Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holder is "cautiously optimistic" about legalization in Colorado and Washington

From the Huffington Post today, Attorney General Eric Holder makes some noteworthy commenst on marijuana legalization.  Holder said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the implementation of legalization in Colorado and Washington so far.  But, he noted, "we will be monitoring the progress of those efforts and if we conclude that they are not being done in an appropriate way, we reserve our rights to file lawsuits."

Another interesting note, the article describes Holder's decision not to reschedule marijuana as a "political" one and quotes Holder as saying:

"I think that given what we have done in dealing with the whole Smart on Crime initiative and the executive actions that we have taken, that when it comes to rescheduling, I think this is something that should come from Congress," Holder said. "We'd be willing to work with Congress if there is a desire on the part of Congress to think about rescheduling. But I think I'd want to hear, get a sense from them about where they'd like to be."

Though Holder's comments aren't much different from what the administration has said already, HuffPo's description of rescheduling as a "political" decision brings to mind the flexibility of the CSA.  The CSA purports to provide scientific criteria for classifying and regulating mind-altering substances.  But, as I've written  about elsewhere, the criteria are so open-ended that they don't do much to constrain administrative decision-making.  

Though I doubt Congress will take Holder up on the offer to work with the on rescheduling marijuana, if this issue does start to gain momentum in Washington, I hope that legislators will use the opportunity to rethink the CSA's classification scheme at a more fundamental level.  In its current incarnation, it is too malleable and incoherent to effectively guide administrators.    

April 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NORML and DPA blog posts on CBD-only "medical marijuana" laws

As Rob explained last week, calling Alabama's CBD-only law a medical marijuana law is a stretch for a number of reasons.  Yesterday, bloggers for NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance weighed in on the emergence of CBD only laws.  Both posts are well worth reading in their entirety.

For NORML, Paul Armentano discussed measures in Utah and Alabama, saying that describing them as medical marijuana laws is "far from accurate." 

For DPA, Amanda Reiman discussed the idea of CBD-only legislation more generally:

So, is CBD-only legislation a good thing?

 

Yes and no.

 

In some states, the only way medical marijuana is going to get its foot in the door is through the strictest of incrementalism. And, preventing access to an effective, safe and natural medicine for families in those states is of course, not a preferred outcome.

 

But, what about the children and adults with cancer, HIV and other serious illnesses in those states whose use of THC rich medicine might ease the nausea and pain associated with their treatments?

 

The adoption of CBD-only legislation might be a way to start the conversation in some states, but it should not be the end.

March 26, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Anti-Drug Ad Group Just Says No to Fighting Legalized Pot

The title of this post is the headline of this article today in AdAge.  In it, the head of Partnership at Drugfree.org (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America) talks about why his group has declined to run ads criticizing the legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.

Ever since Colorado and Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana use, Partnership at Drugfree.org has been lobbied to run ads criticizing the decision. But that's the last thing the group wants to do. "A public-service ad that says: 'By the way, voters of Colorado, you don't know what you are doing.' Come on," said Steve Pasierb, the partnership's CEO. Pot legalization is "happening in America," he added.

As I've said before, I don't think we've quite reached the place where we can say with certainty that nationwide legalization is inevitable (more likely than not, yes, but I believe there is still the possibility of a backlash).  But, when the head of the group behind the "this is your brain" ads acknowledges legalization is "happening in America," it is certainly a sign that the point of no return may be near.   

March 24, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Did Alabama just legalize medical marijuana?

Not really. But both houses of the state legislature did just pass a limited measure (called Carly’s Law) that is expected to be signed by the governor. The measure would ostensibly legalize a marijuana extract known as Cannabidiol (CBD) to treat epilepsy. CBD, like other forms of marijuana, is banned by federal law, though it contains none of the psychoactive content (THC) normally found in marijuana. For the story, see this Reuters report. Supporters of the law have a Facebook page as well.

The only reason this development is even worth noting is that it’s occurring in Alabama, the heart of the deep South, where the marijuana reform movement has yet to make any headway. But even in that context, the measure is a rather small victory for reformers. Vanishingly small. Indeed, I’m confident saying this would be the narrowest medical marijuana law any state has troubled to pass, and it might not even meet its quite limited ambitions.

The text of the house and senate versions of the bill can be found here. In a nutshell (it’s a big nut), the law creates an affirmative defense against prosecution for simple possession of CBD by someone who has been diagnosed by a University of Alabama,Birmingham employed physician, as suffering from a debilitating epileptic condition; and for whom a UAB employed physician has also prescribed CBD. Lastly, the UAB shall be the sole supplier of CBD for such persons (the law provides legal protections for UAB employees). Oh, and the law has a sunset provision—it expires in 5 years.

To explain how limited (and potentially ineffective) the measure is, consider that: (1) patients can still be charged with possession of CBD and they (rather than the prosecution) bear the burden of persuading a jury that their possession of the drug was in compliance with the law; (2) CBD isn’t for everybody, especially those who believe marijuana’s medical benefits stem from THC; (3) the provision only protects those suffering from serious epilepsy, and not the myriad other conditions for which other states have allowed treatment (wasting syndrome, PTSD, glaucoma, etc.); (4) patients must be under the care of a UAB employed physician, not just any state-licensed physician; (5) the law requires a physician prescription, which, as I explained in a earlier comment regarding NY’s proposed medical marijuana law, might be impossible to get; that’s because the DEA can take away a physician’s authority to prescribe any legal drug if the physician prescribes a Schedule I controlled substance like CBD; (6) patients must obtain their CBD from the UAB, but the UAB probably can’t supply CBD; as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, direct state supply of marijuana is preempted by federal law, and regardless of whether the DOJ would sue to stop UAB, many other people could probably do so, meaning that perhaps no one – not even sufferers of serious epileptic conditions being treated by UAB physicians who don’t mind putting their medical practices at risk – will get the drug.

March 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two Ways for States to Make Money from Marijuana Sales

Pat Oglesby of newrevenue.org has just posted his analysis of two competing proposals to legalize marijuana in Oregon, focusing on the very different revenue generating models espoused by each proposal.

One proposal proceeds along the lines of what Colorado and Washington have done. It would tax marijuana sold by private vendors, though the Oregon tax would be based (loosely) on the THC content of the marijuana (or more precisely, a heuristic approximating THC content).

The second proposal would be quite novel for marijuana, though states have tried something similar regarding sales of alcoholic beverages. Namely, it would give a state commission a monopoly over the sale of marijuana. Since the state would set the price of (legal) marijuana and would cut out the middle-man (i.e., private dealers), this proposal could generate more revenue for
the state than the more common tax model (especially one with a low tax rate). However, as I’ve explained before (p. 25 and 34) – and as Pat notes – a law creating state owned and operated marijuana stores would probably be preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, so this novel proposal might be a non-starter for Oregon. Pat’s analysis is short, insightful, and accessible – well worth the read.

March 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 10, 2014

CPAC and the California Democratic Party now supporting marijuana reform

Over the weekend, the California Democratic Party had its annual convention as did the national Conservative Political Action Conference.  As a sign of the times, both groups voiced support for marijuana law reform.  

At CPAC, a straw poll "found that 41% of the attendees believe it's time to fully legalize marijuana and tax it, while another 21% said it should be legalized only for medicinal purposes. Just 31% said it should remain illegal in all cases." 

And at the California Democratic Convention, delegates added a call for marijuana legalization to the Party's platform by a voice vote.  This is a big move from the Party's position in 2010, when it declined to endorse marijuana legalization initiative Proposition 19.

March 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act"

The title of this post is the reported title of a bill that, according to this Fox News report, is going to be introduced in Congress next week.  Here are the details: 

Republican lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next week aimed at preventing the misuse of the food stamp funds amid reports that welfare debit cards have been used to withdraw cash at ATMs at marijuana dispensaries in Colorado....

The bill would add pot dispensaries to the current list of locations where states must block welfare electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards from being used for purchases or ATM withdrawals, Reichert’s office told the station.

KDVR.com reported last week that at least 19 different dispensaries allowed electronic benefits transfer withdrawals inside their pot shops in January. Public records obtained by the station showed 56 transactions, totaling nearly $4,000.

A separate report by National Review Online said the amounts withdrawn ranged from $20 to $400, averaging $85.55. The maximum monthly benefit for the average household receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits is $462.

Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting access to welfare benefits at casinos, gun shops, bars, and liquor stores. State lawmakers recently failed to pass legislation that would have prohibited such transactions at pot shops, NRO reported.

“It’s time to close this ‘pot shop loophole’ before it gets any bigger,” the lawmakers said in a letter circulated among House lawmakers and obtained by The Colorado Observer. “This bill does not comment on whether it makes sense for states to legalize the sale of pot, as Colorado and Washington have done,” the lawmakers wrote. “It simply says that, wherever pot is legally sold, welfare recipients shouldn’t be able to readily access welfare funds to pay for it.”

March 1, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Which poses the bigger threat: Big Marijuana or Little Marijuana?

Policymakers want to ensure that the marijuana industry doesn’t engage in socially irresponsible behaviors, such as selling marijuana to minors. And many policymakers agree that the structure of the marijuana industry plays a key role in shaping its behavior. Interestingly, however, policymakers seem to disagree about whether society would be better off if the marijuana industry were concentrated (i.e., controlled by a few Big firms) or fragmented (i.e., controlled by many Small firms).  

On one side, anti-legalization groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana has raised the specter of Big Marijuana. The group doesn’t really explain why Big is necessarily bad; instead, it just conjures images of Big Tobacco to make its case. But there are reasons to be concerned about concentrated industries. All industries, of course, are driven by a profit motive and seek to expand their markets as much as possible. For this reason, industries generally oppose regulations that reduce the size of those markets, such as laws banning sales to minors, regardless of whether those laws make good sense for society as a whole. To be sure, this anti-regulation impulse can be found in both concentrated industries and fragmented ones. But all else being equal, concentrated industries are generally more successful at blocking passage of sensible regulations. In large part, this is because of the transaction costs and free-rider problems besetting fragmented industries. It is just a lot easier to coordinate the lobbying efforts of a few Big firms than it is to coordinate the lobbying efforts of many Small ones. Hence, if the marijuana industry were ever to be dominated by a few, very Big players, it might prevent governments from passing sensible restrictions on its activities, much the way Big Tobacco fought off government regulations for decades.

On the other side, government officials have raised the specter of Little Marijuana. Little Marijuana depicts the current structure of the industry. It is populated with hundreds – and in states that allow home cultivation, thousands -- of relatively small growers and distributors. While a fragmented industry wields less political clout, it is also far, far more difficult to police. It is a lot easier for government agents to monitor an industry comprised of a few Big firms than it is for them to monitor an industry comprised of many Small ones. Hence, as long as the marijuana industry remains highly fragmented, governments will likely have a difficult time enforcing sensible restrictions on its activities. Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, for example, has struggled to monitor the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and state officials have complained that home cultivation exacerbates the problem.

For all of its vices, Big Tobacco helps demonstrate the upside of a highly concentrated industry structure. For example, as I discuss in more detail in this paper, there is relatively little evasion of cigarette taxes in this country, even though the taxes imposed on cigarettes can be quite high (e.g., 45% in federal and state excise taxes alone in California). For example, several studies estimated that only about 7-12% of cigarette taxes go unpaid on average. (Not surprisingly, the number is higher in high-tax jurisdictions.) In large part, the successful enforcement of cigarette taxes can be traced to the highly concentrated structure of the tobacco industry: three firms now manufacture roughly 85% of all cigarettes consumed in this country (and they do so at just 15 factories). I think it safe to say that monitoring this industry to ensure that taxes are paid (and other regulations followed) is far easier than it would be if thousands of firms were now manufacturing cigarettes.

Ultimately, perhaps the lesson is that Big Marijuana and Small Marijuana both pose challenges for policymakers, albeit challenges of a different nature. In the short term, Small Marijuana is clearly a bigger concern. But in the long term, policymakers long for the day when the industry wielded little political clout.  

February 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

2016 Republican National Convention in Denver?

Following on Doug's post about the recent Ohio poll, Denver is one of the finalists for the 2016 Republican National Convention.  One of the politicians leading the bid thinks  Colorado's legalization law may help attract the gathering, since leaders from other states may want to learn more about how the policy is playing out.  

"There's an easy political case to be made," former Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Republican and the chair of the bid committee, said.

 

Beauprez argued that even the state's recent legalization of recreational marijuana could be a plus because it shows how Colorado is on the political cutting edge. "Other governors and mayors will want to come here and see how it's working out," he said, noting that ballot measures to legalize the drug are anticipated in several other states.

Whether or not the RNC comes to Denver in 2016, Colorado's swing state status will make the presidential politics of marijuana legalization especially interesting to watch.  If Denver does manage to get the convention, it will only add to the dyamic. 

February 25, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Banks suggest recent federal banking guidance changes nothing (and they’re probably right)

The Colorado Bankers Association, an organization counting many prominent national and local banks as members, is very skeptical (to put it mildly) of the banking guidance issued by the DOJ and Treasury Valentine’s Day. My earlier posts on the guidance can be found here and here.

In a nutshell, the CBA suggests the guidance does nothing to ease bank fears over dealing with the state’s marijuana industry and that only a change to federal laws could really accomplish that. A statement issued from the CBA’s President, Don Childears, can be found here. Here’s a snippet:

“The guidance issued today by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury only reinforces and    reiterates that banks can be prosecuted for providing accounts to marijuana related businesses.

“In fact, it is even stronger than original guidance issued by the Department of Justice and the Treasury . . . After a series of red lights, we expected this guidance to be a yellow one. This isn’t close to that. At best, this amounts to ‘serve these customers at your own risk’ and it emphasizes all of the risks. This light is red.”

“Bankers had expected the guidance to relieve them of the threat of prosecution should the open accounts for marijuana businesses, but the guidance does not do that. Instead, it reiterates reasons for prosecution and is simply a modified reporting system for banks to use. It imposes a heavy burden on them to know and control their customers’ activities, and those of their customers. No bank can comply.”

“An act of Congress is the only way to solve this problem. . . ”

I agree. Earlier DOJ guidance suggesting it wouldn’t crack down on marijuana distribution was probably sufficient to get people to distribute the drug in Colorado (in reality, it probably wasn’t even necessary to achieve that). But guidance suggesting the DOJ might not crack down on money laundering offenses falls well short of what highly regulated banks are going to need before they start dealing with this industry.

February 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using Banks to Police the Marjiuana Industry

As I noted Friday, the Treasury Department just issued new guidance designed to make it easier for banks to serve state-authorized marijuana businesses. In a less-noticed move, the DOJ also issued new guidance urging federal prosecutors not to pursue financial crimes charges against marijuana businesses outside of the circumstances outlined in its August 2013 memo regarding drug crimes. The Treasury guidance and new DOJ memo can be found here.

Banks have long refused to serve the marijuana industry, citing, among other reasons, federal statutes that criminalize financial transactions involving proceeds of illegal activity, including marijuana sales. Sam Kamin and Joel Warner discuss the banking issue here.

Now, I doubt this new guidance will convince many banks to serve the marijuana industry. Among other things, and as I explained in a paper critical of the DOJ’s first marijuana enforcement guidelines (the 2009 Ogden memorandum), such guidance does not shield banks from all of the relevant federal sanctions that serving marijuana businesses might trigger.

But if banks DO end up serving marijuana businesses, it might give a boost to state and federal efforts to police the marijuana industry. In particular, banks could help government officials determine whether the marijuana industry is violating state law and / or engaging in behavior that would justify federal legal action under those 2013 DOJ enforcement guidelines (e.g., selling to minors).

Here’s how. Federal law requires banks to monitor and report on the financial transactions of their clients. Under federal law, for example, banks are required to file “Suspicious Activity Reports” anytime they know, suspect, or have reason to suspect a client is engaging in a financial transaction involving proceeds of illegal activity. The government then uses these SARs to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed by the clients.

Importantly, the bulk of the new Treasury guidance is actually devoted to reaffirming and clarifying the duty of banks to file SARs on clients engaged in the marijuana industry. It makes abundantly clear that a “financial institution that decides to provide financial services to a marijuana-related business would be required to file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”) . . .  if, consistent with FinCEN regulations, the financial institution knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that a transaction conducted or attempted by, at, or through the financial institution . . . involves funds derived from illegal activity.” (emphasis added)

To be sure, the reporting requirement could simply overwhelm government agents, since every transaction involving a marijuana business might trigger a new report. Indeed, federal agents are already deluged with SARs; in 2009, for example, banks submitted more than 700,000 SARs (banks in Colorado and Washington submitted more than 17,000 SARs), far too many for the government to investigate them all.

But the new Treasury guidance instructs banks to distinguish between good and bad marijuana businesses. Namely, if a bank believes a marijuana business is abiding state law and avoiding activities the federal government considers objectionable (e.g., selling across state lines), the bank may file an abbreviated SAR, simply by writing “MARIJUANA LIMITED” in the notations section of the report. But if the bank believes the business is flouting state law or engaging in one of those objectionable activities, it is supposed to file more detailed SAR, writing “MARIJUANA PRIORITY” in the notations section and explaining why the bank believes the business deserves closer scrutiny.

The information provided on these SARs could greatly enhance the efforts of federal and state enforcement agencies to police the marijuana industry. Banks won’t necessarily have perfect information about their clients, but they will often possess information that government agencies cannot realistically gather on their own. Indeed, as I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, governments commonly use private parties to gather information they need to enforce their regulations; e.g., without the W-2s filed by employers, the IRS would struggle (mightily) to collect individual income taxes. And requiring banks to further distinguish between law-abiding and law-shirking marijuana business greatly enhances the utility of this information for government agencies.

Knowing that banks will share information with the federal government could have a powerful deterrent effect on marijuana businesses. These businesses need bank services – try operating any business without a checking account, for example. But if they misbehave, banks will shun them, or worse yet, report their misbehavior to the feds. To be sure, some misbehaving businesses will simply avoid the banks altogether. But those businesses will be put at a serious competitive disadvantage vis a vis their more law abiding rivals.

In sum, if the guidance works (a big if), marijuana businesses will get access to banking services; banks will expand their market; and government agencies will get a new watchdog to help police the marijuana industry.  Looks like a win win win.

February 18, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Looks like California will not be voting on marijuana legalization again until 2016

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the most prominent of the proposed California legalization ballot measures--backed by the Drug Policy Alliance--will not be going forward this year.  As a result, it looks like Californians will have to wait until 2016 to vote again on marijuana legalization.  Given the cost of running a ballot measure in California and the difficulty in getting younger voters out in mid-term elections, this decision is not surprising.  

From the LA Times:

A coalition of investors and strategists, which played a key role in passing most of the legislation to reform drug laws nationwide since 1996, has decided not to put a pot initiative on the ballot in California this year but will wait to push for legalization until 2016.

Signature-gathering efforts for at least two additional pot measures are circulating, but they do not appear to have the high-profile financial backing needed. So the coalition's decision makes it less likely that marijuana will be legalized in California in the near future.

The group was instrumental in legalizing recreational pot in Washington and Colorado and medical marijuana in Massachusetts in 2012, and it is supporting efforts in November to pass a recreational pot measure in Oregon and a medical cannabis measure in Florida.

The coalition includes the Drug Policy Alliance, which has been involved in drug reform for nearly two decades and is supported by billionaire financier George Soros. It also is allied with the late philanthropist Peter Lewis, who spent $65 million over the last 15 years to change pot laws. Lewis died in November.

The decision not to go forward in 2014 was "very close" and "one that came down to the wire," said Graham Boyd, counsel to Lewis and a leader in working to legalize marijuana in California. "We see this as a trial run or a dress rehearsal for 2016."

February 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"High Times, Westword sue Colorado over marijuana ad restrictions"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting new report on the latest notable legal frontier concerning marijuana law and reforms.  Here are the basics:

The publisher of marijuana magazine High Times has sued the state of Colorado in federal court over the state’s rules preventing recreational cannabis businesses from advertising in most publications.  High Times, along with local weekly magazine Westword, filed the lawsuit on Monday.  It marks the first time anyone has challenged the restrictions in court.

The rules allow recreational marijuana businesses to advertise only in publications that are adult-oriented.  According to the state’s rules, recreational marijuana stores can advertise only in a publication that “has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the publication’s readership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.”  There is no such restriction on medical marijuana businesses.

The lawsuit argues the rules, which also restrict television, radio and outdoor advertising, are an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.  The magazines are “chilled from soliciting advertisements from prospective clients and prevented from making revenue from clients who wish to engage in advertising concerning marijuana-related products and services,” the lawsuit’s complaint states....

It is also unclear how the suit’s filing in federal court will impact the judge’s assessment of its claim that the ads concern “lawful activity,” since marijuana is illegal federally. But publications have previously had success in federal court in overturning another Colorado marijuana law — one that required marijuana-themed publications to be kept behind the counter at stores.

February 12, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Marijuana candies, dangerous for kids and for legalization

Though I think we may be nearing the point of inevitability when it comes to marijuana legalization, we aren't there yet.  There's a chance that as things move forward, we will see a backlash that reverses the current trend.  

If I had to pick issues that could potentially cause such a backlash, the risks of marijuana candies would be near the top of the list.  And for good reason.  Marijuana candies pose serious policy concerns.  

Products that are packaged like and taste like candy can be easily mistaken as regular candy.  And we all know who loves candy--kids.  Perhaps just as important, many marijuana candies contain so much marijuana that the suggested serving size may be 1/4 or 1/10 of the candy.  This is particularly odd when one considers that some of these candies come in the form of a single gummy bear or bon-bon style sweet.   When most people see a single gummy bear or bon bon, they assume they should eat the whole thing.  But if you were to eat an entire marijuana gummy in one serving, you could end up high out of your mind.

Two new New York Times pieces discuss this problem.  In one, a mother recounts how her son had to go to the emergency room after eating a roommate's marijuana candy bar.  In the other, the writer begins: "This is not what I thought marijuana looked like."

Those of us who favor marijuana legalization would be wise to take these concerns very seriously.  There are real public health and safety risks that come from people--particularly children-- accidentally ingesting super-strong marijuana candies (or ingesting on purpose, but without realizing that one gummy is meant to be consumed in four servings.)  

In terms of the politics, I think the "this is not what I thought marijuana looked like" sentiment is particularly noteworthy.  I suspect that many voters who supported legalization in Colorado and Washington had no idea that it might result in the sale of sophisticated candies (or even that such candies were even possible.)  And if enough of the folks in this group don't like what they see when they learn about marijuana candy, it is entirely possible they might sour on legalization generally.  

To be sure, I don't think we are anywhere near seeing a political backlash because of this issue.  But marijuana advocates would be foolish to ignore the possibility of one developing.

February 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 10, 2014

State-by-state: present and possible future state marijuana reforms

With so many medical marijuana state laws and a wave of new proposals, it can be difficult to follow them all.  Luckily, last week saw the release of two guides to help you keep track.

The Marijuana Policy Project has released an update to its state-by-state guide to marijuana laws.

And, for the reforms on the horizon, John Ross of Reason.com has posted "a 50-state guide to legislation and ballot measures that are in the works thus far this year."

February 10, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NFL player on marijuana use "we're just going to do it anyway"

The Super Bowl may be behind us, but the question of marijuana use by NFL players is not.  The latest, Jets Player Antonio Cromartie says he thinks it is time for the NFL to let the issue go:

Cromartie said in an interview with Thisis50.com, a website launched by rapper 50 Cent, that he thinks the NFL should take marijuana off the banned substances list.

 

“They need to just let it go,” Cromartie said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We’re just going to do it anyway. They just need to let it go. They need to go ahead and say, ‘Y’all go ahead, smoke it, do what you need to do.’ “

Cromartie may be a free agent this off-season.  It will be interesting to see if this impacts interest in him among NFL teams (and, in the nearer team, whether his agent or some Jets media rep will encourage Cromartie to retract or "clarify" his comments.)

February 5, 2014 in Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lots and lots of Super Sunday stories about marijuana and the Super Bowl

Bm3As is now common, this past week brought a lot of interesting new stories and commentary in the traditional and new media about new  marijuana laws and practices throughout the United States.  But, with the biggest annual US sporting event now only a few hours away, I figured I should focus my regular round-up of interesting marijuana news and commentary on matters related to the Super Bowl:

  • From the AP here, "THC-Hawks? Pot Puns Pack This Super Bowl" 

  • From the Baltimore Sun here, "Ayanbadejo says teammates on one of his Super Bowl teams used marijuana week of game"

  • From BuzzFeed here, "17 Marijuana Snacks To Eat During The Stoner Bowl, AKA the Bud Bowl, aka Super Bowl XLVIII."

  • From the Denver Business Journal here, "Pot, Super Bowl don’t mix for most people, poll finds"

  • From Forbes here, "Dueling Pot Billboards At The Stoner Bowl: Marijuana Is Safer Vs. Marijuana Will Ruin Your Life"

  • From a local Seattle Fox station here, "From marijuana to sushi, businesses are riding the Super Bowl frenzy"
  • From Rolling Stone here, "Which Super Bowl Team's State Is Better for Weed? Comparing the legal marijuana laws for Broncos and Seahawks fans"

  • From the Seattle Times here, "Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch inspires Beast Mode pot"
  •  From Time here , "Pot Will See Sales Spike For Super Bowl, Just Like Pizza

  • From the Washington Post here, "The Super Bowl is the latest front in the fight over legalizing marijuana"

Some recent related posts:

February 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 31, 2014

NFL not yet actively considering marijuana policy change

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, the medical use of marijuana in the NFL has been getting a lot of attention.  A couple of weeks ago, league commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL was open to the possibility of permitting its players to use marijuana for medical purposes (such as pain relief).  Today, ProFootballTalk reports that while the league is open to the idea, Goodell has clarified it is "not actively considering" changing its marijuana policy.  

It will be interesting to see if the issue continues to generate attention in the NFL off-season.  Considering stories like that of Seahawks' fullback Michael Robinson, I hope that it does:

Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson is also a supporter [of medical marijuana in the NFL], a view which may be informed by his experiences this season. Robinson suffered from kidney and liver failure due to a bad reaction to a prescription anti-inflammatory, missed much of the season while recovering and thinks that looking into alternative treatment options is a must for the league and the players.

“I think anything that can make our job a little easier without sacrificing our health at the same time is good for the league, it’s good for players,” Robinson said. “I’m all for alternative forms of recovery and all those types of things – hyperbaric chambers, o-zoning, whatever it may be. So, I’m all for it. Whatever can help the player, I’m for.”

 

January 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Football, Pain and Marijuana"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new New York Times editorial.  Here are excerpts:

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, in which it so happens both teams hail from states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pressure is mounting on the [NFL] to reconsider its ban. A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.

It’s a fair question. Marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, for starters, and more than 20 states have legalized it for medical purposes. The league would merely be catching up to contemporary practice by creating a medical exception.

At a news conference on Jan. 7, the league commissioner, Roger Goodell, did not rule out a change in policy. “I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries,” he said, “but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.” On Jan. 23, he said the league would “follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that.” There is, in fact, a body of evidence indicating a “proper usage”: one of particular relevance to a hard-hitting, injury-riddled sport.

“Cannabinoids,” the Institute of Medicine reported in 1999, “can have a substantial analgesic effect.” N.F.L. medical experts obviously aren’t convinced, but N.F.L. players seem to be. HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” estimated in January that 50 to 60 percent of players smoked marijuana, many to manage pain.

Players, of course, have access to other painkillers, including prescription drugs. Yet as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has argued, “marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.” As public opinion and state laws move away from strict prohibition, it’s reasonable for the N.F.L. to do the same and let its players deal with their injuries as they — and their private doctors — see fit.

January 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Super Bowl Attracts a Marijuana Message"

Superjournal1-articleLargeThe title of this post is the headline of this new New York Times piece, which includes these passages:

The Marijuana Policy Project, one of the main groups behind the push to legalize marijuana possession in Colorado, posted advertisements on billboards near Mile High Stadium before the first game of the Broncos’ season on Sept. 5.

Now the group has spent $5,000 to rent several 60-foot-wide billboards in New Jersey, within easy driving distance of MetLife Stadium, where the Broncos will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday....

The message is directed at the National Football League, just as it was in Denver, and is repeated in a petition the marijuana group plans to deliver to the N.F.L. on Wednesday. “Why are players punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?” asked Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. “In Colorado and Washington State, this is now a legal product, and the N.F.L. has no legitimate reason to be policing marijuana use by players.”...

N.F.L. commissioner, Roger Goodell, indicated last week that the league might reconsider its policy on marijuana for medicinal purposes, if research showed that it was a viable treatment for concussions.

There is also a lighter side to the discussion of marijuana and the Super Bowl. There have been many jokes about how Super Bowl XLVIII will be the “stoner bowl” because the Broncos and the Seahawks are from the two states that have moved to legalize marijuana. Bryan Weinman said that was the instigation for the website www.stonerbowl.org.

“It got hatched over a table of beers before the playoff games,” said Mr. Weinman, who has been a nightclub D.J. in Denver. He added that he and several friends “got to joking about what happens if Denver and Seattle ended up in the S.B., how many endless puns would be made by the average individual.”

“We got the easy ones out of the way,” he continued, “and it evolved into somebody saying, ‘What would happen if we put some of this on a T-shirt?' ” And no, he said, they are not marijuana users themselves.

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January 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)