Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Unsurprisingly after Ohio legislators act, MPP suspends 2016 campaign for medical marijuana ballot initiative ... (so they can gear up for 2018 or 2020 recreation one?)

Download (18)As reported in this local breaking story, headlined "Ohioans for Medical Marijuana suspends ballot initiative campaign," the passage of a big medical marijuana bill by the Ohio General Assembly this past week has now already had a major impact of Ohio marijuana reform policy and practicalities. Here are the details:

Ohioans won't vote on a broader medical marijuana legalization measure in November after state lawmakers passed a bill earlier this week.  Ohioans for Medical Marijuana [OMM] announced Saturday they suspended their campaign. The decision came three days after the passage of House Bill 523, which allows people with certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation and Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign.

"We make this decision with a heavy heart as we will surely disappoint our many volunteers, supporters and patient-advocates who invested considerable time and effort in our movement," campaign manager Brandon Lynaugh said in a statement. The group was backed by national group Marijuana Policy Project [MPP], which has a track record for successful lobbying and ballot initiative efforts.

 When they announced their Ohio effort in January, the GOP-led General Assembly seemed unlikely to pass a comprehensive medical marijuana bill before November . But testimony from Ohioans who said they would benefit from medical marijuana and the possibility of such a program being written into the Ohio Constitution pushed legislators to pass a bill before leaving Columbus for the summer.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger welcomed the news in a statement sent Saturday morning and said it was an indication of lawmakers' willingness to listen and respond to the will of Ohioans. "Thanks to the open and transparent process that began in the Ohio House in which voices from all sides of the debate were invited to testify, we were able to join together around a proposal that is both reflective of public opinion and protective of the state's constitution," Rosenberger said.

The bill excluded some of the conditions in the proposed amendment and prohibited smoking and growing marijuana plants at home.  As the bill moved through the Statehouse, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana said those aspects of the bill pushed them to continue collecting the nearly 306,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the November ballot.  Until Saturday.

Lynaugh called the House bill "moderately good" and the organization will lobby the legislature to address its shortcomings.  Lynaugh said raising money for a medical-only initiative proved difficult after lawmakers passed the bill.  "The legislature's action on medical marijuana was a step forward, and thanks to the intense advocacy efforts of patients and their families, activists and our team the bill was vastly improved before passage," Lynaugh said.

I had predicted to anyone who would listen that Ohioians would likely not get a chance to vote on full marijuana legalization in 2016 if the controversial Issue 3 ballot initiative proposal before voters in 2015 lost badly (which it did). Part of my reasoning was that possible funders of such a campaign would not be eager to make a significant investment in a possible losing proposition. For largely the same reasons, I had been long predicting that MPP would pack up its efforts to get even a limited medical marijuana initiative on the Ohio ballot in 2016 if the Ohio General Assembly passed any kind of reasonable medical marijuana bill.  

I am glad that the OMM manager's statement noted the challenges of raising money for an initiative because it helps reveal and highlight the enduring reality that Ohio is a VERY expensive initiative state both in terms of having to collect a whole lot of signatures to get on the ballot than then also to have the resources to run a campaign throughout a diverse state with lots of expensive media markets.   Especially because it would surely prove especially challenging to convince voters that an Ohio constitutional amendment was needed for medical marijuana right after legislators just passed a complicated medical marijuana bill, I think it very wise that (1) OMM/MPP kept threating to move forward with an initiative in order to get the Ohio GA to keep making its bill better and better, and (2) now sees the wisdom of spending time and resources on working to continue to improve what the legislature has put into the Ohio Revised Code.

That all said, any and everyone interested in marijuana reform in the Buckeye State should be sending thank you notes to the folks involved with both ResponsibleOhio and MPP/OMM: Absent the money, time, energy, interest that these groups devoted to getting Ohio citizens and elected officials considering marijuana reform, any serious and significant marijuana reform in Ohio likely would not have become a viable reality until 2018 or 2020 or even later.  But once the ResponsibleOhio folks showed how much money some folks would invest in possible reform, and especially once MPP jumped in to propose a kind of reform that would surely be a winner at the ballot box, Ohio official came to understand that ignoring the will of the people on this front any longer posed many more risks than benefits.

Speaking of 2018 or 2020 and of initiative campaigns in Ohio, as my post title highlights, I think it pretty likely that the MPP folks (or maybe folks who were involved in ResponsibleOhio) are now terrifically positioned to start gearing up for an initiative run at recreation marijuana reform come 2018 or 2020.  Especially if a significant number of voters in a significant number of states in 2016 enact recreational reform on the coasts, I think MPP and other reformers/investors will be looking to move forward aggressively with recreation marijuana reform campaigns in the heartland.  In the immediate short-term, Michigan seems a state more likely to vote for recreational reform (and the economic development that goes with it), but Ohio is sure not to end up too far behind.  Indeed, I can see lots of interesting stategic benefits to MPP of trying to do recreational ballot reform in both Michigan an Ohio at the same time, say in 2018 or 2020.

May 28, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Notable Forbes discussion of "The Five Best Marijuana Jobs"

ImagesRegular readers know I strongly believe that the economic development aspects/consequences  of marijuana reform are very significant and yet too often overlooked.  Consequently, I was intrigued and happy to see this notable new Forbes article about the best marijuana jobs.  Here are excerpts:

The marijuana industry is growing quickly and just as quickly gaining wider societal acceptance.  As such, more people are looking at the cannabis industry as a career choice. Some of the jobs are little out of the ordinary, but that’s probably what draws many workers interested in cannabis jobs. Whether they worked with marijuana in the black market or just want an alternative to the standard cubicle job, thousands are trying to get in.

There are websites with cannabis job listings like Cannajobs and 420careers.  Medical marijuana delivery company GreenRush held a job fair in California in April; 2,700 people attended and 200 jobs were filled. Another event is planned for November 10.

Cannabis company Terra Tech Corp. recently held a job fair in Las Vegas. They ran a quarter page ad and expected about 200 people to show up. They got 2,000 instead. “Most people just want to get into the space,” said CEO Derek Peterson. “They believe in the product.” Peterson said a lot of people came without any experience and since the jobs are unique, they tried to pair existing skills with new job requirements.

He also noted that a lot of people in the 40-50 age group have been aged out of the traditional workforce. “Almost everyone had a bachelor’s degree that we saw,” he said. While some positions like store managers overlap more traditional jobs, others like bud trimmers are truly unique to the space. Here are the top five jobs in the marijuana industry.

Grow Master

The grow master is the person responsible for cultivating various strains of marijuana plants. Peterson likens it to being a master chef. Grow masters are in high demand and it’s a seller’s market. At minimum they can command a salary of $100,000 a year and a percentage of the profit....

Store Managers

Like any retail operation, a medical dispensary or recreational outlet needs a manager. These employees can do very well, especially in profitable stores. At minimum, they can earn $75,000 a year and many get a bonus on top of that based on the store’s sales. When you consider that some stores in California have sales of $3 million to $6 million a year, while some San Francsico Bay area stores do $7 million to $10 million a year, that bonus can be pretty good....

Extraction Technician

Most people only think of marijuana in the plant form, however marijuana extracts are a growing side of the business. These “extract artists” have a unique set of skills. Peterson said many of the people he hires for this job have PhD’s. They can earn between $75,000 and $125,000 a year. Some states don’t like the idea of people smoking pot for medical purposes and like the state of New York have only legalized medical marijuana in the extract form....

Bud Trimmers This is the entry level job working with the plant. It tends to be the lowest paid job in the industry — a bud trimmer in California may make $12-$13 an hour. In Vegas where service jobs are in high demand, $13 an hour is the general wage. Some get paid by the pound and that can run to $100-$200 a pound. In a medical dispensary, a trimmer takes the plant and with little scissors cuts the flower from the stem....

The Owner

While owning a marijuana business sounds like the ultimate counterculture move, it brings a mountain of headaches. Many owners say they don’t make the millions that many people think they do. There are legal and banking headaches, and the regulatory landscape is constantly shifting. The owners don’t get to claim the same business deductions that other business owners get, so the expenses are sky high. Many owners front millions of dollars for years before they ever get to see any profits.

May 27, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ohio General Assembly sends medical marijuana bill to Gov Kasich's desk

As reported in this local article, "Ohio is poised to become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana after state lawmakers approved a fast-moving bill Wednesday evening in a close vote."  Here are more of the details and the enduring issues about marijuana reform still in play in the Buckeye State:

The bill cleared the Ohio Senate on Wednesday in a bipartisan 18-15 vote. The House later agreed to the changes, sending the bill to Gov. John Kasich. Kasich has said he would support a medical marijuana bill if doctors led on the issue.

The vote caps a historic debate at the Statehouse about medical marijuana, a subject the conservative legislature has been reluctant to take up for years. But last year's failed recreational marijuana measure, sky-high support for medical marijuana in public opinion polls and the prospect of another ballot initiative nudged lawmakers to act....

People with one of about two dozen qualifying medical conditions could use marijuana if recommended by their physician. Patients could not smoke or grow their own marijuana, but vaping would be allowed.

Oils, tinctures, patches and plant material would be sold in dispensaries licensed by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. The Department of Commerce would write rules for licensing cultivators, processors and testing labs. The State Medical Board would register physicians and determine education requirements for those physicians. A bipartisan 13-member Medical Marijuana Advisory Board would recommend rules to the three regulatory agencies.

The program would have to be up and running within two years. Patients and caregivers would have an "affirmative defense" from arrest or prosecution if caught with marijuana before it's legally sold in Ohio, as long as use was recommended by a physician and meets the criteria established for the program.

Medical marijuana patients could be fired for violating an employer's drug-free workplace policy, as they are in other medical marijuana states. Patients would then be ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Sen. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat and long-time medical marijuana supporter, shared the stories of several Ohioans who told lawmakers they or their children would benefit from marijuana. Marijuana has been proven to reduce seizures, pain and, Yuko said while showing pictures of would-be patients. "This bill is not perfect, folks, but it's what Ohio patients need," Yuko said. "If we can give one veteran comfort, if we can ease one patient's horrible pain, if we can prevent one heroin overdose or save one child's life -- this bill will be worth it."

Senators differed in their reasons for voting no. Some opposed marijuana use or said the federal Food and Drug Administration should approve marijuana for medicinal use. Sen. Jay Hottinger, a Newark Republican, said law enforcement and anti-drug activists in his district urged him to oppose the bill. "What we have before us today is not simply a child suffering seizure from epilepsy but something much greater than that," Hottinger said.

Others disagreed with language that allowed patients to be fired for their marijuana use and unable to collect unemployment compensation. Sen. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, voted against the bill because she thought the issue should be decided by voters in November.

Nicole Scholten, a Cincinnati mom whose daughter suffers from seizures and cerebral palsy, was among the dozens of medical marijuana supporters watching the Senate vote Wednesday night. Scholten, who has been trying to convince lawmakers to act for years, said she felt conflicted about the vote. "We are on the way to being a state that supports patients that are not being helped by FDA-approved medications," Scholten said.

The bill would cover her daughter, Scholten said, but there are several conditions the bill doesn't cover. And she said nurse practitioners and other medical professions who prescribe controlled substances should also be allowed to recommend medical marijuana, as they are in the proposed ballot measure.

Meanwhile, Ohioans for Medical Marijuana plans to continue collecting the 305,591 signatures of Ohio voters needed by July 6 to put its medical marijuana measure on the November ballot. The group is backed by national organization Marijuana Policy Project. Their proposed constitutional amendment would allow smoking in private areas and home grow and includes more qualifying medical conditions including severe nausea and autism.

Campaign spokesman Aaron Marshall said House Bill 523 is a step forward but still too restrictive. "Our Constitutional amendment builds on the legislature's work by incorporating national best practices and offers voters an opportunity to enact a law free of the horse-trading inherent in the legislative process," Marshall said.

After the bill is sent to Kasich, he has 10 days to sign it. If he doesn't sign, it automatically becomes law. The law is effective 90 days after Kasich signs, likely sometime in early September.

As I explained in this prior post, I think the final complicated structure for medical marijuana reform enacted by the Ohio legislature may prove to have even more benefits for lawyers and lobbyists than for prospective patients. But I suppose time will tell on this front, and how MPP (and advocates and polls) respond to bill may ultimately script the future of marijuana reform in the state more than the particulars of this legislation.

May 26, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lobbyists, start your engines: revisions to Ohio medical marijuana bill creates array of regulators and rule-makers

Download (1)As reported in this local article, headlined "Senators remove pharmacist requirement from medical marijuana bill," the Ohio General Assembly has done some additional notable tweaking of the medical marijuana legislation being fast-tracked in this state. Here are the latest details, along with my explanation for the Indy 500-inspired title to this post:

Senators vetting a medical marijuana bill eliminated a requirement that every marijuana dispensary be run by a licensed pharmacist, expanded the definition of pain to qualify for medical marijuana and other changes cheered by medical marijuana advocates.

The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee added the pharmacist requirement last week as well as put the program under the oversight of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. The Ohio Pharmacists Association supported the change, but patient advocates said would increase patient costs and render Ohio's medical marijuana program ineffective.

The committee is expected to make small changes to the bill Wednesday morning before approving it for a full floor vote as early as Wednesday afternoon.  The revised bill then would need approval from the House before heading to Gov. John Kasich's desk....

Three states require pharmacists in medical marijuana dispensaries: Connecticut, Minnesota and New York. Advocates have criticized those states for having overly restrictive programs.  Sen. Dave Burke, a Marysville Republican and pharmacist, said the pharmacist requirement raised concerns about patient access, and the bill has other safeguards to ensure products are safely administered. "We're not wanting to be restrictive, we're not wanting to be burdensome but we don't want to expose people to harm," Burke said.

House Bill 523 would allow patients with about two dozen qualifying conditions to buy and use marijuana if recommended by a licensed Ohio physician.  The Ohio Department of Commerce would write the rules and regulations for who could commercially grow or manufacture products from marijuana.  Smoking and home growing are not allowed in the bill.  Patients would have an affirmative defense from arrest and prosecution to possess and use marijuana before dispensaries are up and running.

Patients would have to have a doctor's recommendation and the marijuana would have to be legal under the Ohio law.  Burke said the pharmacy board will also draft rules allowing patients from states with similar requirements to access Ohio medical marijuana.  "It has to fit in the framework -- you can't just bring your baggie of Colorado weed to Ohio," Burke said....

Lawmakers supporting the bill are motivated in part by a constitutional amendment planned for the November ballot.  Ohioans for Medical Marijuana spokesman Aaron Marshall said the revised bill still does not address patient concerns and is inferior to his group's proposed measure.  The amendment allows patients to smoke marijuana and grow their own or enlist a caregiver to grow for them.  Marijuana won't be covered by medical insurance plans, Marshall said, so home grow is the best way to ensure poor Ohioans will have access to the plant.

Changes made Tuesday morning:

  • Chronic and severe pain is one qualifying condition and intractable pain is a separate condition.
  • The pharmacy board would license retail dispensaries, register patients and regulate marijuana packaging and acceptable paraphernalia.
  • The Department of Commerce would license cultivators, processors and testing labs and operate a seed-to-sale tracking system. Cultivator licensing rules would have to be written within 240 days of the bill's effective date instead of 180 days.
  • The state medical board would certify physicians for the program.

The title of this post is my basic reaction to the reality that, in this latest version of Ohio's medical marijuana bill, there will be at least three enduring regulatory bodies in charge of various parts the state's marijuana programming: the Department of Commerce, the board of pharmacy, and the state medical board. In addition, the bill also creates for, a five-year period, a multi-member "medical marijuana advisory committee" which "may develop and submit to the department of commerce, state board of pharmacy, and the state medical board any recommendations related to the medical marijuana control program." So, any patient or parent or doctor or caregiver or cultivator or processor or lab or any other business or person wanting to influence Ohio's regulatory structures for medical marijuana will want/need to consider lobbying various regulatory bodies and the medical marijuana advisory committee.

And, of course, because all these structures are being created through standard state legislation, the many diverse regulatory bodies are not the only ones to be lobbied. I would expect in the years ahead, both pro- and anti-marijuana advocates and their lobbyists will sometimes go over the heads of the assigned regulators to try to get the General Assembly through future legislation to place new/changed marijuana rules directly into Ohio's Revised Code.

Long story short: though I am not yet sure that the regulatory structure being created now in Ohio will facilitate a robust medical marijuana industry, I am sure that there is likely going to have to be a robust medical marijuana lobby industry in the Buckeye State at least for the next few years.

May 24, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 20, 2016

John Hudak pens terrific "memo to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on marijuana policy"

Regular readers are likely used to seeing me in this space praise the work being done by Brookings in general, and John Hudak in particular, in the arena of responsible and thoughtful discussion of marijuana law, policy and reform.   This latest Brookings piece by Hudak, styled "A memo to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on marijuana policy," further demostrates why my praise is justified. I recommend the lengthy piece is full, and here are excerpts from how it starts and ends and the headings in between: 

Eight months from today one of you will be inaugurated the 45th President of the United States. There is much to think about between now and then, but one issue with a penchant for falling between the cracks is marijuana policy.  Marijuana policy is no longer just a punchline, reserved for the attention of activists. Marijuana policy will be a serious part of the next administration’s domestic policy, and it is critical that you create a strategy accordingly.

Both of you have suggested you are open to reforms or, at a minimum, to let states operate as they wish. However, a laissez-faire approach to cannabis is a dangerous stance that creates a bevy of policy problems at the federal, state and local levels. There is tremendous complexity involved in creating a uniform and consistent policy strategy.  Marijuana will impact almost every corner of your administration — some obvious, some less so. To get it right — that is to make sure that your administration advances your policy goals — there are seven key steps to take.

1. When vetting possible appointees, ask them about cannabis....

2. Talk to Congress about marijuana....

3. Talk to states that passed marijuana reform....

4. Talk to cannabis businesses, patients, consumers, and activists....

5. Talk to marijuana reform opponents....

6. Talk to scientists studying (or trying to study) cannabis....

7. Think about your marijuana legacy....

The nation is changing its views on cannabis, and reform is not a flash in the pan, but a certainty in the future of American public policy.  Your administration has the opportunity to initiate a sensible, safe, effective, and robust reform that reflects the policy changes in the states and a federal government ready to facilitate a working system.  You can help mold the future of this policy, or you can be a bystander to history, remembered more for being a roadblock than a transformational policy champion.  Ten years ago it would have been toxic to engage marijuana policy in this way, but as America changes its mind on cannabis, it may be even more toxic to stand by and do nothing about it.

May 20, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"US House Votes to Give Medical Marijuana to Veterans"

Untitled-2-2The title of this post is the headline of this notable report authored by Tom Angell explaining a notable vote today in Congress. Here are the notable details: 

The U.S. House took action to increase military veterans’ access to medical marijuana on Thursday.

By a vote of 233-189, representatives approved an amendment preventing the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) from spending money to enforce a current policy that prohibits its government doctors from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal. The language is now attached to a bill funding the V.A. and military construction efforts through next year.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on its version of the legislation later on Thursday. Medical cannabis protections for veterans were added to that bill last month in bipartisan vote of 20-10 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected that any senators will offer floor amendments to strike the marijuana provision before passage.

“One of the great concerns we have is how the two million young Americans who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan reintegrate back into society,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the House amendment’s sponsor, said in a floor debate early Thursday morning. “What I hear from veterans that I talk to is that an overwhelming number of them say that medical marijuana has helped them deal with PTSD, pain and other conditions, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”

Under current V.A. policy, military veterans have to go to separate private doctors to get medical marijuana recommendations, which can be costly and time-consuming. “Those patients who want to pursue medical marijuana have to go ahead and hire a physician out of their own pocket,” said Blumenauer. “Not dealing with the medical professional of their choice, their V.A. doctor, who knows them the best.”

But there was some reluctant disagreement on the House floor. “I understand that the country is evolving on this issue as many states, including my own, have moved forward on medical marijuana,” said Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA), whose home state just became the 24th in the U.S. with a comprehensive medical marijuana law. “As a member of this House, I’m a bit uncomfortable, however, in trying to dictate policy on marijuana without guidance from Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and other medical professionals.”

But Blumenauer took exception to that characterization. “This amendment does not dictate treatment options. It’s not interfering. It’s not superimposing anybody’s judgement about the merits of marijuana. It simply enables V.A. doctors and patients to interact with state-legal marijuana systems,” he said. “We should not be limiting the treatment options available to our veterans.”

Last year the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2016 version of the V.A. spending bill, with similar medical cannabis protections for veterans attached, but the House narrowly defeated a move to add the amendment to its version of the legislation by a vote of 213-210. As a result, the provision was not included in the final omnibus appropriations package signed into law by President Obama in December.

Since then, momentum on medical cannabis and broader marijuana law reform issues has continued to increase. Last month, for example, Pennsylvania became the 24th state in the U.S with a comprehensive medical marijuana program. This month, both chambers of the Louisiana State Legislature and the Ohio House of Representatives approved medical cannabis bills.

The U.S. House measure also would have passed last year if two medical marijuana supporters hadn’t voted against it. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), admitted at the time that he misread the amendment and voted the wrong way. Another supporter, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said he voted no because the measure didn’t go far enough in his view. With those two votes flipped, the result would have been 212-211.

The V.A. policy disallowing its doctors from recommending medical marijuana in states where it is legal actually expired on January 31 but, under the department’s procedures, the ban technically remains in effect until a new policy is enacted.

Advocates expect a new policy soon, but aren’t sure what it will say. In February 2015, a top V.A. official testified before a House committee that the department is undertaking “active discussions” about how to address the growing number of veterans who are seeking cannabis treatments.

Separately, a trio of Democratic senators submitted an additional amendment this week intended to spur medical cannabis research by the V.A. The V.A., in partnership with the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder may “conduct clinical research on the potential benefits of therapeutic use of the cannabis plant by veterans,” reads the amendment offered by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Cory Booker (NJ) and Barbara Boxer (CA).

The senators want the government to look into the use of cannabis “as a treatment to achieve and maintain abstinence from opioids and heroin.” The proposal directs the secretary of veterans affairs to submit a report on efforts to expand such research within 180 days. It is not yet clear if the amendment will receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Last week medical marijuana opponents succeeded in getting the House Rules Committee to kill two amendments aimed at increasing government research on medical marijuana’s possible impact on opioid abuse.

May 19, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Medical marijuana, for babies and their desperate parents"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new CNN article, which discusses Israel's medical marijuana program. Here are excerpts:

Moments of joy are all too brief for Lavie Parush. They have been since the 2-year-old was born. "Gray" was the word his father used to describe his son, born unconscious. That night, Lavie had his first seizure. "Immediately, they took him to the emergency room," said his father, Asaf Parush. "They doped him up and he was basically passed out the first week of his birth."

For six months, Parush and his wife, Noa, held on to the belief that Lavie's condition would improve. But the seizures worsened. He suffered dozens a day. Doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Lavie was severely brain damaged.

Doctors put the baby on one drug after another to try to stop the seizures. Each drug required another visit to the hospital. And each one led to another disappointment as the seizures continued unabated. Some drugs had severe side effects, Parush said. Steroids, for example, weakened Lavie's immune system and caused him to become incredibly bloated.

Just before Lavie's first birthday, Parush heard about the use of medical marijuana -- commonly called medical cannabis in Israel -- to treat epilepsy. Unlike other medicines, cannabis is not prescribed by a doctor in Israel. Instead, specialist doctors request a license for a patient to use cannabis for treatment of chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced symptoms, epilepsy and other conditions. The license allows medical cannabis patients between 20 and 200 grams per month. The cannabis is sold at a fixed price of approximately $100 per month, regardless of the amount.

The Ministry of Health points out that the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis "have not yet been established," but the ministry also acknowledges cannabis can help patients suffering from certain medical conditions. Israel has approximately 23,000 licensed medical cannabis users, according to Daniel Goldstein, an industry advocate with Israel Cannabis. Recreational cannabis remains illegal in the country....

Lavie's family requested a license for him from the Ministry of Health for the boy to use medical cannabis. He takes a few drops of cannabis oil every day, mixed into his food. "After a few weeks we didn't see any seizures at all," Parush said.

The cannabis oil, extracted from a strain of cannabis called Avidekel, was developed in northern Israel by one of the country's largest cannabis growers, Tikun Olam. The oil is high in cannabidiol -- or CBD - the pharmacological ingredient in cannabis that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that makes marijuana users high and has been shown to relieve pain.

According to Tikun Olam, Avidekel is the strain used for toddlers and babies. Of Tikun Olam's 6,500 medical cannabis users, only 15 are under 3 years old. The Ministry of Health couldn't confirm the number of toddler and baby cannabis patients in Israel, but Tikun Olam's spokeswoman Ma'ayan Weisberg estimates that no more than 25 children under 3 years old are licensed....

A 2015 study by Dr. Orrin Devinsky of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center showed a 54% reduction in some types of seizures in 137 people suffering from severe epilepsy who took a liquid form of medical marijuana and did not respond to other treatments. But the study's results will need to be replicated, since it did not adhere to the strictest standards of scientific research, including randomized testing and peer review.

A 2013 Stanford University survey of 19 children between the ages of 2 and 16 suffering from epilepsy found 16 of them self-reported or their parents reported a reduction in seizures from using medical cannabis....

Dr. Uri Kramer, head of the Department for the Treatment of Childhood Epilepsy at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, said medical cannabis shows promising results in children whose epilepsy has not responded to multiple drugs. "If they are not good candidates for surgery, there are almost no options," said Kramer, who requested the medical cannabis license for Lavie.

Kramer said his patients have shown that medical cannabis has a success rate of approximately 20% in reducing seizures by 75% in epileptic children. "That's much higher than any other drug on the market," said Kramer. But acceptance is not universal. "Some of our colleagues are not convinced yet," he added. "I'd say only about half of the pediatric epiloptologists in Israel are using cannabis."

Research is underway regarding CBD use in children with intractable epilepsy, according to Dr. Angus Wilfong, a pediatric neurologist at Texas Children's Hospital, but Wilfong urged caution. "These studies are complex and take time. No drug should be approved for use in children until scientific studies have validated its efficacy, safety, tolerability, and dosage," said Wilfong.

May 17, 2016 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Active player urges NFL to allow its employees to use medical marijuana rather than opioids for pain relief

ASA_USA_Today_NFL_Preview_AdRegular readers of this blog likely know that I think pro football players could (and perhaps will) be hugely important social force in charging national perceptions concerning marijuana as a legitimate medicine for dealing with pain. Consequently, I find both notable and significnat this recent New York Times piece headined "Raven Calls on N.F.L. to Allow Marijuana Use for Sport’s Pains." Here are excerpts:

Eugene Monroe has had his share of bumps and bruises during his seven­year N.F.L. career as an offensive tackle with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens.  He has had shoulder injuries, ankle sprains, concussions and all the usual wear and tear that comes from hitting defenders dozens of times a game.

To deal with these injuries, Monroe has stepped forward and called upon the N.F.L. to stop testing players for marijuana so he and other players can take the medical version of the drug to treat their chronic pain, and avoid the addictive opioids that teams regularly dispense.   “We now know that these drugs are not as safe as doctors thought, causing higher rates of addiction, causing death all around our country,” Monroe said in an interview on Friday, “and we have cannabis, which is far healthier, far less addictive and, quite frankly, can be better in managing pain.”

Retired football players like Kyle Turley and Ricky Williams have promoted the benefits of marijuana and called for the league to acknowledge those benefits. Monroe, though, may be one of the first to openly urge the league to stop testing for the drug, possibly risking the wrath of owners, league officials and other players.

In a series of posts on Twitter in March, Monroe castigated Commissioner Roger Goodell for refusing to modify the league’s stance on the drug.  Monroe also donated $10,000 to help pay for research on the benefits of medical marijuana, and he challenged other players to match his gift.  “It’s a shame that Roger Goodell would tell our fans there’s no medical vs recreational distinction,” Monroe wrote.

Last week, Monroe said he had given $80,000 to Realm of Caring, a Colorado-­based advocacy group that is working with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study the impact of medical marijuana on traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head. Monroe also started a website about the use of marijuana for pain management.

Though two dozen states now allow the use of some forms of marijuana, the N.F.L. has not softened its stance on the drug.  Before the Super Bowl in February, Goodell said the league’s medical advisers continued to look at the research but did not have enough evidence to warrant a change in the league’s position. “Yes, I agree there have been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view,” Goodell said. “Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.”

Even if the N.F.L. changed its position, any changes to the league’s policy on banned substances would have to be negotiated with the N.F.L. Players Association.  Monroe said that he had met with the association’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, and that talks were continuing....

Monroe said that players had told him that they supported his call to soften the league’s stance on marijuana testing, but no current player has publicly backed him. The Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, tacitly supported Monroe. “We’re not the ones taking that physical abuse,” Bisciotti told balitmoreravens.com. “We’re not talking about a kid that’s been suspended three times coming out and saying that. I respect Eugene a lot, and I think all he asked for is more studying on the subject.”...

Monroe said he was not afraid of any retribution for his stance in part because he said he did not use marijuana. But from the research he has done, Monroe said the benefits were strong enough to justify pushing the league and the union to relax its position, even if it hurt his standing in the N.F.L. “My health is far more important than any possible career implications,” Monroe said. “I want to be there for my family.”

Some prior related posts on NFL players and marijuana use:

May 16, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Should convicted drug dealers be allowed to sell medical marijuana?"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Christian Science Monitor article.  It carries this subheadline: "A California law passed in October denies felons with drug convictions a license to sell medical marijuana.  An new initiative would change that."  And here are excerpts:

If you committed a felony for something that is no longer illegal, should your criminal record keep you out of the business now? A California law denying medical marijuana licenses to those with felony convictions for drug possession answers that question with a "yes," and it touches on the debate about how long a felony record should follow someone who has served their time....

The question could have even deeper implications for the state's pot industry, because although only medical marijuana is legal now, California voters will likely see a referendum for full marijuana legalization on the November ballot. Many current or prospective sellers of medical marijuana do have felony charges because of – for example – past drug possession. Casey O'Neill, board chairman of the marijuana group California Growers Association, told the Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy that 25 to 30 percent of California's weed growers have felony convictions.

The current initiative, if passed by referendum in November, would change the law to permit people with felonies for drug possession of any kind to apply for a license to sell marijuana, according to the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies for California.

Some members of law enforcement suggested that giving felons licenses to sell marijuana supports the growing pot industry at the expense of safety. "This new initiative will specifically allow for convicted major meth and heroin dealers to be licensed recreational marijuana vendors in California," said Chief Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, in a statement. "You have to question proponents in terms of placing personal wealth and corporation profits ahead of community well-being."

California's law enforcement has said fighting the black market by keeping felons out of these businesses is part of the reason the state requires licenses. California Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R) said the October law provides law enforcement with "clear rules for overseeing medical marijuana activities in their community—something badly lacking for the past 20 years," according to a press release for the California Police Chief Association.

Other states where medical marijuana is legal have different approaches to the question of whether a person convicted of selling marijuana before the state legalized it deserves a legal license now. Applicants for a medical marijuana license in Colorado must have all felony charges and sentences at least five years behind them; for drug charges, their record must have been clean for ten years. Colorado offers a case-by-case exemption for past state-level marijuana charges "that would not be a felony if the person were convicted of the offense on the date he or she applied," according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

May 15, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 13, 2016

New podcast from the National Constitution Center on "Marijuana and the Constitution"

Cover170x170Earlier this week, I had the great honor and pleasure of talking with Jeffrey Rosen and Randy Barnett as part of the National Constitution Center's "We the People" series concerning various constitutional issues related to the regulation and legalization of marijuana. The podcast is available at this link, and here is how it is introduced via that webpage:

Marijuana was first outlawed nationally by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Since 1970, it has been classified an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, listed alongside LSD, heroin, and other narcotics.

But in 1996, California became the first state to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, starting a cascade of changes at the state level. As of May 2016, 24 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana; four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska—and D.C. have also legalized recreational marijuana. In November 2016, more states, including Nevada and Maine, are slated to vote on the issue.

Join[] We the People to explore the constitutional issues at stake....

May 13, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Likely Libertarian Prez Candidate Gary Johnson explains his support for major marijuana reform

This new Washington Times article, headlined "Gary Johnson: Legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse," highlights why marijuana reform could become a big issue in the national Prez election campaign if a number of voters start seriously considering a likely candidate other than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here is why:

Libertarian White House hopeful Gary Johnson said Tuesday it’s been his stated position that legalizing marijuana will lead to less substance abuse overall. “I took the position I took business-wise to make the world a better place,” Mr. Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“On the medicinal side, marijuana products directly compete with legal prescription drugs that statistically kill 100,000 people a year,” he said. “And on the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse.”

Mr. Johnson, who won about 1 percent of the popular vote as the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, said there is a “total disconnect between elected politicians and the public.”

“Sixty percent of Americans now want to legalize marijuana,” he said. “But the campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado was a campaign based on marijuana is safer than alcohol, and it is. It’s safer than everything else that’s out there, starting with alcohol.”

The Libertarian Party will choose its presidential nominee later this month at a convention in Orlando.

May 10, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Could medical marijuana solve Ohio's opioid problem?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new lengthy cleveland.com article.  Here are excerpts: 

Ohio lawmakers have spent the last five years tackling the state's opioid epidemic, making it harder to obtain addictive painkillers and easier for people to receive treatment for their addiction. The same lawmakers have rebuffed efforts to legalize marijuana. One representative said last year that legalization would "be like pouring gasoline on the fire."

But the number of overdose deaths continues to climb -- nearly 2,000 people died from opioid overdoses in Ohio in 2014. And medical marijuana advocates point to a growing body of research that supports marijuana as a safer, less addictive alternative to those drugs.

Rep. Ryan Smith, a Gallia County Republican, said that point was raised several times during House GOP discussions about a bill legalizing medical marijuana. "The thought is we're treating pain right now with various addictive opiates so if there's an opportunity to treat them with something else that's less addictive, why not?" Smith said.

The House will vote Tuesday on House Bill 523, which would establish a tightly regulated medical marijuana program where patients could buy and use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Smoking and growing at home would not be permitted. Lawmakers hope the bill will halt two ballot measure efforts. Ohio would be the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Clinical research doesn't support marijuana for most of the conditions states' laws allow, a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association journal concluded. But the study did find sufficient evidence that marijuana can alleviate chronic and neuropathic pain and muscle spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis and preliminary evidence that it can benefit patients with seizure disorders.

Harvard Medical School's Dr. Kevin Hill, who authored the study, said there's no question cannabis is safer than opioids. "You may end up in the emergency room, but you're not going have a fatal overdose from marijuana," Hill said.

Greg Gerdeman, a pharmacologist and professor at Eckerd College in Florida, said the science is there, but federal laws placing marijuana in the same drug category as heroin has stifled research on American soil....

A handful of separate studies show pain patients who use marijuana decrease their opioid use. A 2014 study found states with medical marijuana laws had nearly 25 percent fewer opioid-related overdose deaths than those without.

A Canadian study of medical marijuana patients found 80 percent substituted marijuana for prescription drugs. And a University of Michigan study released in March showed a 64 percent reduction in opioid use among pain patients who also used marijuana.

Researchers in each study warned cannabis should not be an automatic replacement for opioids. Hill said the idea needs to be studied further and it's premature to recommend marijuana to treat opioid addiction. But patients say otherwise. Retired nurse Rhonda Agard of Toledo weaned herself off a pain pump, anxiety medication, and sleeping pills by switching to marijuana.

Agard had been on pain meds for 13 years after breaking her back. She overdosed at least 20 times by her count, including one time when her children found her on the floor, her heart beating only 15 beats per minute. "I was no better than people on heroin except mine was legal -- head nodding, falling asleep, drooling -- thank God I'm not like that today," Agard said.

The idea of using marijuana to treat opioid addiction has become a hot topic in Maine. Medical marijuana advocates there are pushing state regulators to add opioid addiction to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions.

Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year to examine the effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids and the impact of marijuana legalization on overdose deaths....

If Ohio decides to legalize marijuana for medical use, it won't be covered by health insurance plans and might be more expensive than prescription medications. And critics of the proposed bill say it creates too much red tape and few doctors will register to recommend marijuana.

Dr. Amol Soin, a pain management doctor in Dayton, said the research is promising, but he and other physicians want to be able to prescribe compounds known to work instead of the whole plant. "Given the scenario we have a compound vetted by the FDA and backed by studies, I think it will hold promise," Soin said.

May 10, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Advice to would-be Keystone cannabis counselors: "It's really here, it's really lucrative and it's really tricky."

The Legal Intelligencer, a Pennsylvania law-oriented publication, has this lengthy new article headlined "Marijuana Law: Protecting Your Client and License," and its great first sentence is the quoted portion of my post title. Here is how the effective article gets started:

Joining 23 states and the District of Columbia, legalized medical cannabis has come to Pennsylvania in the form of the Medical Marijuana Act, signed into law on April 17 and set to take effect May 16.

At that point, 80 percent of America's population will have some form of legalized marijuana access, the 2016 sales of which Fortune Magazine estimates to exceed $6.7 billion (a 25 percent increase of 2015's $5.4 billion).

Because of the law's breadth and the state's demographics, Pennsylvania is poised to be legalized ­marijuana's next hot spot.  Specifically, the Medical Marijuana Act enumerates 17 "serious medical conditions" eligible for ­marijuana prescriptions encompassing autism and sickle cell anemia alongside the more traditionally covered ailments such as cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

By cutting such a wide swath, the act invites high program participation, particularly in light of Pennsylvania's huge ­potential patient base.

Further, unlike New Jersey and other states severely limiting the number of issued licenses, the Medical Marijuana Act authorizes 25 grow/processing licenses and 50 dispensary licenses, each of which empowers the licensee to open three locations for up to 150 dispensaries.

This column explores legal issues confronting the cannabis industry, starting with the big enchilada.  Regardless of the law of 24 states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is still 100 percent illegal under federal law.

May 4, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Updating the dyanamic (and even-uncertain) state of medical marijuana reform in Ohio

MPP-MedicalMarijuanaCampaign-OhioRegular readers know I have been urging everyone to keep an eye on the Buckeye State as multiple different efforts are afoot to bring medical marijuana reform into reality in the state.  This new Columbus Dispatch article, headlined "Toking nixed, vaping OK in Ohio House medical-marijuana bill," reports on the latest state of work by leaders in the Ohio General Assembly seeking to get reform done and on the books ASAP before a possible ballot initiative is taken to the voters. Here are the details:

Ohioans could not legally smoke medical marijuana under a revamped proposal being rolled out today by state legislators. Those with a prescription for medical marijuana would be allowed to use vaporization or other inhalant devices.

But the new restriction in the legislation, targeted for a House vote Tuesday, probably sets up a public battle with supporters of proposed November ballot issues that would allow smoking.

Rep. Kirk Schuring of Canton, who was set to brief his fellow GOP House members Tuesday night on the revised measure, said he hopes the special committee he chairs approves the new plan Thursday after seeing it for the first time today. After House passage, Schuring said, he is optimistic the Senate and Kasich administration will quickly approve Ohio becoming the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. The previous version of House Bill 523 did not directly address smoking.

Both versions would bar homegrown marijuana, which would be allowed by the ballot measures. The substitute bill also would ban marijuana edibles “in a form that is considered to be attractive to children.”

Unlike the original bill, the amended legislation specifies 20 ailments for which medical marijuana could be prescribed. The list includes cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, sickle-cell anemia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as “pain that is chronic, severe and intractable.”

Other provisions added to the proposal:

• The state will set up a program to help qualifying medical-marijuana patients who are veterans or poor obtain the drug.

• Radio and TV ads for medical marijuana would be prohibited.

• Reciprocity agreements could be set up with other states that have regulations “substantively similar” to Ohio’s.

• Caregivers would be exempt from arrest and prosecution for obtaining or providing medical marijuana for those in their care.

• Lawyers, CPAs and medical professionals would be exempt from administrative disciplinary action relating to services they provide related to the substance. As with the original bill, employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana.

I suspect some of these revisions will please some hard-core marijuana reformers, while others might disappoint them. And I doubt that, at least until something actually becomes law in Ohio, that the folks working toward putting these issues directly to the voters will "pump the brakes" on these efforts at all. Interesting times.

Prior related posts:

Restrictive medical marijuana reforms proposed by Ohio legislature in shadow of broader initiative effort

My (least? most?) favorite part of the 2016 medical marijuana bill being fast-tracked in Ohio

Reviewing the complicated state of marijuana reform efforts in the Buckeye State

May 4, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Terrific series of commentary on marijuana policy, politics and practicalities

Last week, the Washington Post's In Theory section focused on federal drug scheduling laws, with a particular focus on marijuana.  The terrific collection of commentaries from a diverse array of experts was set up via this into piece headlined "Is it time to revise our federal drug laws?", which started this way:

In a letter this month to inquiring lawmakers, the Drug Enforcement Administration quietly announced that it will decide whether to change the federal status of marijuana “in the first half of 2016.”  The move excited legalization advocates and reminded everyone else of how convoluted our drug regulatory process can be.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970 while facing backlash against the recreational drug use of the 1960s, the federal government categorizes drugs based on their medical value and potential for abuse.  If substances have no potential for abuse, they aren’t controlled at all.  If they do, they’re classified in one of five schedules of decreasing severity.

Drugs in Schedule I are deemed as having “no current accepted medical use” and a high potential for abuse — the category where marijuana resides, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others. These drugs are regulated with extreme stringency in terms of access, research and supply.  Schedule II drugs — such as morphine, fentanyl and methadone — are seen as having a high potential for abuse but some medical value.  Schedules III-V contain drugs of medical value and decreasing potential for abuse. Each schedule is regulated with correspondingly less strictness.

Critics of the system (or at least of certain drugs’ positions on the schedule) point out that this creates a circular problem.  Drugs are placed in Schedule I under the presumption that they have no accepted medical use. Yet the strict regulations of that schedule make it difficult to conduct the scientific and medical research that could uncover such drugs’ medical potential, making it all but impossible to move them to a different schedule.  Cannabis, for instance, has shown potential therapeutic value for ailments including chronic pain and epilepsy, but only one place in the United States (a University of Mississippi farm) is allowed to grow marijuana under federal regulations.  A number of Schedule I psychedelic compounds have similarly shown promise in treating mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it’s difficult to set up the sort of large-scale studies needed to meet the government’s standards for use.

In addition, many schedule placements seem arbitrary at best and deliberately skewed at worst. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t in any schedule at all, despite their proven susceptibility for abuse.  Schedule I serves as a catchall for drugs of barely comparable levels of danger and potential benefit, many of which have been stigmatized through racist or classist propaganda.  Meanwhile, other mostly recreational drugs like cocaine are in placed in more lax schedules on the basis of quite limited medical use.

Here are the commentaries that followed in the series, all of which are valuable reads:

May 2, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Prosecutorial Discretion in the Context of Immigration and Marijuana Law Reform: The Search for a Limiting Principle"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Sam Kamin now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article compares the appropriateness of prosecutorial non-enforcement policy in the contexts of federal immigration and marijuana laws.  I begin by discussing the ways in which the Obama administration has set policy in both areas through the use of memoranda directing prosecutors in the exercise of their discretion.  I show that in both of these contexts the administration has turned to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion rather than legislative change to achieve its policy outcomes.

I turn next to the Take Care Clause, the constitutional requirement that the president faithfully execute the laws of the United States.  I demonstrate that, although the Supreme Court has painted only the broadest outlines of the clause’s meaning, there are certain core ideas that seem to implicate the core of the doctrine.  Finally, I apply the Take Care Clause in the two contexts, finding that in both that the Obama administration has acted within the bounds of its constitutional authority. In neither context has the Obama administration re-written legislation or engaged in the kind of categorical refusal to prosecute that might be constitutionally suspect.

April 28, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reviewing the complicated state of marijuana reform efforts in the Buckeye State

MPP-MedicalMarijuanaCampaign-OhioThis morning's Columbus Dispatch has this helpful article headlined "Efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio differ in who can grow, who can use," which provides a useful primer on the state of marijuana reform efforts in my home state. Here are excerpts:

Ohio appears likely to become the 25th state to approve medical marijuana, either through a new state law or a voted constitutional amendment. State lawmakers and two citizen advocacy groups are working simultaneously on proposals to bring marijuana as medicine to Ohioans with qualifying medical conditions.

But how the legislature and advocates approach the subject is very different, and the two pro-marijuana groups are proposing separate variations as well. Here are some key differences among the proposed legislation (House Bill 523), the Marijuana Policy Project amendment, and the Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp amendment.

Impact: The legislation would change only Ohio law. Both ballot proposals would amend the Ohio Constitution.

Marijuana in smokeable form: The legislation does not specifically allow it but doesn’t rule it out. Both ballot issues would allow it.

Home-grown pot: The legislation would not allow growing marijuana at home; both ballot issues would allow it in limited quantities.

Growers: The Marijuana Policy Project amendment would allow 15 large growers and unlimited small growers. Neither the legislation nor the cannabis and hemp amendment specify grower numbers.

Qualifying conditions: No specific qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana are listed in the legislation. Both amendments cite a list of ailments, conditions and diseases that would qualify.

Doctor requirements: The legislation spells out numerous requirements for physicians, including registration and reporting marijuana prescriptions every 90 days. The amendments contain no specific requirements....

Timing: Both ballot issues aim to make marijuana as medicine available next year, while the legislature would likely take two years to implement....

Groups and individuals are weighing in on the legislation and ballot issues. The Ohio Rights Group, which at one time was planning its own marijuana ballot issue, said last week that it will support the Marijuana Policy Project initiative because it will “bring much needed therapeutic relief to the seriously ill in Ohio.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is taking a wait-and-see approach about all three proposals, said Adam Sharp, vice president of public policy. The group has not yet looked closely at the marijuana and hemp proposal, which would allow growing of hemp plants, a cousin of marijuana without its euphoric qualities, Sharp said. Hemp is used for a variety of products, including cloth, rope, oils and some edibles.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana, the local group working with the Marijuana Policy Project, responded with a detailed 12-point memo outlining its “serious concerns” with the proposed legislation. Among them are leaving decision-making in the hands of nine “unaccountable, unelected political appointees” on a Marijuana Control Commission; imposing “considerable hardships on patients” by requiring office visits every 90 days; providing no legal protection for patients or caregivers; and denying the ability to grow marijuana at home.

While details, cost and accessibility are being discussed, timing is urgent to some, including Andrea Gunnoe, a school psychologist, business owner, wife and mother of four from Dublin who testified to the legislative panel last week. As she spoke, Gunnoe held her son, Reid, 6, who was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 3. She wants the state to approve medical marijuana to use to control Reid’s frequent seizures. “My son’s medical bills since his onset have totaled over $4 million,” Gunnoe said. Because of the time it will take to implement the law, she said caregivers should be given a “safe haven” to get marijuana concentrates from other sources and “be protected from prosecution and allegations of child endangering.”

April 25, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Examining the potential economic impact of medical marijuana reform in Pennsylvania

This lengthy local article, headlined "Not just medicine: Marijuana may have big economic impact," takes a look into some of the key economic stories now that the Keystone state has legalize medical marijuana. Here are excerpts:

Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society Executive Director Patrick Nightingale called the medical marijuana law a piece of “momentous legislation.” He said it resulted from a true grassroots coalition of both recreational advocates and the parents of children suffering from ailments that can be treated with marijuana.

“They said, We are not going to settle for a bill that benefits our children only,” Nightingale said. According to Nightingale, the worst part of the legislation is the regulatory fee structure, which includes a $200,000 licensing payment for growers. Nightingale characterized this as a “one-time revenue grab for the commonwealth.”

“(The fees) are very high,” he said. “It is an expensive process.” He added that he is somewhat worried that the price of legal marijuana will greatly exceed the price of black market marijuana. This would potentially drive users underground, and destroy legitimate businesses.

Nightingale cited the price of legal marijuana in New Jersey, which is approximately $500 an ounce. He said marijuana of even higher quality, sold illegally in Pittsburgh, costs only $350 an ounce. “I don’t know where (Gov.) Chris Christie and his cronies came up with $500 an ounce,” Nightingale said....

Illinois passed a bill similar to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana legislation in 2013. Dan Linn — executive director for the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML — said the movement has stimulated local economies and created approximately 1,000 jobs.

There have also been snares along the way. Linn acknowledged that high regulatory fees created “sticker shock” that prevented many would-be entrepreneurs from entering the business. And he said that local officials have made life difficult in some areas. “There were some folks who had very difficult zoning appeals in their communities,” Linn said.

But some are far more optimistic about Pennsylvania’s program. Chris Walsh, editorial director of the Marijuana Business Daily in Denver, Colorado, said the Keystone State should be far more successful than Illinois in implementing its medical marijuana legislation. “There’s more business opportunity in Pennsylvania, for sure,” he said. “The inclusion of severe chronic pain (as a qualifying condition) is huge.”

According to Walsh, allowing those currently on opiates to switch to marijuana makes the difference between a small legal market and a massive legal market. It also means that, because there’s more demand, prices should be reasonable. “Pennsylvania is really shaping up to be one of the biggest marijuana markets, easily on the East Coast, and possibly fifth or sixth in the entire nation,” he said, predicting that the commonwealth and Maryland will dominate the industry in the Atlantic region. “There’s a lot of optimism about this market.”

Walsh, however, echoed Nightingale’s concerns about local counties and municipalities trying to push medical marijuana grows and dispensaries out of areas. He said this is true even in Colorado because some people expect seediness and an increase in crime. “That never happens,” Walsh said.

“If it’s a well-regulated industry, once it’s been up and running, people kind of forget about them. There’s not this scary, stereotypical image that people have in their head.” His prediction for Pennsylvania: $100 million in annual sales. “(But) it will take a while to get there,” he said.

April 24, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Detailing myriad problems with CBD-only medical marijuana reform efforts

Cbd-oil-for-epilepsyNBC News has this new extended article, the first of a two-part series, taking a close look at the considerable difficulties that flow from medical marijuana reform efforts that only legalize CBD oils.  This piece is headlined "'No-Buzz' Medical Pot Laws Prove Problematic for Patients, Lawmakers," and here is how it gets started:

The idea was intoxicating to lawmakers in more than a dozen states where medical marijuana was a political nonstarter: Give patients with certain severe medical problems access to a type of pot that might provide relief without producing the "high" usually associated with the plant.

But two years after 17 Midwestern and Southern states began passing a series of what are known as "CBD-only" medical marijuana laws, many people they were intended to help are rising up in protest. The laws, they say, help few patients, exclude others who could benefit and force residents to commit criminal acts in order to get relief for themselves or their loved ones.

"There is no amount of tweaking to a CBD decriminalization law that will make it work," said Maria La France of Des Moines, Iowa, who gives her 14-year-old son, Quincy Hostager, an oil derived from marijuana to treat his Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy. "I don't want to break the law, but I have to."

The CBD-only laws allow residents with specified medical conditions to legally use marijuana-derived products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) but are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces marijuana's "high." (Both CBD and THC are among the scores of active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are present in the marijuana plant.)

For medical purposes, that usually means orally ingesting an oil derived from marijuana or hemp, though there also are numerous other products like body oils containing CBD for topical uses.

Supporters involved in passing the laws portrayed them as compassionate measures that would let patients avail themselves of the potentially therapeutic or pain-relieving properties of pot without risking the possibility of creating a new generation of drug addicts.

But political opposition — often led by some of the families the laws were intended to help — has emerged in many of the states that passed the legislation. "We're not lawbreakers and this shouldn't even be an issue," said Jennifer Conforti of Fayetteville, Georgia, who gives her 5-year-old autistic daughter, Abby, marijuana-derived oil with higher-than-allowed levels of THC to control dangerous biting episodes. "It should be a medicine that doctors go to when they need it."

Conforti and others who want to expand the state's CBD-only law to cover additional medical conditions, allow for higher levels of THC and provide for in-state cultivation and distribution of CBD products have mounted a "civil disobedience" campaign to raise public awareness about the issue.

In Utah, proponents of expanded access to whole-plant medical marijuana say they will conduct a campaign to unseat legislators who opposed a bill to expand the state's current CBD-only law.

Even some involved in crafting CBD-only laws acknowledge that lawmakers have ventured onto thin ice by intervening in matters that may best be left to patients and their doctors. "Is this what we're going to do? Are we going to vote on the next blood pressure medication or chemo treatment because of anecdotal evidence?" said Pat Bird, an executive for a Utah substance abuse prevention program who was involved in the failed effort this year to update the state's CBD-only law.

The laws also have been harshly criticized by both medical marijuana advocates and prominent members of the medical establishment, albeit for very different reasons.

UPDATE: Here is the second part of this series from NBC News under the headline "Battle Over Georgia's 'No-Buzz' Medical Marijuana Law Gets Personal." Here is how it begins:

A Georgia mom is helping to lead the charge to expand the state's limited medical marijuana law, which she says unfairly excludes many patients with severe medical conditions — including her 5-year-old autistic daughter — who could benefit from the plant's medicinal properties.

"There are some pretty tenacious parents who are fighting," said Jennifer Conforti, whose daughter, Abby, isn't covered by the current law. "... Why wouldn't you do that as a legislator? What is in it for you to make you not want to help families in the state?"

April 23, 2016 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Blazing Billables: State Laws Expand Pro-Pot Legal Work"

The title of this post is the title of this recent lengthy American Lawyer article which in part explains why I think my novel marijuana law and policy law-school class may not be all that novel in the coming years.    Here is how the piece gets started:

On April 20, which each year marks the unofficial “420” holiday for marijuana enthusiasts worldwide, lawyers at big firms across the country spoke with The Am Law Daily about their work in the burgeoning field of semi-legal weed.

Though still not allowed under federal law, rapidly changing state regulations have created a relatively new industry worth roughly $5.7 billion. Clients looking to get involved in funding, growing or selling cannabis are calling upon lawyers to handle venture capital, finance, intellectual property, real estate, employment and regulatory work.

Am Law 200 firms have approached this industry with varying degrees of discretion. T hompson Coburn has a blog, Tracking Cannabis, Seyfarth Shaw has one too in The Blunt Truth and Dykema Gossett will also have one soon.  Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark Silow praised the cannabis work of the four-partner group his firm hired in Chicago from Nixon Peabody when the team was brought on last year.  

“I don’t think the firm’s ever been shy to put it out there that we’re entrepreneurial,” said Fox Rothschild partner Joshua Horn.  The co-chair of his firm’s securities industry practice, Philadelphia-based Horn is also a member of the National Cannabis Bar Association, which was formed last year.  On Sunday, Pennsylvania became the 24th U.S. state to legalize medicinal marijuana, so, as opposed to his partners in Illinois, Horn said he hasn’t put in much cannabis work near home.  The Pennsylvania Bar Association has yet to officially authorize an ethics rule change that would protect lawyers working in this industry, as noted this week by sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer.  But Horn said he is increasingly helping clients in other states raise capital to finance their cannabis ventures.

Baker & Hostetler corporate partner Randolf Katz is also doing marijuana finance work in California, where voters could approve the recreational use of marijuana in November. Katz said his clients are increasingly drawn to pot startups.  “One fund was pretty heavily in it,” he said, referring to a client. “Another fund, in the past year, has sent over probably six to eight different potential investments for us to take a look at that are marijuana-related companies.”

April 22, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)