Monday, December 11, 2017
As reported in this local article, headlined "Anyone over 21 could grow weed at home under proposed Ohio ballot initiative," there is some new talk about a new initiative to legalize marijuana in the Buckeye State. Here are the details:
A group of local investors who failed in their bid to secure a state license to grow medical marijuana on Monday announced plans for a statewide ballot issue to fully legalize marijuana.
Jimmy Gould, chairman of Cincinnati-based Green Light Acquisitions, proposed an Ohio constitutional amendment that would allow anyone 21 or older to grow marijuana in their homes for personal use or commercial cultivation. Gould said the ballot issue would not conflict with Ohio's current medical marijuana law but would expand legalized marijuana use among qualified adults without a physician's recommendation.
Gould said he would need 305,592 signatures to place the issue before Ohio voters next year. His group plans to finalize the language in the proposal and begin circulating it next month. The initial filing deadline for the ballot proposal is July 4, 2018. Gould is a longtime proponent of decriminalizing marijuana, which he said can be a useful tool for dealing with a variety of chronic conditions, including the opioid addiction crisis that has plagued Ohio.
He co-founded the group ResponsibleOhio, which was behind Ohio's failed Issue 3 marijuana initiative in 2015 that would have legalized marijuana for both medical and non-medical use. The measure lost in all 88 Ohio counties, with nearly two-thirds of voters statewide voting "no" to recreational and medical marijuana.
But the new proposal "is as different from Issue 3 as night and day," Gould said. "We spent a lot of time and effort to get this right. This is not Issue 3 revisited.'' Gould said the new ballot proposal is a responsible way to fully legalize marijuana use, cultivation, possession, processing and dispensing, and regulate it like alcohol-related businesses in Ohio.
In addition, the new proposal tosses out many of the contentious items that Gould blames for Issue 3's ultimate defeat, including designating certain properties as the only places in Ohio where the cannabis plant could be legally grown. Critics charged the stipulation would have benefitted only a handful of mega-growers. "The concept of the rich getting richer goes right out the window with this," Gould said.
Gould said another reason he thinks now is the right time to introduce a new marijuana initiative is that "a lot of time has gone by" since Issue 3 was defeated, and more Americans are inclined to support legalized marijuana based on studies, opinion polls and the sheer number of states that have adopted such laws over the past several years....
Gould said his new ballot initiative would "run parallel" to a lawsuit he plans to file against the state after his firm, CannAscend Ohio, and dozens of other applicants were denied "Level 1" licenses for large-scale medical marijuana growers.
The Ohio Department of Commerce earlier this month awarded 12 preliminary Level 1 licenses based on what Gould alleges was a deeply flawed selection process and the use of questionable application graders, including one who was a convicted drug dealer. "That stuff is just not OK," Gould said. "Commerce feel asleep at the wheel. They either didn’t know, or they didn’t do background checks" on the application graders.
I am tempted to not take this new talk of a new initiative all that seriously because right now it seems a bit like the expression of sour grapes (sour weed?) based on the failure of Gould to get a state "Level 1" license. But Gould and his team were able to get a (poorly conceived) initiative to the voters back in 2015, and maybe they really want to and really can do it again in 2018.
December 11, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new report from Tom Angell under the headline "Will Legalize Marijuana In Early January, House Speaker Says." Here are the details:
A top Vermont lawmaker says the state could become the first in the U.S. to legalize marijuana through an act of lawmakers early next year. “It will be up for a vote in early January,” House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) said on Friday. “I expect that it likely will pass in early January.”
In 2017, the state fell just short of enacting legalization. The legislature passed a bill to legalize personal cannabis possession and homegrow, but Gov. Phil Scott (R) vetoed it. However, in doing so, he laid out a few small changes he wanted legislators to make in order to win his support. The Senate quickly acted to make the requested revisions, but the House was not able to jump through procedural hurdles to get it done in time during a short special session over the summer.
Because the legislature operates on a biennial basis, the bill is still alive, and the House just needs to take one more vote to get the bill onto the governor’s desk. Last week, Scott said he is “comfortable” signing a marijuana legalization bill into law early next year.
Johnson, in the Friday interview with Vermont Public Radio, said there “hasn’t been a significant shift” in support in the legislature since the momentum for legalization that built up earlier this year. “We do have agreement with the governor and with the Senate on what that bill currently says,” she said....
Vermont’s approach would be different than the laws that exist in other states, in that it would enact a noncommercial form of legalization where only possessing small amounts of cannabis and growing a few plants at home would be legal. There would initially be no licensed stores where consumers could purchase marijuana, but the Senate-passed legislation would create a commission to study possible future commercialization....
Johnson, in the new interview, said the commission “will provide some suggestions for further action,” such as potentially legalizing and regulating cannabis sales. “We’ll be looking into further legislation to really go about this in as thoughtful and responsible a way as possible,” she said.
I was disappointed by the veto of the marijuana reform bill that Vermont's legislature passed last year in large part because I think it could be extremely valuable, to both policy-makers and researchers, to have a state embrace a distinctive approach to marijuana legalization. Now I am excited anew that this distinctive approach to marijuana legalization may still soon become law in the Green Mountain State.
In the article linked above, Tom Angell notes that marijuana reform advocates have been watching New Jersey closely as a state that might in early 2018 enacted marijuana legalization through the traditional legislative process. For various reasons, I think action in New Jersey becomes even more likely if Vermont becomes the first state to legalize through the usual legislative process.
A few prior related posts from May 2017:
Vermont Governor vetoes bill to legalize marijuana in state .... UPDATED with Gov's explanation for his veto
December 11, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Time magazine has this notable new article authored by Emily Dufton about an underappreciated bit of marijuana history. The piece is headlined "U.S. States Tried Decriminalizing Pot Before. Here's Why It Didn't Work," and here are excerpts:
Between 1973 and 1978, a dozen states decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Pro-pot activists, many of them young veterans of the anti-war and civil-rights movements, argued that marijuana wasn’t as harmful as the government said it was, and that laws against it were unjust. In the era of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, they built on America’s growing distrust of the government to pass less restrictive marijuana laws at the state level. It worked: by 1978, a third of the country lived in states where marijuana possession warranted little more than a fine.
But a multi-million dollar paraphernalia industry followed in decriminalization’s wake. By 1977, sales of pipes, bongs, rolling papers and drug-oriented magazines and toys were generating $250 million a year (equivalent to $1 billion today). There was little to no regulation or oversight on this booming new industry, however. Products that seemed directly targeted to kids — including Frisbees with pipes on them and bongs shaped like spaceships — were sold openly, often in corner shops and music stores.
Before long, a counterrevolution unfolded, as an army of concerned parents tied paraphernalia’s availability to rising rates of adolescent marijuana use. By 1978, nine percent of high school seniors reported smoking pot every day, and children as young as 13 reported that the drug was easy to get. The “parent movement” sought to close “head shops” and rescind decriminalization laws, while organizing local groups to prevent adolescent drug use in their communities.
By 1981, the parent movement had effectively overturned many state decriminalization laws, and soon it was guiding the new First Lady in her battle against pot. Unpopular when her husband first took office, Nancy Reagan was encouraged by parent activists to adopt adolescent drug-abuse prevention as her platform, and her approval ratings skyrocketed in response. Despite decreasing rates of adolescent use, Reagan and parent activists continued to declare that adolescent marijuana use was nothing less than a “national emergency.” This emphasis on the danger of adolescent drug use helped fuel the administration’s punitive drug war, especially when new laws were passed in the wake of the crack cocaine epidemic in 1986.
With the White House behind them, it took less than a decade for parent activists to demonize marijuana nationwide. These activists were powerful because of how effectively they shifted the debate. Whereas pro-marijuana advocates supported decriminalization on the basis of an adult’s right to privacy and freedom, parent activists said that children had a more important right to grow up drug-free. And though many Americans supported decriminalization in the 1970s, once rates of adolescent use started to rise, and when paraphernalia manufacturers sold items to kids, the country’s attitude toward marijuana experienced a swift reversal.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article headlined "With Phil Murphy's win, it's 'full steam ahead' for legal marijuana." Here is how it gets started:
Democrat Phil Murphy's victory in the governor's race Tuesday night drives New Jersey "full-steam ahead" toward legalizing marijuana and cultivating an estimated $1.3 billion industry, the sponsor of the legislation said.
Throughout the campaign, Murphy has embraced the idea of making marijuana available for recreational use for people 21 and older. Early on, he made his support well-known that he would sign a legalization bill when it arrived on his desk.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who controls which bills the 40-member Senate debate and vote on, said his goal was to get the measure passed within 100 days of the Murphy administration.
Murphy has said he is also counting on the sales tax from legal cannabis -- an estimated $300 million -- as a key revenue source to help fund education programs and the public worker pensions.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Today via email I receive three alerts from SAM Action, the political action off-shoot of the leading advocacy group opposing marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). Each email announces a notable new campaign or effort concerning marijuana policy, and here are the headlines and essentials as described in each announcement (I would link to a press release, but I cannot find one on-line):
1. "Dallas-Area Families and Leading National Marijuana Policy Group Team Up to Support Congressman Pete Sessions' Stance Against Predatory Marijuana Industry"
A coalition of Texas families and doctors, alongside leading national marijuana policy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action), came out in support of Congressman Pete Sessions' stance against drug legalization. SAM Action is the 501(c)(4) sister organization of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, policy advisor to three U.S. administrations.
The campaign features a digital billboard that supports Congressman Sessions' fight to protect his constituents against the predatory tactics of the marijuana industry. The sign, located near his district office on U.S. Highway 75 and paid for by SAM Action, features a local Dallas-area mother expressing her thanks for Sessions' standing up to the marijuana industry.
2. "New Group Formed, Marijuana Accountability Coalition, To Push Back on Recreational Marijuana Industry"
A new group, the Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), formed today to push back against the marijuana industry in Colorado. MAC, which will be based in Denver but have satellites across the state, came together from discussions of recovery advocates, parents, doctors, and other concerned citizens who do not think Colorado is better off after five years of legalization, despite industry claims.
"While the marijuana moguls are celebrating their financial success at the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel, we're here standing with our friends and neighbors who have been hurt, whose families have been hurt by commercialized, legal pot," said Justin Luke Riley, MAC's founder. "Colorado continues the pay the price for marijuana's rapid spread into our communities, our schools and our families."
"For too long, pot lobbyists in Colorado have gotten away with too much," said Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor and President of SAM Action. "We applaud the Marijuana Accountability Coalition for dedicating themselves to keeping the industry on their toes."
3. "Public safety advocates urge drugged driving protections as marijuana is permitted in states as drugged driving crashes spike"
With the recent legalization of marijuana, its impact on driving under the influence of marijuana and driving safety is a major concern of public health and safety advocates. Current laws governing driving under the influence of marijuana are either not based on science, absent altogether, or too difficult to enforce. Public safety advocates call for laws to keep us safer on our roads and bring marijuana drugged driving laws in line with alcohol driving laws.
Parents and loved ones who have lost family and friends to drivers impaired by marijuana (e.g. THC), public safety advocates, and other concerned citizens. SAM will be there to launch a national campaign: HIGH means DUI. The campaign's goals are to raise awareness about drugged driving and dangers of driving under the influence of THC and to advocate for sensible marijuana driving laws that promote road safety.
November 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, November 5, 2017
I have said to my students at various times that a book or two or three or four could and should be written about the history of marijuana reform in the great state of Ohio. This weekend I discovered that Angela Bacca, a freelance journalist, has provided nearly book-length treatment of some of the recent political stories of reform in the state via a four-part series of Huffington Post article.
The subtitle of each part of the series is "Inside Ohio’s Corrupt Medical Marijuana Rollout," and this reporting of recent Ohio history seems especially eager to play up the theme of greed. But that reporting choice might well be justified, and the tales told in these articles involve more intricate and comprehensive reporting than I have seen anywhere else:
November 5, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Maine Gov vetoes bill designed to establish structure for voter-approved recreational marijuana industry
As reported in this NBC News piece, "Maine Gov. Paul Lepage’s decision to veto a bill on Friday that would have built a recreational marijuana retail market is a major buzzkill for those in the state who voted to legalize the drug last year." Here is more on the decision and its impact:
In his veto letter, LePage urged the Maine legislature to “sustain this veto” because he did not believe that the bill was satisfactory. The bill passed with enough votes to overturn a veto in the state Senate, but not the statehouse.
LePage said his greatest grievance is that he did not know how the Trump administration intended to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalized recreational marijuana. “If we are adopting a law that will legalize and establish a new industry and impose a new regulatory infrastructure that requires significant private and public investment, we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments,” LePage wrote....
In his letter, LePage also expanded on his grievance that the bill conflicted with Maine’s existing medical marijuana laws, which he claims are being exploited by his constituents, and created “unrealistic deadlines” to craft regulation at the executive level....
In the letter, LePage said that he “sought guidance” from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has had to oversee his state’s recreational marijuana market since Colorado legalized the drug in 2012. LePage said that Hickenlooper “urged” him to “not rush just to get something in place” and connected Colorado’s crime rates and traffic deaths to recreational marijuana use.
The full statement by Gov LePage is available at this link, and here are its concluding paragraphs:
When I sought guidance from my counterpart in Colorado, he was adamant that Maine should learn from the mistakes made by his state and others that have pursued legalization efforts. He urged that we take the time necessary to get our law right from the start and not rush just to get something in place. There have been serious negative effects of legalization in other states — effects that should not be repeated in Maine. In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized. The Institute for Highway Safety reached similar findings, noting that automobile collisions increased by three percent in states that have legalized marijuana. Alarmingly, the violent crime rate in Colorado increased nearly 19 percent since legalization, more than double the national rate. If Maine is going to legalize and regulate marijuana, it is imperative that we do it right.
Outside specific concerns about this bill, I continue to be concerned about expanded legalization of marijuana in Maine. The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated. Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates. Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.
For these reasons, I return LD 1650 unsigned and vetoed. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it and continue to work to get this important law right.
November 4, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
In letter to Prez Trump, Gov Christie throws cold water on idea of marijuana as part of solution to opioid crisis
Prez Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued this big final report today, and marijuana only gets some minor mentions throughout the document. The heart of the report's themes and recommendations are usefully summarized in this extended letter to Prez Trump penned by Commission Chair Chris Christie, and that letter include this notable final substantive paragraph speaking directly to the notion that marijuana reform should be part of the response to the opioid crisis:
The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. Recent research out of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that marijuana use led to a 2½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser. The Commission found this very disturbing. There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.
For the record, I agree with the notion that we do not want to make mistakes in marijuana law and policy as a result of an "uninformed rush" to do anything. But marijuana's continued status as a Schedule 1 drug play a huge role in keeping us "uninformed" about so many aspects of the drug's potential benefits and harms, and only by moving marijuana off that Schedule do we really have any real chance in the coming years to start to get more of the needed "sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana."
November 1, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
This new local article, headlined "Virginia State Crime Commission briefed on marijuana decriminalization study, hears from public," reports on some new research and discussion of marijuana prohibition in the Old Dominion State. Here are highlights:
In the 10-year period ending last year, there were 133,256 arrests in Virginia for possession of marijuana, 84 percent of them first-time offenses. Nevertheless, relatively few people go to jail in the state solely for possession of marijuana, according to a study prompted by a proposal that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug for personal use.
The report by the staff of the Virginia State Crime Commission found that on July 20, there were 96 jail inmates awaiting trial for possession of marijuana and 31 serving jail time after conviction. State figures show there were more than 29,000 people in Virginia’s jails that same day.
State crime commission members were briefed on the findings of the months-long study prior to taking mixed comment from 32 people at a hearing Monday. Under the proposal, possession of small amounts of marijuana would remain illegal but would become a civil offense, instead of a criminal one.
“We are here to talk about decriminalization, not legalization,” said state Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, to those in attendance. Norment, a member of the crime commission, helped prompt the study out of concerns about the collateral consequences of such convictions. Colin L. Drabert, senior staff attorney for the commission, outlined some of those ramifications, which can include effects on employment, federal higher education aid, housing, immigration status, the ability to purchase or transport a firearm, and child custody.
Roy Scherer, who has long lobbied for the reform of the state’s marijuana laws, was one of the first speakers. “I’d like to congratulate you. The idea of decriminalizing marijuana is only 45 years old. So Virginia is catching up,” he told the commission. A representative of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws thanked the commission for considering the matter and said none of the states that have decriminalized have reversed course, showing the move is effective.
Two other early speakers strongly opposed the proposal, with one likening it to opening Pandora’s box. Another speaker said decriminalization would reduce the perception of harm the drug represents. “Marijuana is still an addictive, harmful drug. ... Please protect our youth,” she said.
A representative of the American Automobile Association told the commission that the organization does not have a position on the bill, but she urged legislators to carefully consider the possible impact on traffic safety.
The report found that 30 states have criminal penalties for possession; eight states and the District of Columbia allow for legal recreational use; seven states have civil or other noncriminal penalties; and five states have blended civil and criminal penalties.
In Virginia, the law does not specify an amount of marijuana to be considered for personal use, as opposed to amounts that could be construed as possession with the intent to distribute. A first conviction can result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. A defendant’s driver’s license is revoked for six months if convicted or if a judge defers deciding the matter. Roughly half of first-time offenders charged are convicted, and of that number the great majority serve no jail sentence....
Drabert reported that the crime commission’s staff has received nearly 4,000 written comments from the public regarding the proposal, with 3,743 supporting decriminalization and 107 not supporting. The staff will now consider the remarks as well as suggestions from commission members and make recommendations for the commission to consider at a future meeting. Endorsement of legislation by the commission does not ensure passage of a bill, but it carries great weight in the legislature.
I believe the report reference in this article from the Virginia State Crime Commission is available at this link. There are some interesting case processing details in the slides of this report that folks outside of Virginia may want to look at.
Friday, October 27, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new FiveThirtyEight posting by Harry Enten. Here is an excerpt (with my emphasis added):
A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that a record high 64 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. It follows other surveys published this year also showing that a clear majority of Americans support making marijuana consumption legal. But what’s most interesting about the Gallup survey is that it found that a majority of Americans of all political stripes are for legalization. Gallup found that 72 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans support marijuana becoming legal.
This makes marijuana one of the least polarized issues of our time (and one that some political party might be smart to take advantage of). Issues such as abortion, gun control and health care find Democrats and Republicans so far apart that it’s hard to win over many voters of the other party when adopting a stance popular with your own party’s voters. Marijuana isn’t that way.
And yet, despite the clear bipartisan appeal of marijuana, it has only been approved for recreational use in eight states and Washington, D.C. Neither Democrat Hillary Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump came out in favor of recreational marijuana purchases during the 2016 election. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has actually taken a harder-line stance on marijuana than recent administrations, including criticizing states that have made it legal.
Democrats and Republicans might be slow to fully support recreational marijuana because, despite it being broadly popular, supporters don’t feel all that strongly about it. Only 31 percent of Americans “strongly” favored legalization in a 2016 PRRI poll, despite 63 percent being in favor overall. My own 2014 study of marijuana ballot measures suggested they don’t raise young voter turnout, even though young voters were the most likely to favor legalization. Just 28 percent of Americans told Marist College in March 2017 that they would be likely to buy and use marijuana if the federal government legalized it. (Of course, some people may be unwilling to tell a pollster this.)
Prior recent related post:
October 27, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The big news this morning in the federal drug law and policy space is reported in the first paragraph of this new NPR piece: "Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., has withdrawn his name from consideration as America's drug czar, President Trump said Tuesday. Marino is stepping back days after reports that a bill he sponsored hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration in its fight against the U.S. opioid crisis." Here is more of the interesting backstory:
A joint report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes found that Marino's bill "helped pump more painkillers into parts of the country that were already in the middle of the opioid crisis," as NPR's Kelly McEvers said earlier this week. The bill had been opposed by the DEA and embraced by companies in the drug industry.
Marino was a main backer of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act; among other things, the measure changed the standard for identifying dangers to local communities, from "imminent" threats to "immediate" threats. That change cramped the DEA's authority to go after drug companies that didn't report suspicious — and often very large — orders for narcotics.
After the Post and 60 Minutes reports on the bill emerged, several members of Congress called for the White House to pull Marino's nomination as drug czar. Sen. Joe Machin, D-W.V., said he was "horrified" by the story, adding that he "cannot believe the last administration did not sound the alarm on how harmful that bill would be for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic."
In a letter to the president, Manchin wrote about the ability of wholesale drug distributors to send millions of pills into small communities: "As the report notes, one such company shipped 20 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to pharmacies in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012. This included 11 million doses in one small county with only 25,000 people in the southern part of the state: Mingo County. As the number of pills in my state increased, so did the death toll in our communities, including Mingo County."
After Marino's name was withdrawn, Manchin tweeted to Trump, "thanks for recognizing we need a drug czar who has seen the devastating effects of the problem." Manchin is a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the changes made by the 2016 law, along with Sen. Clarie McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H.
In the Senate, the bill was sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — who also saw it through the markup process. In Congress and on Twitter, Hatch has defended his role this week, calling the Post story "flawed" and "one-sided." Hatch also said the bill was supported by patient groups who "were concerned about DEA's unfettered enforcement authority."
"I spent months negotiating with DEA and with DOJ until they were at a point where they were comfortable allowing the bill to proceed," Hatch said on Capitol Hill Monday. "If they had asked me to hold the bill or to continue negotiations, I would have done so." Hatch noted via Twitter, "President Obama signed this bill into law. DEA and DOJ, who work for the President, could have urged him to veto it. They did not."...
The president had nominated Marino to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In his tweet announcing Marino's decision to withdraw Tuesday morning, Trump added, "Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!"
The opioid story was revealed by whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi, a former high-ranking DEA official, who told 60 Minutes, "This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors' offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs." Of Marino's nomination, Rannazzisi said he was in "total disbelief" after the White House announced Trump's pick. He added, "The bill was bad. Him being the drug czar is a lot worse."
With the head of the DEA now uncertain, this Newsweek story from last month, headlined "Does Marijuana Stand a Chance With New DEA Chief?", becomes timely once again. Here is a segment from that piece:
Many hope the change could serve as a blank slate for the agency and a chance to pick the right battles in the war on drugs, like focusing on the deadly opioid epidemic, which has skyrocketed in recent years and left more than 52,000 dead in 2015.
Despite the troubling statistics, law enforcement has continued to target pot consumers, even though more and more states are moving toward legalization. Nearly 30 states allow the drug for medical use, and eight have legalized it recreationally. The FBI released data this week that showed an increase in the number of people arrested last year on a marijuana possession charge. Nearly 600,000 were charged, and experts say this cost taxpayers billions of dollars as offenders made their way through the criminal justice system.
"I hope that whoever is next will deal with the reality that a lot of states have legalized [marijuana] and it's not a good use of resources for police to be arresting these people and ruining lives," said Bill Piper, a senior director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "These are proven failed ways to approach this issue."
Under Rosenberg, more than two dozen applications to simply research the plant have been blocked, a policy that is unlikely to change, said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes marijuana legalization, even for medicinal purposes, and has called the plant "only slightly less awful" than heroin.... All in all, if Rosenberg's replacement does try to enact new policies or steer the department toward change, it could be difficult. "I'm not optimistic at all," Tree said. "Not during this administration."
Thursday, September 28, 2017
The controversial former Prez candidate Al Sharpton has this notable new commentary in The Guardian under the (anglicized) headline "Why the decriminalisation of marijuana is a civil rights cause." Here are excerpts:
There is no greater act of resistance than continuing to march towards the sweeping, systemic victories that have changed our nation’s trajectory for the better: voting rights, anti-employment discrimination measures, and most recently, President Obama’s success in securing health coverage for the 20 million Americans who were previously denied this universal human right. Determined to punish the rising majority of Americans he thinks have slighted him, our president may erode these freedoms, but he will not succeed in taking them.
This is why I am proceeding undaunted towards our country’s next transformative victory – a fight I planned to pick under a Democratic administration, but one we should pursue just as vigorously in the reactionary Trump era: decriminalization of marijuana. It is a civil rights cause that we should not postpone, but accelerate during these dark and difficult times.
For Democrats and progressives, the arguments have always been clear: generations of Americans, overwhelmingly people of color, have been imprisoned and starved of access to higher education, housing, and economic opportunities, and stripped of their inalienable right to vote thanks to non-violent acts. Billions of dollars in funding have been diverted from healthcare, jobs, and schools and have entrenched a prison-industrial complex built on a foundation of racism.
But in truth, the conservative case for marijuana decriminalization is no less resonant. Archaic drug laws have fueled wasteful government spending, and made millions of Americans who dream, achingly, of being their family’s breadwinner dependent on the charity of others. And they have given rise of the epidemic of opiate drugs – often legally manufactured and prescribed – devastating communities that pundits have taken to calling the ‘white working class.’
The often-repeated reference to the ‘white working class’ has grown counterproductive as it focuses on a narrowly defined group instead of using more broader, inclusive categories. It also stifles the creative thinking and organizing needed to guide our efforts for the remainder of this presidency. On the issue of medical marijuana, a more accurate term for the residents of these hard-hit towns and regions – many of whom voted for President Trump – would be natural allies to the movement to decriminalize marijuana.
In the coming weeks, I will be joining Decode Cannabis, a powerful new alliance of faith leaders, criminal justice reformers, healthcare practitioners, medical marijuana industry leaders and labor unions. For years, these groups have labored toward shared goals, but have too often done so in their respective silos. This initial coalition is impressive, but it is not enough to succeed. At least not on its own.
To notch proactive policy wins in the Trump era, we must not retreat to the comfort of those of share our viewpoints. We must enter the lion’s den – even uninvited – to confront and cultivate the prospective allies who will mutually benefit from this cause. We must not allow the unique opportunities resulting from the intensifying rift between the White House and conventional Republicans to be squandered.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
I noticed this morning these two very different articles looking at issues of inclusiveness in the marijuana reform space in two very different ways:
From Slate here, "By Excluding LGBTQ People, the Growing Cannabis Industry Is Betraying Its Roots"
The burgeoning industry has one glaring problem: The gatekeepers of cannabis’ culture and commerce are overwhelming white, cis, straight, and male — not to mention downright bro-y. White-appropriated rasta colors and women clad in weed-leaf bikinis abound, and on the buttoned-up side of things, the ubiquitous influence of the tech-bro is essentially turning the cannabis industry into the next Silicon Valley — a space not exactly known for its inclusivity.
Thankfully, there is an ongoing push for diversity of color and gender, to varying degrees of success. Women now make up 36 percent of leadership roles in the cannabis industry (compared to just 5 percent in the rest of the business world) and municipalities across the country are attempting to build reparations into their practices and policies for the communities of color that have been disproportionately negatively affected by the criminalization of cannabis. This includes the city of Oakland’s Equity Permit Program, which reserves a portion of permits for people of color and those convicted of marijuana-related crime; Washington, D.C.’s, local effort to give local minority-owned companies a preference when applying for licenses to operate medical marijuana businesses; and the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s plan to create template legislation that addresses issues of inclusion to distribute to states and local municipalities.
But there’s another marginalized group that has largely been left out of the diversity conversation, and stigmatized in the cannabis industry: the LGBTQ community. Brewing within the bro culture of mainstream weed is a big dose of homophobia, and no one knows this better than Jay Jackson, aka Laganja Estranja, the choreographer, drag queen, and cannabis activist best known for competing in the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. As suggested by the name, Laganja Estranja is a pro-weed queen who often dons marijuana-leaf prints and pendants and speaks about the need for gay visibility within the cannabis community
From Leafy here, "Can an Inclusive Cannabis Industry Include Roger Stone?"
Whatever Roger Stone’s personal beliefs, he’s very clearly made a career out of delivering the “hateful little shit” vote to guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — who both loved nothing more than busting hippies and minorities for weed. In fact, Stone’s done his job so well that the hateful little shits of the world now feel like they own the place.
Keep in mind, there’s long been a conservative wing of the marijuana legalization movement (Limited Government! Free Enterprise! Personal Liberty!), identified with principled voices like William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman on up to Gary Johnson and Grover Norquist. There are currently bipartisan cannabis bills in Congress, sponsored by a bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus. So this rift at the expo isn’t about electoral politics or ideology. And it isn’t even really about Roger Stone—as much as he loves the attention....
And therein lies Roger Stone’s true political genius. Through long practice, he’s perfected a signature blend of hyper-partisan politics, spectacle-grade entertainment and absolute gutter fighting that’s really hard to ignore. His persona comes across like an evil wisecracking Pro Wrestling manager in a fancy suit who’s forever throwing sand in your eyes and smiling.
September 27, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 22, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Rolling Stone article. Here is a snippet:
Senator Orrin Hatch ... is among a frustrated set of the nation's policy makers who are up in arms over a Washington Post report that Sessions' Justice Department is blocking the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from approving about two dozen proposals for experts to research the effects of marijuana. Not to legalize weed. Not to sell it. Not even to smoke it. Merely to study it – just as is allowed with deadly and highly addictive opioids, booze and even cigarettes – to find out if 38 states and the District of Columbia have made grave mistakes by allowing marijuana to be used either medicinally or recreationally, or whether those states are actually on to something.
At 83, Hatch agrees with his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions on much of his prohibitionist stance on weed – but he says the attorney general and his DOJ are basically out of touch when it comes to medicinal marijuana, which can be ingested as an oil or a baked good or even developed into high-grade pharmaceuticals. "I think it's a mistake. We ought to do the research," Hatch continues. "They're worried about a widespread abuse of the drug, which is something to worry about because it is a gateway drug that's a very big problem. But there's a difference between smoking marijuana – using it illegally – and using it to alleviate pain and suffering."
Pot remains listed by the DEA as a Schedule I drug, which is a classification that by definition means the government sees no medicinal benefit to it, along with the likes of LSD, ecstasy and peyote. But now 30 states have embraced marijuana for a varying degree of medicinal purposes, but there isn't good, peer reviewed research on it because many researchers don't want to risk a DEA raid or being cut off from future federal grants.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee are working to enact what eventually could become a national standard for marijuana quality, and they want to start by allowing testing of pot already seized by the DEA. That's why a handful of lawmakers are trying to pressure Sessions into relaxing his own personal war on marijuana that seems to be tying the hands of officials at the DEA. "There's really only one reason to sit on a request: Because you suspect that perhaps the science will show that medical marijuana does have some therapeutic benefit and therefore disprove the need for the failed war on marijuana," Colorado Democrat Jared Polis tells Rolling Stone.
September 22, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Tom Angell has this Forbes report on the latest comments by Attorney General Jeff Sessions concerning marijuana reform. The piece's headline, "Jeff Sessions Slams Marijuana Legalization (Again)," strikes me as more alarming than what Tom reports as the AG's actual comments. Here are the details:
The nation's top law enforcer is continuing to speak out against marijuana legalization. "I've never felt that we should legalize marijuana," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday. "It doesn't strike me that the country would be better if it's being sold on every street corner. We do know that legalization results in greater use."
While not giving a clear answer about the enforcement of federal prohibition laws in states that have changed their cannabis policies, Sessions, a longtime legalization opponent, said, "Federal law remains in effect."
Last week, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made fairly ominous comments about marijuana policy reform, adding that the Trump administration is still deciding whether or not to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allows states to legalize cannabis without federal interference....
Sessions' new comments came in response to a reporter's question following a San Diego press conference about large-scale Coast Guard seizures of cocaine and heroin.
At the risk of seeming to defend AG Sessions, I find these latest comments relatively measured. First, the AG is giving his opinion that his is personally opposed to marijuana legalization, and that is a view still shared by most establishment politicians on both sides of the political aisle. Second, I think most people would agree that selling marijuana on literally "every street corner" would not make our country better. The same, of course, could be said about many legal consumer products --- e.g., it doesn't strike me that the country would be better if doughnuts or guns or beer or golf clubs were being sold on "every street corner." Being against widespread and excessive commercialization of a product does not necessarily mean that one favors (or will be eager to pursue) punitive prohibition policies. Finally, it is true that federal marijuana prohibition remains, for now, the law of the land.
I say all this not to assert or even suggest that AG Sessions is disinclined to engineer a federal crackdown on state marijuana reforms. Rather, given that AG Sessions has not been reserved or modest in his pursuit of and advocacy for other controversial policy agendas while serving as the nation's top law-enforcement officer, I still think it telling and quite important that he has not yet really put marijuana enforcement on the front burner for his Department of Justice.
September 21, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, September 15, 2017
Deputy AG Rosenstein hints about lingering concerns about sticking with Cole memo federal prosecution policies
As reported in this Forbes piece by Tom Angell, the "Trump administration is continuing to weigh whether or not to reverse Obama-era guidance that generally allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference, the Justice Department's number two official said on Thursday." Here is more:
"We are reviewing that policy. We haven't changed it, but we are reviewing it. We're looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "And I think there is some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it's more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states," he said.
Under the so-called "Cole Memo," named after the former Obama Justice Department official who authored it in 2013, the federal government set out certain criteria that, if followed, would allow states to implement their own laws mostly without intervention. Those criteria concern areas like youth use, impaired driving and interstate trafficking.
In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime legalization opponent, directed a Justice Department task force to review the memo and make recommendations for possible changes. But that panel did not provide Sessions with any ammunition to support a crackdown on states, according to the Associated Press, which reviewed excerpts of the task force's report to the attorney general.
In his new remarks, Rosenstein expressed concern that people are misinterpreting the still-in-effect memo. "That's been perceived in some places almost as if it creates a safe harbor, but it doesn't. And it's clear that it doesn't," he said. "That is, even if, under the terms of the memo you're not likely to be prosecuted, it doesn't mean that what you're doing is legal or that it's approved by the federal government or that you protected from prosecution in the future."...
Citing ongoing federal prohibition laws, Rosenstein said, "Marijuana is illegal, and it's a controlled substance and there are no authorized uses for it, with very limited exceptions for research approved by DEA." Without saying when a decision or announcement might be made, he said that the administration will "take that all into consideration and then make a determination whether or not to revise that policy."
September 15, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
"Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch rolls a bunch of pot puns into his case to expand medical marijuana research"
This Daily News report on a notable marijuana reform proposal put forward on Capital Hill by a notable GOP Senator captured in its headline and substance the highlight of the story:
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch didn’t spare the puns in announcing Wednesday that it was “high time” for the government to delve “into the weeds” of medical marijuana research. Hatch, in a press release filled with pot-related double entendres [available here], announced that he’d introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act that’s intended to encourage more research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
“It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” Hatch, a Republican said. “Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana.”
Hatch said current government regulations often do more harm than good by making hard for researchers to obtain and conduct studies on pot. “To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.”
Among other steps, Hatch’s bill would streamline the federal registration process for marijuana research and make pot more available for legitimate scientific and medical studies. It would also require the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop recommendations for good manufacturing practices for growing and producing marijuana for research.
“I am strongly against the use of recreational marijuana,” Hatch said in a preview of remarks he was planning to give on the Senate floor Wednesday. “I worry, however, that in our zeal to enforce the law, we too often blind ourselves to the medicinal benefits of natural substances like cannabis.”
Advocates for medical marijuana said Hatch’s bill was a good step but they remained concerned that the federal government will seek to undermine medical pot programs already underway in many states. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a fierce opponent of marijuana use, advocates have noted. “This is a modest step in the right direction but doesn't solve the most important issue - protecting state medical marijuana programs from federal interference,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance.
September 13, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Surprising new marijuana lobbyist, a bombastic NY Republican, might be especially significant in the age of Trump
This new New York Post article, headlined "Former New York senator who opposed smoking pot joins marijuana lobbying group," reports on a very interesting and shrewd hire by the Marijuana Policy Project. Here are the details:
Alfonse D'Amato is going from Senator Pothole to Senator Pot. The former Republican U.S. senator from New York has been hired as a senior adviser by the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pro-pot group that for the first time is starting an affiliate in the Empire State.
The MPP says it was founded in 1995 to advocate nationally for “sensible and compassionate” laws governing pot use. In New York, the group will initially focus on promoting ways to strengthen the state's existing medical marijuana program, though D'Amato didn't rule out the idea that the group will be part of any future discussions about legalizing the recreational use of pot for adults.
In addition to D'Amato, the MPP also hired attorney and community organizer Landon Dais to serve as its New York political director. Both D'Amato — who served in the Senate from 1981 to 1999 — and Dais said that after a slow start, New York's medical marijuana program can be transformed into a national leader. "The (state) Health Department and the governor's office have come a long way in making the utilization of medical marijuana easier, better, more professional," D'Amato said. "That's a work in progress."
D'Amato said the MPP will push for Gov. Cuomo to sign into law a bill making medical marijuana available to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. D’Amato said the group will also seek to educate the public and medical community on the value of medical marijuana. "I'm happy to see we have really moved in the right direction in New York," D'Amato said.
The former senator-turned lobbyist and consultant said the state should also start discussing whether to legalize pot for adults. While he hasn't yet taken a stand on the issue, D'Amato said "if we want to be realistic, you've got to look at the nation, what is taking place around us. It's been implemented in (seven) states."...
D'Amato's linkage to a marijuana group is a change for a man who for most of his life was against the use of pot. He said he began evolving on the issue during a discussion with radio personality Howard Stern in 2009. "I think I'm a conservative, but I don't think I'm a right wing kook," he said.
D'Amato also knocked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with whom he served in the Senate, for wanting the federal government to crack down on states that have legalized recreational- and even medicinal- marijuana. "It's a ridiculous position," he said. "I say how can you on the one hand be for states’ rights and on the other hand say the states that have legalized the use of marijuana, that you're not going to recognize that. You can't be a states’ rights person only when you like what the states are doing and not what the feds are doing. It's one or the other."
State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, who backed D’Amato during his three terms in the Senate, said “I hope the former senator doesn’t partake in a move that would open the door for legalization of marijuana.” But he said he wasn’t particularly surprised D’Amato hooked up with the Marijuana Policy Project. “He’s a lobbyist now, certainly a person who opens the door for a lot of people,” Long said.
As this article highlights, former Senator D'Amato has a little history from his time in the Senate with current AG Jeff Sessions. But I think even more important is D'Amato's history as a successful bombastic New York Republican politician. In various ways, he seems cut from the same cloth as President Donald Trump, and the two surely have some relationship given that D'Amato was a leading New York political figure during the 1980s and 1990s when Trump was building his NYC real estate empire. In addition, I am sure D'Amato is able to get the ear of still-very-important New York political figures ranging from Rudy Giuliani to Michael Bloomberg to Chuck Schumer.
September 13, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Limit on DOJ funding for medical marijuana prosecutions extended to December 2017 in stop-gap spending bill
As reported in this prior post, last week early developments in the US House of Representatives made uncertain the prospects for continuation of the spending rider that currently blocks the US Justice Department from going after state-compliant medical marijuana actors. But, as this Cannabist article reports, another stop-gap spending bill keeps the DOJ spending limit in place for at least another three months. The article is headlined "Rohrabacher-Blumenauer medical marijuana protections extended by debt limit deal," and here are the details:
Existing federal protections for medical marijuana states are expected to continue through at least Dec. 8. The $15.3 billion disaster aid package, debt limit increase and government spending extension approved by Congress on Friday includes the existing Rohrabacher-Blumenauer provision, which prevents the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with the 46 states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana.
The aid bill, which was sent to President Donald Trump, extends the omnibus legislation passed in May and will fund the government through Dec. 8. The short-term spending fix is also a short-term victory for Rohrabacher-Blumenauer sponsors, which were dealt a blow by the House Rules Committee earlier this week. The legislative committee nixed the amendment from House consideration for the fiscal year 2018 funding bill.
“We have at least three months of certainty now, but the fight isn’t over,” officials for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, told The Cannabist on Friday. That fight includes efforts to land the provision in the final spending bill, officials said, noting the language was included in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approved version of the bill.
September 10, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
GOP leaders apparently blocking vote on amendment to limit DOJ funding for medical marijuana prosecutions
As reported here by The Hill, "lawmakers said Wednesday that GOP leaders won’t allow the full House to vote on an amendment that bars the Justice Department from pursuing states that have legalized medical marijuana." Here is more:
At a Wednesday morning closed-door briefing of House Republicans, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) implored his GOP colleagues to press House leaders to allow a vote on his amendment. Fellow Californian Rep. Duncan Hunter told The Hill that after Rohrabacher “talked about it this morning in conference,” GOP leaders said “it splits the conference too much so we’re not going to have a vote on it.”
Rohrabacher had pled with his colleagues in a Tuesday night floor speech to allow the vote. “The status quo for four years has been the federal government will not interfere because the Department of Justice is not permitted to use its esources to supercede a state that has legalized the medical use of marijuana,” Rohrabacher said. He said that without his amendment, “we’re changing the status quo in a way that undermines the rights of the states and the people … to make their policy.”
Rohrabacher’s amendment, co-sponsored with Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), was included in the previous four Commerce-Justice-Science funding measures, when President Obama was in the White House. It was also included in an omnibus funding bill signed by President Trump earlier this year that expires at the end of the month.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) offices did not respond to requests for comment.