Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, February 23, 2018

"E.U. Regulation Will Revolutionize Global Data Privacy. How Will This Affect The Regulated Cannabis Sector?"

In prior posts here and here, I spotlighted articles published at the Cannabis Law Report discussing federal tax treatment of cannabis businesses authored by Chris Nani, a student in my Marijuana Law & Policy seminar last semester. I am now pleased and proud to spotlight that Chris Nani has branched out by authoring this new piece with the title that serves as the title of this post. Here is how it starts and ends:

A European Union regulation may soon shape the way U.S. cannabis companies create their privacy policies and standards. The European Union will fully implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 25, 2018....

Data security is tantamount to consumers and companies that comply with the GDPR will have an advantage over others and their clients will appreciate the additional security.

February 23, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

American Legion continues to push federal government for more research on how marijuana can help veterans

American%20Legion%20Logo%20-%20American%20Flag%20on%20either%20sideThis new article from The Cannabist, headlined "Veterans group ratchets up pressure on White House and Congress to support medical marijuana research: The American Legion wants the federal government to focus on cannabis as potential treatment for PTSD and other ailments," reports on notable new comments from a notable old advocate for medical marijuana research and reform. Here is how the article begins:

Top officials at of The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, on Friday stepped up their calls for the federal government to legitimize and invest in medical marijuana research. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Legion National Commander Denise Rohan outlined how the White House and Congress could improve the delivery of benefits to the nation’s 20 million-plus veterans. Medical cannabis was on the list. In fulfilling its mission to make sure veterans are taken care of, “we have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic we have in this nation,” Rohan said.

The organization’s call for additional research into cannabis as a potential treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain and other ailments was reiterated by Louis Celli, National Director Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation at the Legion. “We just need to know that the American government is focused on trying to find cures for not only veterans but for all Americans,” he said. “And if cannabis, which is a drug, is something that can help (then) they have to do the research to do that.”

The Legion has passed several resolutions on cannabis over the past two years. A 2016 measure calls on the Drug Enforcement Agency to license privately-funded medical marijuana operations, ensuring “safe and efficient” research into cannabis. It also asks for the rescheduling of cannabis from its current, decades-long classification as a Schedule 1 drug into a category that, “at a minimum, will recognize cannabis as a drug with a potential medical value.”

The other resolution, passed last year, calls on the Veterans Administration (VA) to allow its medical advisors to openly discuss the use of medical cannabis with veterans for medical purposes – as well as to recommend medicinal cannabis where it is legal.

Last November, a Legion-commissioned national survey showed strong support for medical cannabis research and legalization within the military veteran community.  In December, the VA issued a directive, allowing its doctors and pharmacists to discuss cannabis with veterans taking part in state-approved medical marijuana programs. However, the Weed for Warriors Project, a pro-cannabis legalization veterans group, warned that vets who choose to talk about marijuana use with doctors might be identified by the VA as having a substance abuse disorder, which would in turn curtail their access to other medicines.

The Legion’s Celli also addressed that issue Friday, when asked if he was seeing any pushback to the organization’s stance on cannabis due to the stigmas still surrounding marijuana. “I wouldn’t say we’re getting pushback,” he responded.  “What we’re getting is…stories from veterans who live in states that have legal cannabis programs, and they’re participating in those programs with a feeling of inner guilt.”

Ambivalence about medical cannabis, he said, comes from years of being told that marijuana is bad and immoral.  Veterans in those state-legal cannabis programs, he added, see pot as a valid treatment but still feel like they could be on “the wrong side of the law.”

Prior related posts:

February 23, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: A systematic review and meta-analysis"

CoverThe title of this post is the title of this notable new article by multiple authored in the journal Addiction.  Here is the abstract:

Aims

To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies in order to estimate the effect of US medical marijuana laws (MMLs) on past-month marijuana use prevalence among adolescents.

Methods

A total of 2999 papers from 17 literature sources were screened systematically.  Eleven studies, developed from four ongoing large national surveys, were meta-analyzed.  Estimates of MML effects on any past-month marijuana use prevalence from included studies were obtained from comparisons of pre–post MML changes in MML states to changes in non-MML states over comparable time-periods.  These estimates were standardized and entered into a meta-analysis model with fixed-effects for each study.  Heterogeneity among the study estimates by national data survey was tested with an omnibus F-test.  Estimates of effects on additional marijuana outcomes, of MML provisions (e.g. dispensaries) and among demographic subgroups were abstracted and summarized.  Key methodological and modeling characteristics were also described. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed.

Results

None of the 11 studies found significant estimates of pre–post MML changes compared with contemporaneous changes in non-MML states for marijuana use prevalence among adolescents. The meta-analysis yielded a non-significant pooled estimate (standardized mean difference) of −0.003 (95% confidence interval = −0.012, +0.007). Four studies compared MML with non-MML states on pre-MML differences and all found higher rates of past-month marijuana use in MML states pre-MML passage. Additional tests of specific MML provisions, of MML effects on additional marijuana outcomes and among subgroups generally yielded non-significant results, although limited heterogeneity may warrant further study.

Conclusions

Synthesis of the current evidence does not support the hypothesis that US medical marijuana laws (MMLs) until 2014 have led to increases in adolescent marijuana use prevalence. Limited heterogeneity exists among estimates of effects of MMLs on other patterns of marijuana use, of effects within particular population subgroups and of effects of specific MML provisions.

February 23, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"'Doobies Make Boobies': Police Apologize After Officer Says Marijuana Makes Men Grow Breasts"

9M1YJMo-_400x400The title of this post is the amusing headline of this amusing story about a little bit of misinformation delivered by law enforcement officers to teens in Canada.  Here are the details:

Don't smoke marijuana, boys, or you'll develop breasts.  That's the message that an officer for Canada's York Regional Police shared with high school boys last week during a drug-awareness talk in which the officer claimed that smoking marijuana would make boys develop breasts.

“There are studies that marijuana lowers your testosterone,” drug recognition officer Nigel Cole told students during a panel held at the York District School Board headquarters.  “We call it ‘doobies make boobies,’ we are finding that 60 percent of 14-year-olds are developing ‘boobies.’”

Health experts quickly responded to dismiss the bogus claim.  “Smoking marijuana does not give you breasts,” said Dr. John Harrison, Chief Scientific Officer for the healthcare company TeamMD.  “Marijuana does impact hormones but by no means does it give anyone breasts. That’s what you call knowledge going the wrong way.  There’s no scientific basis that I know of.”...

The police agree.  Yesterday, the official Twitter account for the York Regional Police released an apology for spreading misinformation.  "We’re no health experts," YPR wrote, "but we’re pretty sure getting high does not cause enhanced mammary growth in men.  We are aware of the misinformation about cannabis that was unfortunately provided to the community by our officers.  We’re working to address it."

The York Regional Police should certainly be given credit for forthrightly apologizing for spreading misinformation rather than for trying to deny this happened. But this incident serves to provide another reminder of the enduring challenges of ensuring that only sound information is part of needed efforts to educate the community about the array of potential pros and cons of marijuana use.

February 22, 2018 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Strategies to Help Young Adults Limit Negative Consequences of Marijuana Use"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new Rand commentary authored by Eric Pedersen. Here are excerpts:

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have been shown to be the most prevalent and problematic users of marijuana. And now with laws for recreational marijuana sales emerging in multiple states, there is a need to understand how the potential for harm can be minimized among young adults who choose to use the drug.

My colleagues and I at RAND and other research institutions have developed a Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale for Marijuana that helps identify some practices young adults can use to help limit their use of marijuana and avoid negative consequences....

We are still learning about the effects of legalization on marijuana consumption, but young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 represent the drug's most prevalent users and 5 percent of those in that age category meet criteria for cannabis use disorder — more than double the percentage of individuals in any other age category. Given that young adults are using the drug, and it is becoming increasingly more available for medical and recreational use, there is a need to understand whether the potential for harm can be minimized among those who choose to use marijuana.

One of my mentors in graduate school at the University of Washington, the late Alan Marlatt, was instrumental in challenging the notion that misuse of alcohol could only be controlled by abstinence, as in never using it again. He demonstrated that “harm-reduction techniques” could help individuals limit their use so that they experience few to no harms from use.  Any step toward reduced risk, such as drinking one less day per week or limiting oneself to two drinks per day, was a step in the right direction.  This proved to be an effective approach for some people and has been particularly attractive to young adults.  That is, if young people chose to drink, they were provided with strategies for how to moderate their drinking in a way to minimize associated harms. 

Using Marlatt's principles, my colleagues and I developed a list of strategies that young people can turn to before, during, after — or instead of — using marijuana to help protect themselves from experiencing negative consequences. In multiple studies we have shown that to be true: College students who use these strategies were at significantly less risk for heavily using the drug and experiencing negative consequences from use. And we came to a similar conclusion in another study with young veterans.

We have developed 36-item and 17-item versions of our list of strategies — the Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale for Marijuana (or the PBSM) — that researchers and clinicians can use in their research studies and in practice. Items on the list relate to a variety of situations and practices, and include strategies that may be helpful to try if someone desires to cut down use, wants to limit use around certain times of the day, and avoid or limit use in particularly risky situations, such as when everyone else around them is using. Some examples of items on the list are:

Avoid using marijuana before work or school.

Keep track of your costs to get an accurate picture of how much you spend on marijuana.

Avoid situations that you anticipate being pressured to use marijuana.

Use marijuana only among trusted peers.

Avoid using marijuana to cope with emotions such as sadness or depression.

Use a little and then wait to see how you feel before using more.

Limit use to weekends.

February 20, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Insuring the Product Liability Risks of Cannabis"

The title of this post is the title of this short paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Ian Stewart and Francis Joseph Mootz. Here is its abstract:

Legal adult-use marijuana is associated with risks that may cause bodily injury and property damage.  Many of these risks have been well documented and widely discussed in the media, including theft, fire, motor vehicle accidents and consumption-related injuries. T he potential for an increase in the number and value of cannabis-related product liability claims and lawsuits, however, is of particular concern to the cannabis and insurance industries.  The production, distribution and sale of an ingestible product that has psychoactive effects – accompanied by a wide range of anticipated labeling and marketing representations – will certainly result in robust product liability litigation.

February 18, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mixed messages from US District Judge hearing legal challenge to federal marijuana prohibition

In this post earlier this week, I noted today's scheduled hearing in federal court concerning a lawsuit challenging marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act and asked "Could a high-profile lawsuit help end federal marijuana prohibition?". This Bloomberg article, headlined "Trump Administration Battles Sick Kids on Access to Legal Pot," suggests that the judge hearing the case is sympathetic to the plaintiffs' complaints but still seemingly unlikely to run in their favor:

In a New York courtroom packed with cannabis supporters, the Trump administration urged a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that aims to pave the way for legal marijuana across the country.

The case was brought on behalf of two sick children, a former National Football League player who says athletes deserve a better way to treat head trauma than addictive opioids and the Cannabis Cultural Association. The suit, filed in July 2017, seeks a ruling that marijuana was unconstitutionally labeled alongside heroin and LSD as a so-called Schedule I drug -- the harshest of five government ratings -- when Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970.

In court on Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Samuel Hilliard Dolinger said the plaintiffs didn’t follow legal requirements before suing, beginning with a petition to the Drug Enforcement Agency. "The right thing is to defer to the agency," said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, an 84-year-old who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton, who famously admitted to experimenting with pot while claiming he "didn’t inhale."...

Hellerstein said he would issue a ruling later, and it was far from clear which way he was leaning. The judge, who had the courtroom erupting in laughter on more than a few occasions during the hearing, was skeptical of the government’s claim that there’s no medical benefit to marijuana. "Your clients are living proof of the medical effectiveness of marijuana," Hellerstein said to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Hiller....

Cannabis was criminalized "not to control the spread of a dangerous drug, but rather to suppress the rights and interests of those whom the Nixon Administration wrongly regarded as hostile to the interests of the U.S. -- African Americans and protesters of the Vietnam War," the suit says.

At the hearing, Hellerstein said that argument wasn’t going to work with him. The decision "will not depend on what may have been in the mind of Richard Nixon at the time," Hellerstein said.

Prior related posts:

February 14, 2018 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Can Olympic Athletes Use Cannabis? Officially No, But…"

Marijuana-summer-olympics-2016The title of this post is the headline of this recent Leafy article that struck me as both timely and informative.  Here is how the extended piece starts and ends:

Whether or not you consider cannabis a performance-enhancing substance, it’s still a no-no for Olympic athletes. Being caught can mean suspension or even the loss of a medal. Just ask Canada’s Ross Rebagliati, who in 1998 was stripped of the first-ever Olympic gold for snowboarding after his urine tested positive for THC.

Rebagliati eventually got his medal back after pointing out that cannabis at the time wasn’t actually classified as a banned substance. But every year since, cannabinoids have appeared on the official “Prohibited List” put out annually by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Sorry, brah.

That’s not to say WADA is especially strict when it comes to cannabis. In fact, the agency’s limits are probably more lenient than your employer’s.

In 2016, we called the Olympic limits on cannabinoids “shockingly reasonable”—and they’ve only gotten more sensible since. Athletes’ urine must contain less than 150 nanograms per milliliter of carboxy-THC, a cannabis metabolite.

By comparison, workplace drug tests commonly used by private employers in the United States set thresholds between about 15 ng/mL and 100 ng/mL. (Rebagliati, the snowboarder, returned a result of 17.8 ng/mL.) Legal-cannabis states often have per se limits for cannabis DUIs, but those are generally based on concentrations of active THC in whole blood rather than WADA’s test for metabolites in urine, making the limits difficult to compare directly.

WADA’s THC limit used to be just 15 ng/mL, but the agency quietly raised it in 2013. The head of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission said at the time that the change was “a reasonable attempt at dealing with a complicated matter,” adding: “There is a big debate on it.”

How does the limit translate in terms of actual cannabis consumption? That’s hard to say for certain. How long cannabis remains in a person’s system depends consumption habits, genetics, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Athletes, who are generally leaner and more active than average, would likely be able to pass a test sooner than those of us watching from the couch at home....

At the end of the day, Olympic athletes are allowed a fair amount of leeway when it comes to cannabis test results, but they still operate in a world with scant protection for medical use. As more countries move to legalize, perhaps that will change.

February 14, 2018 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Could a high-profile lawsuit help end federal marijuana prohibition?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this New York Times article headlined "Lawsuit Takes Aim at Trump Administration Marijuana Policy." As detailed below, this lawsuit was covered on this blog when first filed, and this press article is prompted by an upcoming hearing.  Here is part of the report (followed by a bit of commentary at the end):

On Wednesday, yet another courtroom battle promises to pull the White House into the legal spotlight as crucial arguments are heard in New York in a sweeping lawsuit that is challenging the administration’s marijuana policy by seeking to legalize pot under federal law.

When the suit was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan in July, it appeared to be an intriguing, if limited, effort to help its five named plaintiffs — among them, a former professional football player with a business selling pot-based pain relievers and a 12-year-old girl who treats her chronic epilepsy with medical marijuana.  But the case was thrust into national relevance last month when Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an order encouraging prosecutors to aggressively enforce the federal marijuana law, endangering the viability of the multibillion-dollar weed industry in states where it is legal.

In its 98-page complaint, the suit presents its case for legalization not only through a host of constitutional arguments, but also by way of a world-historical tour of marijuana use — from its first purported role 10,000 years ago in the production of Taiwanese pottery to the smoking habits of President Barack Obama in his younger days. It points out that the ancient Egyptians used the drug to treat eye sores and hemorrhoids, and Thomas Jefferson puffed it for his migraines. James Madison credited “sweet hemp” for giving him “insight to create a new and democratic nation,” the suit notes.

The suit also includes archival material quoting John Ehrlichman, an adviser to President Richard Nixon, saying that the early efforts to criminalize pot were a way to disrupt the hippies and the black community after the 1960s. The contention is bolstered by an affidavit from Roger J. Stone, Jr., a pro-pot Nixon-era operative and adviser to Mr. Trump....

The current legal action is a somewhat rare attempt to use civil claims to legalize weed and has offered some novel arguments as to why its classification has violated the constitutional rights of those who filed the suit.

The former football player, Marvin Washington, for instance, is contending that the Controlled Substances Act has impeded his ability to transact business in states where pot is legal in contravention of the Constitution’s commerce clause.  The girl with epilepsy, Alexis Bortell, has argued that the law illegally restricts her right to travel with her medicine in states where pot is not allowed or to places controlled by the federal government — including on airplanes. A third plaintiff, the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit group created to assist minorities in the marijuana industry, has alleged the law has been used for years to discriminate against them.

“It’s the first time a young child who needs lifesaving medicine has stood up to the government to be able to use it,” said Joseph A. Bondy, one of the lawyers who brought the suit. “It’s the first time that a group of young millennials of color has stood up to the government and said the marijuana law is wrong and has destroyed their communities.”

The suit has made another claim based on what amounts to government hypocrisy: It asks why the government has classified pot as a pernicious substance, when in 2003 the Department of Health and Human Services obtained a patent on compounds in the drug to protect against brain damage and then in 2015 the surgeon general under President Obama declared in public that pot has medical benefits.

Against these claims, lawyers for the government have argued that Congress decided nearly 50 years ago that pot should be a Schedule 1 drug, and if the plaintiffs don’t agree, they should try to change the law.  Their suit, the lawyers wrote in one of their filings, “is the latest in a long list of cases asserting constitutional challenges to marijuana regulation under the C.S.A. Those challenges have been uniformly rejected by the federal courts.”

No matter how the lawsuit ends, the judge who is considering the case, Alvin K. Hellerstein, is clearly taking it seriously.  At a hearing in September, Judge Hellerstein said he would give the matter his “prioritized attention,” setting it ahead of all of his other cases.

The hearing on Wednesday, scheduled to entertain arguments to dismiss the case, is likely to be marked by a whiff of drama as marijuana activists from across the country are expected to descend on the courtroom.  Mr. Bondy said he is also trying to arrange a live-stream of the proceeding so that young Alexis, unable to travel to New York, can watch it from her home in Colorado.

I am pleased to see the New York Times giving significant attention to this litigation, but I find it troublesome how the headline of the article wrongly suggests that the lawsuit goes after the "Trump Administration Marijuana Policy" when in fact the suit is assailing Congress's failure to move marijuana off Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.  (Notably, the lawsuit discussed here was filed when the Trump Administration policies on marijuana were unchanged from Obama Administration policies.)

Similarly, this article is off base when asserting that AG Jeff Sessions "issued an order encouraging prosecutors to aggressively enforce the federal marijuana law."  The AG did issue an order rescinding the Cole Memo last month, but that merely took away novel limits on federal prosecutors and did not come with any orders for "aggressive" enforcement of federal prohibition.  (If AG Sessions had ordered federal prosecutors to aggressively enforce federal marijuana law, there would be hundred of indictments being filed in dozens of state with operational recreational and medical marijuana marketplaces.)

The full complaint as originally filed in Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, be found here.

Prior related posts:

February 13, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Noticing that some politicians are finally noticing that marijuana reform could be winning political issue

Download (8)Long-time readers know I have often posted articles and commentaries suggesting that politicians would be wise to see the potential to attract younger and independent voters by showing interest in marijuana reform.  This new Politico article suggest some folks running for Congress are finally getting this message.   The full headline of the lengthy piece highlights its themes: "These Red-State Democrats Think Legal Marijuana Can Help Them Win: With sky-high approval rates, pot is an issue challengers say will cure the Democratic malaise in Trump country."  Here are excerpts that everyone interested in the politics of marijuana reform should read in full:

Not so long ago — like maybe last cycle — a Democratic challenger in a state this conservative wouldn’t have been caught dead making an unqualified endorsement of a drug federal authorities still consider as dangerous as heroin by categorizing it as Schedule 1.  But attitudes about marijuana, not to mention state laws, have changed so quickly and so broadly across the country that Democrats even in deeply red states like Indiana not only don’t fear talking about the issue, they think it might be a key in 2018 to toppling Republican incumbents.  The numbers, they say, are on their side, not the side of the politicians who either duck the subject or endorse Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ apparent desire to return federal marijuana policy back to the “Just Say No” days of the Reagan administration.

In a 2016 poll of Indiana residents, approval for medical marijuana was at 73 percent.  In a state struggling, like so many others, with a massive opioid crisis, there’s been no sign that support for legalizing marijuana has waned. A 2012 survey from the Bowen Center of Public Affairs showed that 78 percent of Hoosiers supported taxing marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes, far above the 55 percent who supported then-governor Mike Pence — a sign that support for marijuana law reform in Indiana is no statistical blip.  In fact, according to [congressional candidate Dan] Canon, it has only gotten stronger, and not just in blue bubbles like Bloomington but in rural and suburban communities, too. That’s why, in December, Canon released a web video ad declaring his stance clearly, “Here’s one simple solution that’s long overdue: We need to legalize medical marijuana nationwide.” He even got some international press out of it.

Subsequently, his chief primary opponent, law school professor Liz Watson, instead of criticizing Canon’s position, posted a detailed pro-medical marijuana position on her website to eliminate any daylight between her and Canon on this issue. “In Southern Indiana, we are battling a raging opioid epidemic.  The last thing we need is for the federal government to punish people for turning to non-addictive alternatives to opioids,” she told POLITICO Magazine.  “We also do not need the federal government restricting study into the medical uses of marijuana.  Federal law currently categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic, along with heroin, while oxycodone is Schedule 2. That makes no sense.” Watson’s stance nearly guarantees that no matter who survives the primary to face Trey Hollingsworth in the general, the Democrat in the race will be on the record as in favor of medical marijuana.

The candidates of Indiana’s 9th are not alone in their desire to use marijuana as a rallying flag. House races in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, plus Senate races in Texas and Nevada all feature Democratic candidates who have taken strong stands in favor of changing the federal marijuana laws, and running against Republican incumbents who have not.

“There’s nationwide support for recreational marijuana, and support for medical marijuana is even higher than that,” Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, told POLITICO Magazine.  According to Cross, there’s not much difference in the support for marijuana legalization in rural Southern states than in the Western blue states more commonly associated with marijuana.  “For some voters, marijuana could be a defining issue. We just don’t know how many that’s going to be yet.”...

It won’t be known for some months yet whether legalization has the power to take out sitting Republicans, but there’s no question that it is potent enough to change the complexion of primary races, at least in districts that have large college populations.

Take a look at what’s happening across the Ohio River from the Indiana 9th, in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district, which includes both the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University.  The Democratic field to unseat the three-term Republican incumbent Andy Barr has developed into an interesting portrait of the current Democratic Party coalition: a black state senator, a female veteran, and a gay mayor.  State Senator Reggie Thomas, who represents a portion of Lexington in the Kentucky Senate, was first in the race to come out in favor of medical marijuana.  In a web video he states, “The evidence is clear. Medical marijuana helps those with chronic pain and other medical conditions.” In the same 60-second video, Thomas announced he was signing on as a co-sponsor of a medical marijuana bill in the state Senate.  Asked by POLITICO Magazine if there was a campaign strategy associated with his advocacy of medical marijuana in order to differentiate himself from his primary opponents, Thomas wouldn’t take the bait, saying only that, “it’s just the right thing to do.”...

There are few places where marijuana politics are more exciting than in West Virginia, thanks to state senator (and retired U.S. Army major) Richard Ojeda, who is currently a candidate for Congress in West Virginia’s 3rd with a position on medical marijuana that has given him strong statewide name recognition.  “Anyone with half a brain should know that marijuana should never be Schedule I,” Ojeda told POLITICO Magazine over the phone, sounding more like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey than his own state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin.

Medical marijuana is as popular in West Virginia as Donald Trump. Nearly 68 percent of West Virginians voted for Trump in 2016, but after a year in office, the average of his 2017 approval rating according to the Gallup tracking poll has slid to 61 percent.  Conversely, West Virginia’s acceptance of medical marijuana has risen from 61 percent in early 2017 to 67 percent today, according to an Orion Strategies poll released last month.

Not merely an advocate for medical marijuana, Ojeda (pronounced oh-JEH-dah) criticizes the federal law that requires mandatory prison sentences for criminal marijuana cultivation: “One to five years? That’s garbage,” he told me. Instead, Ojeda, 47, believes that outlaw marijuana growers shouldn’t go to prison at all.  He thinks it should be a misdemeanor for a first offense, and that the harshest sentence for a repeat offender should be home confinement.  Those positions were once far outside the Democratic Party mainstream, but it’s difficult for Ojeda’s opponents to characterize him as a liberal who is soft on crime when he served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2016, Ojeda ran for a West Virginia state Senate seat against a longtime incumbent Democrat and won the primary by 2,000 votes.  In his opening act as a freshman legislator, Ojeda sponsored a medical marijuana bill and quarterbacked it through both chambers, making West Virginia the 29th state to legalize it.  This was a stunning turn of events, even for marijuana advocacy groups, who had spent no money to support Ojeda’s effort. “There wasn’t a single penny spent, and we won,” Ojeda told POLITICO Magazine.  “We did it because I got up and started speaking about it. And then the phone lines [in the legislature] lit up because the people of West Virginia know.”...

These red-state Democrats have found strong footing on a position to the left of their party’s leadership in Washington, D.C., and it seems to be working for them. None of them seem shaken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement he would end the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to prosecuting marijuana crimes in states that had legalized it. Ojeda told POLITICO Magazine: “I think we are on the verge of eventually voting in favor of marijuana [at the national level],”

February 6, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two notably rosy new account of the state of marijuana reform circa 2018

180130115042-medical-marijuana-map-780x439Today I have seen two notable new articles making much of where marijuana reform stands as of January 2018.  CNN Money has this new article headlined "The U.S. legal marijuana industry is booming."  It starts this way:

It's 2018 and marijuana remains illegal in the United States.  But continued federal prohibition hasn't stopped the marijuana industry from growing like a very profitable weed.

Despite what could be considered an unfriendly administration in Washington D.C., nine states and the District of Columbia now allow for recreational marijuana use and 30 allow for medical use.  And more states are lining up to join the legalization wave.  Pot has become big business in the U.S.

The emerging industry took in nearly $9 billion in sales in 2017, according to Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics, which tracks the cannabis industry.  Sales are equivalent to the entire snack bar industry, or to annual revenue from Pampers diapers.

That was before California opened its massive retail market in January.  The addition of the Golden State is huge for the industry and Adams estimates that national marijuana sales will rise to $11 billion in 2018, and to $21 billion in 2021.

The industry has also been creating jobs and opportunities.  There are 9,397 active licenses for marijuana businesses in the U.S., according to Ed Keating, chief data officer for Cannabiz Media, which tracks marijuana licenses.  This includes cultivators, manufacturers, retailers, dispensaries, distributors, deliverers and test labs.

More than 100,000 people are working around the cannabis plant and that number's going to grow, according to BDS Analytics.  The industry employed 121,000 people in 2017.  If marijuana continues its growth trajectory, the number of workers in that field could reach 292,000 by 2021, according to BDS Analytics.

And German Lopez at Vox has this new piece headlined "January was the biggest month yet for marijuana legalization, despite Trump’s new war on pot."  Here is how it starts:

January 2018 was the most important month yet for marijuana legalization.

Things looked rocky a few days into the month, when President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded an Obama-era memo that protected states that had legalized marijuana from federal interference.  Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, the federal government can still crack down on pot even in states where it’s legal under state law for recreational purposes.

But the announcement came and went with little sign that the Justice Department will actually do much in its new war on marijuana.  The agency was unclear when reporters asked if the move will actually lead to more anti-marijuana prosecutions.  And in the aftermath, federal prosecutors across the country released statements that were either vague or indicated that they won’t lead to a new wave of anti-marijuana crackdowns in places where pot is legal under state law.

Meanwhile, California at the beginning of the month opened the world’s biggest legal market for recreational marijuana — following voters’ decision in 2016 to legalize pot for recreational purposes and allow sales of the drug.

Then, after Sessions announced his new marijuana policy, Vermont legislators, with the support of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, legalized marijuana for recreational use. The law won’t allow sales — only possession and growing.  But it’s a big move because Vermont is now the first state to have legalized marijuana through its legislature.

All of this adds up to a huge month for marijuana legalization.  If even a federal threat over marijuana legalization didn’t stop Vermont’s legalization momentum or slow down California’s massive new legal pot market, what, if anything, will stop more states from going down the same path?

January 31, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Imagining a productive tax break for marijuana businesses to provide drug education

Images-22Last week I spotlighted this article published at the Cannabis Law Report titled "An Introduction To The Internal Revenue Code For Cannabis Businesses." The piece was authored by Chris Nani, a student in my Marijuana Law & Policy seminar last semester, and now available here via the Cannabis Law Report is another part of his taxing treatment.  The piece is titled simply "Part II: My Proposed Tax Break," and here is an excerpt:

While there is still federal prohibition, Congress should incentivize current marijuana businesses to perform desirable social policy goals in exchange for tax deductions. Because taxes are so astronomically high for marijuana businesses such as dispensaries, by adding an amendment to § 280E Congress could specifically tailor it to marijuana businesses or include all scheduled I and II drugs. I elected to make it about all scheduled I and II drugs.

Under § 280E, the proposed amendment would read:

“Any scheduled I or II drug business that pays federal income taxes, regardless of its legality, is applicable to deduct from its expenses any activities that meet the following: (i) educational programs that demonstrate health risks and safety procedures for the drug(s) the business is involved with (ii) informational programs that display the short and long-term risks of the drug(s) the business is involved with and (iii) informational programs that educate on how to identify the signs of an overdose and how to properly treat it for the drug(s) the business is involved with.”

Just like any statute, my proposed § 280E amendment is vulnerable to abuse, but hopefully the legislative history would be able to give guidance to the IRS and courts if litigation arose. The social goal aimed at this amendment is public health. By increasing awareness and knowledge of a drug, the user will be able to make better judgment calls and more accurately understand the consequences of their actions.

Now, to fully dissect the language of my proposed amendment.  The first sentence applies to any scheduled I or II drug regardless of its legality. This includes drugs such as heroin, LSD, and marijuana along with prescribed drugs such as Adderall, Fentanyl, and OxyContin.  All of the drugs listed have side effects and can damage the human body. By educating the public on the health risks and safety procedures for the drug, heroin dealers and marijuana dispensaries both could reduce their federal income taxes. I believe it’s better for a heroin addict to understand the deadliness of the drug and how to properly use it beforehand to help minimize the chance of death. Similarly, for marijuana, dispensaries could receive a deduction while showing consumers how to properly use a bong or smoke a blunt while discussing the health consequences of smoking. It would allow dispensaries to showcase their products and demonstrate any new innovative ways to use marijuana while additionally educating the public on how to properly use a device.

Prior related Post:

"An Introduction To The Internal Revenue Code For Cannabis Businesses"

 

January 27, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dreaming of what Prez Trump could say (but surely won't) in State of the Union about marijuana policy

The ever-astute John Hudak of the Brookings Institute has this lengthy new commentary about federal marijuana policy headlined "Trump’s 1st State of the Union: His chance to be a states’ rights president." The piece merits are full read, and here are excerpts:

When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address next week, there will be plenty of issues to cover. One likely to be overlooked, but in need of presidential clarity, is marijuana policy.  It is not the most high-profile issue, but a few sentences would help reconcile the president’s campaign promises with the actions of his administration....

If Mr. Trump truly believes in the promises he made during the campaign, his speech next week is an opportunity to scold Attorney General Jeff Sessions for rescinding the Cole Memo that offered protections to states that have legalized recreational marijuana (and companies within those states who are playing by the state rules).  He can publicly oppose Mr. Sessions’ explicit request to Congress to rescind the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that restricts the Justice Department from spending funds to enforce against state-legal medical marijuana operations.  He can ask Congress to rescind the Harris Amendment that prevents the District of Columbia from implementing its recreational legalization initiative — a congressional decision that has left D.C. with a legal homegrow system but no power to construct a regulatory system for commercial sales.

Mr. Trump can go further and signal to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — who will likely be sitting a few yards in front of him — that the Treasury Department should strengthen protections for banks working to keep the marijuana industry accountable and transparent, and he can ask Congress to put those protections into law.  Mr. Trump knows better than any president in history how important access to financial services are for an individual starting and building a business.

Mr. Trump can talk about marijuana research. He can disavow his VA Secretary’s recent statements about medical research. Secretary Shulkin first said — incorrectly — that his department was restricted from studying marijuana’s medical efficacy.  He subsequently and messily “cleaned up” his statement by saying that studying marijuana was too bureaucratically difficult for his department to pursue.  As a vocal supporter of our troops and someone committed to helping our injured veterans, President Trump can demand that the VA Secretary change his tune.

And he can do much more.  He can tell the HHS Secretary to review and remove the barriers that hinder our nation’s most talented medical and scientific researchers from studying marijuana’s efficacy, dosing, and side effects. He can demand that Attorney General Sessions stop stalling with the approval of new licenses for regulated, research-grade facilities to grow marijuana for use in federally approved research — breaking the monopoly currently held by the University of Mississippi’s marijuana farm.  He can tell Congress that because most of their constituents live in states with medical marijuana programs, they should increase funding for such research, including promising research into whether medical marijuana can be used to combat the opioid crisis.

This is, of course, a lot to ask of a president on an issue that does not command top-tier attention.  What’s more, because his administration seems to have no interest in this policy area — and several appointees explicitly oppose marijuana—there does not seem to be an agency head or cabinet member who will lobby the White House to include language on marijuana policy in the speech.  Without having a high-level ally on the issue, marijuana is unlikely to be addressed.

Prez Obama was an (in)famous marijuana user in high school and yet never thought marijuana policy could justify any real attention in any of his speeches, let along the State of the Union. Consequently, I would by shocked if Prez Trump used his first State of the Union speech to speak really for the first time on this divisive issue. But, of course, Prez Trump sometimes seems to like to be shocking, so I will still be listening closely.

January 26, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Keeping up with the latest notable news with the help of Marijuana Moment

Regular readers are used to me regularly referencing Tom Angell great marijuana newsletter titled Marijuana Moment and his similarly titled news portal available here.  Because I have been busy on many other fronts this week, I have not been able to keep up with some notable news, and so I will link to Tom's particular recent postings that struck me as especially worth highlighting:

The last of these listed items discusses a notable new Ninth Circuit ruling that I am hoping to blog more about before too long.

January 25, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"It’s my belief that 70-80% of today’s NBA players use marijuana in some form."

Screen-Shot-2017-10-05-at-1.14.59-PMThe title of this post is one line in the heart of this extended essay, headlined "9 Reasons to End the War on Marijuana," authored by former NBA player Al Harrington at The Players' Tribute. Here are a few excerpts from the piece:

I was never into marijuana when I was in the league, but I tried everything the doctors could prescribe. After my career, when I was around 32, after seeing what cannabis did for my grandma, I tried out cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive form of it — you get the anti-inflammatory effects and the pain relief without the THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. I took the cannabidiol (CBD) as a cream or oil that could be rubbed on topically.

And look, I’m not trying to give out medical advice, so I’ll just say this — for me, cannabis changed my experience with pain. It has worked better, with fewer side effects, than anything I’ve gotten from a doctor. To this day, at 37, after 16 years in the NBA and back surgery and all the miles on my body, I’m still playing ball every week in L.A. Meet me out there. Afternoon runs Tuesday and Thursday. You don’t want none of this!

A few years ago I co-founded a business that produces non-psychoactive cannabis as well as THC-based products. Marijuana changed my life with regard to pain. Now it’s my second calling after basketball. And in a way, it all goes back to that day seven years ago in the garage with my grandma.

Being a minority in the cannabis industry has made me realize how rare it still is. That’s why I’m active in the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). The MCBA is about improving access and empowerment for minorities in the industry. It basically comes down to this: We’re the communities most hurt by the War on Drugs. Now that marijuana is legal in so many parts of the country, we shouldn’t be left without a seat at the table as the industry takes off.

Alcohol abuse and the NBA. You don’t hear a lot about it, but it’s there. It flies under the radar. This is just the reality: NBA players are affected by anxiety and stress. We’re like any other people with a full-time job that involves a lot of emotional and physical ups and downs.

Many NBA players have a few alcoholic drinks a day. I’ve seen the progression to where they’re having more than a few — just to unwind a little bit or relieve some pain. Pretty soon, it’s easy to be doing that after every game. That takes a serious toll. Pain is just part of sports, though. Athletes are going to seek ways to ease that pain.

I won’t say names, but in my 16 years in the league, I knew of at least 10 or 12 players who had their careers cut short due to alcohol. It either affected them physically or mentally, but one way or another, alcohol shortened their careers. No judgment from me, just facts. We all should be honest. It’s well known how liquor can destroy lives. But we’re still out here demonizing cannabis while alcohol is promoted at sporting events? It all starts with some honesty....

It’s my belief that 70-80% of today’s NBA players use marijuana in some form. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t do any formal polls or anything like that. I just played in the league for 16 years, and that’s my opinion.

Due to the NBA’s ban on cannabis, most of the guys are doing it in the offseason. But I really think the number is that high.

Here’s why I’m telling you that. These guys are NBA superstars. It’s not the last dude on the bench who’s on his couch getting high. These are global icons — leaders, teammates, parents, citizens. These are world-class athletes, man. They’ve got pain and stress and anxiety and all the things any human has. The NBA has never been more skilled or more fun to watch.

So you tell me: Is cannabis ruining these athletes’ lives? Or are our laws and ideas behind the times?

January 18, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A critical look at what the VA Secretary is saying about medical marijuana research

Images (6)John Hudak of the Brookings Institute has this lengthy review and criticism of recent comments by VA Secretary David Shulkin about medical marijuana research.  The report merits a full read, and here is the start and end of the piece providing a flavor of its themes and contents:

In October, the Democratic members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee wrote a letter asking VA Secretary David Shulkin why his department is not conducting research into medical marijuana.  In the letter, Ranking Member Tim Walz (Minn.) and the other nine Democratic committee members note that in many states that have medical marijuana programs, cannabis is recommended for PTSD and/or chronic pain—conditions that afflict many of our wounded warriors.  The members do not ask Mr. Shulkin to start dispensing medical marijuana from VA facilities. Instead, they ask the secretary why the department is not conducting rigorous research....

[T]he response from Secretary Shulkin ... is an unfortunate combination of false information, incomplete analysis, and incomprehensible logic.  Rather than engaging in an honest, comprehensive discussion of the merits of the VA’s position, the secretary appears to wave off committee members’ concerns about an issue that affects the lives of millions of soldiers and veterans across the United States.

There are seven major problems with Secretary Shulkin’s response to the Democratic members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Those problems range from a mischaracterization of federal law to a faulty analysis of current medical research to a failure to put medical findings in context and more.  The shortcomings in the secretary’s response should alarm Democrats and Republicans; House members and Senators; soldiers, veterans, and civilians alike....

Secretary Shulkin has an obligation to do better.  He should recommit that his own department examine the questions posed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee more carefully and rigorously than it has previously as outlined in his letter.  He should have a frank conversation in-house that distinguishes between conducting research on the medical efficacy of marijuana and endorsing the legalization of marijuana.  Conducting basic medical research is important for the advancement of therapies for our veterans and the VA has unique opportunities to advance such efforts.  Instead, old-fashioned biases, incomplete evaluations of existing literature, and a mischaracterization of policy has, to this point, won the day at VA.

The irony in the secretary’s response to Mr. Walz’s query is that the department’s position and behaviors do not advance health care for our veterans.  Instead, it adds further risk that frustrated veterans with a variety of conditions will self-medicate, procure medicine through illegal means and/or fail to be forthcoming with their VA doctors.  Veterans deserve better than an administration that produces letters like the one sent to the Congress on December 21.

January 16, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Did Jeff Sessions Just Increase the Odds Congress Will Make Marijuana Legal?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable new Politico piece with the headline:  "The attorney general has created intolerable uncertainty for a growing industry that is now demanding legal protections from Congress. And lawmakers are listening."  The piece winds down with this remarkable political reality: "As of late Friday, POLITICO Magazine could not find a single member of Congress who had issued a statement in support of Sessions’ actions."  Here is more from thie article:

Capitol Hill screamed just as loudly. And it wasn’t just the Democratic members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.  It was Republican senators, too. Cory Gardner of Colorado took the Senate floor to issue an ultimatum to Sessions: “I will be putting a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment he made to me in my pre-confirmation meeting with him. The conversation we had that was specifically about this issue of states’ rights in Colorado.  Until he lives up to that commitment, I’ll be holding up all nominations of the Department of Justice,” Gardner said.  “The people of Colorado deserve answers. The people of Colorado deserve to be respected.” Gardner is no fringe Republican; he’s the chair of the NRSC....

Sessions’ antipathy for a drug that has lost much of its stigma among a wide cross section of Americans has only galvanized disparate factions in Congress to protect an industry that is expected to generate $2.3 billion in state tax revenue by 2020.

Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, who just a few weeks ago declined to comment to POLITICO Magazine about whether he would work to maintain protections for medical marijuana in the 2018 omnibus spending package, tweeted on Thursday, “I'm now fighting to include my amdt in the final omnibus Approps bill so we can protect patients and law-abiding businesses.”

The fact that marijuana has now risen to the height of top-tier budget negotiations is a sign that the pro-marijuana coalition is no longer merely a menagerie of loud-mouth hippies, stoners, and felons, as the pro-pot crowd has been characterized in the past. The community of Americans who now rely on legal medical marijuana, estimated to be 2.6 million people in 2016, includes a variety of mainstream constituency groups like veterans, senior citizens, cancer survivors, and parents of epileptic children. The American Legion, a conservative veterans organization by any measure, has voted twice in favor of resolutions to expand research and safe access for its members.

“The American Legion has been a leading advocate for the removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to enable greater research into the medical efficacy of the drug to treat ailments that impact veterans such as PTSD and chronic pain,” Joe Plenzler, Director of Media Relations for The American Legion, told POLITICO Magazine — which means Jeff Sessions just crossed the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.

By the end of the day on Thursday, in a conference call of five members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, lawmakers from four of the eight states that have approved recreational marijuana railed about Sessions’ unconstitutional assault on the rights of their states to decide their own affairs. On that call, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher said that the move by Sessions to strike a blow against marijuana has had the inverse effect of raising the attention from what had previously been a states’ issue but has now become a national priority. “It’s a big plus for our efforts that the federal government is now aware that our constituents have been alerted,” Rohrabacher said. "We can be confident we can win this fight, because this is a freedom issue.”

Prior related posts:

January 6, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some new particulars on what West Virginia physicians think about medical marijuana

In this post last week, I noted the notable data from a survey of West Virginia physicians. The state's Department of Health and Human Resources found that, of "1,455 physicians who took the online survey, 82 percent of them indicated their interest in medical marijuana." Now I see this new local article, headlined "WV State Medical Association drills down on medical marijuana survey," reporting on a smaller survey conducted by the West Virginia State Medical Association. Here are a few details:

Medical Association President Dr. Brad Henry tells MetroNews the organization’s survey of its members show results not nearly as high as the state online survey that showed 82 percent of state doctors “interested” in medical marijuana.

In the WVSMA survey, in which approximately 75 doctors participated, only 31 percent said they were interested in becoming a certified physician for the state’s new medical marijuana law set to take effect in 2019. Henry said the issue continues to be the lack of research associated with the medicinal use of the drug. “Every time I read anything, anything that comes out, there’s some promise but there’s still aren’t good scientific studies to support marijuana use for anything,” Henry said. “There still isn’t that level of scientific information to at least give me confidence in the utility of it as a medicine.”

One thing the doctors are struggling with is the provision in the law that would have a doctor certify someone that has a diagnosis but there’s much else they can tell them because of the lack of research on the drug, Henry said. “You can’t look up (medical marijuana) in a textbook and say, ‘Okay, this is how much you should use. This is the side effects you should expect.’ Even over-the-counter (drugs) you can find what the usual dosages are and what the usual side effects are but with this substance (medical marijuana) that’s just not available,” Henry said....

Four of the questions in the medical association’s survey:

– Do you think there is scientific evidence to support marijuana use as a medical treatment?  Yes 65 percent

– Do you believe the legal access to medical marijuana will help patients?  Yes 64 percent

– Are you interested in becoming a certified physician?  Yes 31 percent

– Are you willing to receive the training required for the certification?  Yes 34 percent

December 27, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Interesting review of big market growth in a small medical marijuana state

Rhode-island-medical-marijuanaAs hinted by this recent post, which asks "Are there 1.9 millions or 2.35 million or some other big number of medical marijuana patients?," I fear that states and the nation as a whole are doing insufficient data collection and analysis of medical marijuana regimes.  This view is indirectly enhanced by this recent article from Rhode Island, headlined "Medical marijuana cultivators, patients on rise in R.I.," reporting on some interesting data concerning its medical marijuana program. Here are excerpts:

More than 8,430 pounds of marijuana have been produced and sold through the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators this year, translating into some $27 million in retail sales.  Nearly one-quarter of that marijuana was grown by the state’s new cultivators — licensed businesses only allowed to sell the drug to the state’s three dispensaries.  To date, 18 such businesses have been approved to operate in the the state, according to data from the state Department of Business Regulation.

Dozens more are waiting in the wings for their chance to get into the burgeoning industry. Forty applicants have passed the first stage of the process but are still awaiting a license, and another 53 applicants are behind them in the pipeline. The state has collected nearly $1 million in licensing and application fees from these new marijuana-growing businesses.

“It seems a large number of cultivators.  That’s always been my concern ... we’re setting up these cultivators for failure,” Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence, said at a meeting of the state’s medical marijuana oversight commission Tuesday....  Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth and Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick together have purchased roughly half of the medical marijuana sold this year from cultivators. The state’s largest dispensary, the Thomas C. Slater Center in Providence, has not purchased any marijuana from cultivators.

Norman Birenbaum, the state’s top medical marijuana regulator, said the state hopes that for safety and quality-control reasons eventually more patients will shift from growing marijuana in their homes to buying it from dispensaries.   There are currently more than 61,500 marijuana plants being grown in the state by medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

Meanwhile, the state now has 19,161 medical marijuana patients, a 17-percent increase from one year ago.  The number of patients in the program typically grows between 20 percent and 30 percent each year. Roughly 65 percent of patients qualify with severe, debilitating or chronic pain.

But Birenbaum agreed that many cultivators will potentially fail.  The state chose not to cap the number of cultivators, in part because doing so would require a competitive evaluation process for applications that almost inevitably would end up in court and could have resulted in shortages in the supply of medical marijuana.

Dr. Todd Handel, a physician who sits on the oversight panel, questioned what the state is doing to control the profit margins of the state’s dispensaries, which are state-registered nonprofits.  Birenbaum cautioned against making generalizations about the dispensaries’ profits.  He noted that the dispensaries cannot take many normal business deductions on their taxes because the federal government still considers selling marijuana to be illegal.  He also noted the significant costs of growing marijuana.

The average wholesale price of medical marijuana produced by the licensed cultivators is $4.16 a gram, according to state data.  An average retail price was not available because some marijuana flower is turned into other products such as edibles and oils that are not sold in a form measurable by grams.  Still, it’s clear there is a markup. On Tuesday, Greenleaf was offering three strains grown by cultivators for $15 a gram.

As this article reveals, Rhode Island has a lot of cultivators/growers but only three dispensary/sellers servicing its medical marijuana program.  That is distinct from some other states that have limited both growers and sellers and others that have no limits on growers or sellers. In addition, Rhode Island's medical marijuana regime allows for home grow, while other states do not (and, of course, nearly every state has at least slight variations on who qualifies to be a medical marijuana patient and/or caregiver). 

Though there are plenty of resources highlighting formal legal differences in different medical marijuana states, I am not aware of many objective analysis of whether and how different medical marijuana regulatory structures in different states impact the development and functionality of medical marijuana access and efficacy for patients.  In other words, while states are conducting a wide array of "laboratories of democracy" experiments  in this medical marijuana area, we need a lot more analysis of early lab results. 

December 20, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Taking a lengthy look at the ever-uncertain state of federal marijuana policies and practices

Jeff-Sessions-marijuana-702x336Politico magazine has this lengthy (but somewhat superficial) article on the current state of federal marijuana debate and discourse under this full headline: "Jeff Sessions Isn’t Giving up on Weed. He’s Doubling Down. Congressional dysfunction may do what the pot-hating attorney general hasn’t managed to do all year: Remove protections for the booming legal weed industry."  The article is worth reading in full, and here are excerpts from the start of the article that in part explain my "superficial" adjective:

“I won’t commit to never enforcing federal law, Senator Leahy,” Sessions replied [to a question at his confirmation hearing], suppressing a slight smirk.  That double negative tightened the knot in every drug policy reformer’s gut.  Exactly how vulnerable were the nascent marijuana industries in the 29 states where it was now legal? Would Sessions, who rarely misses an opportunity to bemoan the scourge of marijuana, sweep aside the paper-thin order imposed by the Obama administration that had stayed the enforcement hand of the Department of Justice? Would SWAT teams arrest wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patients, raid marijuana dispensaries and shut down the high-tech growhouses that supplied them?

The dreaded crackdown never materialized. Sessions, perhaps preoccupied with other priorities like keeping his volatile boss from firing him, remained largely inactive on the subject.  Meanwhile, a series of incremental advancements on the pro-marijuana front helped to further enmesh the $9.7 billion industry into the commercial fabric of the nation, 60 percent of whose residents support some form of legal pot.  California opened the doors to recreational marijuana and issued regulations for outdoor marijuana festivals; Florida began its implementation of a medical marijuana program; and Denver and Las Vegas are vying to become the first city in America to legalize “marijuana consumption lounges” (think high-end bars with expensive weed choices instead of booze).  Sessions, for his part, has spent his time in testy exchanges with DOJ interns and convening meetings with small groups of like-minded anti-pot activists determined to roll back state-level momentum. “I do believe … that the public is not properly educated on some of the issues related to marijuana,” he told one such group on Friday.

But things are suddenly looking rosier for Sessions.  Thanks to Congress’ fumbling over the spending bill, the AG’s yearning to battle legal marijuana may get a major boost without him having to lift a finger.  That’s because Rohrabacher-Farr, a little-known and even less discussed amendment that protects state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference, is close to expiring.  If the government shuts down at the expiration of the current continuous resolution on December 22, or if negotiations in an upcoming appropriations conference committee fail to insert it in the final draft of the spending bill — entirely possible given House Republicans’ hostility to marijuana — Sessions would be free to unleash federal drug agents on a drug, which according to federal drug law, is considered the equal of heroin and LSD.

The politics on this issue has shifted so dramatically that reform advocates, instead of quaking in their boots at Sessions’ saber rattling, are actually itching for the fight. “Part of me just thinks: Let ‘em try. There will such a ferocious backlash,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Oregon, told POLITICO Magazine in response to a question about a potential Sessions-led crackdown.  (Blumenauer replaced Sam Farr as the amendment’s Democratic co-sponsor after Farr’s retirement, so in a turn that does not help its branding efforts, Rohrabacher-Farr is now called Rohrabacher-Blumenauer.)  Morgan Fox, communications manager of the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed with Blumenauer: “There’s no way that Sessions can start rolling back medical marijuana policies or attacking patients and providers without looking like the bad guy.”

Still, with the legislative barrier gone, there would be plenty of ways for Sessions to make life difficult for marijuana businesses without creating dramatic footage for the nightly news.  Fox worries less about SWAT team raids than the possibility the Department of Justice would quietly send letters to landlords who rented to legal marijuana businesses to threaten them with asset forfeiture.  People would be forgiven for thinking that state-legal medical marijuana was a settled issue, but in fact it is hanging by a thread, and Congress is poised to hand Jeff Sessions the scissors.

The rest of this article usefully reviews critical statements by AG Sessions about legalized marijuana, and also discusses the current state and politics surrounding the Cole Memo and the (soon to expire) congressional limit on DOJ spending to prosecute medical marijuana businesses.  But I call this article "superficial" because it does not discuss in any detail just whether and how AG Sessions would be able to effectively "unleash federal drug agents," particularly as to players in the medical marijuana arena. 

As this excerpt usefully highlights, there are "plenty of ways for Sessions to make life difficult for marijuana businesses without creating dramatic footage for the nightly news," but none of those ways have been used at all by the Sessions-led Justice Department for now 11 months in power.  And during those 11 months, Nevada (and soon California) has joined a handful of other active western recreational marijuana states, and swing states like Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania have seen medical marijuana regulations emerge and an industry start to develop.  Especially as an ever-growing number of red states are embracing significant medical marijuana programs (e.g., Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia), it seems there are an ever-growing number of GOP politicians who would be very troubled if AG Sessions started a very serious crack-down on the state-legal medical marijuana industry.

For reasons I somewhat explained/predicted in this post last year, I think AG Sessions' political instincts have led him to (rightly) believe it would not be a good use of his (or the President's) political capital to take on state marijuana reforms aggressively.  And, especially with the seemingly anti-Trump outcomes in recent elections in Alabama, New Jersey and Virginia, I do not think the politics are really any easier now.  I do think that opponents of marijuana reform are coming to believe and fear that, without an enforcement push by AG Sessions very soon, additional state-level reforms in 2018 and beyond will make curtailing the industry even that much harder in the future.  And so I am sure prohibitionists are pushing hard for AG Sessions to do something, anything, to slow the tides of marijuana reforms.  So maybe prosecution/forfeiture letters are being written as I type this.  Stay tuned.

December 16, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)