federal background form she had to fill out. The form asked if she used marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, both of which are legal in Alaska. If she answered yes, she would be unable to get the gun, because federal law prohibits anyone who uses illegal drugs from buying a firearm.
The senator doesn’t use pot, but she was taken aback by the notion that an activity that is legal in her state could block gun ownership. “I don’t like marijuana — I voted against legalization — but we passed it,” Ms. Murkowski said in an interview. “Now, you’ve got this conflict.”
The scope of that conflict just grew, as voters in eight states last week approved marijuana-related ballot initiatives. Now, 28 states and Washington D.C., allow marijuana use in some form, including eight that allow recreational use. Yet federal law still holds that anyone who uses marijuana, even medicinally, is doing so illegally and can’t buy a gun.
That is upsetting advocates for both gun owners and pot smokers, groups that don’t always find themselves on the same side of the cultural divide. “This idea that you somehow waive your Second Amendment rights if you smoke marijuana” is wrong, said Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, which advocates marijuana legalization. “In particular, if you are using marijuana as a medicine, the idea that you have to choose between your health and the Second Amendment is offensive.