Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Medical or Recreational Marijuana and Drugged Driving"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new article by Paul Larkin now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Beginning in the 1920s and lasting for seventy years, state and federal law treated marijuana as a dangerous drug and as contraband, forbidding its cultivation, distribution, possession, and use.  Over the last two decades, however, numerous states have enacted laws permitting marijuana to be used for medical treatment.  Some also permit its recreational use.  Those laws have raised a host of novel legal and public policy issues.  Most of the discussion, and almost all of the litigation, has involved the respective roles of the states and federal government and how each one may and should deal with this very controversial subject.

One issue that has received little attention in the legal community is the risk that medical and recreational marijuana laws will pose to highway safety.  Will those laws increase, decrease, or leave untouched the rate of accidents and fatalities on our nation’s roadways?  How should the criminal justice system — in particular, its law enforcement officers — address the problem of “drugged driving” in general and in states with medical marijuana laws?

This Article addresses those issues.  Some of the possible solutions do not involve changing the law.  Training law enforcement officers to better spot drugged drivers, developing safe, reliable, portable, and inoffensive devices to test drivers for marijuana use on a highway shoulder, identifying a particular concentration of marijuana in the blood or some other bodily fluid that can be used to establish impairment — those and other steps can be taken without changing the legal framework for addressing the problems that occur when people drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance.  But it also may be necessary to modify the laws governing alcohol in order to reduce the crashes caused by marijuana use.  People often take those drugs in combination, and a marijuana-alcohol cocktail is more debilitating that either drug consumed alone.  States therefore may need to lower their thresholds for drunken driving in order to dissuade people who use marijuana and alcohol together from getting behind the wheel.

January 29, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

"The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update"

DownloadThe title of this post is the title of this notable new report coming from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here is its abstract:

This technical report updates the 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics abstract technical report on the legalization of marijuana. Current epidemiology of marijuana use is presented, as are definitions and biology of marijuana compounds, side effects of marijuana use, and effects of use on adolescent brain development. Issues concerning medical marijuana specifically are also addressed. Concerning legalization of marijuana, 4 different approaches in the United States are discussed: legalization of marijuana solely for medical purposes, decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana, legalization of recreational use of marijuana, and criminal prosecution of recreational (and medical) use of marijuana. These approaches are compared, and the latest available data are presented to aid in forming public policy.  The effects on youth of criminal penalties for marijuana use and possession are also addressed, as are the effects or potential effects of the other 3 policy approaches on adolescent marijuana use.  Recommendations are included in the accompanying policy statement.

The AAP's updated policy statement referenced at the end of this abstract is available at this link, and here are three of the most notable of the ten recommendations appearing at the end of the policy statement:

The AAP opposes “medical marijuana” outside the regulatory process of the US Food and Drug Administration. Notwithstanding this opposition to use, the AAP recognizes that marijuana may currently be an option for cannabinoid administration for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate. 

The AAP opposes legalization of marijuana because of the potential harms to children and adolescents. The AAP supports studying the effects of recent laws legalizing the use of marijuana to better understand the impact and define best policies to reduce adolescent marijuana use.

 The AAP strongly supports research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids and supports a review of policies promoting research on the medical use of these compounds. The AAP recommends changing marijuana from a Drug Enforcement Administration schedule I to a schedule II drug to facilitate this research.

January 26, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Legalized marijuana might be the best thing to ever happen to heroin addicts"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new piece via Quartz.  Here are excerpts (with links from the original):

By 1970, legislation codified cannabis as one of the nation’s most dangerous drugs: the Controlled Substance Act classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it possessed high potential for abuse and had no acceptable medical use. Over 40 years later, the classification remains.

But research has shown that marijuana, while still criminalized at the federal level, can be effective as a substitute for treating opioid addictsand preventing overdoses. Massachusetts, which recently legalized medical marijuana — and where heroin overdoses have soared — could be a fertile testing ground for this potentially controversial treatment.
 
Before being criminalized, marijuana was used in the US to cure depression and a variety of other mental health ailments. Many studies have supported the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, along with the ability of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredients to treat nausea, help with weight loss, alleviate chronic pain, and mitigate symptoms of neurological diseases.
 
Other research, however, contradicts claims regarding the benefits of cannabidiol treatment. Some say marijuana actually poses a risk for psychosis and schizophrenia. Although the FDA has approved some synthetic cannabinoids for medical treatment, federal agencies do not support marijuana as a legitimate medicine until more clinical studies have been conducted....
 
Among drug treatment specialists, marijuana remains controversial. Although some research has shown marijuana to be an alternative treatment for more serious drug addiction, addiction treatment specialists still view marijuana as highly addictive and dangerous. These views handicap policy reform, but despite its status as a Schedule 1 drug, recent research shows marijuana could be part of the solution to the most deadly drug epidemic our country has seen in decades.
 
In 2012 Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana, though the first 11 dispensaries are not scheduled to open until sometime in the coming year. This situation presents an opportunity to implement sensible, research-based policy.
 
Massachusetts, like many states across the US, has seen a dramatic rise in opioid addition fueled by the increase in opiate prescription pills.  In Boston, heroin overdoses increased by 80% between 2010 and 2012, and four out of five users were addicted to pain pills before turning to heroin.
 
Meanwhile, the leading cause of death among the Boston’s homeless population has shifted from AIDS complications to drug overdoses, with opiates involved in 81% of overdose deaths. This is an alarming finding given recent expansion in clinical services for the city’s homeless.
 
Addiction specialists and health care professionals in Boston have been at the forefront of integrating behavioral and medical care.  Naloxone and methadone are currently the main solutions to address the growing opiate addiction and overdose problem. But Naloxone is an overdose antidote, not a cure or a form of preventative therapy.
 
Methadone, like heroin and other opioids, has a very narrow therapeutic index (the ratio between the toxic dose and the therapeutic dose of a drug).  This means that a small change in dosage can be lethal to the user. Marijuana, however, has one of the safest (widest) therapeutic ratios of all drugs.
 
Research shows that marijuana has been used as a form of self-treatment, where users take cannabis in lieu of alcohol, prescription opiates, and illegal drugs.  That’s one reason why researchers are calling for marijuana to be tested as a substitute for other drugs.  In this capacity, marijuana can be thought of as a form of harm reduction. While researchers don’t seek to discount some of the drug’s potential negative effects, they view it as a less damaging alternative to other, harder drugs. Despite these findings, marijuana is rarely incorporated in formal drug treatment plans.
 
A recent study might change this policy. Comparing states with and without legalized medical marijuana, it found a substantial decrease in opioid (heroin and prescription pill) overdose death rates in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws. In their conclusions, the researchers suggested that medical marijuana should be part of policy aimed to prevent opioid overdose....
 
Since Massachusetts has not yet opened its medical marijuana dispensaries, it is too early to see if medical marijuana legislation will help reduce opiate addiction in the Commonwealth. Using recent research findings, Massachusetts policymakers have a unique opportunity to implement medical marijuana policies that address its contemporary opiate overdose.  Medical marijuana could be part of drug treatment for heroin and opiates.
 
For homeless people, however, getting a marijuana card is expensive and buying medical marijuana from a dispensary is beyond their economic means. Street drugs are more prevalent in their social setting, easier to obtain, and can be much cheaper.  From a policy perspective, addressing the alarming rates of overdose deaths among the homeless in Boston could mean distributing medical marijuana cards to homeless addicts for free and providing reduced cost medical marijuana.
 
Formerly demonized and later legislated as a Schedule 1 substance, marijuana could diminish the damage wrought by harder drugs, like heroin.  While opioid use is a nationwide epidemic, Massachusetts — long at the forefront of developing scientifically based public policy — has the opportunity to be at the forefront of cutting-edge, socially-informed drug policy.

January 23, 2015 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conservative state senator preaching for medical marijuana reform in Pennsylvania

PennsylvaniaMedicalMarijuanaThis lengthy local article, headlined "Social-conservative lawmaker fights for legalizing medical marijuana," notes that a notable Republican Senator in the Keystone state has become noted for his "pot proselytizing." Here are excerpts from the piece:

Standing amid the lunchtime crush at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last week was a gray-haired man in deck shoes and a fleece vest, animatedly pitching an unusual - and illegal - product. Like a street-corner preacher, Sen. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon) was bringing his message to the people - in his case thousands of voters he hopes will pressure their representatives to support his bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Folmer stops anyone who will listen, alternately delivering a rant against Big Pharma - which he blames for holding up federal approval of medical cannabis - and smiling at wise-cracking visitors who ask, "Any free samples?"

"I feel like a missionary," he said Friday, pausing to pop in a throat lozenge before beginning his pot proselytizing again. "I'm a Bible-believing Presbyterian. I don't even drink."

But Folmer, a 59-year-old grandfather of seven and a social conservative from a largely rural district northeast of Harrisburg, was moved by two mothers who stopped in his office 18 months ago. They told him they believed medical marijuana could ease their children's epileptic seizures without the damaging side effects of the narcotics that doctors had been prescribing. Skeptical, he hit his computer to find out and soon became a convert to the cannabis cause.

"It was very compelling," he said. "I learned that it is nontoxic, no one's going to die. So I figured, no harm, no foul. There are too many sick people." He teamed up with one of the state's most liberal lawmakers, Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery). Their original bill cleared the Senate by a wide margin (43-7) before dying in the House last fall.

When the new legislative session opened in December, Folmer immediately reintroduced the bill. It calls for letting patients purchase medical cannabis with a doctor's recommendation from centers licensed by a newly created board. Medical cannabis growers, processors, and dispensers would be licensed and regulated. Users would pay an access fee and would be barred from operating vehicles while taking the medication....

Folmer said neither parents of sick children nor adults with chronic conditions want to wait - or should wait - any longer. In his view, patients suffering from a range of illnesses are being prescribed narcotic cocktails of highly addictive and dangerous drugs that have little effect on these disorders.

On Friday, when a brisk but sunny afternoon drew a steady crowd to the show, Patti Bach breezed past Folmer's booth. She didn't need information. She already knew about the bill and voted against lawmakers who did not support it. "I eat Vicodin like candy," said Bach, 56, of Carlisle, who said she suffers from debilitating chronic pain. "Cannabis could reduce the pain and allow me to function."

Bach, who said her 30-year-old daughter has severe epilepsy, said she had researched the issue extensively and discussed it with her doctor. "He said as soon as it's legal he would prescribe it for me," she said.

Monica Kline, a Harrisburg lobbyist who raises alpacas in Folmer's district with her husband, a former Army pilot, donated the booth space at the farm show. Kline said her husband, a Vietnam veteran, hated to see returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder unable to find relief. Nor could she, who helps a mothers' advocacy group, bear to see another child suffer needlessly. "We knew we had to change our booth," said Kline, daughter of former Lt. Gov. Ernest Kline. "Parents were losing children."...

The bill stands a solid chance of becoming law if it reaches the desk of the incoming governor. "Gov.-elect Wolf supports the legalization of medical marijuana because he believes we should not deny doctor-recommended treatment that could help people suffering from seizures or cancer patients affected by chemotherapy," said his spokesman, Jeff Sheridan. House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) opposed the measure as GOP leader last year, but new House Majority Leader David Reed (R., Indiana) was a cosponsor of a House version of the bill....

Folmer says he thinks he can win passage of his bill in the Senate by spring. Still, he said he feels every day he's in a race against the clock. "My greatest fear is that I am going to get a call from one of the moms that one of the children has died," he said. "I'm not saying marijuana is a cure, but people ought to have the opportunity for help."

It bears noting in the context of this story that Pennsylvania's state motto is "Virtue, liberty, and independence." Kudos to this social-conservative lawmaker for showing such a commitment to these values in his work on this front.

January 19, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Should significant use of marijuana in the home make a parent guilty of child abuse?

Download (4)The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new ABC News- 20/20 piece headlined "Washington Parents Using Marijuana Accused of Child Abuse." Here are the basics:

While most parents probably want to keep their kids away from marijuana, one mom and dad were accused of child abuse for their avid use of the drug. “[I use it] pretty much every day,” Jesse Thompson, 30, told ABC News’ “20/20.”

Jesse and his wife Vicca Thompson, are from Sedro-Wolley, Washington, where marijuana use, including recreational, is now legal. The Thompsons are both medical marijuana users with doctor’s prescriptions. Jesse Thompson, a cancer survivor, takes it for pain, while Vicca Thompson, 43, uses it for arthritis and a nervous condition. They run their business, a medical marijuana dispensary and garden store called the Grow Shop, where they sell home-grown strains of marijuana as well as marijuana edibles, and are strong advocates of medical marijuana.

The two are also parents to 5-year-old Jerry and 13-year-old Sohani, Vicca Thompson’s son from a previous marriage. But they insist they are still capable of being responsible parents even when they’re high. “It just means I have an elevated mood. It doesn’t mean I’m incapacitated or that I can’t think straight,” Vicca Thompson told “20/20.” “I’m on pot right now, and I’m able to parent.”

But there is an apparent gap between the enforcement of child protection laws and marijuana statutes. In many cases, child protection services are taking children away from legal, legitimate users of medical marijuana. Not all types of medical marijuana gets you high, but a lot of it is psycho-active, which can get you high.

“We have irrefutable evidence that it’s damaging for kids,” Dr. Leslie Walker told “20/20.” “Kids who think their parents approve of it are six times more likely to begin using marijuana and begin using much earlier than the average high school age.”

In November 2014, authorities came for the Thompsons’ son Jerry. The Thompsons said they had an employee that they let go. "About a month later, she … called CPS,” Jesse Thompson said, referring Child Protective Services. “She told them that we not only are feeding our children marijuana all the time, but that they have access to it in our home and in our business.”

Within days of that call, CPS questioned Jerry’s half-brother Sohani, who told authorities that his mom fed him a goo ball. A goo ball, Vicca Thompson explained, is a “peanut butter raisin ball,” medicated with psycho-active marijuana. “He gets aggressive and is too mean, sometimes ... and just needs to ... look inside and relax,” Vicca Thompson said.

After that, the city quickly shut down the Grow Shop. When CPS requested a meeting with the Thompsons, Jesse asked to wait until their attorney was able to attend. CPS didn’t reschedule the meeting, Jesse Thompson said, and instead, decided to take Jerry away and made him live with an aunt. The Thompsons could only see their son by visiting him at the local CPS office. “It’s destroying me. I can’t not be with my son. He is all that matters,” Jesse Thompson said of having Jerry taken away.

Vicca Thompson’s son Sohani went to live with his father full-time. “I felt like my heart might stop,” said Vicca Thompson.

The Thompsons went to court to fight to get Jerry back home. CPS had Jerry take a hair follicle drug test. When the results came back, Jerry tested positive for THC, the psycho-active ingredient in marijuana.

Vicca and Jesse Thompson were accused of posing a risk to Jerry's well-being by feeding marijuana to him. They denied doing so, but Vicca Thompson said she did rub a marijuana salve on his skin to treat a rash, which would not put him at risk of getting high. After weeks of stilted, supervised meetings with Jerry and numerous hearings, the court commissioner allowed Jerry to come home with the Thompsons on Jan. 7. He stated he saw no other evidence of harm even though there was evidence of THC in Jerry's body.

“The law says there has to be serious physical harm. A child who ingests an edible is not going to suffer serious physical harm,” attorney Jennifer Ani, who has represented a mother who had her child taken away for her legal marijuana use, told “20/20.” “They may go to sleep. They may be out of it. Children can't be removed because of bad judgment. If they could, lots of people wouldn't have kids because we all make mistakes.”

The court commissioner set strict conditions for Jerry’s return home that included making sure he was not exposed to marijuana smoke or edibles in any form. If Jerry were to test positive, the court commissioner said he would not be allowed to live with the Thompsons. “We’re going to hide the marijuana,” Vicca Thompson said after Jerry returned home. “I definitely feel like I shouldn’t give it to children.”

But Vicca Thompson said if it was legal to give marijuana to children, she would do so. “If I lived somewhere else and a doctor was looking over me, telling me that it was okay, then I would think, ‘Yeah, it's totally safe,’ especially to put salve on a cut or a rash,” said Vicca Thompson.

January 17, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Latest sign of the apocalypse: "weed-infused sex lube for ladies"?

The question in the title of this post is my reaction to this notable news story from The Cannabist about a notable new cannabis product, headlined "That weed-infused sex lube for ladies? It’ll be on Colorado shelves this month." Here are the details:

Remember when we first wrote about THC-infused sex lube Foria and its quite singular user instructions in June 2014? “Apply 4-8 sprays directly onto the clitoris, inner and outer labia and inside the vagina.”

That interview with Los Angeles-based Foria founder Mathew Gerson helped introduce the unique product to the masses, and now Gerson — who originally hails from Boulder — is debuting his special, non-psychoactive lube outside of California for the very first time. Foria will make its Colorado debut at the Native Roots location in Aspen during the Winter X-Games on Jan. 21-25.

“I came out to L.A. from Colorado, and I’ve been trying to get back ever since,” Gerson told The Cannabist. “I’m super-excited to be bringing it to Colorado, and Native Roots is a good alignment for us.”

Need a reminder on what Foria is? Per Gerson, from my June interview with him: “It’s a sensual enhancement oil designed for female pleasure — a therapeutic aphrodisiac. Women have described it as relaxing, and they’ve said it’s heightened their sensations. They’ve associated it with warming and tingling, localized in the sexual region.”...

And how have the last six months been for Foria in California? “We never could have imagined the impact it’s having on the patient community in California and how it’s spanned the spectrum of users — from younger women who are looking to deepen the level of intimacy of their own bodies to older women who are experiencing a reawakening of their own sexuality,” Gerson said. “There are a large number of women who could benefit from cannabis but who aren’t interested in the psychoactive component.”

The product’s expansion into Colorado is only the beginning; Gerson estimates Foria will be available in Washington state pot stores in the next few months.

January 13, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Massachusetts already seeing job impacts from its nascent medical marijuana industry

This Boston Globe article, headlined "Schools offering courses on sale of marijuana: New Mass. schools are offering programs on what is likely to be a fast-growing business," highlights some notable economic echoes of medical marijuana legalization in Massachusetts.  Here are some details:

The new Northeastern Institute of Cannabis, or NIC [is] a two-classroom school in an office park that prepares people for positions ranging from dispensary workers to medical marijuana educators.   In advance of the expected opening of the first Massachusetts dispensaries next year, the for-profit NIC has graduated about 12 students and has 64 more enrolled.

Keith Saunders, a sociology professor who oversees the curriculum at NIC, said help-wanted ads for medical marijuana workers already are appearing on the jobs website Monster.com. He figures each of the state’s 15 provisionally approved dispensaries will immediately need 35 to 40 workers, and then continue to hire.  “When [dispensaries] roll out, it will happen quickly,” he said.

The institute is not the only school of its kind in Massachusetts.  The New England Grass Roots Institute in Quincy caters to medical marijuana patients, and the Cannabis Career Institute, a national company, periodically offers marijuana business training sessions in Boston.

Although it is difficult to project how many jobs medical marijuana might create statewide, it could be significant, said Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug law reform group with headquarters in New York City.

The jobs do not just entail growing and selling marijuana, she said. Think commercial kitchens cooking marijuana-laced foods, manufacturers providing packaging, and marketing firms promoting brands.  “There’s all of these ancillary businesses that are involved in the industry,” Reiman said.

The curriculum at Northeastern Institute of Cannabis is based on discussions with dispensary operators in other states — including California, Colorado, Maine, and Rhode Island — producers of cannabis medicine, state legislators, and industry specialists, according to school officials.  They have applied for state certification as an occupational trade school.

To receive a certificate, students must complete 12 four-hour courses, including medical marijuana 101, which covers the basics of marijuana as a medicine, cannabis law New England, an overview of state marijuana laws, and cannabis cultivation, about the art and science of growing marijuana.  (It’s all strictly academic: The school cannot have marijuana on site). Students also must pass a two-hour exam by scoring at least 70 percent on each of 12 sections and 75 percent overall.

The cost of the program, which typically takes four to six weeks to complete, will increase to $2,000 from $1,500 on Jan. 1. Students range in age from their 20s to 60s and come from a variety of backgrounds. They include chefs, mechanics, and business owners....

[Jeanne] Ficcardi-Sauro, a 56-year-old mother of two grown children, said she has had difficulty finding full-time employment, so she is giving the medical marijuana industry a try. She also is a cancer patient and smokes marijuana to manage pain and fall asleep. Her goal: to educate and counsel other patients. “It can just help so many people in so many ways,” she said....

The school has amenities found at other trade schools and community colleges, including a student lounge, movie nights, and a store that sells T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the NIC logo. Along with textbooks, students can buy medical marijuana cookbooks, vaporizers, and glass pipes.

Mickey Martin, a longtime advocate for reform of marijuana laws, founded the school earlier this year. He said the school plans to host its first job fair in March. Launching the school posed several challenges, said Martin, who is from Oakland, Calif. It took months to find a location because landlords were reluctant to rent to a school specializing in marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law. The school’s insurance rates are double that of an average trade school, and the school’s bank account was canceled.

“There’s nothing illegal about what we’re doing,” Martin said. “But because we have cannabis in our name I’m forced to jump through the same hurdles as dispensary groups. It’s kind of insanity.” Still, Martin said, he has recruited high-quality faculty and administrators. Saunders, who developed the school’s curriculum, has taught drug policy courses at Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Bill Downing, a longtime business owner and activist for marijuana law reform, teaches classes in business management and the history of marijuana. Uma Dhanabalan, who teaches the medical marijuana 101 course, has a medical degree, is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, and holds a master’s in public health from Harvard University.

Dhanabalan said it was not until later in her career that she learned marijuana could help relieve chronic pain, nausea, and migraines, as well as treat diseases such as glaucoma. When she was asked to teach at the school, she said, it was easy to say yes. “This is history in the making,” she said.

December 24, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 12, 2014

"The 'Legal' Marijuana Industry's Challenge for Business Entity Law"

The title of this post is the title of this notable paper authored by Luke Scheuer that I just noticed via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In recent years many states have legalized the use and sale of marijuana for medical or even recreational purposes.  This has led to the booming growth of a “legal” marijuana industry.  Businesses openly growing and selling marijuana products to the consuming public are faced with some unusual legal hurdles.  Significantly, although the sale of marijuana may be legal at the state level, it is still illegal under federal law.

This article explores the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws from a business entity law perspective.  For example, managers owe a fiduciary duty of good faith to their businesses and equity holders.  One of the ways in which managers can violate this duty is by causing their business to intentionally violate the law.  This is a problem for the marijuana industry because its managers constantly and intentionally violate federal law and therefore violate their fiduciary duties by growing and selling marijuana.

This article concludes that the industry’s ability to attract professional stakeholders is harmed by marijuana business stakeholders’ inability to take advantage of key business law protections, such as limited liability.  This article proposes a state law exception that allows for marijuana businesses to operate normally under state business entity law, with normal business entity law protections, despite their continuing violation of federal law.

December 12, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Project SAM and Heritage event to separate "scientific facts from popular fiction" concerning marijuana reform

SAMToday in Washington DC, Project SAM and the Heritage Foundation are co-hosting a notable event titled "Marijuana Policy: Separating Scientific Facts from Popular Fiction."  The event is to include keynote remarks by two Republican members of Congress who are both doctors (and I believe ardent opponents of any prohibition reform): Andy Harris (R-MD) and John Fleming (R-LA).

Via this webpage at Heritage, I believe the full event will be webcast starting at 11am EST. (I am hoping the event will be archived there, too, for later viewing.) Here is the description of the event appearing on the Heritage page:

Today, 17 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana, four states have legalized the drug, and 23 states have passed so-called “medical marijuana” laws – despite the fact – that it is properly listed as a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance and the FDA does not recognize marijuana as a drug.  Big marijuana is big business and has added Libertarians and some small government conservatives to its traditional liberal base.  Public support for legalization has skyrocketed over the decades, from 12% in the 1970s to 51% today, down seven points from last year.

But just as public support has grown, so has the scientific understanding of the real dangers of marijuana. Scores of peer-reviewed studies published in the last two decades show how marijuana affects the brain, heart, lungs and mental health; how marijuana has become more potent and addictive; and how it is nothing like alcohol. Join us as our distinguished experts discuss the pot business, the science behind today’s marijuana, and why Americans should oppose legalization.

UPDATE at 12noon: I am in the midst of watching the Heritage event, and it is terrifically interesting. I will have some follow-up posts once the event is over with some generally commentary. But while the event is on-going, I feel compelled to note and lament that it appears that there is not a single person of color speaking among the eight scheduled speakers. I have been persistently concerned that much of the current debate and discussion of marijuana reform has not included diverse voices and perspectives, and this Heritage event (while otherwise first-rate in lots of respects) is aggravating this concern.

December 9, 2014 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Does new bill to make it easier for veterans to get medical marijuana stand any chance in Congress?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Huffington Post article headlined "Veterans May Gain Easier Access To Medical Marijuana."  Here are excerpts:

A bill introduced in Congress would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.  The Veterans Equal Access Act, introduced Thursday by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) with 10 bipartisan cosponsors, would lift a ban on VA doctors giving opinions or recommendations about medical marijuana to veterans who live in states where medical marijuana is permitted.

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” Blumenauer said.  “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family.  We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.”

Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD and depression, according to a 2012 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Some scientists have suggested that marijuana may help PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression.  In a recent study, patients who smoked cannabis saw an average 75 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms.  "A clinical trial needs to be done to see what proportion and what kind of PTSD patients benefit, with either cannabis or the main active ingredients of cannabis," said Dr. George Greer, who was involved in the study.

This year, federal health officials signed off on a study that would have examined the effects of five potencies of smoked or vaporized cannabis on 50 veterans suffering from PTSD. The study's future still remains unclear because the federal government's sole provider of medical-grade cannabis didn't have the proper strains for the research to begin. Then the study's lead scientist was fired from the University of Arizona, where the research would have taken place.

I have long thought that anyone who claims to support our troops and veterans ought to be active and vocally supporting more serious exploration of the potential benefits of allowing veterans to use marijuana as one way to deal with the difficult problems of PTSD and brain injuries. And because everyone in Congress claims to be a supporter of our troops and veterans, one might believe that the Veterans Equal Access Act should be the rare proposal that garners bipartisan support in Congress. But because the politics of drug policy rarely is free of divisiveness, I fear passage of this bill in either the current or new Congress may be an uphill battle given that the House of Representatives earlier this year rejected a similar measure.

A few prior related posts:

November 21, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jeffrey Miron explains "Why Congress should legalize pot"

CNN has this notable new commentary authored by Jeffrey Miron urging Congress to follow the lead of states on modern marijuana reform. (Miron is senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in the economics department at Harvard University as well as a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.) Here are excerpts:

Marijuana legalization is a policy no-brainer. Any society that professes to value liberty should leave adults free to consume marijuana.

Moreover, the evidence from states and countries that have decriminalized or medicalized marijuana suggests that policy plays a modest role in limiting use. And while marijuana can harm the user or others when consumed inappropriately, the same applies to many legal goods such as alcohol, tobacco, excessive eating or driving a car.

Recent evidence from Colorado confirms that marijuana's legal status has minimal impact on marijuana use or the harms allegedly caused by use. Since commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009, and since legalization in 2012, marijuana use, crime, traffic accidents, education and health outcomes have all followed their pre-existing trends rather than increasing or decreasing after policy liberalized.

The strong claims made by legalization critics are not borne out in the data. Likewise, some strong claims by legalization advocates -- e.g., that marijuana tourism would be a major boom to the economy -- have also not materialized. The main impact of Colorado's legalization has been that marijuana users can now purchase and use with less worry about harsh legal ramifications.

Yet despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress toward legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured. Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law.

Whether that will happen is hard to forecast. If more states legalize marijuana and public opinion continues its support, Washington may hesitate to push back. But federal prohibition creates problems even if enforcement is nominal: Marijuana business cannot easily use standard financial institutions and transactions technologies such as credit cards; physicians may still hesitate to prescribe marijuana; and medical researchers will still face difficulty in studying marijuana.

To realize the full potential of legalization, therefore, federal law must change. The best approach is to remove marijuana from the list of drugs regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal law that governs prohibition.

Standard regulatory and tax policies would still apply to legalized marijuana, and states would probably adopt marijuana-specific regulations similar to those for alcohol (e.g., minimum purchase ages). State and federal governments might also impose "sin taxes," as for alcohol. But otherwise marijuana would be just another commodity, as it was before the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

A more cautious approach would have Congress reschedule marijuana under the CSA. Currently, marijuana is in Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs such as heroin and LSD that, according to the CSA, have "a high potential for abuse ... no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States ... [and] a lack of accepted safety for use."  Hardly anyone believes these conditions apply to marijuana.

If marijuana were in Schedule II, which states it as "a high potential for abuse ... [but a] currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," doctors could legally prescribe it under federal law, as with other Schedule II drugs such as cocaine, methadone and morphine....

This "medicalization" approach, while perhaps politically more feasible than full legalization, has serious drawbacks. Federal authorities such as the Drug Enforcement Administration could interfere with marijuana prescribing -- as sometimes occurs with opiate prescribing. Taxing medical marijuana may be harder than taxing recreational marijuana. And the medical approach risks a charge of hypocrisy, since it is backdoor legalization. But medicalization is still better than full prohibition, since it eliminates the black market.

For 77 years, the United States has outlawed marijuana, with tragic repercussions and unintended consequences. The public and their state governments are on track to rectify this terrible policy. Here's hoping Congress catches up.

November 19, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vets making a push for VA to consider allowing marijuana use for PTSD

Images (1)This new lengthy Washington Post article, headlined "More veterans press VA to recognize medical marijuana as treatment option," highlights a notable constituency eager to have more support for considering use of medical marijuana.  Here are excerpts:

At a time when the legalized use of marijuana is gaining greater acceptance across the country, ... a growing number of veterans are coming out of the “cannabis closet” and pressing the government to recognize pot as a legitimate treatment for the wounds of war.  They say it is effective for addressing various physical and psychological conditions related to military service — from chronic back pain and neuropathic issues to panic attacks and insomnia — and often preferable to widely prescribed opioid painkillers and other drugs.

Researchers in the United States and several other countries have found evidence that cannabis can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pain, although studies — for instance, looking into the best strains and proper dosages — remain in the early stages. Veterans are lobbying for more states to legalize cannabis for medical use — 23 states and the District allow this — but the primary target is the federal government and, in particular, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin and LSD, deeming that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. That means that VA, which runs the largest network of hospitals and health clinics in the country, cannot prescribe pot as a treatment, even for veterans who live in a state where medical marijuana is legal.

VA says that its physicians and chronic-pain specialists “are prohibited from recommending and prescribing medical marijuana for PTSD or other pain-related issues.” Medical staff are also prohibited from completing paperwork required to enroll in state marijuana programs because they are “federal employees who must comply with federal law,” said Gina Jackson, a VA spokeswoman.

The swelling chorus of veterans who want to take advantage of marijuana but can’t reflects the growing disconnect between more tolerant state policies and the federal government’s unwillingness to budge. Advocates ... say it is urgent that the federal government recognizes marijuana as a treatment because there are so many veterans of recent wars....

If veterans report their use of marijuana to VA, they could face criminal charges if they live in a state where it is illegal. And though few have indeed been charged, the mere possibility has spawned a culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said Michael Krawitz, a former Air Force staff sergeant and the director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

VA medical staff have warned that this culture is making for a dangerous situation, especially as more states legalize medical marijuana, because doctors do not know about all of the medications their patients are using. Patients are not routinely given drug tests, but those who are prescribed large amounts of opiates and risk overdosing can be asked to undergo screenings, which can turn up marijuana use. In 2011, VA issued a directive that said patients who were participating in state marijuana programs for pain cannot lose their VA benefits. VA added that it is up to individual patients to craft their “treatment plans” in consultation with their doctors.

Some patients say their VA doctors are making them choose between their prescription drugs and marijuana. “Doctors and administrators wrongly assume that the use of marijuana along with opiates is unsafe,” Krawitz said.

A study published last month in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reported that “people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering their risk of overdose.” The study, written by Marcus A. Bachhuber, a researcher at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and several colleagues, found that “medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.”

Scott Murphy, a retired Army specialist who is the head of Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care, has been compiling a petition asking that marijuana no longer be classified as a Schedule I drug. “Veterans in states without medical marijuana laws feel they need to lie to their physicians for the justifiable fear of losing their earned benefits,” Murphy writes in the petition....

Several VA doctors who specialize in pain management and PTSD said in interviews that they are eager for more research on the medical benefits of marijuana. The doctors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they do not have permission from VA to discuss marijuana with the news media, said they feel frustrated because prescription drugs are not helping patients who are suffering. “Anecdotally we know it works, and more and more studies are saying this,” said one VA doctor, a PTSD expert who leads a large East Coast VA pain center. “But we aren’t allowed to study it.”

Researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center are developing the first generation of cannabis-related medications targeted for PTSD, according to Alexander Neumeister, a professor of psychology and radiology who is supervising three drug trials. He said research has found that people with PTSD have lower levels of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These receptors, called CB1, are activated when a person uses marijuana. “We are throwing the wrong pills at the problem and keep doing it,” Neumeister said. “It’s upsetting. It’s heart-breaking and it’s just wrong.”

November 16, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Former NM Gov and GOP Prez candidate Gary Johnson urges marijuana research to respond to Ebola

ImagesAs 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.”

October 18, 2014 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can economists provide unassailable (and bias-free) marijuana reform cost-benefit analysis?

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

Does mixing capitalism and marijuana reform turn off swing voters?

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

Always follow the money as "Entrepreneurs eye emerging marijuana markets"

Th (1)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."

October 8, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Harmonizing Marijuana Legalization with Environmental, Land Use, and Other Regulations"

Banner640The 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.

October 5, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"92% of patients say medical marijuana works"

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):

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."

October 2, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

New York Senators and state lawmakers seek federal waiver to import medical marijuana

DownloadAs 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 (3)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Supporting the troops with cannabis in Colorado

ThAs 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.

September 28, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)