Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Newest (and most interesting?) laboratory experiment with marijuana reform officially underway in Alaska
As detailed in this lengthy AP piece, headlined "No street parties, no citations: Alaska quietly ushers in legalized marijuana," the state nicknamed The Last Frontier is now an important and especially interesting new frontier in the state-level laboratories of democracy experimenting with recreational marijuana reforms. Here are the basics:
Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana. But the historic day passed with little public acknowledgement in a state with a savvy marijuana culture that has seen varying degrees of legal acceptance of the drug for 40 years.
Supporters said the day was a milestone, comparing it to the end of Prohibition. But unlike in Colorado and Washington state, there were no street parties and public smoking displays in Alaska's biggest cities.
Dolly Fleck-Phelps, a Kenai resident with an ancillary marijuana business, said she thought people would look back on the day as a turning point for Alaska. "Absolutely this is history in the making," Fleck-Phelps said. "This is the opening of the door. Now it's time for the real work to begin."
Legalization marked the end of a 43-year political battle for Bill Parker, 70. The Anchorage man, who was listed as a sponsor of the initiative, first banded together with a group of young Democrats elected to the state House of Representatives to introduce a legalization bill in 1972. "Gee, there weren't enough votes to worry about," the retired deputy commissioner of corrections said.
Parker's hopes for legal weed dwindled as he saw Alaska become more Republican and more conservative over the years. He said perhaps the marijuana vote marks the end of that pendulum swing. Now that pot is legal, Parker is ready to take a pause to enjoy the moment, but he said he won't stop fighting. "Well, it makes me feel good. It's not over, of course. The initiative passed by between 5 and 6 percent, so 40 some percent of the people voted against it. Not all of them are ready to lay down and go along," Parker said....
Alaska has had a complicated history with marijuana over the years. The Alaska Supreme Court in 1975 said personal marijuana possession was protected under the state constitution's right-to-privacy clause. In 1998, voters legalized medicinal marijuana. But over the years, state lawmakers twice criminalized any possession, creating an odd legal limbo, and never created rules for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate.
Placing Alaska in the same category as Washington state and Colorado with legal marijuana was the goal of the pro-pot coalition that included libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the Alaska state constitution....
As of Tuesday, adult Alaskans can not only keep and use pot, they can transport, grow it and give it away. A second phase, creating a regulated and taxed marijuana market, won't start until 2016 at the earliest. That's about the same timeline for Oregon, where voters approved legalizing marijuana the same day as Alaska did. But the law there doesn't go into effect until July 1.
Police throughout Alaska were prepared to hand out $100 citations for anyone caught smoking pot in public, but departments stretching more than 1,100 miles from Nome on the state's western coast to Juneau in the southeast panhandle hadn't issued a ticket during the day. "We haven't even received a call or complaint about anybody doing it," said Steve Goetz, deputy chief for the University of Alaska Fairbanks police department....
Others remained concerned on Tuesday about the details not yet worked out regarding legalization. When the public voted last November to legalize marijuana use by adults in private places, voters left many of the details to lawmakers and regulators to sort out. Elisabeth Schafer, a Sitka resident visiting Juneau for work, said she was worried about the state developing a workable system of regulations. "I just wish we had waited longer as a state," Schafer said. "I don't want to blaze the way for other states."
Among the questions remaining on Tuesday were what public places consumption was prohibited in, and how the regulations for a new commercial industry would look. The initiative bans smoking in public, but it doesn't define what that means, and lawmakers left the question to the alcohol regulatory board. There were missteps even as the board decided pot can't be smoked in places generally accessible to the public, like parks, schools or on the street in Alaska.
Board members met via a teleconference Tuesday, but it started late because organizers gave out the wrong telephone number. The call originated from the board's Anchorage office. However, a locked gate blocked access to the meeting site.
I think Alsaka is an especially interesting state to watch closely in the months and years ahead because it is such a unique state in so many ways: its size, small population, history of libertarian/conservative values and its relative isolation from the rest of the US. Also, Alaska as part of the second set of jurisdictions legalization recreational marijuana, can and should be able to draw some regulatory lessons from Colorado and Washington as it creates a new regulatory structure for a commercial marijuana industry. And, especially as debate over federal marijuana reform begins to heat up in Congress in the months and years ahead, Alaska's two GOP senators might provide to be especially important national players within the establishment of the political party that has been recently most resistant to reform of federal criminal drug laws.
February 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, January 18, 2015
The front-page of today's New York Times has this notable lengthy article about a notable problem increasing in Colorado since marijuana legalization. The piece is headlined "Odd Byproduct of Legal Marijuana: Homes That Blow Up," and here is how the article starts:
When Colorado legalized marijuana two years ago, nobody was quite ready for the problem of exploding houses. But that is exactly what firefighters, courts and lawmakers across the state are confronting these days: amateur marijuana alchemists who are turning their kitchens and basements into “Breaking Bad”style laboratories, using flammable chemicals to extract potent drops of a marijuana concentrate commonly called hash oil, and sometimes accidentally blowing up their homes and lighting themselves on fire in the process.
The trend is not limited to Colorado — officials from Florida to Illinois to California have reported similar problems — but the blasts are creating a special headache for lawmakers and courts here, the state at the center of legal marijuana. Even as cities try to clamp down on homemade hash oil and lawmakers consider outlawing it, some enthusiasts argue for their right to make it safely without butane, and criminal defense lawyers say the practice can no longer be considered a crime under the 2012 constitutional amendment that made marijuana legal to grow, smoke, process and sell.
“This is uncharted territory,” said State Representative Mike Foote, a Democrat from northern Colorado who is grappling with how to address hashoil explosions. “These things come up for the first time, and no one’s dealt with them before.”
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The question in the title of this post is the question I am asking myself as I gear up for second year of teaching my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform Seminar. As the National Law Journal highlighted in this lengthy article, headlined "Law Schools Firing Up Marijuana Law Classes," a law school course devoted specifically to marijuana laws and policies was novel back in Fall 2013 when I first taught my seminar, but not it is becoming all the rage. Specifically, I am aware of marijuana-focused courses this Spring being offered at:
University of Denver College of Law, titled "Representing the Marijuana Client"
Hofstra University School of Law, titled "Business and Law of Marijuana"
Santa Clara University College of Law, titled "Drug Policy Practicum"
Vanderbilt Law School, titled "Marijuana Law & Policy"
Conversations with some of the professors teaching these courses, and even the diverse course titles themselves, strongly suggest that various (and perhaps very distinct) themes and materials will be at the center of these various courses. But I am wondering now whether all the different students in all these different courses will (or should) get exposed to certain essential marijuana law materials.
To this end, I know that Vanderbilt's Rob Mikos is working on a casebook tentatively titled Marijuana Law and Policy, and I surmise his (somewhat traditional?) law school course is focused a good bit on the substance of federal and state marijuana laws and the (ever-evolving) doctrinal implications of these laws. In contrast, I have found myself inclined to focused my seminar on the social and political history of intoxicant prohibitions in the United States and the (ever-evolving) prospects for and potential consequences of continued marijuana law reforms. Consequently, I am not going to expect my students to delve too deeply into the doctrinal intricacies of particular state and federal laws.
Ironically, one reason I have been encouraging more and more folks to consider developing new courses around marijuana law, policy and reform is because I see so many distinct and distinctly valuable ways to present recent legal developments to students and to encourage them to think critically about the modern marijuana reform movement. And yet, as the title of this post indicates, I am finding myself growing ever more concerned that law professors working in this space should perhaps be working toward identifying a core cannabis canon.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Via e-mail, I was alerted to this Brookings FixGov blog post by Brookings Fellow John Hudak titled "Marijuana Policy in 2015: Eight Big Things to Watch." The e-mail provided this helpful summary of various points made in the longer posting:
1) Oregon, Alaska Plan & Prepare for Legal Marijuana: How well each of these state legislatures and alcohol regulatory bodies work together will determine the success or failure of marijuana policy in these states. As it borders Washington, Oregon’s commercial and regulatory choices will be particularly crucial in understanding to what extent states may strive for market advantages vis-à-vis bordering states.
2) Identifying the Next States to Legalize: 2015 will show which states are serious about ballot initiatives in 2016. It’s widely expected that California will advance an initiative and Florida might take another swing at approving medical marijuana, after falling just short of approval in 2014.
3) Cannabis Policy & State Legislative Action: In some states, the battleground for enacting items like the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana is not the ballot box, but the state legislature.
4) Cannabis & the Courts: Multiple high-profile lawsuits surrounding marijuana policy may play out in 2015. For instance, Coats v. Dish Network may settle the issue of employer-sponsored marijuana testing and a Supreme Court case involving Nebraska and Oklahoma’s suing of Colorado over legalizing marijuana will indicate the willingness of federal courts to engage in this policy area.
5) Answers to Questions About D.C.’s Marijuana Policy: Clarity about the future of marijuana policy in Washington, D.C. will almost surely be left to the federal courts, particularly if there is congressional inaction on Initiative 71.
6) Colorado & Washington (& Uruguay) Continue Legalization: InColorado, edibles, product testing, and homegrows will be on the agenda. The policy challenge Washington faces is that legal weed could be too costly to lure consumers from the black market. On the international front, Uruguay works hard to ready a bureaucracy and a consumer base for the experiment.
7) Data, Data, Data: One key takeaway for policy advocates, both supporters and opponents, will be to patiently wait to draw conclusions as the data are currently incomplete and imperfect. 2015 will offer steady flows of data from Colorado and Washington, and eventually other states.
8) Presidential Candidates & Cannabis: Marijuana policy will definitely be part of the 2016 conversation in a way that it has not in previous presidential campaigns. And the issue will be particularly interesting to watch as it does not fall neatly along party lines.
I think points 7 and 8 are the most interesting, dynamic and unpredictable stories to watch from among this list. I would also add to the list...
9) Political Party leaders and Pot Policy: Key leaders of both parties inside and outside the Beltway have, to date, said relatively little about marijuana reform. Cautious "establishment" politicians --- ranging from Prez Obama to Hillary Clinton to Jerry Brown on the D side and from Mitch McConnell to John Boehner to Mitt Romney on the GOP side --- will only be able to dodge the new terms of the modern policy debate for so long.
January 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
As reported in this CBS News article, headlined "$2 billion company betting big on marijuana," a notable new player has become an investor in the marijuana industry. Here are the details:
Until now, it's been a few rich individuals who secretly funded burgeoning pot companies, but for the first time, a major investment firm is going to put multimillion dollars behind marijuana. It's a partnership between two investors and the first institutional investments in pot, reports CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason.
Geoff Lewis's firm, Founders Fund, a $2 billion company, made its name investing early in new companies like Facebook, Spotify and SpaceX. But now it's betting on pot. "We discuss all our investments for a long time. ...So particularly in this case, we did an extra, extra deep dive on the business," Lewis said. The business is recreational marijuana, now legal in four states. Medicinal marijuana is legal in more than 20.
Privateers Holdings CEO Brendan Kennedy said it is a watershed moment. "It's important for our company, but it's also important for the entire industry," Kennedy said. Privateers Holdings is the parent company of three cannabis brands: Tilray, which grows marijuana in Canada; Leafly, an online database of different pot strains and stores; and Marley Natural, from the family of reggae star Bob Marley, which aims to become the "Marlboro of marijuana."
Kennedy faced challenges along the way. "Raising money is always difficult, but raising money in this particular industry is the hardest thing I've ever done," he said. But Founders Fund is backing Kennedy's companies because it sees a future in what they says is already a $40 billion business in the U.S....
"The surest way of doubling your money investing in cannabis stocks is to fold it back over and put it in your pocket," UCLA professor Mark Klieman warned. Klieman studies the cannabis marketplace and cautions: investors beware. "A lot of people are crowding into the marijuana industry because they think they are going to be able to sell a legal good at illegal prices," Klieman said. "Competition's not going to allow that. Legal cannabis is going to be dirt cheap, and I think a lot of people are going to lose their shirts trying to sell it."
That is, if they don't get arrested first. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal. While the Justice Department has said it won't prosecute cannabis companies following state laws, that could change. Kennedy said he doesn't see a risk, however. "Over 80 percent of Americans believe the medical cannabis should be legal, 8 out of 10; you can't get 8 out of 10 American's to agree on anything," Kennedy said.
Lewis said this isn't a politically motivated investment. "We're investing because we think it's a great business," he noted. Both Lewis and Kennedy believe marijuana will be fully legal in the U.S. within a decade. As of now, there are no numbers on how many businesses have already started, or how many jobs have been created, but many experts agree the marijuana market could become a $150 billion to $200 billion market worldwide.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
I am pleased to see that the notable lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court last week by Nebraska and Oklahoma (basics here; commentary here and here) has generated lots of commentary from all sort of perspectives. Here are links to some of the commentary via various blogs:
By Jonathan Adler, "Are Nebraska and Oklahoma just fair-weather federalists?"
By Randy Barnett, "Nebraska and Oklahoma are misreading Raich"
By Kent Scheidegger, "Pot, Prohibition, and Original Jurisdiction"
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Anyone and everyone eager to get up to speed on marijuana law, policy and reform developments should be sure to read this lengthy new article via NBC News headlined "The Year in Pot: Legal Sales and Anti-Marijuana Voices Boomed." Here are snippets form a piece that merits a full read:
Marijuana has never had a year like 2014.
The first aboveboard just-for-fun cannabis markets rose in Colorado and Washington. Voters in Oregon and Alaska passed ballot initiatives to create the same. And a consistent majority of Americans said they support plans to legalize the drug nationwide, according to polls by NBC News and others.
Yet 2014 also brought the first formidable anti-marijuana message in ages. The men and women of Smart Approaches on Marijuana, or Project SAM, might be the most potent voice of prohibition since Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" tour three decades ago.
The result was a year of fierce cross currents.
The anti-drug crowd fought to protect people from marijuana, believing that sobriety is the ideal and indulgence dangerous. The reform side, meanwhile, fought to protect marijuana users from legal harm, believing that insobriety is normal and indulgence should not be a crime.
Here are five marijuana storylines that stood out amid all the smoke:
1. The First Legal Sales in Colorado and Washington...
2. The Savvy, Well-Funded Campaigns in Oregon, Alaska, and Nationwide...
3. The Rise of an Anti-Pot Establishment...
4. The Rise of Big Pot...
5. The More Things Changed, The More They Stayed the Same
In 2014, marijuana made some mainstream friends like never before.
First, in January, President Obama took a strikingly casual attitude toward a drug past presidents have tried to crush with billions of dollars in federal muscle. "I smoked pot as a kid," he said. "I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life." No, he added, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
Next the New York Times editorial board came out in support of marijuana legalization, winking at Obama as it argued that 40 years of criminalization have come at the price of "inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol."
But with friends came enemies, notably casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands and America's 12th richest person, poured more than $6 million into Drug Free Florida, the organization that led a successful effort to block the legalization of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.
It was his first foray into pot politics, and, advocates worry, it won't be pot's last broadside from the right. In December, in fact, the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing state-legalized marijuana from Colorado is improperly spilling across state lines.
"Yep," as Kevin Sabet put it earlier this year, spoiling for a broader fight over marijuana policy. "Game on."
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The National Law Journal has this lengthy new article headlined "Law Schools Firing Up Marijuana Law Classes." I was pleased to have been interviewed by the author of the piece, and here are excerpts discussing some of the activity going on in this space:
Who has legal authority to establish marijuana law and regulations — the federal, state or local government? How should the law treat motorists who drive while high? Should employers test workers for marijuana use in jurisdictions where the drug is legal?
Those are a few of the questions Vanderbilt University Law School students will tackle in professor Robert Mikos' marijuana law and policy seminar next semester — one of a growing number of law school classes focused on marijuana. "For most students, this is an inherently interesting topic," Mikos said. "They read about it in the media all the time, and so many are curious about it. As more states confront this issue, the interest will only grow."...
Besides Vanderbilt's program, at least two additional marijuana-specific classes will debut next spring. At University of Denver Sturm College of Law, professor Sam Kamin will teach "Representing the Marijuana Client." David Ball, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, will preside over a "mini think tank" about the legal matters California will face if the state legalizes marijuana for recreational use. Students in Ball's class will research topics including whether and how the state might restrict marijuana advertising and how the drug could be taxed. They will share their research with an American Civil Liberties Union panel investigating the implications of marijuana legalization. Ball sits on the panel, which is led by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. A ballot initiative to legalize could come as early as 2016, according to the ACLU.
"When I was appointed to the panel, I thought, 'This is a good opportunity for my students to write on something that will be of immediate interest to people in California,' " Ball said. His class will maintain a blog to publish students' research and marijuana law news. Ball hopes his course will help students adapt in an ever-changing legal landscape.
Kamin believes his course is the first designed specifically to prepare students to represent marijuana clients — whether growers and retailers or government regulators. "Almost every lawyer in the state needs to know something about this," Kamin said. "There are people in Denver and Colorado who practice marijuana law, but there are many others in real estate law, administrative law and other areas who deal with it as well. I've had people asking me to teach this class for a while. They're hungry for this knowledge."...
The subject is ideal because it touches so many different areas of law, said Franklin Snyder, a professor at Texas A&M University School of Law who in September founded the Cannabis Law Prof Blog. For example, he said, the large amount of energy required to produce marijuana raises environmental and agricultural law questions, and it remains unclear what kinds of corporate and bankruptcy protections marijuana businesses enjoy.
"Too often in law school, we teach in silos — we teach contract law, tax law and corporations law," Snyder said. "In the real world, clients don't have 'tax problems.' They have problems that are all interconnected. Marijuana law allows you to bring it all together and demonstrate how every decision you make impacts all these other things."
Hilary Bricken, an attorney in the cannabis practice of Seattle boutique firm Harris Moure, expressed surprise that law schools are starting to discuss marijuana given that they typically don’t teach courses on alcohol law or the adult entertainment industry, for example. Still, she said, local and state marijuana regulations could make for an interesting law course. "I would love to see a clinic where students could interact with clients," Bricken said. "I think it would really send home the reality of the difficulty of practicing in this era of prohibition."...
Mikos is scheduled to publish a marijuana law textbook in 2016. "I think we're going to see more law schools offer these classes," he said. "There's a big focus right now on teaching students about the types of cases they might actually handle after graduation. This is very practical."
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new USA Today article reporting on new data that seems likely to be trumpted by those advocating for continued reform of marijuana laws. Here are the basics:
Marijuana use among teens declined this year even as two states, Colorado and Washington, legalized the drug for recreational use, a national survey released Tuesday found. University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, now in its 40th year, surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in schools nationwide about their use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs and cigarettes.
"There is a lot of good news in this year's results, bu the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away," Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator, said.
After five years of increases, marijuana use in the past year by students in all three grades declined slightly, from 26% in 2013 to 24% in 2014. Students in the two lower grades reported that marijuana is less available than it once was, the survey found. Among high school seniors, one in 17, or 5.8%, say they use marijuana almost daily this year, down from 6.5% in 2013.
Synthetic marijuana, chemical concoctions meant to simulate a marijuana high and sold at convenience stores and gas stations, have also fallen out of favor. In 2011, when the survey first asked about the drugs, known as K2 and Spice, 11% of 12th graders said they had used the drugs in the past year. In 2014, that number had dropped to 6%. "Efforts at the federal and state levels to close down the sale of these substances may be having an effect," Johnston said.
Abuse of all prescription drugs, including narcotic painkillers, sedatives and amphetamines, declined from 16% in 2013 to 14% in 2014 among 12th graders, the survey found. Narcotic painkiller use, in decline since 2009, dropped again from 7% in 2013 to 6% in 2014. Heroin use, which has grown among adult populations, remained stable for teens.
Teens considered narcotic pain relievers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, safer than illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine, because they are prescribed by doctors, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said. "There's a very strong and aggressive campaign about educating the public on the risk of opioid medications as it relates to overdoses and deaths," Volkow said. "That has made teenagers aware that they are not so safe as they thought they were."
Teen use of both alcohol and cigarettes dropped this year to their lowest points since the study began in 1975, the survey found. Teens may be trading conventional cigarettes for e-cigarettes. In 2014, more teens used e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product, the study found. "E-cigarettes have made rapid inroads into the lives of American adolescents," Richard Miech, a senior investigator of the study, said....
Alcohol use and binge drinking peaked in 1997, when 61% of the students surveyed said they had drunk alcohol in the previous 12 months. In 2014, 41% reported alcohol use in the previous year, a drop from 43% in 2013, the survey found. Since the 1997 peak, "there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents," Johnston said....
"Even though the indicators are very good news, at the same time we cannot become complacent," Volkow said. "This is a stage where their brains are most vulnerable. We need to continue our prevention efforts."
Friday, November 21, 2014
Looking for something to listen to while taking care of your weekend chores around the house? Episode 20 of the Marijuana Today podcast is up.
On this epsidode, Dan Goldman, Andrew Livingston and Adam Smith join host Kris Lotlikar and producer Shea Gunther to discuss the "vaping" trend and regulating marijuana edibles, among other subjects.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Yesterday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said she was "not opposed to the legalization of marijuana."
Recall that just a few months ago, Harris laughed off the issue when asked about it. (Harris also refused to take a position on Prop. 47, a California ballot measure to recude a number of non-violent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors--including drug possession--that passed comfortably earlier this month.)
Harris's tentative approach to marijuana legalization specifically (and criminal justice reform generally) stands in stark contrast to that of another rising-star politician in the state: Gavin Newsom. Newsom took a strong stance in favor of Prop. 47 and has emerged as a leader in the state on marijuana legalization.
Many speculate that Newsom and Harris are "on a collision course for running for governor in 2018," so it would not surprise me if Harris's move on this issue is in part the result of a realization that running as the anti-legalization candidate in a Democratic primary against Newsom may not be a good look for her. (On the other hand, more recent buzz has Harris lining up for a Senate run in 2016, leaving Newsom a clear path to the Governor's office in 2018.)
Whether related to Newsom or not, Harris's comments are surely a sign that she (and her political advisers) believe opposing legalization (or laughing at the idea without taking a position) is bad politics for her. As Attorney General she has been incredibly cautious. And her remarks yesterday are no exception. Though she says she thinks marijuana legalization is inevitable and that she has no moral objection to the idea, she does not go so far as to say she supports it.
Specifically, Harris says: “It would be easier for me to say, ‘Let’s legalize it, let’s move on,’ and everybody would be happy. I believe that would be irresponsible of me as the top cop.”
Yes, it would be easier. But, like too many Democratic politicians, Harris seems to be increasingly allergic to taking clear stands on political issues.
Her remarks seem like a very timid politician's way of saying: "I've come to realize that laughing at or opposing legalization is bad for me politically, so I need to find a way of implying that I probably support it. But, as Attorney General, I don't want to say that I actually support it and upset the stuck-in-the-1980s law enforcement union lobby in the state. After all, I'm not really in the habbit of standing up to them, as evidenced by my failures to take a stand on either Prop. 47 or 2012's death penalty repeal ballot measure (even though I'm on record as being opposed to the death penalty.) So, I'll just try out the line 'I'm not opposed' for now."
That said, the fact that she decided to go as far as she did in her comments (and to do so this far in advance of 2016) is very telling about where she thinks the conversation and political tone will be in 2016. It suggests she is setting herself up to support a 2016 marijuana legalization ballot measure (or to remain agnostic on a specific proposal as the "top cop" while perhaps implying support in principle.)
If California truly is the "make or break" state for legalization, Harris's comments give legalization supporters another reason to be optimistic.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia just voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In a sense, they broke no new ground -- Colorado and Washington already legalized recreational marijuana two years ago. But the passage of these measures is extraordinary in another sense: marijuana legalization no longer surprises anyone. Even the federal government, which continues to ban marijuana, seems unlikely to raise a fuss. Indeed, following similar votes in Colorado and Washington in 2012, the Department of Justice announced that it would refrain from prosecuting marijuana users and dealers who comply with state law, so long as they do not implicate a distinct federal interest (like stopping inter-state shipments of the drug). As control of the Congress shifts to the Republican Party, it seems unlikely that the federal government will do anything but continue to sit on the sidelines for the next two years.
The votes on Tuesday are interesting for two other reasons as well. First, these votes arguably foretell how marijuana laws will evolve in the states over time. The four states and DC that were the first to legalize recreational marijuana were also among the first to legalize medical marijuana: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998, Colorado did so in 2000, and DC first tried in 1999. This suggests that voters might be more comfortable taking the plunge (i.e., legalizing recreational marijuana) after dipping their toes in the pool first (i.e., legalizing medical marijuana). It also suggests that the next states to legalize recreational marijuana are likely to be ones with more mature medical marijuana programs, such as California (1996) and Maine (1999).
Second, the defeat of a medical marijuana initiative in Florida is as unsurprising as the passage of legalization elsewhere. The south has been resistant to marijuana reforms; it remains the only region of the country without a legalization state. To some extent, southern resistance might be due to public attitudes toward marijuana; but it also might stem from lawmaking procedures used in many southern (and some other states) that impede the adoption even of popular reforms. After all, over half (58%) of Florida voters actually supported legalization of medical marijuana; but that figure just was not enough to change state law – the constitutional initiative process requires 60% support, higher than the simple majority needed in many other states, like California. A vote to legalize marijuana elsewhere in the country might not be surprising anymore, but when it happens in the south it will be noteworthy.
November 5, 2014 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Current Affairs, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 23, 2014
In another sign of the changing politics on marijuana legalization, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley told TalkingPointsMemo.com that he plans to vote for the marijuana legalization ballot measure in Oregon.
"I lean in support of it," the Democratic senator told TPM in an interview on Wednesday.
A vote for it would make Merkley the first U.S. senator to support making marijuana legal in his state.
Merkley didn't point to a time when he came around to the view that pot should be legal, saying it has not been an issue in his reelection bid. He's in good shape to win, according to recent polls.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
I am pleased and honored to have been asked to announce this call for paper from the Richmond Journal of Law and the Public Interest:
The Richmond Journal of Law & the Public Interest is seeking submissions for the Spring Issue of our 2014-2015 volume . We welcome high quality and well cited submissions from academics, judges, and established practitioners who would like to take part in the conversation of the evolution of law and its impact on citizens.
We currently have four total openings for articles for our Spring Issue. As a Journal that centers in large part on the Public Interest, we are seeking at least one article that touches upon current Marijuana Law issue(s) and the effects that the issue(s) may have on the National Public Interest. For a sense of what we are seeking for our general issues, please feel free to visit this link.
If you would like to submit an article for review and possibly publication, or if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact our Lead Articles Editors - Rich Forzani and Hillary Wallace. They can be reached, respectively, at rich.forzani AT richmond.edu and hillary.wallace AT richmond.edu.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
As highlighted in this Washington Post Wonkblog piece, headlined "Survey: Support for legal weed drops 7 points in the past year," a few recent polls suggest a reversal of recent trends of growing support for marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts from the report (with key links preserved, and my emphasis added):
National support for legalized marijuana has slipped by seven percentage points in the past year, from 51 percent in 2013 to 44 percent today, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI asked 4,500 Americans about the intensity of their support for or opposition to legalizing marijuana. The year-over-year drop in overall support was concentrated among those who favored marijuana legalization last year, but not strongly. Opposition increased greatest among those who strongly opposed legal marijuana.
These numbers suggest that people who only slightly supported legalization last year have changed their minds, and that people who slightly opposed legalization now feel more strongly about it....
An October 2013 Gallup poll found strong support for marijuana legalization nationally, with 58 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed. The PRRI and Gallup numbers are not directly comparable, since the questions were worded differently in each survey. Moreover, survey responses on marijuana legalization tend to be highly sensitive to particular question wording.
Still, the year-over-year drop within this one poll is significant and well outside the poll's 1.8 point margin of error. If other surveys show similar findings, it could mean that Americans generally don't like the news coming out of Colorado and Washington - even if that news has been largely positive.
I have emphasized an important line in this discussion of this latest poll data because I think all polling on marijuana reform can be subject to a lot of varied responses among a significant number of folks who are not strongly for or strongly against reform in principle. Thus, I tend to view polling on specific ballot proposals in specific states as more important than broad national polls on these matters. But every bit for data about public opinion on this fast-evolving issue is still notable and potentially consequential.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The title of this post is drawn from the headline of this notable new AP article. Here are excerpts:
Tired of Cheech & Chong pot jokes and ominous anti-drug campaigns, the marijuana industry and activists are starting an ad blitz in Colorado aimed at promoting moderation and the safe consumption of pot. To get their message across, they are skewering some of the old Drug War-era ads that focused on the fears of marijuana, including the famous "This is your brain on drugs" fried-egg ad from the 1980s.
They are planning posters, brochures, billboards and magazine ads to caution consumers to use the drug responsibly and warn tourists and first-timers about the potential to get sick from accidentally eating too much medical-grade pot. "So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's biggest pot-policy advocacy group.
The MPP plans to unveil a billboard on Wednesday on a west Denver street where many pot shops are located that shows a woman slumped in a hotel room with the tagline: "Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation." It's an allusion to Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist who got sick from eating one on a visit to write about pot.
The campaign is a direct response to the state's post-legalization marijuana-education efforts. One of them is intended to prevent stoned driving and shows men zoning out while trying to play basketball, light a grill or hang a television. Many in the industry said the ads showed stereotypical stoners instead of average adults.
Even more concerning to activists is a youth-education campaign that relies on a human-sized cage and the message, "Don't Be a Lab Rat," along with warnings about pot and developing brains. The cage in Denver has been repeatedly vandalized. At least one school district rejected the traveling exhibit, saying it was well-intentioned but inappropriate.
"To me, that's not really any different than Nancy Reagan saying 'Just Say No,'" said Tim Cullen, co-owner of four marijuana dispensaries and a critic of the "lab rat" campaign, referring to the former first lady's effort to combat drug use....
The advocacy ads tackle anti-drug messaging from year past. Inside pictures of old TV sets are images from historic ads. Along with the fried-egg one is an image from one ad of a father finding his son's drug stash and demanding to know who taught him to use it. The kid answers: "You, all right! I learned it by watching you!"
The print ad concludes, "Decades of fear-mongering and condescending anti-marijuana ads have not taught us anything about the substance or made anyone safer." It then directs viewers to consumeresposibly.org, which is patterned after the alcohol industry's "Drink Responsibly" campaign.
September 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 5, 2014
If you're in the market for something to listen to while you do chores around the house this weekend or during your Monday commute, look no further. The most recent episode of the Marijuana Today, which covers marijuana policy news, podcast is now available. I served as one of the panelists this week, alongside Adam Smith and Dan Goldman, with host Kris Lotlikar. We talk about a new poll showing significant support for marijuana legalization, a Berkeley ordinance that requires marijuana dispensaries to distribute 2% of their product free of charge to patients below the poverty line, and a recent study that suggests medical marijuana legalization may reduce pain killer overdoses. You can download or listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.
Friday, August 15, 2014
As I noted a few weeks ago, a new podcast called Marijuana Today has started up to take a weekly look at the latest in marijuana business and politics.
I had the chance to appear as a panelist on this week's episode alongside Taylor West (Deputy Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association), Adam Smith (drug policy reform movement veteran), and the show's host, Kris Lotlikar. Though I'm biased, I thought it was a great conversation and I had a lot of fun doing it. We talked about Colorado's new youth anti-marijuana ads, federal roadblocks to marijuana research, and Gavin Newsom's latest comments on marijuana legalization, among other things.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I haven’t blogged for a while, but I’ve been enjoying Doug’s and Alex’s and Rebecca’s posts over the summer.
After starting up several new projects over the summer, I’m finally able to begin blogging again. In my first few posts, I’m actually going to focus on one of the projects that consumed my summer time -- a symposium paper I’m writing tentatively called The Local Option for Marijuana. The paper asks whether states should allow local governments to ban marijuana sales, notwithstanding state legalization of the drug. Doug, Alex, and I have debated the merits of the local option before – see posts and comments here, here, and here. I think we identified most of the major arguments both for and against local control. But it also became clear to me that many of our arguments depended on contested assumptions about the effects of local control. For example, local control looks a lot less appealing if it simply displaces – rather than reduces – the harms associated with marijuana distribution (DUIs, etc.). But it’ll probably be decades before we can know with any certainty what happens when local communities ban vs. allow marijuana distribution. And that will simply be too late for most states, which must decide now whether to grant local governments the option of banning marijuana sales.
Fortunately, we do have decades of experience with local control of alcohol that could prove instructive. Since the mid-to-late 1800s, states have delegated power to local governments to control – even ban -- the distribution of alcohol. Indeed, hundreds of counties inhabited by roughly 10% of the nation’s population remain “dry” today. Social scientists have exploited county-by -county variations to test the effects of various local controls on alcohol consumption, cirrhosis, traffic fatalities, etc. In this article, I’m poring through that research for lessons about local control over marijuana. I have a few tentatively formed conclusions that I’ll share in the coming days. As always, I’m open to comments, critiques, and suggestions – sources, avenues of inquiry, etc.
August 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, August 7, 2014
This morning's New York Times has this lengthy new article about the modern businesses surrounding marijuana reform headlined "Start-Ups Seize Marijuana Opportunities as Big Companies Hold Back." Here are excerpts:
When Garett Fortune’s brother was found to have cancer in early 2013, it was so advanced that all he could do was to try to live out the remainder of his life in as little pain and discomfort as possible. That meant taking about 30 pills a day, Mr. Fortune said — until his brother tried marijuana. “I saw him go from 30 pills a day to almost zero,” he said. “It helped his appetite and the nausea. He had a way better quality of life at the end than he would have without the cannabis. It made me a proponent of the industry.”
It also gave Mr. Fortune the idea for a business. With more states legalizing marijuana for medical uses — and, in Colorado and Washington, recreational ones — Mr. Fortune identified one of the industry’s challenges: packaging. The old standby, the resealable plastic bag, was not sufficiently effective, especially for a regulated industry, and Mr. Fortune already owned OdorNo, a company that made odor-proof bags for human and animal waste.
Mr. Fortune proposed a new product, odor-proof and child-resistant marijuana bags, to OdorNo’s advisory board. He expected the members to laugh him out of the room, but they did not. “Every single one of them told me: ‘This is the biggest opportunity on the planet right now. Follow that.’”
In May he licensed out production and distribution of OdorNo, and he and his team began building FunkSac in Denver. Although FunkSac bags are awaiting government approval, Mr. Fortune said he had hundreds of thousands of orders from cultivators, dispensaries and wholesalers. The company plans to begin delivering them this month and estimates it will have first-year revenue of about $2 million. Mr. Fortune said he had been contacted by dispensaries in 17 of the 22 states where medical marijuana was legal. “Right now,” he said, “it’s like drinking from a fire hose.”
To many, today’s cannabis industry resembles a modern-day Gold Rush. Troy Dayton, co-founder and chief executive of the ArcView Group in San Francisco, a network of 250 high-net-worth investors that backs cannabis start-ups, said more than 30 early-stage companies contact it every week. In the last year, he said, the group sent about $12 million in funding to 14 companies.
The size of the legal cannabis industry in the United States, measured by sales of the plant, was $1.5 billion in 2013, according to ArcView, which projects it will reach $2.6 billion in 2014 and $10 billion by 2018 — figures that do not include the growing numbers of ancillary businesses. The entire industry is dominated by small businesses, Mr. Dayton said, both because it is so new and because marijuana’s legality remains murky. Banks, for example, have been reluctant to take deposits or make loans to dispensaries because the drug is still illegal under federal law.
“You can’t have a national business,” Mr. Dayton said, because the laws vary by state. Opportunities for small businesses also exist because the stigma associated with the industry has discouraged bigger companies from getting involved. “You can’t find another industry growing at this clip that doesn’t have any major players,” he said. “That gives the little guy a chance to make a run at this.”...
SpeedWeed, a Los Angeles delivery service, allows customers to place an order online or by phone and have it delivered — depending on traffic — within 45 minutes. Although there are hundreds of marijuana delivery services in Los Angeles, AJ Gentile, a founder, said SpeedWeed was the largest. “Delivery services here are typically guys driving around in their car with a big box of weed,” he said.
Mr. Gentile said that SpeedWeed worked only with cultivators its legal team had vetted and that along with its delivery service, it planned to sell proprietary software to dispensaries nationwide. He estimated that the company had 20,000 legal customers and that revenue would double this year, up from $1.7 million in 2013.
Biological Advantage, founded in April, has a system of products it plans to introduce this month that are applied to a marijuana plant’s soil and leaves to enhance photosynthesis. The company’s chief executive, John Kempf, is also founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a crop-nutrition consulting company he started that has invested $400,000 in Biological Advantage. Mr. Kempf said his companies were a bit ahead of the game, anticipating what the market would need. “Growers aren’t yet looking at nutrition as a means for improving the medicinal concentrations in plants,” he said. “But they will.”