Saturday, October 18, 2014
As this local article highlights, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is not completely backing off his recent (and self-serving?) suggestion that marijuana could help in the treatment of Ebola. Here are the details:
Former Gov. Gary Johnson caught a few headlines – and at least a little flack – when he suggested on a national TV show this week that marijuana could be a cure for Ebola. Johnson, who served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 through 2002, stood by his remarks Wednesday. But he explained he was not claiming marijuana is, in fact, a cure for the Ebola virus that has killed nearly 4,500 people, mostly in West Africa.
He said he was simply arguing more research should be done on whether certain cannabis compounds might be effective in fighting the disease. “If I were on a bed right now, and I was infected by Ebola, anything that might save my life I would take in a nanosecond,” Johnson told the [Albuquerque] Journal.
During his Monday in-studio appearance on FOX Business, Johnson went one step further, telling host Stuart Varney that “we actually believe we have efficacy with regard to treating Ebola.”
This summer, Johnson, who lives in Taos and was the Libertarian nominee for president in 2012, was named CEO and president of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a company that plans on selling medical and recreational marijuana products.
While Johnson insisted his suggestion about marijuana and Ebola was not about money, FOX Business host Varney questioned that claim, at one point saying, “Of course it is.” Varney also said Johnson’s argument in favor of easing government drug-testing regulations would lead to “snake oil salesmen” attempting to profit off the Ebola outbreak.
“I am not a snake oil salesman. I’m not. You know, I’m the former governor of New Mexico,” Johnson told KRQE-TV in response to Varney’s comments.
A state Health Department spokesman said Wednesday that the agency is “not aware of any studies suggesting that medical cannabis is a cure or treatment for Ebola.”
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable AP piece from Oregon headlined "Economist: Benefits of legal pot outweigh societal costs." Here are excerpts:
University of Oregon economist said Thursday the best-case estimates for Colorado's legal marijuana tax revenue were overstated because of a faulty model. Economist Ben Hansen said at the Oregon Economic Forum that misjudgments in Colorado's revenue estimates stemmed from a term familiar to students in Econ 101: Elasticity of demand.
Previous estimates of demand for recreational marijuana only looked at the potential shift from the black market to the legal market. But with the medical market suctioning off some new consumers, revenue forecasts changed. With various substitutes available, from synthetic marijuana to medical and black-market pot, Hansen said, guessing at the potential revenue impact in Oregon remains difficult....
Colorado has decided to spend pot taxes in arrears, meaning taxes aren't projected but spent only once collected. The unusual budgeting maneuver was adopted because the pot market is expected to be highly volatile for the first several years.
Legalizing marijuana increases its supply and drops its price, Hansen said. That price drop makes additional taxes harder for consumers to notice. That's important when the tax rate people pay in Colorado and Washington for legal pot is north of 40 percent. In Oregon, the same rate is anticipated to be about 15 percent.
While police agencies will no longer arrest or fine people caught with marijuana if it's legalized, Hansen says taxes function as a kind of fine for marijuana consumption. "With legalization, we can kind of double-dip," Hansen said. "We're no longer paying to arrest and incarcerate people, and we're getting tax revenue from it."
Hansen also says he doesn't anticipate a dramatic impact on the alcohol market, though he says studies have shown heavy drinking and beer sales decline in markets where medical marijuana is approved.
Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron said Thursday that Colorado's medical marijuana market was already commercialized when marijuana was legalized. "The medicinal market was so commercial, so visible, that for all practical purposes, it was legal," said Miron. "Economists consider all that matters are the fundamentals: Can you get access to it, are there barriers to it.
"I just don't think you (in Oregon) will see any kind of dramatic change. You're a long way toward a commercial market already."
October 18, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 13, 2014
The question title of this post is my reaction to this interesting report from Florida headlined "How Florida's Medical Marijuana Amendment Managed to Plunge South." The report by Nancy Smith suggests that the marijuana reform ballot initiative going before Florida voters in three weeks is now on the political ropes. Here is her account for why:
In April, Amendment 2 looked indestructible. Poll after poll gave it upward of 80 percent in voter approval. Then all of a sudden the cracks began to show. Numbers dipped slightly. And by May, anybody who says he couldn't see the medical marijuana amendment's steep slide coming wasn't looking very hard....
And here's what I think happened. I think the smooth-sailing pro-constitutional amendment campaign did such a good job of promoting its early popularity, it became a victim of its own success.
Strong Amendment 2 polling numbers plus an end to the struggle in the Florida Legislature to pass the landmark Charlotte's Web bill launched an entrepreneurial feeding frenzy across the state. It was like a gold rush. But it was also a turn-off for conservative voters who felt overwhelmed, who wanted medical marijuana, but not the greed they now identified as an accompaniment.
Sold-out, cannabis-themed business expos and training conventions -- particularly the ones in Miami and Orlando -- got big media publicity, lit up Twitter and attracted medical marijuana "experts" from other parts of the country. Law practices and lobbyists carving out a specialty in medical marijuana consulting were even buying billboard ads along South Florida highways.
The first eye-opening event I remember -- well-publicized before and after -- was staged in mid-April at the Sheraton Hotel in Miami. Bob Calkin, Los Angeles cannabis hustler, charged wannabe entrepreneurs $299 a pop for a 10-hour crash course on how to make a fortune "dispensing medicine." His company, Cannabis Career Institute, headquartered in Calkin's van, raked in $45,000 for a day's work.
As I said, none of this escaped the notice of increasingly jittery likely voters. All told, it's left a sour taste. Floridians now are asking, is this amendment more about who can profit from it than it is about who it might be able to help?
"What am I supposed to think?" asks Mandy Stokes, 54. "I want sick people who can be helped by medical marijuana to have what they need no matter what. But all these people swarming into the state looking to get rich quick ... I don't want Florida to be Colorado and end up with recreational marijuana."...
Retired Tamarac doctor Garrett R. Richardson, a family practitioner, told Sunshine State News, "If I were still practicing, I would have nothing to do with cannabis therapy until the feds decriminalize the plant. I wouldn't want lawyers and patients in my face constantly to recommend something I may not think is the best therapy. No lawyer would be getting rich at my expense, I can tell you that."
Add to mounting fear the increasing presence of well-financed Vote No on 2. Its slick television ads are all over the state's larger markets. And John Morgan's profanity-laced video hasn't helped: Morgan, the father of Amendment 2, cocktail in his hand, standing before a group of cheering young people, urging them to vote for marijuana. Negative publicity, to say the least -- and didn't the Vote No on 2 people jump all over it....
All of a sudden, United for Care went from "we're in!" to "do we still have a chance?" And it's beginning to lose the battle for money. A successful TV ad campaign can cost $1 million a week....
This constitutional amendment needs 60 percent approval to pass and become law on Jan. 6. Yet, of the eight polls released since Sept. 1, the average percentage of support is 57.6....
If you're wondering, the top contributors for the "pro" team, People United for Medical Marijuana, are 1) The John Morgan law firm, $3,535,896; 2) prominent Democratic fundraiser Barbara Stiefel, $605,000; and 3) John Morgan personally, $250,000.
Top contributors for the "con" team, Vote No on 2, are 1) casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, $4 million in two combined chunks; 2) the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust, $540,000; and 3) Republican donor and millionaire Mel Sembler, $100,000....
[T]he same Floridians whose initial motives for embracing medical marijuana were pure and true, are now repulsed by what they see as mob greed -- would-be business people flocking to launch ventures in an industry built on disease and suffering. I'm not sure how you overcome that.
October 13, 2014 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results | Permalink | Comments (1)
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
I never tire of the phrase "follow the money," and I generally do not use it as a pejorative complaint about modern politics as much as a useful reminder that capitalism (and capital) explains the realities of American law, policy and reform as much as any other force. With these realities in mind, I found especially interesting this informative lengthy USA Today article headlined "Entrepreneurs eye emerging marijuana markets." Here are some extended excerpts:
When James Howler created his marijuana-infused taffy in 2009, the Colorado entrepreneur had trouble finding an accountant willing to keep the books of a company making legally fuzzy medical marijuana candy. Now, five years later, venture capitalists from New York City want to shower him with money for a stake in his Cheeba Chews and a foothold in a $2.6 billion marijuana industry now operating in nearly half the country.
With medical marijuana legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and recreational marijuana legal in Colorado and Washington state, the market for weed is rife with potential, and the people in pinstripes have taken note. As the marijuana companies grow more sophisticated — and profitable — they are attracting the attention of investors and corporations.
Tapping into the green revolution, however, brings unique challenges for entrepreneurs and corporate honchos alike. States may have bucked federal law, which considers marijuana illegal for any purpose, but they have imposed their own complicated, lengthy lists of regulations meant to keep cannabis tightly under control and, in some cases, keep the corporate behemoths out.
But with so much money at stake, industry experts say, it's only a matter of time before corporate giants, already eyeing the market, grab their share, too. "If leaders of these companies are not looking at the cannabis space, then they are not doing their jobs," says Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, a trade publication based in Denver. "Billions of dollars are here, and no seasoned business executive is going to overlook a billion-dollar industry that they might be positioned to tap."...
If the crowd of 200 executives who jammed the marijuana panel at the Wine & Spirits Summit on June 5 in Denver is any indication, the alcohol industry is paying attention. "Some see it as a threat, and some are interested in being part of the industry," says Emily Pennington, editor of Wine & Spirits Daily, an online trade publication that hosted the summit. "Either way, they are watching it very closely."...
Most major tobacco companies, which explored the possibilities of marijuana in the 1970s, when federal legalization seemed possible, now deny any interest. "Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Altria's companies have no plans to sell marijuana-based products," says Brian May, spokesman for Altria, the company that owns tobacco company Philip Morris America....
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco also says it isn't interested in marijuana. "We have no intention to have any involvement when it comes to marijuana," spokesman David Howard says. "We have no interest in that industry."
But tobacco giant Japan Tobacco International entered into a deal in December 2011 with Ploom, the San Francisco-based manufacturer of a pocket-sized smoking device that heats tobacco, vaporizing nicotine and flavor without producing smoke, to commercialize the product outside the United States. Although the company maintains its device is solely for tobacco, the latest version, called Pax, is popular among marijuana users.
At least two pharmaceutical firms, AbbVie and GW Pharmaceuticals, already produce medicines that contain active ingredients from cannabis. GW says it is a traditional pharmaceutical company that won't be dabbling in what it calls the "artisanal" medical marijuana business.The company manufactures Sativex, a cannabinoid medicine for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis....
Some states don't allow non-residents to open or have equity investments in marijuana businesses. Colorado, which has more than 1,300 licensed marijuana businesses, requires marijuana investors to have lived in the state for at least two years. The owner, operator and employees must all be residents of the state. Non-state residents can lend money but can't have an equity interest, says Colorado Department of Revenue spokeswoman Natriece Bryant. The state enacted those regulations specifically to keep the giant multinationals out, Bryant says....
Most federally insured banks have opted to stay away from the industry because of legal uncertainty about whether transactions for marijuana businesses could be considered money laundering. That means marijuana businesses have little access to small business loans or even payroll accounts. With banks out of the picture for now, most of the financial backing for growth in the marijuana industry has come from venture capital, angel investors and private loans.
"We've had bankers from New York City asking for a tour of the facilities and wanting to know how they can invest," said Ralph Morgan, chief operating officer of O.penVAPE, which specializes in extraction of purified cannabis oil from marijuana and produces a vape pen that vaporizes the oil to be inhaled. O.penVAPE products are sold in Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona. "There are tons of people dumping tons of money into the industry," says Cheeba Chews' Howler. "There is money to be made, and that's why that big money is coming in."...
Ultimately, once corporate America thinks the industry is safe, well-established marijuana companies will be targets for acquisition, says Steve Berg, chief financial officer of O.penVAPE. "By virtue of the success we've had and the powerful brand we've developed, we constantly get inquiries from individuals and companies looking to partner," Berg says. None have come from Big Pharma, Big Tobacco or Big Alcohol, "but we feel like we can feel them out there," he says.
"How could it be otherwise? This is a new industry that is growing very, very rapidly," Berg says. "Any business-development division that has any similarity has to have their eye on this ball."
O.penVAPE's chief operating officer, Ralph Morgan, who worked in medical device sales before he and his wife, intrigued by the medical side of cannabis, decided to open a dispensary in Colorado, says there's nothing mysterious about the marijuana industry. "All the regular business rules apply to the marijuana industry — taxation, regulation, human resources," Morgan says. "It's just a different widget."
Morgan says recreational marijuana businesses are a natural fit for the alcohol industry, which is already accustomed to state-by-state regulation. Marijuana products "could be made and distributed in a similar fashion," Morgan says. "The alcohol industry has done a good job of creating brands."
Trip Keber, who four years ago founded Dixie Elixirs to make marijuana-infused drinks, chocolates and lotions, says he, too, has had inquiries from investment bankers, hedge funds and venture capitalists. And at conferences, he has fielded questions from alcohol industry executives. "Four years ago, I couldn't get anyone to return my calls," Keber says. "Now the tables have turned. We are too big to ignore."
One of the biggest signs that the industry has matured is the influx of top-notch professionals — lawyers, accountants, advertising execs — willing to take jobs at the marijuana companies, Berg says. Full legalization in Colorado and Washington was a watershed event for many business professionals, who could then feel it was safe to join the industry, Berg says. "One of the major themes or trends in the legal cannabis industry is the professionalization of the industry," Berg says. "Professionals are crossing over from the more conventional industries because they see a lot of opportunity and a lot of challenge."...
Changes in societal attitudes toward marijuana caught attorney Barry Peek's attention a few years ago. Peek, a labor and employment lawyer at the 65-lawyer New York firm Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, did some reading, attended a few conferences and then gathered a group of three or four attorneys in his firm to study the issues around medical marijuana. He concluded that medical marijuana would turn out to be big business. And if it's a new business, Peek says, people will need legal advice.
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state's medical marijuana law on July 5, Peek's firm was ready. "We are advising clients on how to maneuver through those regulations," Peek says. "We have a full-service law firm, so if there is a company that needs to get into the business, we can handle corporate issues, tax issues, land-use issues, whatever they need."
Interest in New York is widespread, from farmers in Upstate New York who have idle land that could grow marijuana to doctors who want to dispense it, Peek says. "It will be a growing sector in the legal community," Peek says. "And once the smaller companies get a foothold and become profitable, they will get bought out by larger companies."
Sunday, October 5, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable symposium planned for later this month. The event takes place at the University of California Irvine School of Law, and is presented by the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR) and Brown Rudnick LLP, and here is how the event is pitched at this website:
Despite stringent regulation at the federal level, an increasing number of U.S. states have adopted laws legalizing the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Marijuana production activities are being openly conducted without prosecution, but a suite of land use and environmental laws may nonetheless regulate such conduct, including environmental impacts of farming, consumer product safety, pesticide use, the siting and location of farms and dispensaries, and use of public lands.
Attorneys also face uncertainty as to their ability to advise clients in the marijuana industry about these activities. This symposium explores these many issues, guided by leading practitioners and policymakers deeply involved at the interface of federal and state marijuana use and control.
Alejandro E. Camacho, Professor of Law, Director, Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources at UC Irvine School of Law, and Geoffrey K. Willis, Partner, Brown Rudnick LLP, will serve as moderators.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this new Wasington Post summary of some notable recent research concerning California marijuana users. Here is how the piece starts (with links from the original):
A 2013 survey in the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly 8-in-10 doctors approved the use of medical marijuana. Now, a wide-ranging survey in California finds that medical marijuana patients agree: 92 percent said that medical marijuana alleviated symptoms of their serious medical conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraine, and cancer.
The data come from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a representative health survey of 7,525 California adults produced by the Public Health Institute in partnership with the CDC. Researchers found that in total, five percent of California adults said they had used medical marijuana for a "serious medical condition."
"Our study’s results lend support to the idea that medical marijuana is used equally by many groups of people and is not exclusively used by any one specific group," the authors write. There were similar usage rates among both men and women. Adults of all ages reported medical marijuana use, although young adults were the most likely to use it.
There were some small differences in medical marijuana use across members of different races, although the authors stress that "the absolute difference in prevalence between the racial/ethnic groups is less than three percentage points, which may not have much importance in practical terms."
Monday, September 29, 2014
As reported in this interesting local piece, headlined "U.S. senators join request for medical marijuana waiver: Schumer, Gillibrand back N.Y. in Justice Dept. effort," New York officials are making a concerted effort to aid in marijuana importation. Here are the details:
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Monday joined New York State’s effort to obtain a waiver from the U.S. Department of Justice allowing the state to import medicinal marijuana to treat children who suffer from rare and deadly seizure disorders.
The letter by the two Democratic senators from New York to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. comes three days after the state Health Department submitted a new waiver request to Washington permitting the emergency importation of the drug while New York prepares to enact a broader medical marijuana program in the beginning of 2016.
The senators, acting after families of ill children sought their intervention with Justice, wrote to Holder that children with severe epileptic disorders “urgently need medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease, and these children obviously do not hold any imminent criminal threat.”
The senators are asking that the federal government help pave the way for Charlotte’s Web, a strain of marijuana grown in Colorado that is not smokable, to be permitted to cross state lines for distribution in New York. Parents of children with the condition say the drug offers no real attraction to the black market because the strain of marijuana they seek does not get users high....
There are an estimated 60,000 New Yorkers who suffer from a form of epilepsy that cannot be controlled by over-the-counter medicines, Schumer and Gillibrand said. How many of those are children with the rare seizure disorders who might qualify for the medical marijuana is uncertain, state officials say.
The specific request by Schumer and Gillibrand seeks assurances from Justice that individuals would not be prosecuted for shipping medical marijuana into New York under a state-created emergency program while the broader marijuana program is being developed.
At least three children have died in New York from the seizure disorders, including 9-year-old Anna Conte of Orchard Park, since the medical marijuana measure was signed by Cuomo in July. Before and after the law’s enactment, families urged the state to carve out an emergency exception for their children to get access to cannabidiol, or cannabis oil, which can be taken in pill, oil or other form other than smoking with no psychotropic effects....
In July, the state legalized medical marijuana, but the program is not set to begin before January 2016. Advocates were upset with Cuomo in June, when the medical marijuana deal was struck, because he insisted on killing a legislative provision to permit the state to participate in an emergency-type program for the seizure treatments by allowing marijuana to be transported across state lines into New York.
Now, advocates say that even if the federal government approves the waiver requests, the legislation Cuomo insisted upon and signed in July would have to be amended. That, they say, would require a special session of the State Legislature if patients don’t want to have to wait until January to gain access to the drug.
Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the two letters by the state Health Department have been received and are being reviewed. She said the department does not believe that it has ever granted a waiver like the one being requested by New York.
Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, D-Manhattan, sponsor of the medical marijuana law in the Assembly, recalled how the governor at the last moment during negotiations insisted that New York not be permitted to import the drug on an emergency basis and that any marijuana dispensed in the state must be grown in the state. “Even if the state licensed a registered organization tomorrow, it would not be allowed to dispense a product that was produced in Colorado or Vermont,” Gottfried said, suggesting that Cuomo call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the matter.
September 29, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 28, 2014
As highlighted in this local article, headlined "About a 1,000 show up in Colorado Springs for veterans marijuana giveaway," showing support for the troops had a unique meaning in one Colorado city this weekend. Here are the details:
A free cannabis giveaway at a Colorado Springs hotel Saturday attracted about a thousand people looking for an alternative medication for their physical and mental pain.
Roger Martin, the executive director and co-founder of Operation Grow4Vets, which put on the event, said the group's goal is to bring cannabis to veterans with service-related conditions as an alternative to pain medications. "It isn't going to hurt them as much as the prescription drugs," he said.
Martin, an Army veteran, said he struggled with prescription drug use to help with what he called "24-hour" pain and an inability to sleep. "I just need something to take the pain away during the day," he said. Martin said he discovered edible marijuana as a way to reduce pain and help him sleep more, and he wants other veterans to have the same chance to address ailments.
Matt Kahl, a former Army specialist who works for Operation Grow4Vets as a director of horticulture, said using marijuana saved his life and reduced his dependency on pain medication. Kahl said he was injured when serving in Afghanistan when he was thrown from a vehicle, causing a traumatic brain injury and hurting his spine and back. As part of his recovery, Kahl started taking more than a dozen pain medications per month. After a suggestion from a friend, Kahl started using marijuana to help with the pain. Now, he said, he is off all but two of his medications.
"It doesn't make sense that our first line of defense is toxic medication," Kahl said. He said marijuana use lessened his symptoms of hyper vigilance and pain, and he moved to Colorado, "I would not be alive without this," Kahl said....
Martin said some might have been disappointed because they were not handing out bags of marijuana, but that was not his group's goal. "We're not about getting people high," he said, Martin said the organization plans to have at least three more events this year, including another in Colorado Springs. Operation Grow4Vets also sponsored an event last weekend in Denver, which Martin said attracted hundreds of people, but the event in Colorado Springs, he said, attracted about 1,000 people.
Monday, September 22, 2014
This local article from Alaska, headlined "KTVA reporter quits on-air, reveals herself as owner of Alaska Cannabis Club," reports on how one TV personality decided to use her time on air to provide a marijuana-business-driven decision to tell her bosses to "take this job and shove it." Here are the details:
Reporter Charlo Greene quit on-air during KTVA-TV's 10 p.m. newscast Sunday, revealing herself as the owner of the medical marijuana business Alaska Cannabis Club and telling viewers that she would be using all of her energy to fight for legalizing marijuana in Alaska.
Greene had reported on the Alaska Cannabis Club during Sunday night’s broadcast, without revealing her connection to it. At the end of the report, during a live shot, she announced that she was the club's owner and would be quitting.
“Now everything you've heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska," she said. "And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit.” And with that, she walked off camera....
Reached later, Greene said KTVA had no idea she was going to quit, or that she was connected to the Alaska Cannabis Club. Asked why she quit in such a dramatic way, she said, "Because I wanted to draw attention to this issue. And the issue is medical marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real ... most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine."
"If I offended anyone, I apologize, but I’m not sorry for the choice that I made," she said. In a statement posted on KTVA's Facebook page Sunday night, news director Bert Rudman said, "We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated."
Started in April, the Alaska Cannabis Club connects medical marijuana cardholders with other cardholders who are growing cannabis. Growers are offered "donations" as reimbursement for the costs of growing marijuana, the club said in an interview with Alaska Dispatch News in August. The club said it hopes to increase access to medical marijuana patients, despite operating in a legal gray area within Alaska's murky medical marijuana laws. Video clips of the broadcast were quickly uploaded to YouTube and shared on Reddit Sunday night.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this recent lengthy and informative Forbes article by Jacob Sullum. Here is how it gets started:
During a visit to the Dixie Elixirs & Edibles plant in Denver last summer, I saw the machines the company uses to produce cannabis concentrates, the kitchen where it makes marijuana-infused chocolates, and the bottling line for its THC-spiked sodas. Toward the end of the tour, I had a semi-serious question for the company’s CEO, Tripp Keber: “Where do you keep your piles of money?”
Keber laughed but quickly turned serious. “We actually have strong banking relationships,” he said. “We don’t talk about them. Asking someone about their banking is like asking them what they wear to bed at night. It’s an intensely personal question, even within the industry.” You can begin to understand why banking is such a touchy subject for the newly legal cannabusinesses in Colorado and Washington (as well as growers and dispensaries in the 21 states that allow medical but not recreational use of marijuana) if you consider the federal laws a financial institution violates when it does business with a state-licensed company like Keber’s.
“By providing [a] loan and placing the proceeds in [a] checking account, the institution would be conspiring to distribute marijuana,” writes University of Alabama law professor Julie Andersen Hill in a paper she presented at a conference on marijuana and federalism last week. “By facilitating customers’ credit card payments, the institution would be aiding and abetting the distribution of marijuana. And by knowingly accepting deposits consisting of revenue from the sale of marijuana, the institution may be acting as an accessory after the fact.”
That is not the end of the possible charges. “A financial institution that knowingly processes transactions for marijuana-related businesses commits the crime of money laundering,” Hill notes. Failure to meet the detailed monitoring and reporting requirements of the humorously named Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires financial institutions to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, also can be treated as a felony.
Bank employees, officers, and directors can be prosecuted for these crimes, some of which may, depending on the amount of marijuana involved, trigger five- or 10-year mandatory minimum sentences. BSA violations are punishable by up to 10 years in prison when combined with other federal offenses. Money laundering can get you up to 20 years, and life is the maximum for participating in a marijuana conspiracy. In addition to the daunting threat of criminal penalties, financial institutions that deal with cannabusinesses have to worry about offending federal regulators with the power to impose millions of dollars in fines or sentence a bank to death by revoking its deposit insurance.
It is little wonder, then, that financial institutions are wary of cannabusinesses, or that the growers, manufacturers, and retailers who are lucky enough to obtain banking services do not want to talk about how they managed to do that. The lack of banking services, which Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, calls “the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today,” makes it difficult for marijuana entrepreneurs to raise capital and forces most of them to deal exclusively in cash, which creates administrative, logistical, and security headaches.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Why Florida is such an interesting marijuana reform state: "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana"
This lengthy local article from Florida, headlined "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana," highlights just some of the many reasons I think Florida is the most interesting state to watch in the near future concerning marijuana law, policy and reform. Here are excerpts from the article:
Sunshine and beaches are great attractions, but there could be another reason snowbirds flock to Florida if Amendment 2 passes: The availability of medical marijuana. Whether that happens depends on several unknowns as Florida heads into the last seven weeks before people vote on the question of legalizing medical pot.
State and local tourism officials don't believe the amendment will have an effect on tourism if it passes. They say the impact on snowbird residents would be miniscule. They also say they have no intention of using medical marijuana as a marketing tool.
Others say it's too early to tell. "I'm a snowbird with pain associated with MS," said David Dillabough, of Syracuse, N.Y., who winters in St. James City. "I avoid hydrocodone, oxycodone and the like. Marijuana is my choice whenever I need a break from persistent pain.
"Like other retired/older people, Florida is attractive to me because of the warmth and sunshine. Legalized medical marijuana wouldn't be the icing on the cake (that would be my friends), but it would be the flowers on the icing."
The state Department of Health financial analysis estimating the possible impact of the passage of Amendment 2 says snowbirds are a potential pool for medical marijuana tourism. "An estimated 17,178 to 41,271 may apply for an ID," the analysis says. That estimate has not been updated since the analysis was released in early November, said Phil E. Williams of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, the multistep process someone will have to go through to get an ID for medical pot would discourage shorter-duration visitors, the analysis says....
If the amendment passes, the effective date would be Jan. 1. The health department would have six months from that date to come up with rules; nine months to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers; and nine months to register medical marijuana dispensaries.
Tamara Pigott, executivwere director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said you have to remember tourists and snowbirds are two different things: Snowbirds are considered part-time residents who are here for a month or longer and often own property. Many snowbirds have established Florida residency, an attractive option because the state has no income tax. Tourists are short-term visitors.
Even if up to 41,000 snowbirds could apply for a medical pot ID, that number pales in the context of the actual numbers of state visitors, she said. Visitors reached 94.3 million last year according to Visit Florida, the state's official tourism and marketing entity, and the state is aiming for 100 million in 2014. One conference alone could bring in 40,000 people in a big city, Pigott said. "I don't anticipate that we would see a significant bump."
The legalization of medical marijuana might affect seasonal residents, said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But it probably would not have much effect on short-term visitors, which is what we do and how we promote," he said. Snowbirds aren't even counted in their statistics, he said. "I guess we're going to watch it and see where it goes from here."...
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry, agrees with Florida officials when it comes to tourism and medical marijuana. The reason is states that have legalized medical marijuana have a residency requirement, she said. However, one possible exception is that Nevada is planning to allow reciprocity in their medical program, so people who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients in other states can purchase medical marijuana in Nevada, she said. "But that hasn't actually started yet, and it's still not going to create a tourism boom, since anyone it would affect is able to access medical marijuana in their home states already," West said....
Kathy Lowers of Naples said Amendment 2 will not make Florida a more attractive place to visit or live. Lowers, who has six children, said she moved here from California in part to avoid what she called the "sleaziness" of pot shops that popped up there. "To me, if Florida goes the way of California, I will just be so depressed," she said. "I am not against medical marijuana, but against pot shops dispensing it. There is a big difference.
"The Florida amendment is way more liberal than even the California one, so goodbye to family-friendly Florida," Lowers said. "People like me come here because it is more wholesome than other places; pot will ruin that benefit of visiting or living in Florida."
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by the very first sentence of this provocative recent New York Times op-ed authored by former NFL player Nate Jackson. Here are excerpts from a piece headlined "The N.F.L.’s Absurd Marijuana Policy":
Virtually every single player in the N.F.L. has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.
The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it. Some players choose marijuana to manage this pain, which allows them to perform at a high level without sacrificing their bodies or their minds.
I medicated with marijuana for most of my career as a tight end from 2003 through 2008. And I needed the medication. I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc. Most players have similar medical charts. And every one of them needs the medicine.
Standard pain management in the N.F.L. is pain pills and pregame injections. But not all players favor the pill and needle approach. In my experience, many prefer marijuana. The attitude toward weed in the locker room mirrors the attitude in America at large. It’s not a big deal. Players have been familiar with it since adolescence, and those who use it do so to offset the brutality of the game. The fact that they made it to the N.F.L. at all means that their marijuana use is under control.
Had marijuana become a problem for me, it would have been reflected in my job performance, and I would have been cut. I took my job seriously and would not have allowed that to happen. The point is, marijuana and excellence on the playing field are not mutually exclusive....
Nearly 17,000 Americans overdosed and died from prescription painkillers in 2011, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are the same pills I was handed in full bottles after an injury. The same pills that are ravaging our cities. The same ones that are creating a population of apathetic adults, pill-popping their way through the day and dead behind the eyes. The same ones that are leading high schoolers to heroin because the pills no longer get them high and are too expensive. Yeah, those....
In my playing days, the marijuana smokers struck me as sharper, more thoughtful and more likely to challenge authority than the nonsmokers. It makes me wonder if we weren’t that way because marijuana allowed us to avoid the heavy daze of pain pills. It gave us clarity. It kept us sane....
Professional football is a violent trade that could use some forward thinking. The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association, which agreed to the league’s substance abuse policy in collective bargaining, should rethink their approach. The policy reflects outdated views on marijuana and pain management, punishes players who seek an alternative to painkillers, keeps them in a perpetual state of injury and injury management, and risks creating new addicts.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Gray Lady continues to do important reporting and advocacy concerning marijuana reform as evidenced by this recent article headlined "Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules." Here are excerpts from this piece:
Brandon Coats knew he was going to fail his drug test. Paralyzed in a car crash when he was 16, he had been using medical marijuana since 2009 to relieve the painful spasms that jolted his body. But he smoked mostly at night, and said marijuana had never hurt his performance answering customer calls for a Colorado satellite-television provider.... “There are a lot of people out there who need jobs, can do a good job, but in order for them to live their lives, they have to have this,” said Mr. Coats, who is 35. “A person can drink all night long, be totally hung over the next day and go to work and there’s no problem with it.”
But when it comes to marijuana, Mr. Coats and other users are discovering that marijuana’s recent strides toward the legal and cultural mainstream are running aground at the office. Even as 23 states allow medical or recreational marijuana, employment experts say that most businesses are keeping their drug-free policies. The result is a clash between a culture that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it....
Employers and business groups say the screenings identify drug-abusing workers, create a safer workplace, lower their insurance costs and, in some cases, are required by law. But marijuana advocates say the prohibitions amount to discrimination, either against people using marijuana to treat a medical condition or against people who smoke it because they simply have the legal right to do so, off the clock and away from the office. “It wasn’t like I was getting high on the job,” Mr. Coats said. “I would smoke right before I go to bed, and that little bit would help me get through my days.”
On Sept. 30, he will take that argument before the Colorado Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging his 2010 firing. For years, courts in Colorado and across the country have ruled against marijuana users, saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies. But legal experts say that if Mr. Coats prevails — he lost 2-1 in an appellate ruling — his case could transform how businesses must treat marijuana users.
Relatedly, the NYTimes had this editorial headlined "Obsolete Zero Tolerance on Pot."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
As promised, I’m going to dive into a new project evaluating the “local option” for marijuana: i.e., proposals to allow local governments (usually counties) to ban marijuana sales, notwithstanding state legalization of the drug.
I plan to post the project piecemeal. I'm still working on the language, ideas, and research, so I welcome feedback. I’ll start, naturally, with the Introduction (omitting footnotes) and follow with the Parts II and III to follow over the course of the next week. Here goes:
The states have largely prevailed in their struggle against the federal government for control over marijuana policy. More than 20 states have already legalized marijuana under state law and the number is sure to grow. Though the federal government has not yet repealed its own marijuana prohibition, it has largely ceded control of the issue to the states. As I wrote nearly five years ago,
[M]edical marijuana use has survived and indeed thrived in the shadow of the federal ban. The war over medical marijuana may be largely over, though skirmishes will undoubtedly continue, but contrary to conventional wisdom, it is the states, and not the federal government, that have emerged the victors in this struggle. Supremacy, in short, has its limits.
But the states are now facing growing opposition from within. Citing concerns over marijuana’s perceived harms, many communities in marijuana legalization states are seeking to re-instate marijuana prohibition at the local level. In Colorado alone, for example, more than 150 municipalities have passed ordinances banning marijuana shops outright.
These local ordinances raise one of the most important and unresolved questions surrounding marijuana law reforms: What power, if any, should states give local governments to regulate marijuana? How the states answer this question will determine just how quickly and broadly marijuana legalization spreads. The experience with alcohol control is instructive. Although national alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933, and although Mississippi repealed the last statewide alcohol prohibition in 1966, hundreds of local communities – governing roughly 10% of the nation’s population -- continue to ban the sale of alcohol today, more than 80 years after the ratification of the 21st Amendment.
Despite the importance of the local authority question, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to it. Most marijuana legalization states failed to address local authority in their marijuana reform legislation, sparking dozens of lawsuits challenging local ordinances. In many states, the issue of local control remains unsettled. And while many scholars have weighed in on the federalism issues surrounding marijuana law reforms, they have all but ignored the important power battles now flaring up within the states.
This Article begins to fill the gap. It aims to provide lawmakers, jurists, scholars, and other interested parties insights into the desirability of enabling local communities to ban marijuana. It approaches this task in two ways. First, it discusses the theory of local control. The theory seeks to balance the interests of individual local governments against those of our broader society. On the one hand, local governments can tailor their policies to satisfy local tastes. What’s right for Last Vegas isn’t necessarily right for Reno. On the other hand, local policies can also affect outsiders who have no say over them. What happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay there. The desirability of local control over any given issue hinges on the relative strength of these competing considerations.
Second, the Article attempts to gauge the strength of these competing considerations for marijuana. Would local control advance local policy interests? Would it harm outsiders? It is, of course, far too early to gauge the impact of local marijuana regulations. But we do have more than one century worth of experience with local alcohol regulations. I argue that this experience holds some valuable lessons for debates over local marijuana control. In particular, I find our experience with local alcohol control should temper enthusiasm for giving local government similar control over marijuana. The research on local alcohol control suggests that local alcohol regulations have effects beyond the boundaries of the jurisdictions that adopt them. A wet county might thwart a neighboring dry county’s effort to curb alcohol consumption and the harms that go along with it. Likewise, a dry county might shift some of the harms of alcohol consumption onto a neighboring wet county. The sobering experience with local alcohol control suggests that the state or even national governments might be better suited to controlling that substance and, by extension, marijuana as well.
The Article proceeds as follows. Part I discusses the current controversy over local marijuana regulation. Part II discusses the theoretical framework for evaluating the desirability of local control. Part III discusses the lessons of local alcohol control. Part IV then returns to draw some tentative conclusions about the desirability of local marijuana control.
August 19, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, August 18, 2014
This local article from Florida, headlined "Ad war looms over medical marijuana: 'Compassion for sick' versus 'Devil in the details'," spotlights the developing terms of debate in the campaign for and against Florida's medical marijuana initiative being voted upon this November. Here are some of the details:
A burst of ads coming soon to TV screens in Florida will feature patients and doctors extolling the virtues of marijuana as a compassionate way to treat the sick and ease their pain. The soft-sell campaign, a laid-back variation on the usual political pitch, is designed to promote a constitutional amendment on November's ballot to legalize medical marijuana.
Countering that message will be a rival set of ads warning that approval of the amendment would lead to widespread drug use, supplied by "pot docs" and "pot shops" at every turn.
The dueling ad campaigns will compete for attention amid political appeals from candidates for governor and other offices, adding to an expected deluge of election messages though late summer and early fall.
Neither side would say when its ads will start or how much it's planning to spend. But both sides are preparing to hit the airwaves with TV and radio spots while developing networks of campaign volunteers and delivering their messages on the Internet. It's not quite politics as usual.
"We're not in a partisan scrum. We're not in an attack-and-response mode," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care, which is spearheading the marijuana amendment. "We're just going to go out there and have people share their stories about how medical marijuana has affected them, or could have affected them, and their loved ones." The testimonials, he said, will come from patients, doctors and nurses.
He said 10,000 volunteers have signed up to help convey the message through phone calls, in-person talks and social media. They will be pitching constitutional Amendment 2, which "allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician."...
Early polls indicate overwhelming public support for medical marijuana — by 88 percent in a statewide Quinnipiac University poll — but analysts expect a close vote on Amendment 2, which requires 60 percent approval to become law.
Opponents, including law-enforcement groups and Republican leaders, say the amendment is full of loopholes that could allow unscrupulous "pot docs" to recommend the drug for recreational users. "The thing I would be concerned about is the ruse of medicinal marijuana for purposes of allowing people basically to buy a joint and smoke it," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Florida reporters this month.
Nonprofit groups that oppose the measure have banded together under the Don't Let Florida Go to Pot coalition, which provides speakers at public forums. A separate group known as Vote No on 2 will lead the ad campaign.
A sample ad already has popped up on the Internet. The video shows scenes of children walking past marijuana stores in California, big piles of pot and derelicts puffing on pipes. "They say they just want to help the sick, but that's not the whole story," a narrator intones. These scenes are interspersed with commentary from experts, such as lawyers and cops, who support the theme "The Devil is in the Details."
"A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for legalization of marijuana forever in the state of Florida," Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, tells viewers.
The coming air war will bring the debate into Floridians' living rooms. "There's certainly going to be enough spending to make it a salient issue, with both sides ramping up their ad buys," said Daniel Smith, political science professor at the University of Florida. He said this issue, highlighted by the ads, will prompt some voters to cast ballots who otherwise might not bother with a non-presidential election.
The Boston Globe has this intriguing new article discussing in the problems that face medical marijuana patients in university settings. The piece is headlined "In halls of academia, medical marijuana an unwelcome guest: Colleges, mindful of federal rules, draw ire by keeping stiff bans." Here are excerpts:
Thomas Burke Jr., a 25-year-old US combat veteran and Yale University grad student, has a physician’s permission to use medical marijuana in Connecticut to treat PTSD symptoms. Although medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly two years, many local colleges are putting out the message to students as the fall semester nears: You still can’t use it on campus, even if a doctor says it’s medicinal.
College administrators have reaffirmed policies banning the drug in all forms, and that includes for students who have a doctor’s recommendation. They say their hands are tied by federal regulations, which still classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and they worry that allowing cannabis use of any kind could lead to the loss of federal funding, including student financial aid....
But other medical marijuana patients and advocates say colleges are being overly cautious. Forbidding the use of a state-recognized, doctor-authorized medicine is unfair, unethical, and a detriment to students, faculty, and others who use the drug to treat ailments, they say. “We would like to see schools recognize, as many states and millions and millions of individuals and doctors have done, that marijuana is in fact valid medicine for the patients that are using it, and treating it differently than other medications is harmful to students and faculty who have chosen to use medical marijuana,” said Betty Aldworth, director of Students for Sensile Drug Policy, a national student network pushing for an overhaul of drug laws....
Some schools — including Boston University, Tufts University, and Amherst, Curry, Emerson, Hampshire, and Wheelock colleges — that ban medical marijuana on campus try to help students with certifications to find alternatives. One way is to allow the students to opt out of on-campus housing contracts and requirements so they can pursue treatment off-campus....
The Justice Department said in a memorandum last year that it focuses enforcement on the most serious marijuana-related violations, and it is “not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers.”
However, in 2011, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Education Department wrote a letter warning campuses that deviating from federal rules could put their federal funding at risk. “The administration’s stance hasn’t changed since then,” drug control policy office spokeswoman Cameron Hardesty told the Globe last week.
Advocates, however, say it is unrealistic to believe the US government would cut off funding to colleges over the issue. “I understand not wanting to risk millions of dollars in federal funding, but no college has ever lost federal funding for changing their drug or alcohol policies,”said Connor McKay, a 22-year-old Northeastern University senior and president of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Colleges could and should at least accommodate students who need to use it.”
Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Miami Herald has this interesting new article discussing comments by former Florida Gov Jeb Bush concerning marijuana law and policy and the competing tensions created by state reforms and federal prohibition. The full headline of the piece provide a summary of its themes: "Jeb Bush conflicted over feds role in medical-marijuana enforcement; Former Gov. Jeb Bush is conflicted over the federal government’s role in medical-marijuana states and refrains from criticizing President Barack Obama over the issue." Here are excerpts:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush opposes Florida’s medical-marijuana initiative, but the potential GOP presidential candidate said he’s not sure if the federal government should enforce federal cannabis laws if the Sunshine State proposal passes.
Bush’s struggle with the state-federal split over medical marijuana reflects a broader struggle in the national Republican Party, where anti-drug hardliners are at odds with states-rights conservatives and libertarians over the issue.
Though a top Republican and frequent critic of President Obama, Bush refrained from repudiating the current White House’s position to de-emphasize enforcement of certain marijuana laws in the 20 states that have legalized medical cannabis, plus Washington D.C., and the two states that have completely legalized adult personal use of the drug, Colorado and Washington.
Asked Friday about the federal government’s role in prosecuting pot laws in medical-marijuana states, Bush said he’d have to give it more thought. “In medical marijuana states? I don’t know. I’d have to sort that out,” Bush said. “I think that states ought to have a right to decide these things. I think the federal government’s role in our lives is way too-overreaching.”
“But having said that,” he continued, “if you’re in Colorado and you can purchase marijuana openly, should people in Wyoming not be concerned about that? And I think there, maybe, the federal law needs to be looked at — interstate commerce.”
Bush made his comments in response to a reporter’s questions during a Homestead campaign stop for Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection. The day before, Bush issued a written statement urging Floridians to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana. The amendment would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana to people with “debilitating” medical conditions. Opponents say the measure is too broad; supporters say it’s designed to ensure that sick people get the care they need.
As a likely frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Bush’s thoughts about marijuana have an added layer of significance because, if elected, his administration would have to decide whether it should continue the Obama policy in marijuana-decriminalization states.
“I think Jeb Bush is thinking about 2016 politics,” said Ben Pollara, director for the United for Care group that fought to get the medical-marijuana initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, on the Florida ballot in November. Pollara pointed out that many of the big names who might run for president have nuanced views on medical marijuana.
“Rand Paul is more libertarian. Rick Perry has come out in favor of decriminalization. Chris Christie administers a medical-marijuana system in New Jersey,” Pollara said. “This is part of the more-libertarian strain. Jeb has presidential considerations to worry about.”...
Another potential GOP candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also opposes the proposed constitutional amendment but said he supported low-THC medical marijuana therapy, which was called for in a bill that the Legislature passed this year and that Scott signed unexpectedly. The Legislature only took up that measure this year when the United for Care amendment was bound for the Florida ballot, where its chances of passage are good....
The medical marijuana constitutional amendment looks incredibly popular right now. Polls indicate that about 70 percent of voters back the proposed ballot language. It takes 60 percent voter approval to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida.
Support spans all demographic and partisan lines, but support is strongest among Democrats, including fundraiser and trial lawyer John Morgan, who employs Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Charlie Crist and helped spearhead the United for Care initiative.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new AP article. Alex has done a terrific job on this blog keeping track of the intersection of America's favorite sport and America's favorite prohibited substance, and this AP article help highlight how dynamic that intersection can be. Here are excerpts:
Marijuana is casting an ever-thickening haze across NFL locker rooms, and it's not simply because more players are using it. As attitudes toward the drug soften, and science slowly teases out marijuana's possible benefits for concussions and other injuries, the NFL is reaching a critical point in navigating its tenuous relationship with what is recognized as the analgesic of choice for many of its players.
"It's not, let's go smoke a joint," retired NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington said. "It's, what if you could take something that helps you heal faster from a concussion, that prevents your equilibrium from being off for two weeks and your eyesight for being off for four weeks?"
One challenge the NFL faces is how to bring marijuana into the game as a pain reliever without condoning its use as a recreational drug. And facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of former players complaining about the effects of prescription painkillers they say were pushed on them by team trainers and doctors, the NFL is looking for other ways to help players deal with the pain from a violent game....
There are no hard numbers on how many NFL players are using marijuana, but anecdotal evidence, including the arrest or league discipline of no fewer than a dozen players for pot over the past 18 months, suggests use is becoming more common. Redskins offensive lineman Ryan Clark didn't want to pinpoint the number of current NFL players who smoke pot but said, "I know a lot of guys who don't regularly smoke marijuana who would use it during the season."...
Another longtime defensive lineman, Marcellus Wiley, estimates half the players in the average NFL locker room were using it by the time he shut down his career in 2006. "They are leaning on it to cope with the pain," said Wiley, who played defensive line in the league for 10 seasons. "They are leaning on it to cope with the anxiety of the game."
The NFL is fighting lawsuits on two fronts — concussions and painkillers — both of which, some argue, could be positively influenced if marijuana were better tolerated by the league.
The science, however, is slow-moving and expensive and might not ever be conclusive, says behavioral psychologist Ryan Vandrey, who studies marijuana use at John Hopkins. Marijuana may work better for some people, while narcotics and other painkillers might be better for others. "Different medicines work differently from person to person," Vandrey said. "There's pretty good science that shows marijuana does have pain relieving properties. Whether it's a better pain reliever than the other things available has never been evaluated."...
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has treaded gingerly around the subject. Before last season's Super Bowl he said the league would "follow the medicine" and not rule out allowing players to use marijuana for medical purposes. An NFL spokesman reiterated that this month, saying if medical advisers inform the league it should consider modifying the policy, it would explore possible changes.
A spokesman for the players union declined comment on marijuana, beyond saying the union is always looking for ways to improve the drug-testing policy. But earlier this year, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the marijuana policy is secondary when set against the failure to bring Human Growth Hormone testing into the game. Some believe relaxing the marijuana rules could be linked to a deal that would bring in HGH testing....
The NFL drug policy has come under even more scrutiny this summer, after the NFL handed down a season-long suspension of Browns receiver Josh Gordon for multiple violations of the NFL substance-abuse policy. That suspension, especially when juxtaposed against the two-game ban Ray Rice received for domestic violence, has led some to say the league's priorities are out of whack.
In June, Harvard Medical School professor emeritus Lester Grinspoon, one of the forefathers of marijuana research, published an open letter to Goodell, urging him to drop urine testing for weed altogether and, more importantly, fund a crash research project for a marijuana-based drug that can alleviate the consequences of concussions. "As much as I love to watch professional football, I'm beginning to feel like a Roman in the days when they would send Christians to the lions," Grinspoon said. "I don't want to be part of an audience that sees kids ruin their future with this game, and then the league doesn't give them any recourse to try to protect themselves."
The league does, in fact, fund sports-health research at the NIH, to the tune of a $30 million donation it made in 2012. But the science moves slowly no matter where it's conducted and, as Vandrey says, "the NFL is in business for playing football, not doing scientific research."
Monday, August 11, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary by Jacob Sullum at Forbes. Here are excerpts:
Two consequences that pot prohibitionists attribute to marijuana legalization—more underage consumption and more traffic fatalities—so far do not seem to be materializing in Colorado, which has allowed medical use since 2001 and recreational use since the end of 2012.
Survey data released last week by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) indicate that marijuana use among high school students continues to decline, despite warnings that legalization would make pot more appealing to teenagers. In the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado survey, 37 percent of high school students reported that they had ever tried marijuana, down from 39 percent in 2011. The percentage who reported using marijuana in the previous month (a.k.a. “current” use) also fell, from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013. The CDPHE says those drops are not statistically significant. But they are part of a general downward trend in Colorado that has persisted despite the legalization of medical marijuana in 2001, the commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009 (when the industry took off after its legal status became more secure), and the legalization of recreational use (along with home cultivation and sharing among adults) at the end of 2012.... Traffic fatalities also have generally declined since Colorado began loosening its marijuana laws. Fatalities rose in 2001, the year that Colorado’s medical marijuana law took effect, but by 2003 had fallen below the 2000 level. Since peaking in 2002, fatalities have fallen by more than a third. Legal sales of recreational marijuana began in January, and so far this year traffic fatalities are down. According to to the Colorado Department of Transportation, there were 258 fatalities from January through July, compared to 263 during the same period last year. In short, Colorado’s experience does not provide much evidence that less repressive marijuana laws make the roads more dangerous (and they might even make the roads safer by encouraging the substitution of cannabis for alcohol).
August 11, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, August 10, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this front-page New York Times article. Here are excerpts:
Nearly four years ago, Dr. Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist at the University of Arizona, sought federal approval to study marijuana’s effectiveness in treating military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She had no idea how difficult it would be.
The proposal, which has the support of veterans groups, was hung up at several regulatory stages, requiring the research’s private sponsor to resubmit multiple times. After the proposed study received final approval in March from federal health officials, the lone federal supplier of research marijuana said it did not have the strains the study needed and would have to grow more — potentially delaying the project until at least early next year.
Then, in June, the university fired Dr. Sisley, later citing funding and reorganization issues. But Dr. Sisley is convinced the real reason was her outspoken support for marijuana research. “They could never get comfortable with the idea of this controversial, high-profile research happening on campus,” she said.
Dr. Sisley’s case is an extreme example of the obstacles and frustrations scientists face in trying to study the medical uses of marijuana. Dating back to 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services has indicated it does not see much potential for developing marijuana in smoked form into an approved prescription drug....
Scientists say this position has had a chilling effect on marijuana research. Though more than one million people are thought to use the drug to treat ailments ranging from cancer to seizures to hepatitis C and chronic pain, there are few rigorous studies showing whether the drug is a fruitful treatment for those or any other conditions. A major reason is this: The federal government categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive of five groups established by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Drugs in this category — including heroin, LSD, peyote and Ecstasy — are considered to have no accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse, and are subject to tight restrictions on scientific study.
In the case of marijuana, those restrictions are even greater than for other controlled substances.... To obtain the drug legally, researchers like Dr. Sisley must apply to the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse — which, citing a 1961 treaty obligation, administers the only legal source of the drug for federally sanctioned research, at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Sisley’s proposed study also had to undergo an additional layer of review from the Public Health Service that is not required for other controlled substances in such research.
The process is so cumbersome that a growing number of elected state officials, medical experts and members of Congress have started calling for loosening the restrictions. In June, a letter signed by 30 members of Congress, including four Republicans, called the extra scrutiny of marijuana projects “unnecessary,” saying that research “has often been hampered by federal barriers.”
“It defies logic in this day and age that marijuana is still in Schedule 1 alongside heroin and LSD when there is so much testimony to what relief medical marijuana can bring,” Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said in an interview. In late 2011, he and the governor of Washington at the time, Christine O. Gregoire, filed a petition asking the federal government to place the drug in a lower category. The petition is still pending with the D.E.A.
Despite the mounting push, there is little evidence that either Congress or the Obama administration will change marijuana’s status soon. In public statements, D.E.A. officials have made their displeasure known about states’ legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.
August 10, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)