Thursday, April 26, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper authored by Paul Larkin now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:
Contemporary American society has decided that, whatever may be the benefits and harms of liberalizing marijuana use by adults, we should continue to outlaw the sale of recreational-use marijuana to children and adolescents. Even the states that permit recreational marijuana use under state law draw the line between adults and minors. Unfortunately, some companies pay only lip service to that line. The ability to develop products that closely resemble cookies, brownies, candies, and other substances that are attractive to children and adolescents — albeit, for different reasons — poses the risk that minors — some accidentally, some intentionally — will consume marijuana edibles found around the home or elsewhere. Any use of marijuana by children and long-term use of marijuana by adolescents poses health risks avoidable through federal prohibition or regulation of edibles.
To avoid the danger to their health and safety, the Justice Department and the FDA should take steps to prevent adulterated and mislabeled edibles from harming the public. Even if the Justice Department decides not to challenge the state medical or recreational use programs, the FDA should consider treating such edibles as adulterated foods under the FDCA — taking whatever steps are available to prevent the sale of any such products altogether — or to allow sales to go forward only under strictly regulated conditions. Doing so would help to reduce the danger that edibles pose to the health and safety of children and adolescents without materially interfering in state decisions on how to regulate the distribution of medical-use marijuana or the recreational use of that drug by adults.
April 26, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Paul J. Larkin Jr., a senior legal research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, has this interesting new Fox News commentary headlined "On marijuana, let the Food and Drug Administration make the decisions." Here are excerpts:
Reports about the Trump-Gardner deal and Schumer proposal [to reform federal marijuana laws and policies] raise several additional questions:
· Will the federal government pursue an entirely new policy regarding marijuana regulation?
· If so, will that new direction leave decision-making entirely up to the states?
· If not, will the federal government still play a role?
· Will that change lead to a net social plus or minus?
The answer to each of those questions is the same: “Maybe yes, maybe no.” That’s because there is another possible option lying between “absolute federal ban” and “complete state freedom.”...
In 1962, Congress also prohibited the distribution of new drugs unless the FDA commissioner first found them to be both “safe” and “effective.” Since then, Congress has consistently reiterated that the FDA should be responsible for making those decisions – not Congress, not the states, not the public. It’s an important matter. We do not decide by plebiscite which drugs should be sold to the public. America has resolved that experts should make that decision because the average person lacks the education, training and experience to answer the medical question of whether a particular drug is safe and effective.
Why should we treat marijuana differently? For more than two decades, states have decided to reconsider their marijuana laws and permit people to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes even though the distribution of marijuana is forbidden under federal law. Three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – each failed to force Congress to decide whether federal law should also be re-examined.
President Trump may be willing to do what his three predecessors should have done. It is time for Congress to take up this subject once again. Great nations, like great people, always must be willing to reconsider their laws in light of new developments. It makes sense for Congress to revisit this issue.
But that does not mean senators and representatives should act in a vacuum, without regard for the nation’s designated authority on food and drug safety. Nor should members of Congress simply act according to polling results. We do not let the public decide which antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or chemotherapy drugs can be marketed. There is no reason to treat marijuana differently.
Congress has never let the FDA decide this issue, because federal law has treated marijuana as contraband since the year before the FDCA became law. Maybe we should treat marijuana in the same way that we treat any other new drug that someone argues should be used therapeutically.
No healthy democracy can afford to glibly disregard the opinions of experts on matters within their expertise. Since 1962, the United States has decided to trust the FDA with the responsibility to resolve any debate, either within or beyond the scientific community, over a drug’s safety and efficacy. That decision is entitled to no less respect today than it was 50 years ago.
So maybe Congress will re-examine the treatment of marijuana under federal law and send the nation in a new direction. But maybe that new direction will be to leave the decision how to treat marijuana in the hands of the person we trust to make other, similar decisions: the commissioner of food and drugs. And maybe that approach will be a net social plus. We certainly think so with respect to other drugs. Perhaps, it’s time to enlist the FDA commissioner to make a scientific judgment about this issue too.
April 25, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 13, 2017
This new Business Insider article, headlined "We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner," provides a pretty reasonable review of basic public health research concerning marijuana and alcohol. Here is how the article starts, its main boldheadings, and it conclusion:
Which is worse for you: weed or whiskey? It's a tough call, but based on the science, there appears to be a clear winner.
Keep in mind that there are dozens of factors to account for, including how the substances affect your heart, brain, and behavior, and how likely you are to get hooked. Time is important, too — while some effects are noticeable immediately, others only begin to shape up after months or years of use.
The comparison is slightly unfair for another reason: While scientists have been researching the effects of alcohol for decades, the science of cannabis is a lot murkier due to its mostly illegal status.
30,722 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been 0 documented deaths from marijuana use alone. ...
Marijuana appears to be significantly less addictive than alcohol. ...
Marijuana may be harder on your heart; while moderate drinking could be beneficial....
Alcohol is strongly linked with several types of cancer; marijuana is not....
Both drugs may be linked with risks while driving, but alcohol is worse. ...
Several studies link alcohol with violence, particularly at home. That has not been found for cannabis. ...
Both drugs negatively impact your memory, but in different ways. These effects are the most common in heavy, frequent, or binge users. ...
Both drugs are linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disease. For weed users, psychosis and schizophrenia are the main concern; with booze, it's depression and anxiety....
Alcohol appears to be linked more closely with weight gain than marijuana, despite weed's tendency to trigger the munchies. ...
All things considered, alcohol's effects seem markedly more extreme — and risky — than marijuana's.
When it comes to their addiction profile and their risk of death or overdose combined with their ties to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.
Still, because of marijuana's largely illegal status, long-term studies on all of its health effects have been limited — meaning that more research is desperately needed.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new New York Daily News article headlined "Science: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin, fit and active." I am not sure the article that follows entire backs up the implication of this headline, but here are excerpts from the article that are still encouraging:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Here’s a new health-related adage to consider: Regular consumption of marijuana keeps you thin and active. According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, people who use marijuana more than five times per month have a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who do not marijuana.
The researchers concluded: “Heavy users of cannabis had a lower mean BMI compared to that of never users, with a mean BMI being 26.7 kg/m in heavy users and 28.4 kg/m in never users.”
The study also suggested that people who consume marijuana on a regular basis are more physically activity than those that use it sporadically or not at all.
Of course, this is not the first time scientific studies have reached this conclusion: A study published last year in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics suggests that regular consumers of cannabis have a lower BMI than those who do not use the drug.
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis consumers have 16 percent lower levels of fasting insulin and 17 percent lower insulin resistance levels than non-users. The research found “significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences.”
And data published in British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that cannabis consumers had a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of contracting the disease than did those with no history of cannabis consumption.
In the 2016 study, lead author Isabelle C. Beulaygue from the University of Miami concluded: “There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [THEY]are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case.”
Researchers have not identified the reason behind the findings. But some suggest that those who consume cannabis regularly may be able to more easily break down blood sugar, which may help prevent weight gain.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
A notable new Live Science article reporting on notable new research has me seriously wondering if marijuana reform could help Americans better tackle our long-running obesity epidemic. The article is headlined "Daily Marijuana Use Linked to Lower BMI," and here are the highlights:
People who smoke marijuana daily may be slimmer than those who don't use the drug, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people in the study who used marijuana daily had about a 3 percent lower BMI (body mass index), on average, than those who did not use marijuana at all.
"There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [they] are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case," said lead study author Isabelle C. Beulaygue, a research support specialist in interventional radiology at the University of Miami.
In the study, the researchers looked at more than 13,000 adults ages 18 to 26. The researchers collected body measurements to calculate the participants' BMIs, and tested the participants for marijuana use. Six years later, when the participants were between ages 24 and 32, the researchers looked again at their marijuana use and BMIs.
The researchers found that the BMIs of women who smoked marijuana daily during the study were 3.1 percent lower than the BMIs of women who did not smoke marijuana daily during the study period. And the BMIs of men who smoked marijuana daily were 2.7 percent lower than the BMIs of those who did not smoke marijuana, according to the study [which is available at this link], published in September in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics....
One of the strengths of the new study was that the researchers controlled for various factors of a person's lifestyle that can normally affect people's weight, such as their diet, exercise and alcohol consumption, according to the study. Even after the researchers took these factors into consideration, the link between marijuana use and lower BMI held, the researchers said.
Beulaygue said that the researchers are not advocating for marijuana as a new weight loss tool. Previous research has linked marijuana use to potential health effects on the brain and the heart. Moreover, the new study does not prove that smoking marijuana causes people to lose weight or helps them to avoid gaining weight. Rather, it merely shows that there is a link between marijuana use and lower BMI, Beulaygue told Live Science.
The researchers said they don't know for sure what mechanism may explain this link. However, previous research has suggested that people who use marijuana regularly may break down blood sugar more quickly, which, in turn, may help to prevent weight gain, the researchers said.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
The state-wide elected (Republican) Auditor of Ohio, Dave Yost, has penned this fascinating new commentary headlined "Ohio marijuana proposal echo cautionary tale of margarine prohibition." The whole piece merits a full read, and here are some of the historical insights and lessons Auditor Yost presents:
Margarine prohibition ended in Ohio via the ballot box in 1949. How it happened sheds some light on the attempts to repeal marijuana prohibition this year.
Oleomargarine, as it was known at the dawn of the 20th century, was invented in France as a result of a prize offered for the invention of a cheap substitute for butter. The invention spread quickly to the United States....
[The invention caused] alarm among Wisconsin dairy farmers who correctly concluded that a tasty, less expensive alternative to their butter would create a drop in sales and cut into their income. Threatened by the competition, they won passage of new laws banning the sale of yellow oleomargarine. In 1890, Ohio enacted its own prohibition on yellow oleomargarine. Plain white oleo was legal – only the kinds that looked like butter were against the law.
White oleo could be sold with yellow dye packets that could be mixed in at home. The additional labor, at a time before power mixers and food processors, was not well received in Ohio's kitchens. The end result was frequently a swirled effect, yellow and white. At least it didn't look like rendered pig fat. (That's what lard is, of course.)
The matter was challenged in court as an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 1903 held that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to the states, only the federal government.
So, aggrieved Ohioans turned to their legislature, seeking relief. Year after long year, they were whipped by the powerful dairy lobby – a potent political force at a time when every county had at least one representative in the House, no matter how small its population.
The political churn made Ohioans burn with passion – they yearned to keep more of what they earned by purchasing cheaper butter substitute. Finally, they turned to the initiative process, collected petition signatures, and placed the issue on the 1949 November ballot, ending prohibition against yellow oleo once and for all.
Today, the self-proclaimed ResponsibleOhio is seeking an end to marijuana prohibition through the initiative process – but with a twist. If approved by voters, it would write into the Ohio Constitution the location of ten farms that would be allowed to grow marijuana, exclusively.
A business plan shouldn't be written into the constitution. Even if you're for ending prohibition – of oleo or marijuana – writing into the constitution an exclusive license to make the newly legalized product is a bad idea. It wasn't needed for oleo legalization, and it's not needed for marijuana legalization either.
A legalized, properly licensed market should be available to all comers, not just the few with the money to enshrine into the Ohio Constitution a monopoly for themselves. Oleo prohibition ended at the hands of the voters – and without the creation of a cartel of rich guys to control the market. If it is the judgment of the voters of Ohio that marijuana prohibition should end, the ResponsibleOhio amendment is the wrong way to go about it.
I find this commentary fascinating not only because I did not know Ohio's margarine prohibition history, but also because it suggests many legal reform lessons. In my view, this Ohio margerine prohibition history highlights that: (1) even when lots of citizens desire a product, entrenched economic and social interests and lobbyists can get Ohio legislators to enact big-government, market-imparing prohibitions placing the short-term interests of insiders over the long-term interests of citizens, and (2) because entrenched insiders have power and influence in Ohio, citizens outsiders will sometimes have to go directy to the people to amend Ohio law in order to reflect the long-term interests of Ohioans rather than the short-term interests of entrenched insiders.
I am an advocate of marijuana reform in part because I see the development of ballot-driven reform efforts in Ohio and some other states to be a (healthy) reaction to entrenched insiders failing to respond properly to the citizenry's views on both medical and recreational marijuana. I believe the controversial ResponsibleOhio reform model emerged (and could become Ohio constitutional law) primarily because the Ohio General Assembly for years failed to even consider any kind of medical marijuana reform (even as nearly 40 states and many members of Congress now have come to understand the potential benefits of canabis for those suffering from chronic pain or severe seizure disorders or PTSD).
Thanks to Auditor Yost, I now know entrenched anti-margarine interests required the Ohio people to move forward with prohibition repeal via initiative back in the 1940s . Now, 65 years later, Ohio history is repeating itself as entrenched anti-marijuana interests are requiring the Ohio people to move forward with desired prohibition repeal via initiative. And even if the ResponsibleOhio model does not in 2015 succeed in creating the kind of "legalized, properly licensed market" that Auditor Yost and the citizens of Ohio seem eager to consider, I am cautiously hopeful that other outsider groups will continue in Ohio (and elsewhere) to mobilize citizens to support personal freedom over prohibition, legal markets over black markets, economic potential over problematic paternalism.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The question in the title of this post is my first-cut reaction to this news story carrying the headline, "Sugary drinks linked to 25,000 deaths in the U.S. each year." Here is the press account of a notable new public health report:
By contributing to obesity and, through that, to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks appears to claim the lives of about 25,000 American adults yearly and is linked worldwide to the deaths of 180,000 each year, new research says.
Low- and middle-income countries are bearing the brunt of the death toll attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks, according to an assessment published Monday in the American Heart Assn.'s journal, Circulation. Each year, more than 3 in 4 of the world's deaths attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages occur in those poor and developing countries.
In Mexico -- a country with one of the world's highest per-capita consumption of sweetened drinks -- about 24,000 adults' deaths in 2010 were attributed to overconsumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. That translated into the highest death rate of the world's 20 most populous nations: 405 deaths per million adults in one year. The United States ranked second. In 2010, there were 125 deaths per million adults, or about 25,000 deaths total....
As incomes grow in many developing nations, some are experiencing spurts in obesity that mirror, in compressed form, Americans' four-decade run-up in weight. Many researchers attribute those patterns, at least in part, to increases in their populations' consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which add calories without improving nutrition. "This is not complicated," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a senior author of the new research. "There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year."
The comprehensive report on sugary beverages and death does not reflect the effect of such consumption on the health of children. It does find chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages more common in younger adults than in their elders. That fact is likely to have a major effect on future economies because it imperils the long-term productivity of a key group of workers.
If these young people continue to guzzle sugar-sweetened beverages at their current rate, said study coauthor Gitanjali Singh, the consequences could be dire. Compounded by the effects of aging, this generation's high rates of sugary drink consumption may push its rates of death and disability from heart disease and diabetes even higher than those seen in the current study, said Singh, also of Friedman School.
I have long believed that persons truly committed to improving public health in the United States ought to worry a lot less about marijuana reform effort and worry a lot more about reducing consumption of current legal but obviously harmful products like tobacco and alcohol and refined sugar. This latest research reinforces my sense that, from a public health perspective, we ought to be at least as concerned about the harms of Mountain Dew as we are about the harms of a doobie.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new Time article, which includes these excerpts:
The exact impact of marijuana on driving ability is a controversial subject—and it’s become more important states continue to loosen their drug laws. And, while drunk driving is on the decline in the U.S., driving after having smoked or otherwise consumer marijuana has become more common. According to the most recent national roadside survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of weekend nighttime drivers, 8.3 percent had some alcohol in their system and 12.6 percent tested positive for THC—up from 8.6 percent in 2007....
[In a recent federal study], researchers looked at 250 parameters of driving ability, but this paper focused on three in particular: weaving within the lane, the number of times the car left the lane, and the speed of the weaving. While alcohol had an effect on the number of times the car left the lane and the speed of the weaving, marijuana did not. Marijuana did show an increase in weaving. Drivers with blood concentrations of 13.1 ug/L THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, showed increase weaving that was similar to those with a .08 breath alcohol concentration, the legal limit in most states. For reference, 13.1 ug/L THC is more than twice the 5 ug/L numeric limit in Washington and Colorado....
The study also found that pot and alcohol have more of an impact on driving when used together. Drivers who used both weaved within lanes, even if their blood THC and alcohol concentrations were below the threshold for impairment taken on their own.... Smoking pot while drinking a little alcohol also increased THC’s absorption, making the high more intense. Similarly, THC delayed the peak of alcohol impairment, meaning that it tended to take longer for someone using both to feel drunk. Such data is important to educate the public about pot’s effects before they get on the road.
“I think this has added really good knowledge from a well-designed study to add to the current debate,” on marijuana’s effects on road safety, says Dr. Marilyn Huestis, the principal investigator in the study, which was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new AP article. Here is how it gets started:
Acclaimed chef Chris Lanter is talking a crowd of eager foodies through a demo on cooking with marijuana. As he prepares steak au poivre, he describes how to deglaze the pan with pot-infused brandy. How to pair marijuana with fine foods. How to make marijuana's skunky tang work for a dish, not ruin it. One catch — there's no actual weed at his demonstration.
Marijuana aficionados paid $250 for a weekend-long celebration of marijuana and food, yet state and city regulations prohibit any "open and public" use of the drug, even at licensed businesses holding private events.
It's a strange dichotomy. The nascent marijuana industry in Colorado is moving well beyond just pot brownies. Dispensaries are doing a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug. But for now, halting attempts at creating a marijuana dining scene have had mixed results.
Colorado may have legalized marijuana, but it still prohibits "on-site consumption," a caveat aimed at preventing Amsterdam-style coffee shops where pot can be purchased and consumed in the same place. Recreational or medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and Washington, DC. ? though each state prohibits on-site consumption and pot sales in bars or restaurants.
As Colorado's recreational industry nears its first anniversary, authorities increasingly are cracking down on attempts to push the pot-dining envelope. The city of Denver, where the marijuana industry is concentrated, wrote 668 tickets for "open and public consumption" through September, up from 117 the year before, when marijuana was legal, but sales were not. And the county that includes Colorado Springs is trying to crack down on so-called "smoke-easys," or private clubs that allow marijuana use, sometimes paired with refreshments.
Even private events at restaurants aren't safe. Denver authorities are using permit codes and alcohol laws to fine and even press charges against people trying to throw private events at which pot foods are served.
The result has been that chefs interested in infusing foods with pot, or pairing regular dishes with certain strains thought to accent a particular flavor, are unable to try it outside catered events at private homes. Even chefs who will talk publicly about doing "medicated" catered house parties, like Lanter, are skittish about sharing details.
Monday, November 24, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new AP article. Here are excerpts:
From new marijuana strains for the holidays to gift sets and pot-and-pumpkin pies, the burgeoning marijuana industry in Colorado is scrambling to get a piece of the holiday shopping dollar. Dispensaries in many states have been offering holiday specials for medical customers for years — but this first season of open-to-all-adults marijuana sales in some states means pot shops are using more of the tricks used by traditional retailers to attract holiday shoppers....
The Grass Station in Denver is selling an ounce of marijuana for $50 — about a fifth of the cost of the next-cheapest strain at the Colorado dispensary — to the first 16 customers in line Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That works out to less than $1 a joint for the ambitious early-rising pot shopper. Owner Ryan Fox says his Black Friday pot is decent quality, and says he's selling below cost to attract attention and pick up some new customers....
Sweets and marijuana seem to go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. Many dispensaries this time of year resemble a Starbucks at the mall, with holiday spices and festive music in the air. One of the state's largest edible-pot makers, Sweet Grass Kitchen, debuted a new miniature pumpkin pie that delivers about as much punch as a medium-sized joint. The pie joins holiday-spiced teas, minty pot confections and cannabis-infused honey oil for those who want to bake their own pot goodies at home.
Even some edibles makers that specialize in savory foods, not sweets, are putting out some sugary items for the holidays. "It just tastes too good, we had to do it," Better Baked owner Deloise Vaden said of her company's holiday line of cannabis-infused sweet-potato and pumpkin pies....
Colorado Harvest and Evergreen Apothecary timed the release of some top-shelf strains of potent pot for the holiday season. Spokeswoman Ann Dickerson says they're "sort of like the best bourbon or Scotch that will be competing on quality, rather than price."...
For the shopper who wants to give pot but doesn't know how the recipient likes to get high, Colorado's 300 or so recreational dispensaries so far have been able to issue only handwritten gift certificates. That's because banking regulations prohibit major credit cards companies from being able to back marijuana-related gift cards the way they do for other retailers.
Just this month, a Colorado company started offering pot shops a branded gift card they can sell just like other retailers. The cards are in eight Denver dispensaries so far, and coming soon will be loyalty cards similar to grocery-store loyalty cards that track purchases and can be used to suggest sales or new products to frequent shoppers.
November 24, 2014 in Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, November 22, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting and lengthy NBC News article. Here are excerpts:
The specter of corporate cannabis loomed large on Tuesday, when the family of Bob Marley appeared on NBC’s Today Show, announcing the creation of Marley Natural. The world’s first global brand of marijuana launched with the support of $50 million dollars in private equity and the same marketing machine that took Starbucks to the masses.
“We see the inevitability of large, well-run companies to sell cannabis,” said Brendan Kennedy, the CEO of Privateer Holding, the Seattle-based company that’s behind the Marley brand. “That train left the station a long time ago.”
Less than a year after Colorado and Washington state opened the first commercial pot markets, and less than a month after two more states voted to follow suit, such frank capitalism has shocked the smiling wise-men of weed and their crusading friends in the legalization movement. Most hoped the market would remain a cottage industry of small-scale growers, collectives and dispensaries. Few expect it will....
Alcohol and tobacco interests are also keeping an eye on the burgeoning market. The alcohol industry in particular has been communicating with representatives of NORML, DPA, and the Marijuana Policy Project, according to sources on both sides of the table.
They want to know whether pot will be a friend or a foe — a complement to their products, or, as some marijuana reformers have argued, an alternative that could sap America’s love of drinking. The marijuana lobby accepts these overtures out of a combination of curiosity, realism, and smart strategy. If a takeover is inevitable, they figure, it’s better to be prepared.
“Beer, wine and tobacco people — I’ve met with them all,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, which is above all a consumer rights organization. He doesn’t love the idea of Big Pot, but he believes it will help guarantee that users get a quality product at a fair price....
St. Pierre hopes to create a “Dionysus lobby,” built on the shared interests of alcohol, tobacco and pot. All three industries want low taxes, the right to advertise freely, and the ability to make convenient sales, he said. But so far the legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington are plainly over-regulated, he added, prejudiced against pot consumers, who should be allowed to buy marijuana as easily and safely as they do beer or wine or a pack of smokes.
“I’ve tried to say, ‘look, none of us should be hiding,’” he said. “All of us are involved in a problematic adult consumer product and all of us enjoy using one or more of these products,” he continued. “What do we want? We can get it down to four words, almost a Wal-Mart bumper sticker: ‘Best product, lowest cost.’”
He said that one of his warmest receptions came from the Distilled Spirits Council, or Discus, which represents the leading producers and marketers of liquor in the United States. One day last July a senior member of Discus called St. Pierre, according to an account of the conversation that St. Pierre emailed to a colleague.
That account along with a follow-up interview with St. Pierre illustrates how marijuana has sent a twinned-bolt of fear and excitement through the spines of alcohol executives. The Discus executive congratulated the industry on its wins at the ballot box, St. Pierre recalled. The executive also assured the marijuana lobby that the nation’s largest liquor makers would not fight legalization as long as the public supported it.
He estimated that a third of Discus board want to get into the marijuana business, a third oppose legalization, and a third believe that the industry should take a neutral position, according to St. Pierre’s recollections. But Discus conveyed a threat as well, a complaint against the way marijuana advocates were demonizing alcohol in their campaigns. “Marijuana is safer than alcohol,” is perhaps MPP’s most used slogan in fact, and the group relentlessly argues that America would be a healthier place if we put down our tumblers and decided to toke.
If such talk continued, the Discus rep said, according to St. Pierre’s recollection, the liquor industry would have no choice but to launch a counter-attack. That, St. Pierre agreed, wouldn’t be good for anyone....
The Beer Institute, which represents the nation’s 2,800 breweries, and the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America also confirmed meetings and calls with the marijuana lobby but denied wanting to get into the business.
All three show signs of the same double vision of marijuana as both opportunity and threat. Earlier this year, Brown-Forman Corp., which owns Jack Daniel's, told investors that the spread of legalization could hurt its sales. The Beer Institute is officially neutral on the question of marijuana legalization. But Chris Thorne, the vice president of communications, seemed to take a shot at the new industry and its claim as a safe alternative to booze.
“We believe that it’s misleading to compare marijuana to beer,” he said in a phone interview. “We are committed to responsible advertising, working with public officials and law enforcement, and supporting communities in the countries where we operate. I don’t think any of that is true for marijuana. There are a lot of unanswered questions about marijuana — questions about its effect on the brain, and on young people — and we think legislators would be wise to look at these questions as they consider the legalization of marijuana.”
But at the same time, the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America may be ready to make marijuana work for it. Earlier this year, in a letter sent to all fifty U.S. attorneys general and governors, the president of the WSWA argued that if a state decides to legalize marijuana, it should regulate it with the same three-tiered distribution system set up for alcohol after prohibition — a move some analysts interpreted as a sign that alcohol companies would be open to moving pot as well....
Tobacco executives, meanwhile, have been studying the marijuana industry for years, according to Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His research has drawn an 80-million page archive of tobacco industry documents, spanning the 1960s to the late 1990s. Many of the documents reference softening pot laws, rising use, and the dual threat/opportunity of a third major vice industry.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
This new Denver Post article, headlined "Proposed Colorado marijuana edibles ban shows lingering pot discord," documents the enduring challenges and debates over the best regulatory frameworks for states which have moved away from total marijuana prohibition. Here are excerpts:
Colorado's health department proposed an industry-spinning ban on the sales of nearly all forms of edible marijuana at recreational pot shops Monday but then quickly backed away from the plan amid an industry outcry and questions over legality.
After a heated, four-hour hearing, the public policy Tilt-A-Whirl ride ended where it began: with lawmakers, regulators and stakeholders still in disagreement — now more than 10 months after the start of recreational pot sales — on the best way to manage marijuana in Colorado. "This is by far the simplest recommendation," state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said of the health department's proposal. "But I don't know if it gets us to where we want to be."
The aim of the state advisory group that met Monday to consider the health department's proposal and several others is to prevent people — mostly kids — from accidentally eating marijuana-infused products. Such accidental ingestions have sent children to the hospital, caused an increase in calls to poison-control hotlines and become one of the key measures lawmakers use in discussing whether legal marijuana sales can fit harmoniously in society.
Sales of infused edibles make up about 45 percent of the legal marijuana marketplace, said Dan Anglin, the chairman of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
The health department's recommendation was one of 11 proposals the group considered Monday. Most suggested the state create clearer labels for marijuana-infused products or require producers to make edible marijuana items in a unique shape or dyed a unique color.
Many of those proposals, though, quickly met with a familiar back-and-forth. One side would offer the suggestion; the other side would bat it down. Stamp a symbol onto edibles denoting the products contain marijuana? Too easily rubbed off, edibles producers said. Improve labeling and require edibles to stay with their packages? Too easily ignored to spread unmarked edibles, groups concerned about marijuana said.
Require producers to dye their products a specific color or airbrush on a symbol? "You can't force a company to use an ingredient they don't want to," said advisory group member Julie Dooley, an owner of Julie & Kate Baked Goods, an edibles producer.
In the debate, there was talk of Sour Patch Kids and marijuana-infused sodas, discussion of the cost of chocolate molds, and these words: "I think soft candy is such a broad category."
Amid this atmosphere, Colorado health department official Jeff Lawrence presented the department's proposed ban on the sales of all edibles except hard candies and tinctures. Lawrence said the disagreement over more-nuanced regulations pushed the department to propose something more sweeping. "If it couldn't be achieved," he said, "we were looking at something that could be achieved."
But the proposal — word of which spread in an Associated Press report before the meeting — quickly met a buzz saw. Industry advocates questioned whether edibles could be banned under Amendment 64, Colorado's marijuana-legalization measure. Singer worried a ban would create a "marijuana Whac-A-Mole situation" where edibles production moved into the black market. Andrew Freedman, the state's marijuana policy coordinator, said the governor's office did not support a ban.
The health department later in the day put out a news release acknowledging that the department did not consider the proposal's constitutionality or ask the governor's office to review it. Instead, the proposal was put forward to generate discussion. "Considering only the public health perspective, however, edibles pose a definite risk to children, and that's why we recommended limiting marijuana-infused products to tinctures and lozenges," Larry Wolk, the executive director of the department, said in a statement.
The discussion seemed mostly over by the end of Monday's meeting, as talk returned to more incremental forms of edibles regulation. Any final proposals from the advisory group will be presented in a report to the legislature next year. The Department of Revenue, which regulates marijuana businesses, must adopt final rules on the topic by 2016.
Monday, September 1, 2014
A few weeks ago, Talkingpointsmemo.com posted a long-form article, available only to TPM Prime subscribers, title "Can Big Pot and Big Alcohol Get Along?". I finally had a chance to read it. Though a lot of points in the article will be familiar to those who follow this issue, it has one of the most comprehensive looks at the alcohol industry's reaction to marijuana legalization that I've seen. And, as the article notes, the alcohol industry now views legalization as inevitable:
Beer, wine and liquor do not care that legalization isn’t technically on the books. For them, it’s already a foregone conclusion. And that means that weed is already a real competitor.
Beer and wine may be as American as a baseball game, but Big Alcohol doesn’t feel at all relaxed about this debate. At alcohol trade association meetings, pot is already spoken of as a key competitor. A vigorous internal discussion has been taking place within the industry to figure out how they can establish working relationships with the marijuana world, and what to do if they can’t.
At the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association’s annual legal symposium, which draws state regulatory agency officials, corporate counsel, industry policymakers and private attorneys, a representative from the Marijuana Policy Project spoke. Attendees said that during the Q&A, “a couple people stood up and kind of attacked her” about MPP’s alcohol-bashing tactics.
While Big Alcohol has expressed that they would prefer to co-exist amicably in the marketplace, in their minds, the marijuana industry has to make a choice: pot can choose to be their friend, or to be their enemy. And if Big Pot decides they want to continue to launch regular attacks on alcohol, then alcohol will ultimately fight back.
The whole piece is well worth reading. Unfortunately, to do so, you'll need a subscription (at $50/year)--not really worth it for just this one article. But TPM is one of the best independent journalism sites around and subscribing is a great way to support a valuable news source (not to mention a good value for those who closely follow political/policy news.) So, if you're a TPM reader who has thought about signing up for the Prime subscription before, this article could provide a bit of an extra incentive.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
From Colorado comes news that updated regulations for edible marijuana products are moving forward. The Denver Post reports the details:
Under a draft proposal, the state would essentially regulate out of existence bite-sized products that pack in 100 milligrams of active THC, the maximum allowed by state law.
The draft rules from the Department of Revenue would provide incentives for companies to produce 10 milligram products — the standardized serving size under state law — by putting greater burdens on manufacturers of products between 10 and 100 milligrams.
For example, a candy bar in that range would need to be divided into sections that can easily be broken off, with each section marked or stamped with its THC content. Edibles that don't lend themselves to such division — say, granola or potato chips — would need to come in packages with no more than 10 milligrams total.
As I wrote here a few weeks ago, I believe that permitting the sale of bite sized candies that contain 10 doses of marijuana is regulatory insanity. It's good to see that Colorado is moving quickly to address the problem.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Though not a marijuana story, this BoingBoing post made me think back to an episodes of the classic TV sitcom Taxi and I could not resist posting a clip. The BoingBoing headline: "$50k worth of cocaine baked into delicious cookies seized at US airport." And here's a scene from the Taxi episode:
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this new Time piece. Here is a snippet:
Cannabis-infused coffee is expected to be available in Washington state in July, the product’s developer Adam Stites told The Huffington Post earlier this week. A tongue-in-cheek manifesto for the brand “Mirth Provisions” says the product will “establish unprecedented chillness” and enable consumers to “listen to the dark side of the Moon again.”
Stites described the effect of the cold brew — which also comes in a cream and sugar variety — as “wake and bake,” in an interview with MyNorthwest.com. He claims it contains 20mg THC, which will give drinkers about the same buzz as an “IPA or glass of wine.”
As more and more pot edibles pop up on the market, there are concerns that people will overeat them and harm themselves and others, raising questions about how much cannabis regulation is needed.
Though this news can and surely will prompt plenty of jokes about a pot of pot coffee, it serves for me as yet another indication that products for marijuana consumption in methods other than smoking are likely to play a major role in the future of this industry.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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)
Saturday, February 1, 2014
A few months ago, I wondered aloud in this post whether debates over marijuana reform would be a lot different if eating pot was far more common than smoking it. Today I see that the New York Times has this front-page story concerning marijuana edibles under the headline "Snacks Laced With Marijuana Raise Concerns." Here are excerpts:
As marijuana tiptoes further toward the legal mainstream, marijuana-infused snacks have become a booming business, with varieties ranging from chocolate-peppermint Mile High Bars to peanut butter candies infused with hash oil. Retail shops see them as a nonthreatening way into the shallow end of the marijuana pool, ideal for older customers, tourists staying in smoke-free hotels or anyone who wants the effect without the smoke and coughing.
But the popularity of edible marijuana has alarmed parents’ groups, schools and some doctors, who say the highly concentrated snacks are increasingly landing in the hands of teenagers looking for a sweet, discreet high, or of children too young to know the difference between pot brownies and regular ones....
One survey has found a small but growing number of children seeking treatment after accidentally consuming marijuana. Fourteen such children visited the emergency department of Children’s Hospital Colorado in the Denver area from October 2009 through December 2011, researchers reported last year in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Before 2009, researchers reported no marijuana exposures.
The research took place after an explosion of medical-marijuana shops in Colorado, but before voters passed measures to legalize the sales and use of recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older. Dr. George Sam Wang, an author of the study and a clinical instructor in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, said he had not seen any additional increases in children’s marijuana exposure since recreational sales began the first of this year.
Marijuana, even if consumed by children in high doses, poses few of the grave dangers of overdosing on alcohol or drinking household chemicals. But doctors said young children who consume marijuana are at risk of falling and hurting themselves or falling asleep in a position where they could not breathe. For the most part, doctors who treated children in the study advised that the children be watched closely as their bodies digested the drug. “There’s no antidote, no medicine that reverses this,” Dr. Wang said.
Compared with the 14 children who were treated after consuming marijuana, the hospital treated 48 children who had swallowed acetaminophen — the active ingredient in Tylenol — and 32 who had accidentally taken antihistamines during the same time period.
Regulators, manufacturers and retailers say they are working intensely to keep marijuana — edible or not — safe and tightly regulated. If they fail, federal authorities have warned they could step in and take action.
Monday, August 19, 2013
[S]ome health professionals say it’s a matter of picking your poison. "It’s like trying to compare different weapons. Both have the potential to cause harm," said Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, professor and vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine, at University of Florida. "I don’t know that there’s a clear answer."
For starters, the term toxic can be vague. Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa, said toxic can be "anything that causes harm. It is possible to drink enough water to poison yourself. It’s more related to the dose than anything else."
The Marijuana Policy Project’s claim that marijuana is "less toxic" rankles some health professionals and anti-drug organizations who criticize the inference that using the drug is okay....
Our rulingAn ad from the Marijuana Policy Project claims marijuana is "less toxic" than alcohol. Our job as fact-checkers in this case is not to decide whether marijuana is good or harmful. We're focused on whether the drug in its natural form is "less toxic" than alcohol.
In that regard, science and statistics present a strong case:
- Deaths or even trips to the hospital are much more likely due to alcohol;
- Scientists could not find any documented deaths from smoking marijuana;
- A study found the safety ratio for marijuana (the number of doses to cause death) is much greater than compared to alcohol. Put another way, marijuana is 100 times less toxic than alcohol.
Overall, we rate this claim Mostly True.