Friday, November 20, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this AP article providing an effective review of the state of tribal affairs concerning marijuana reform roughly a year since the US Department of Justice issued notable guidance concerning federal law enforcement priorities in this arena. Here are excerpts (with links from the source):
Tribes across the U.S. are finding marijuana is a is risky business nearly a year after a Justice Department policy indicated they could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as states.
Federal raids on tribal cannabis operations in California followed by a South Dakota tribe's move this month to burn its crop amid fears it could be next have raised questions over whether there's more to complying with DOJ standards than a department memo suggested last December.
The uncertainty — blamed partly on thin DOJ guidelines, the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal laws, and a complex tangle of state, federal and tribal law enforcement oversight on reservations — has led attorneys to urge tribal leaders to weigh the risks involved before moving forward with legalizing and growing pot.
"Everybody who is smart is pausing to look at the feasibility and risks of growing hemp and marijuana," said Lance Gumbs, a former chairman of the Shinnecock Tribe in New York and regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. "But are we giving up on it? Absolutely not."
At a conference on tribal economic development held in Santa Fe, tribal leaders and attorneys said Wednesday that the raids have shown there may be more red tape for tribes to negotiate when it comes to legalizing cannabis than states have faced. That's especially the case for tribes that are within states where marijuana is not legal....
"Industrial hemp, medical marijuana and maybe recreational marijuana present a lot of opportunity. But for now, the best advice is to proceed with caution," said Michael Reif, an attorney for the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin, where tribal leaders filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after federal agents recently seized thousands of hemp plants grown for research. "We're seeing the ramifications of things being unclear in a way states didn't."
The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota — a state where marijuana isn't legal — was the first to approve recreational pot under tribal law with a vote in June, and was one of the most aggressive about entering the industry, with plans to open the nation's first marijuana resort on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.
But after weeks of discussions with authorities who signaled a raid was possible, the tribe announced last week it had burned all of its marijuana plants. Anthony Reider, the tribe's president, told The Associated Press the main holdup centered on whether the tribe could sell marijuana to non-Indians, along with issues over where the seed used for planting originated. He suggested that by burning the crops, the tribe could have a clean slate to relaunch a grow operation in consultation with authorities.
In California, the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias launched tribally run marijuana operations that were raided by federal authorities, with agents seizing 12,000 marijuana plants in July. The regional U.S. attorney's office said in a statement that the two neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party foreign. It's not clear if the two tribes have plans for a new marijuana venture, and calls from the AP were not immediately returned.
The California and South Dakota tribes are three of just six so far this year that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana on their reservations. The Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington state is another, and just opened a store last week for retail sales of the drug. But most expect the tribe to face fewer legal challenges because Washington allows for recreational marijuana use and the tribe entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines for taxing pot sales.
"The tribes are not going to be immune to what the local attitudes toward marijuana are going to be," Trueblood said. "If there's one 30,000-feet takeaway from this year, it's that you're not going to be successful if you don't work with you local governments or U.S. attorneys."
Prior related posts:
November 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Though I somewhat doubt that Sarah Palin is still a significant voice in conservative circles, I do not doubt that it is still somewhat significant that the former GOP Vice-President candidate is saying pretty clearly that politicians ought not be too concerned about bringing an end to blanket marijuana prohibition. This Huffington Post article, headlined "Sarah Palin: Legalizing Weed Is 'No Big Deal'," highlights Palin's latest comments on this topic:
Supporters of marijuana legalization may have an unlikely ally: Sarah Palin. Breaking with many members of her party who oppose legalizing marijuana, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee on Thursday said it is "no big deal" and argued that it should not be a controversial issue.
"I look on the national scene and think, wow, of all things to be fighting over and battling over, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. I think, hmm, this is just not my baby," Palin told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
When Hewitt expressed disbelief that Palin's home state legalized recreational marijuana last year, she said the vote "didn't surprise me."
"We've got that libertarian streak in us," she said, explaining that Alaska, the most conservative state to legalize marijuana so far, already had lax marijuana laws, so it was a less divisive issue than in other states. "I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal anyway. It was absolutely no big deal. I mean you didn't smoke it because your parents would strangle you. And if you were a jock and you were, you know, a Christian going to youth group, you just didn't do it, right?" Palin recalled. "And I still believe that. But when it comes to picking our battles, for many of us in Alaska, legalization of marijuana just was never really a bright blip on the radar screen."
November 20, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 19, 2015
As reported in this local article, headlined "Pennsylvania House panel advances medical marijuana legislation," the Keystone State had a key legislative development yesterday with respect to marijuana reform. Here are the basic details:
Pennsylvania is one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana, following a successful committee vote Wednesday in the House that positions the bill for final passage. Before any proposal becomes law, however, it is subject to an amendment process that legalization advocates fear could dilute it.
Senate Bill 3 received an affirmative 25-8 vote in the House Rules Committee. The proposal would legalize marijuana use for patients with certain illnesses and establish a regulatory framework for growing, processing and prescribing.
“We believe that it can benefit a significant number of Pennsylvanians, but if the House waters it down with arbitrary restrictions, then we fear that it will be a medical cannabis bill in name only,” said Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the legalization advocacy group Pittsburgh NORML. The vote is a victory, Nightingale said, but he's cautious about what comes next.
All eight votes in opposition came from Republicans, who control the majority in the chamber. House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said amendments are being prepared and the bill could be voted on by the full House as early as next week. Feared changes could include a cap on the amount of THC that can be used in the medicine. Under the current proposal, patients with select illnesses — such as cancer and seizure disorders, among others — could receive a prescription. Smoking marijuana would not be a permitted treatment, and delivery methods would be limited to oils, edible products, ointments and tinctures.
Gov. Tom Wolf favors legalization for medical purposes and called on the Legislature to send a proposal to his desk. “It's past time for them to act on it,” said his spokesman, Jeff Sheridan....
The Senate passed the legalization in May by a 40-7 vote. House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, then convened a bipartisan committee to vet the bill and consider changes. Reed voted for the bill on Wednesday. State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3 and began pushing for a legalization proposal in 2010. “We hope the entire House acts quickly to pass our bill without amendment,” said Leach's Chief of Staff Steve Hoenstine.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I am giving a lecture this afternoon to a local bar association about the state of marijana reform in Ohio and throughout the United States as of Fall 2015. Helpfully, this recent article from BloombergBNA provides a useful national overview with a number of state-level specifics. The piece is titled "Marijuana in America, 2015: A Survey of Federal And States' Responses to Marijuana Legalization and Taxation," and I recommend it for those looking to get up to speed on a lot of the legal and tax basics ASAP.
November 18, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 12, 2015
"Colombia’s government plans to legalize the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes"
The title of this post is the first line of this notable new AP story providing more evidence that the marijuana reform movement in US states continues to have international echoes. Here are the details:
The change is coming in an executive decree that President Juan Manuel Santos will soon sign into law. It will regulate regulating everything from licensing for growers to the eventual export of products made from marijuana, Justice Minister Yesid Reyes said.
With the new policy, Colombia joins countries from Mexico to Chile that have experimented with legalization or decriminalization as part of a wave of changing attitudes toward drug use and policies to combat it in Latin America. But unlike many of its neighbors, Colombia has long been identified with U.S.-backed policies to eradicate drug production and a sharp decline in levels of violence over the past 15 years is largely attributed to the no-tolerance policing.
Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, who last year introduced legislation that tracks with the government’s decree, said that as many as 400,000 Colombians suffering from epilepsy and other ailments could benefit from the clearer regulatory framework to be provided by the decree.
Colombians for two decades have been allowed to possess small quantities of any narcotic for personal use thanks to a series of Constitutional Court rulings guaranteeing the “free development of one’s personality.” But the congress and the executive branch have been loath to endorse such views, in part because of officials’ skittishness about showing any weakness in a country that is the biggest supplier of cocaine to the U.S.
Indeed, conservative critics in Colombia and abroad see Santos’ drive to reform drug policy, including a decision earlier this year to end a two-decade-old campaign of spraying illegal coca crops with herbicides, as a sign that the government’s resolve is weakening. Reflecting those concerns, officials went to great lengths Thursday to explain that they are not looking to further liberalize recreational use of marijuana as was recently done in Uruguay, the region’s pioneer in drug policy reform. “Nobody is talking about legalizing anything except for these two purposes,” Reyes said.
Colombia gained international fame since the 1970s as a producer of potent pot strains such as Santa Marta Gold. Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria told Blu Radio that he envisions Colombia positioned as a major global player in the booming market for marijuana products. “Our phones are ringing off the hook as we get ready for the next chapter,” said a statement from John Campo, president of the parent of the U.S.-owned Sannabis company, which is developing cannabis-based oils, creams and other products on a self-governed indigenous reservation in southern Colombia.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this notable new report from the Drug Policy Alliance on a notable new vote in the US Senate today. Here are the details:
The Senate today passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which includes language to allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The language was included as an amendment in the Senate Appropriations committee in May....
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It passed the Committee 18-12 in a bipartisan vote. The funding bill will now be negotiated with the House’s version as part of an omnibus spending bill.
"On this eve of Veterans/Armistice Day where we remember those who served in the military and the treaty agreement to reach peace concluding WWI, we see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States, " said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically prohibits its medical providers from completing forms brought by their patients seeking recommendations or opinions regarding participation in a state medical marijuana program. The Daines-Merkley amendment authorizes VA physicians and other health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana to veterans who live in medical marijuana states....
There are numerous federal healthcare programs besides the VA such as Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP – but only the VA prohibits physicians from discussing and recommending medical marijuana to their patients. A Medicare patient may freely discuss medical marijuana use with her doctor, while a returning veteran is denied the same right.
Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help treat post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, illnesses typically suffered by veterans. A 2014 study of people with PTSD showed a greater than 75% reduction in severity of symptoms when patients were using marijuana to treat their illness, compared to when they were not.
A legislative version of the Daines-Merkley amendment was included in groundbreaking Senate medical marijuana legislation introduced in March. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act is the first-ever bill in the U.S. Senate to legalize marijuana for medical use and the most comprehensive medical marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and generated enormous interest.
With the Senate approving one element in the bill, supporters say it is time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the full bill. “The politics around marijuana have shifted in recent years, yet Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn’t held a hearing on the bill,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We will move the CARERS Act piece by piece if we have to but now is the time for the Senate to hold a hearing on the bill as a whole.”
Saturday, November 7, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting Baltimore Sun article headlined "Maryland's nascent medical marijuana industry already booming." The article suggests a number of reasons why the Old Line State could and should be the new hot state to watch in the marijuana reform movement. Here are excerpts:
More than 350 applicants for licenses to grow, process or dispense medical marijuana were filed with the state's Medical Cannabis Commission by Friday evening's deadline as entrepreneurs try to get in at the ground floor of the newest pot market. The applications cover every county in the state. "It's very busy, and we're very excited," said Dr. Paul Davies, the commission's chairman. "There's an awful lot of excitement buzzing around."
State officials said they had counted only some of the applications received. Already, they have processed nearly three times more applications than there are grower licenses available and at least twice as many dispensary applications than they can award.
The huge demand is typical of a new medical marijuana market, said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView, a cannabis industry research firm. Apart from the District of Columbia, Maryland is the first jurisdiction south of the Mason-Dixon line that has a medical marijuana industry, he noted....
"The biggest opportunity in the cannabis industry is the opportunity to be a limited license holder in a state that is likely to expand," Dayton said. "It makes a lot of sense that people would put a lot of time and resources into their applications and really swing for fences." And because Maryland set up its industry to award licenses on a merit-based system with high fees to apply, Dayton said, it is likely that the businesses that ultimately win licenses will be successful. "You have people really vested in the success of that effort," he said. "And they have a protected market. They're guaranteed a flow of customers."...
Maryland's medical marijuana program has stirred much interest in the industry, said Taylor West, deputy director at the National Cannabis Industry Association. Not only are there few medical marijuana programs on the East Coast, she said, but Maryland's approach to treating a broad range of conditions and awarding a fair number of licenses makes it an attractive place to invest. "This is a brand-new market where there really isn't an established set of businesses there," West said. "So getting in at the ground floor, treating patients and building a reputation has a lot of value."
The breadth of Maryland's medical marijuana program attracted Dr. Greg Daniel and his associates to the state. They plan to build what he calls a "seed-to-sale" operation that grows the marijuana, processes it and then sells it at a dispensary. Daniel said he has talked to officials in Easton about converting an old Black & Decker factory into a growing and processing plant, and he applied to operate a dispensary near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The total cost to build the operation would be about $10 million.
For more than a decade, Daniel ran a doctor-staffing business before getting into the medical marijuana industry. He said he narrowly missed the cutoff to be awarded one of the few licenses available in New York, where he is based, but sees a bigger potential market in Maryland because of the way the program is set up. "We could be very successful here," said Daniel. "The number of patients that we would be able to treat would be greater in the Maryland marketplace."
In 2013, Maryland lawmakers approved a medical marijuana program that relied on academic institutions to distribute the drug, whose sale is prohibited under federal law. No university volunteered to participate, so the legislature retooled the program in 2014. The program authorizes physicians in the state to recommend the drug for a specific set of conditions, with 15 growers and as many as 94 dispensaries to supply it.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission spent months crafting regulations on how to implement the law, and even longer developing the complicated application that stretches more than 60 pages. Most of the questions require an essay answer, plus proof that the applicant can pay for the operation. The commission plans to have an independent third party review and score all of the applications — with names of applicants redacted — to determine which ones make the first cut.
The commission came under fire last year for setting some of the highest fees in the medical marijuana industry, charging $125,000 to growers for a two-year license and $40,000 for a dispensary. But the cost apparently did not scare off many applicants.
Tony Toskov said he became interested in the business because his wife suffers from migraines and he hopes medical marijuana might alleviate her symptoms. "I hope everyone's doing it for the right reasons," said Toskov, a restaurateur who owns several Anne Arundel County locales and has applied to operate a dispensary in Baltimore, Washington or Anne Arundel. "It's not a pot store; you're getting into the medical business."
November 7, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
As reported in prior posts (here and here), earlier this week Ohioans went to the polls and voted by large margin against a controversial ballot initiative, Issue 3, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in Ohio and give exclusive rights to growing marijuana to 10 designated investors. But, as highlighted by the headlines and stories linked below, this vote has not ended the conversations about marijuana reform in the Buckeye State:
Finally, for anyone who likes believing grand government conspiracies against changing the political status quo, another article would be especially appealing: "Was Ohio's Marijuana Vote Stolen? TV Screen Shots Show Massive Number of Votes Flipping."
November 7, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
The New York Times has this lengthy and astute editorial headlined "The Push for Legal Marijuana Spreads." Here is how it starts and ends:
Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.
In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.
Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain....
What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed. His bill would remove marijuana, or “marihuana” as it is called in federal law, from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is meant for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.
This change would allow states to decide if they want to make the drug legal and how to regulate it without being limited by federal law. Mr. Sanders’s bill would also make it illegal to transport the drug across state lines. If Congress is unwilling to act, Mr. Obama should move on his own by ordering the attorney general to request a study by the secretary of health and human services, which would be needed if the administration is to remove the drug from Schedule I on its own.
A growing group of activists, judges and lawmakers is showing the world a path to more sensible drug policies. Mr. Obama and Congress should join them.
November 7, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, November 5, 2015
I am very pleased to see via this press release that a notable institution has just recently receive a notable grant to work on modern marijuana reform issues. Here are the details:
The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, in collaboration with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), has received a $250,000 grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to help develop guidelines on how states, countries, and other jurisdictions that opt to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can create regulatory frameworks, consistent with the goals of legalization, that will work effectively to protect and promote the public health.
“Now is an opportune time to develop regulatory approaches and guidelines that can prevent unnecessary public health harms from the legalization of medical or recreational cannabis while maximizing the potential public health benefits,” says the project’s lead investigator, Oscar Cabrera, Abogado (JD equivalent), LL.M., executive director of the O’Neill Institute. “With new ballot questions and legislation pending, it is especially important, now, to avoid elements that will unnecessarily create health risks or fail to secure potential benefits and likely be harder to fix after they are in place.”
Cabrera says the purpose of the project is not to advocate for or against legalizing cannabis, but rather to inform deliberations over the design and implementation of the laws and regulations governing legalized cannabis products with guidance from relevant experts in public health policy and law, both in the United States and abroad.
The Open Philanthropy Project is a collaboration between the philanthropic foundation Good Ventures and the nonprofit GiveWell in which they aim to identify outstanding giving opportunities, make grants, follow the results and publish their findings. The project between the O’Neill Institute and WOLA complements this mission.
“Whether or not one agrees with cannabis legalization, it is already happening in several U.S. states and in the country of Uruguay, and appears likely to spread to more jurisdictions,” explains John Walsh, Senior Associate at WOLA, a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. “Different jurisdictions are likely to make different choices about exactly how to legalize, but it is crucial to engage the public health community in identifying strategies that can minimize possible public health harms and maximize public health gains.”
In addition to looking at available research and the experience of those jurisdictions that have already legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, the organizations’ leaders say they will also draw from the public health community’s considerable experience relating to the regulation of other products, such as tobacco, alcohol and both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
“It makes good sense to assess what lessons from tobacco and alcohol control — both positive and negative — should be taken into account when designing regulations for legalized cannabis,” Cabrera adds. “But until now, public health officials largely have been on the sidelines of this issue.”
The O’Neill-WOLA collaboration brings the public health aspects of cannabis legalization to the forefront and seeks to generate more participation in the issue from public health experts and organizations. WOLA has a long history in the field of drug policy reform with a particular focus on human rights protections. The O’Neill Institute brings great expertise and stature in the field of public health law and policy. Both organizations have broad access to scholars, practitioners, activists, and government officials.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Washington Post commentary by Amber Phillips headlined "Why Bernie Sanders’s marijuana announcement is a big political moment for pot." Here are excepts from the piece:
One day in the perhaps-not-too-distant future, when we — not the royal we, of course — light up a joint and reflect on how marijuana became as accepted and as legal as alcohol and cigarettes in this country, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) probably won't be top of mind.
But future marijuana-legalization scholars won't soon forget the first presidential candidate to publicly support removing marijuana from the government's list of dangerous drugs. It currently resides on that list; Sanders wants it off entirely, which is a political turning point in our relationship with pot.
In a Virginia town hall broadcast (naturally) to about 300 college campuses Wednesday, Sanders told an audience of more than 1,700 applauding students: "Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use," he said, according to The Washington Post's John Wagner and Christopher Ingraham. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”
What Sanders is calling for is not legalization. But the policy implications of removing pot entirely from the government's schedule of controlled substances would be big: States would be allowed to legalize it without interference from Washington, it would help economies involving pot (like banking) grow without fear of prosecution from the federal government, and fewer people would go to jail for possessing marijuana.
We're still quite a ways from that becoming a reality, despite the most recent Gallup polling showing a substantial majority of Americans support legalizing recreational marijuana and a few states moving to do just that in recent years. But Sanders, in being the first national candidate to call for this change, took us a clear step closer.
There are a few reasons his announcement was a big moment for pot politically. First, the medical community at large would agree with Sanders that pot is not as dangerous as, say, crack cocaine and heroin and the other highly addictive drugs it is currently classified with. Respected organizations like the American Medical Association have also said keeping marijuana on a legally unreachable shelf stymies research for its healing potentials. In that way, Sanders is bringing already-existent medical views of pot to the forefront of a political debate that hasn't yet embraced them.
Second, Sanders is not a fringe candidate — although you could argue some of the democratic socialist's policies aren't exactly mainstream. He regularly draws crowds in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and is giving Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton a run for her money. And if there's anything this campaign has taught us, it's that Sanders has the ability to draw Clinton to the left politically. That doesn't mean Clinton will take the same stance, but it does mean there could be pressure to move in that direction.
Third, this just feels like something of a turning point in our nation's approach to marijuana. Like it or not, the signs would indicate we're on a national trajectory toward decriminalization, perhaps even legalization. And it's happening remarkably fast, relative to other social issues....
Most other presidential contenders have been more cautious about recreational marijuana. Clinton has very much taken a wait-and-see approach when it comes to states that have legalized it. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has raised money from the marijuana industry for his presidential campaign, has said the federal government shouldn't interfere with states who want to legalize it. He and and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (D) have said they'd support bumping down a notch the government's classification of pot as a drug. Only Sanders has supported taking it off completely. And of course, neither Paul nor O'Malley are drawing the kind of support that Sanders is.
It seems only a matter of time before more politicians join Sanders in taking more definitive policy positions that move along the drug's slow but apparently inevitable march toward acceptance in America. Maybe it's this election, maybe it's the next. But Sanders will likely be remembered as the guy who took us one step closer to our inevitable new relationship with pot.
Speaking as a current "marijuana-legalization scholar," I fear that this commentary reflects a somewhat enhanced view of the significance of what Senator Sanders has said on this topic. Still, this is a big deal, and Fall 2015 will surely be seen as a watershed period in the marijuana reform movement if Ohio voters next week pass a controversial legalization plan in a bellwether state.
October 29, 2015 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Regular readers know I have often praised the cutting-edge research being done by the The Brookings Institution on the legal, political and social realities surrounding modern marijuana reform. The latest big Brookings publication in this arena, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, is titled "Ending the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana research." This publication provides an effective and detailed review of the multiple problems for scientific research created by federal laws, and here are a couple notable paragraphs from start and end of the lengthy report:
The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety. As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accessible in state-regulated, legal markets, and as others selfmedicate in jurisdictions that do not allow the medical use of cannabis, it is increasingly important that the scientific community conduct research on this substance. However, statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area.
It is time for the federal government to recognize the serious public policy risks born from limited medical, public health, and pharmaceutical research into cannabis and its use. People are using cannabis nationwide to treat a variety of ailments. Doctors in dozens of states are recommending the use of this product as a pseudo-pharmaceutical intervention. The elderly, veterans, children, and people from every demographic group in the nation claim that the use of cannabis assists in the treatment of their medical conditions. Despite this, there is limited scientific research on the efficacy of this product overall or by condition or dosage, on interactions, on composition, on side effects, or much of anything else....
As the next president comes to office, he or she will inherit a marijuana policy regime that is inconsistent and often contradictory. It is incumbent on President Obama’s successor to introduce some uniformity, discipline, and sensibility to this policy area. Focusing on medical marijuana research would be a good place to begin — and the issue’s politics for the next president should be encouraging. In fact, the next president need not wait until January 20, 2017, to pursue and capitalize on this political opportunity; candidates for the presidency should make marijuana work for them....
Candidates are hesitant to take a bold position on (medical) marijuana policy. And frankly, this reluctance is very difficult to understand. Public support for medical marijuana reform is quite high across the country and at the state-level. Multiple polls put the national support for physician-prescribed marijuana between 70 and 80 percent approval. Polling suggests that in most states — even the most conservative states — support for legalized medical marijuana is at least two to one, and polling at rates of 80 percent or higher in swing states like Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and Virginia. Medical marijuana also polls favorably in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Yet, candidates are meek on the issue. Oddly, they are comfortable or even eager to take bold positions on much more controversial topics including the Affordable Care Act, entitlement reform, foreign intervention, climate change, and immigration policy, to name a few. But the medical marijuana reform embraced by the public seems to scare candidates. Medical marijuana reform should be an easy one for a candidate seeking to connect with prospective voters and the expansion of medical research in the area should be an even easier consideration
October 20, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 19, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this effective piece from Stateline, the news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides reporting and analysis on trends in state policy. Here is an excerpt:
Montana is among several vanguard states whose voters eagerly legalized medical cannabis by passing broad ballot initiatives as many as 19 years ago, but left lawmakers struggling to regulate an industry that grew quickly with few rules.
Today, states like California, Montana and Michigan are still attempting to clean up their laws with bills that would develop licensing systems for growers, create a fee structure for providers and product, or legalize all marijuana use.
It’s a legislative and regulatory pitfall that lawmakers warn other states they could face as public demand for legal medical and recreational marijuana grows, and more states allow it.
Maryland opened the door to medical use last year, and Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming passed laws legalizing access to less-potent medical cannabis products for certain patients this year. At least 20 initiatives to legalize medical or recreational marijuana could be on the ballot in 16 states next year. And in November, voters in Ohio will decide whether recreational marijuana should be legal in that state.
Proponents of using marijuana as medicine say ingesting the drug can ease chronic pain, stimulate appetites for the very ill, soothe nausea caused by cancer treatments and prevent seizures in children with epilepsy. Detractors say the research surrounding medical marijuana isn’t conclusive, the drug poses significant public health risks and those who advocate for it use medical marijuana to trick voters into sanctioning an illegal drug for recreational use....
And unless state lawmakers get ahead of their constituents on legalization, they face a potential regulatory nightmare, said Washington state Sen. Ann Rivers. Rivers, a Republican, should know. Medical marijuana was legalized in Washington by voter initiative in 1998, leaving gaping regulatory holes and hazards that lawmakers like her have spent years trying to fix.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this provocative new Forbes commentary headlined "The NFL Should Be Investing In Marijuana If It Wants To Survive." Authored by Blake Yagman and Jason Belzer, here are excerpts:
The National Football League has survived more public relations crises in the past year than most multi-billion dollar organizations endure in a decade. Yet the greatest existential threat to the NFL, if not to the existence of football itself, still remains Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or “CTE.”...
Terrifyingly, the vast prevalence of the disease may not have been known until fairly recently. Just this year, Boston University found the existence of CTE in the brains of 96% of 91 tested subjects, all of whom played football at some organized level. When the disease was first discovered in 2002 in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster by Dr. Bennet Omalu, the NFL initially tried to limit the fallout from the discovery. According to Omalu, “NFL doctors told me that if 10% of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.”
Last year, Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon called attention to a neuro-protective agent that has the potential to render concussions obsolete – Marijuana. According to Grinspoon, a National Institute of Health study from 1998 revealed the neuro-protective qualities of Marijuana’s two main psycho-active ingredients, Cannabidiol and Delta-9 Tetrahudrocannabidol (THC). In 2008, a similar study in Spain revealed that the THC-receptors in the brain are involved in the healing process upon sustaining brain injury. Most recently, the National Institute of Health showed that THC significantly decreases the death rate of patients with physically sustained brain trauma. In 2013, a team of researchers in Brazil were able to prove that Cannabidiol has the ability to regenerate brain cells in mice. The study specifically showed a capacity to promote the growth of brain cells in the areas of the brain attributed to depression, anxiety, and chronic stress—the symptoms of CTE.
If components of Marijuana have been proven beneficial to patients with neurological injury, the natural conclusion would be to study the drug and develop a medication that could help prevent terrible effects of concussions and CTE. That being said, the barriers to begin this sort of endeavor — research that nevertheless could save the game of football — are high (no pun intended). Perhaps most obviously, the biggest issue is one of funding....
If the league were to finance this research, they would face an avalanche of cries of hypocrisy, as the league has a strict no-drug policy. Realistically, the program is often taken as seriously by its players as the league’s selection of the policy’s mandated testing date of April 20th (the unofficial holiday of recreational users of Marijuana).... Quite notoriously, players simply pass the annual test and continue to use the drug therapeutically for injuries during the season. Medical Marijuana is legal in 23 states, recreational use is legal in three states, and the drug has been decriminalized in many of the United States’major cities, yet the drug remains “illegal”for use by players.
Although the initial publicity for the NFL might be negative, the potential impact reaching into future generations is tremendous. Not only would the league attempt to cure a major medical question that plagues modern sports, but it could potentially set a precedent for major corporations to push Marijuana research forward to fully discover the drug’s potential. The looseness of the NFL’s current Marijuana policy, as well as Commissioner Goodell’s recent statement that the league is willing to support research into Marijuana’s medical uses specific to football, suggest that this partnership is a more than viable option.
Some prior related posts on NFL players and marijuana use:
Friday, October 16, 2015
Terrific (wonkish?) blogging at Canna Law Blog about new rules and regulations, especially in California
In part because I have been paying close attention to the marijuana legalization debate playing out in my home state of Ohio, I have not yet had a chance to closely consider or assess the big new medical marijuana laws enacted earlier this month in California. Fortunately, Hilary Bricken is all over this topic (and many others) at the Canna Law Blog. Here are he two recent big posts on the new regime:
Here is an excerpts from how the first of these two lengthy posts gets started:
Governor Brown signed into law the three bills that comprise the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) [which is] big news for California and especially for its medical marijuana operators. These bills mean California will soon be moving away from an unregulated gray marijuana marketplace to a state law regulated medical marijuana regime. These bills mean that California will be getting the “robust regulations” the federal government requires from states for the Department of Justice to be even minimally disengaged from what goes on with cannabis within the state. These bills also mean that California will be entering a new era where the Department of Justice will (hopefully) finally cool its heels in the Golden State.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this new MarketWatch article. Here are excerpts:
If you’re a small-business owner and marijuana has been legalized in your state, should you care?
The short answer is, yes. Nearly half of small businesses don't have a policy about cannabis use in the workplace and 10% have had employees show up under the influence of a controlled substance at work, according to a survey released Wednesday by Employers Insurance, a workers’ compensation carrier. The study polled 501 businesses nationwide that employed fewer than 100 employees, in states with varying legalization laws....
A wide majority of respondents — 81% — said they were “unconcerned” about employees coming to work under the influence, but in states that have legalized marijuana use, a lack of policy could lead to major legal headaches.
“All employers regardless of size should have a drug and alcohol policy,” says Todd Wulffson, an attorney at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger who represents employers. Wulffson says that if an incident involving marijuana happens in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a federal agency, is likely to step in, and the federal illegal status of the drug will trump state law.
In which case, “take out your checkbook,” he says. Wulffson says a clear policy on the employer’s stance on cannabis use — especially one that outright bans being under the influence at work, no matter the state’s laws — is the best defense from federal oversight. Substances derived from cannabis, such as cannabidiol (known as CBD) products, that don’t contain THC, a psychoactive component of the plant, should be admissible in the workplace, Wulffson says, since they are more likely to be prescribed for a serious medical condition and don’t impair brain function....
[M]arijuana’s status continues to be a gray area in legal proceedings. To avoid going to court and potentially losing a hefty workplace lawsuit, business owners should construct and communicate a detailed drug policy.
An important aspect to include in a workplace marijuana policy, Wulffson says, is drug testing. In most states it is legal to drug test job applicants if they have forewarning. Random drug testing of employees, however, is illegal in many states, like California, and employers can be sued for invasion of privacy if they implement them. In most cases, employers can drug test under reasonable suspicion of an employee under the influence, and a policy that makes that clear to employees helps avoid invasion of privacy suits.
“Employers need to understand the state that they’re in,” Wulffson says. “They need to understand corporate culture, and should have a marijuana policy while it is illegal under federal law, and it should be that you can’t be under the influence at work.”
Sunday, October 11, 2015
"Will The Democratic Candidates Talk About Weed? The Marijuana Talk Could Reap Huge Benefits For The Dems"
The title of this post is this short Bustle piece that suggest Democratic candidate for Prez ought to talk up marijuana reform at their upcoming debate. Here are excerpts:
Weed legalization has received relatively little attention in the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s not terribly surprising that GOP is steering clear of the the subject: The party’s broad opposition to any sort of marijuana legalization puts them at odds with the majority of Americans. But several states will vote on marijuana legalization measures at the ballot box next year, and this begs the question: Will the Democrats discuss marijuana at the debate on Tuesday?
For the most part, Democratic candidates haven’t avoided the subject. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a vocal opponent of the war on drugs, wants to legalize medical marijuana, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who signed legislation in his state decriminalization small amounts of weed, supports relaxing marijuana laws. But Sanders has downplayed the significance of marijuana as a policy issue, while frontrunner Hillary Clinton has largely avoided taking any stance on weed altogether.
All of this is odd. For Democrats, marijuana legalization is an issue that’s ripe with political opportunity. For a decade, Americans have been warming to the idea of legalizing the herb. President Obama has been somewhat relaxed in enforcing federal marijuana laws and has faced little consequences for doing so. Meanwhile, four states have legalized recreational marijuana use, a change that’s raked in a windfall of tax revenue and hinted at the incredible economic benefits that could result from full legalization.... [T]he Democratic contenders for president can easily grab this issue by the horns, and they won’t be taking a big risk. By strongly voicing support for medical marijuana legalization, the candidates would have the political, economic and moral calculus all on their side — a rarity as far as hot-button issues go. They would also spur enthusiasm amongst the liberal base, and as an added bonus, they’d have a new issue on which to brand Republicans as being out-of-touch with the times (not that there’s any shortage of such issues).
It’s high time that Democrats seize the opportunity to throw their support behind weed. Next week’s debate is the perfect opportunity for them to blaze that trail.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
This AP article, headlined "Legal Marijuana Stirs Hope in Illinois Town," highlights the on-the-ground reality that I believe will sustain marijuana reform: local economic development. Here are excerpts:
A skunky aroma fills the room in which hundreds of lush marijuana plants grow, some nearly ready for harvest. Grower Ashley Thompson, a former high school agriculture teacher in this rural part of southeastern Illinois, takes the scent of weed home with her.
She doesn't mind. It's the fragrance of money and jobs. "My family says I smell," said Thompson, who quit the classroom to work for Ataraxia, one of a handful of cultivation centers in Illinois, which is one of 23 states with medical marijuana. "I can't tell though."
The Associated Press recently gained an exclusive look at Illinois' first legal marijuana crop, and the new farmland ritual beginning amid surrounding cornfields in the historic town of Albion: the harvest of medical marijuana that will soon be sold in dispensaries around the state.
Ataraxia is the first center to make it to the finish line after running a gantlet of state requirements. For the company to find a home in Albion — where grain trucks rumble past the sleepy central square, cicadas drone in the trees shading a century-old courthouse and a breeze touches an empty bandstand — is paradoxical. Stores can't sell package liquor, but marijuana has been welcomed as a badly needed source of employment.
A comical T-shirt for sale says the town is "High and Dry." Cheryl Taylor, who sells the shirts at her shop on the square, said the marijuana facility has everyone curious: "It's brought our little town to life."
Down a country road, tucked behind the New Holland tractor dealer and the Pioneer seed plant, the history-making cannabis crop is being cut and dried behind the locked doors of a giant warehouse. By mid-October, strains with names like Blue Dream, OG Kush, Death Star and White Poison will be turned into medicine in many forms: oils, creams, buds for smoking, edible chocolates and gummies.
It's been a twisting path to harvest, marked by delays and a secretive, highly restrictive program meant to avoid the creation of easy-access pot shops seen in other states. Until Illinois gave approval in late September for the AP's tour, only company workers and government inspectors had been inside the warehouse. Thousands of cannabis plants — some in full bud, coated with cannabinoid-rich fibers — filled two large rooms at the facility on the day of the AP's tour. Mother plants and young plants started from cuttings had their own, smaller rooms.
The 1,900-person community of Albion, which is closer to Louisville, Kentucky, than Chicago, has embraced all this, sight unseen. "It's a good thing for the local economy," said Doug Raber, who sells insurance. "This is a pretty conservative area. Any kind of revenue we can have here is good."
Local developers sold a cornfield to Ataraxia for $5,000 an acre, which real estate agent Randy Hallam said is a 50 percent discount. The city also paid to build a road and extend water and sewer lines. The company hired locals to build and outfit the warehouse.
But only seven people, aside from managers, have been hired permanently. With only 3,000 approved medical marijuana patients, the company can't expand yet. CEO George Archos said he wants to hire 50 to 60, and meeting that goal will go a long way to keeping the community's support. "Albion needs to diversify its employment," said Duane Crays, editor of The Navigator, Albion's newspaper. Chief employers regionally are agriculture, oil and gas production, and an auto filter plant....
Residents' excitement over the health benefits of marijuana — from stimulating appetite in cancer patients to easing stiffness for people with multiple sclerosis — may also have historic roots. The bandstand marks the spot where a mineral spring once drew patients suffering from a host of ailments; it was said the water could cure. "My wife has MS," Hallam said. She doesn't have her patient card yet, he said, "but she has a doctor's appointment coming up."
October 4, 2015 in Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this must-read New Republic article, which is mostly about the current crazy "wild west" world of CBD medicines. There are many parts of the article that make it must-read in full, and here are passages that I especially wanted to highlight for commentary:
Today, dozens of companies produce CBD in an array of forms. CBD can be inhaled through vape pens, applied in topical salves, ingested in edibles, or swallowed in oil-based tinctures. Oil has become the dominant CBD delivery method for kids with epilepsy, since it is easy to administer and ingest, and there is no shortage of it available for sale online. There are dozens of companies boasting names like Healthy Hemp Oil, Dose of Nature, and Natural Organic Solutions, each of them selling CBD products at prices ranging from trivial to dizzyingly steep. You don’t have to look hard to find them. If you have a PayPal account and $100 to spare, you could have a vial of hemp oil delivered to your doorstep....
In February, as part of an investigation into the marketing claims of six hemp oil companies, the FDA analyzed 18 CBD products. What it found was disturbing: Many of these supposed CBD products were entirely lacking in CBD. Of the products tested, six contained no cannabinoids whatsoever. Another 11 contained less than 1 percent CBD. The product that tested highest in CBD, at 2.6 percent, was a capsule for dogs. In states that have legalized CBD, regulations can require CBD products to contain at least 5 percent CBD, more often 10 or 15 percent....
In the end, companies like HempMedsPx are asking consumers simply to trust them. CBD oils are never subjected to systematic testing by any U.S. regulatory body. The FDA regulates all pharmaceutical labs in the country. But cannabis labs like the ones that HempMedsPx and others use are not, because cannabis is not federally recognized as a legal drug.
All of this makes CBD remarkably difficult for even the most dedicated health care providers to manage safely. Dr. Kelly Knupp, an associate professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Colorado, and the director of the Dravet Syndrome program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said families of epileptic children have tried to bring CBD oils to the hospital for testing. “They’re just concerned that they don’t know exactly who’s growing [the hemp],” Knupp said. “They know it’s not being regulated.” But because CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance, high-tech, regulated laboratories, like those at the University of Colorado, can’t accept, store, or test CBD oils, lest they risk prosecution. “There is no such lab that can take that product,” Knupp said, which leaves any testing up to the unregulated testing centers that cater to the cannabis industry....
To this point, CBD oil has existed in a kind of liminal space — at once an illegal drug, a legal medication, and some kind of “dietary” supplement. It’s possible this could change in the coming years, however. GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based firm, has developed a “pure CBD” medication called Epidiolex that has shown promising test results. It is currently on a fast-track to receive FDA clearance. For some patients, Epidiolex could be a miracle cure. This summer, in Wired magazine, writer Fred Vogelstein chronicled his family’s own struggles to find an effective treatment for his son’s epilepsy — including experiments with hemp oil — and the immense hurdles they overcame to gain access to Epidiolex prior to its FDA approval. The drug could be for sale on pharmacy shelves in the near future, though exactly how near is hard to say.
For the sake of all the individuals and families struggling with seizure disorders, I sincerely hope that all the emerging CBD treatments being promoted by private industry are much more than snake oil. But I find especially remarkable the sad reality that the blanket prohibition of marijuana in any form at the federal level means that it is near impossible for a person to even have access to a credible lab in order to try to research whether a CBD oil marketed to suffering persons is even what it claims to be. What a sad mess, and one that I hope will get cleared up before too long at the federal level by efforts to move marijuana off Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
September 30, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 11, 2015
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by Luke Scheuer available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
As states have legalized marijuana, they have created a booming industry that operates in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Abuse Act. Like the tobacco and alcohol industries, this new legal marijuana industry has the potential to do great harm to American consumers and communities if it is not disciplined and restrained in how it sells and develops its products. Unfortunately the federal government has not yet stepped in to regulate the industry and state governments have imposed only limited controls. In addition, because of the increased threat of criminal and civil liability hanging over the industry, it has been largely shut out from attracting professional stakeholders including banks, venture capital firms, and professional managers which could help impose market discipline.
In order to achieve the policy goals behind legalization of marijuana it is important that states do everything they can in the short term to regulate this industry so that it develops in a responsible manner. One of the things states can do is promote the integration of professional stakeholders into this industry. This essay explores what it means to be a “professional” in the marijuana industry and how more professionals could help mitigate some of the harm this industry poses to the public.