Monday, November 25, 2013
New report (by reform advocacy group) praises state regulation of medical marijuana in wake of DOJ enforcement memo
As reported in this press release,"[m]edical marijuana advocates Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a report today that analyzes the Obama Administration's latest enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that regulate medical marijuana distribution." Here are basics concerning the 88-page report (which is available in full here):
The report, "Third Time the Charm? State Laws on Medical Cannabis Distribution and Department of Justice Guidance on Enforcement," shows that states have already enacted regulations that meet federal concerns, and some would have stronger regulations if it were not for federal threats that disrupted the legislative process. The report concludes with recommendations for how federal and state legislators can protect patients and harmonize state and federal policies.
Medical marijuana patients greeted the Department of Justice (DOJ) memo issued August 31st by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole with cautious optimism. The memo is the third from the Obama Administration that attempts to rein in federal prosecutors in states that allow for regulated distribution of marijuana. The first memo, issued in October 2009 by Cole's predecessor, then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, did not stop various federal prosecutors from attempting to thwart the implementation of several state medical marijuana laws. A report issued by ASA earlier this year put the cost of federal interference with state medical marijuana programs at more than $300 million.
“We hope the latest federal policy on marijuana will compel the Obama Administration to make good on its promises to stop wasting taxpayer money on undermining duly enacted state laws,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “With almost 40 percent of Americans living in states that permit medical marijuana, it's time for the federal government to resolve the conflict between its outdated policies and the growing number of compassionate state laws.”...
The ASA report recommends that state legislators use the 2013 Cole memo as a guide when developing production and distribution regulations, while avoiding unnecessarily restrictive policies that fail to meet the needs of patients. The report also urges lawmakers to recognize that all three DOJ directives maintain that cultivation by individual patients is not a federal enforcement concern, giving the green light for state legislators to preserve or adopt patient cultivation rules.
The report also recommends that Congress make short and long-term policy changes to ensure respect for state laws and protection for patients and their providers. The report urges federal legislators to restrict how DOJ funds are spent on enforcement in medical marijuana states until the DOJ can determine what "metrics" to use in evaluating compliance with their enforcement priorities. As a long-term solution, the report asks Congress to adopt HR 689, which would reclassify marijuana for medical use.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary by Jacob Sollum. Here are excerpts:
Possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in California is an “infraction” punishable by a $100 fine. In other words, state law treats pot smoking as a transgression akin to jaywalking or fishing without a license. Yet growing and selling marijuana are felonies that can send you to prison for years.
If consuming marijuana is not a crime, how can it be a crime merely to help someone consume marijuana? That is a question voters will confront next fall if the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative qualifies for the ballot.
The initiative, which would eliminate all state and local penalties for producing, possessing, and distributing marijuana, instructs the legislature to regulate cannabis “in a manner analogous to, and no more onerous than, California’s beer and wine model.” That is similar to the policies approved last fall by voters in Colorado, where the legalization initiative was known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and Washington, where the state liquor control board will license pot shops that are scheduled to open next year.
The Colorado and Washington initiatives both received about 55 percent of the vote, and recent polling in California indicates a similar level of support. All three states have had medical marijuana dispensaries for years, and that experience on the whole appears to have been reassuring.
The main criticism of the dispensaries — that they cater largely to recreational consumers who fake or exaggerate symptoms to get the requisite doctor’s notes — actually counts in favor of broader legalization. If medical marijuana is a charade that amounts to de facto legalization, what is there to fear from making it official?
States that allow medical use do not seem to have suffered as a result. In fact, Montana State University economist D. Mark Anderson and University of Colorado economist Daniel Rees find that enacting medical marijuana laws is associated with a 13 percent drop in traffic fatalities, possibly because more cannabis consumption means less alcohol consumption, which has a much more dramatic effect on driving ability.
Anderson and Rees also consider the impact of legalization on pot smoking by teenagers. Looking at data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1993 through 2011, they see “little evidence of a relationship between legalizing medical marijuana and the use of marijuana among high school students.” Narrowing the focus to California after medical marijuana dispensaries began proliferating, they find “little evidence that marijuana use among Los Angeles high school students increased in the mid-2000s.”
Monday, November 11, 2013
In America, the relationship between doctors and the hegemonic pharmaceutical industry is fraught with painful, mind-numbing contradiction. There’s no better example of this than in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US veterans and others around the country. Drugs like Risperdal, an antipsychotic, are said to be no more effective in the treatment of PTSD than a placebo. These drugs are widely distributed to treat the symptoms of PTSD, despite allegations that they’re ineffectual in treatment of the condition.
PTSD is a disorder, characterized by extreme emotional or mental anxiety, often the result of a physical or psychological injury. When confronted with a potentially deadly situation, it’s natural for humans to feel afraid — we’ve developed pretty sophisticated fight-or-flight responses to deal with real or perceived danger. PTSD arises when that response is damaged, and the patient feels stressed or frightened even when he or she is no longer in danger. The disease disproportionately affects soldiers deployed in war zones. Very often they are in situations so dangerous that they develop the condition, and return home as shell-shocked emotional cripples. Veteran’s Affairs claims that today, almost 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, although the number is likely much higher due to lack of diagnosis.
According to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, marijuana could be the answer. Mechoulam is a respected Israeli neuroscientist who studies the use of medical cannabis and its role in “memory extinction.” Memory extinction happens slowly to everyone, but it’s clear that in regular pot smokers, the process may be exacerbated, to say the least. According to Mechoulam, increased memory extinction could be helpful for sufferers of PTSD, reducing the mind’s associative link between external stimuli and traumatic events. Instead of connecting a loud noise with a bomb going off, cannabis can help destroy that link completely.
Despite this research, many states still do not count PTSD as a disorder that warrants a medical marijuana card. Because of this, veterans are seeking other legal and non-legal ways to procure weed. I recently spoke with two young ex-marines who self-medicate their PTSD with copious amounts of marijuana. Jeremiah Civil and Christian Slater are veterans of the Iraq War. These men saw things that would make the average citizen cringe in horror, and they left the war with deep emotional scars. Both Jeremiah and Christian were diagnosed with PTSD shortly before returning home, thrown into the wild world of a society that doesn’t understand their condition.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The title of this post is the student-selected topic for discussion this week in my Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform seminar. Here is the outline of issues and resources the students prepared to foster and facilitate discussion:
My Experience Working at a Marijuana Dispensary – One girl's first-hand account of her experience working at a dispensary in California for one year
14 Kinds of Jobs Sustained by Marijuana – According to Indeed.com, which tracks job listings, in 2011 there was over a 3,000 percent increase in the medical marijuana industry since 2005. This is a list of 14 types of jobs available in medical cannabis.
Your Genius Idea for a 420-Friendly Lazer Tag Arena Could Soon Become Reality in Colorado – Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is accepting applications for business proposals, but only existing medical marijuana shop owners are allowed to apply for the recreational marijuana licenses for the first nine months. Investors have committed “well over $1 million” to Colorado marijuana companies.
High-Paying Jobs Available in New Medical Marijuana Industry? – Dixie Elixirs, Denver-based company that manufactures medicated edibles, employed directly in excess of 10,000 employees, including high-salary executive jobs, scientists, and attorneys.
Cannabis Career Institute Hits Chicago to Help Residents Cash in on ‘The New Gold Rush’– CCI is continuing its educational tour in Chicago, teaching students the ins and outs of owing a dispensary or grow operation through their “pot college.”
Marijuana Entrepreneurs, Seminars, and Finance
These are all resources that pertain to creating your own marijuana business. They are comprised of seminar services, RSS feeds regarding important marijuana entrepreneur news, and derivative sources of some economics that marijuana creates.
Comparison to Casino and Alcohol
Links with state-by state jobs numbers for the wine and spirits industry (not including the beer industry). No need to read through all of them, just click on a few links to get a sense of the alcohol industry's job impacts. http://www.wswa.org/search_results.php?search=repeal%20prohibition&type=news
A PDF fact sheet of the total number of jobs the alcohol industry supports: http://www.discus.org/assets/1/7/ContributionFactSheet.pdf
A brief survey of casino jobs across America: http://www.americangaming.org/industry-resources/research/fact-sheets/casino-employment
An employment study from "The Journal of Gambling Business and Economics." Apparently that's a thing. It's a technical read, so they should read the descriptive parts and skip the technical parts. http://www.walkerd.people.cofc.edu/360/AcademicArticles/Cotti2008.pdf
Another employment study, done by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. The gaming has had a positive impact on employment in localities across the country. http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/04/01/garrett.pdf
1) In addition to the educational aspects of the store, weGrow provides anywhere between 15 and 20 full- and part-time jobs. But Mann says it’s the ancillary jobs created that make a difference, including hiring a doctor on site for medical marijuana evaluations; professors to teach classes, including technicians and experienced growers; design and construction positions; security positions, and distributors. About 75 indirect jobs are created with the opening of each weGrow store. http://aznow.biz/small-biz/wegrow-phoenix-opens-cultivates-opportunities-arizona%29
2) By recognizing the potential for medical marijuana business advertisements, the Sacramento News and Review is expanding its distribution and hiring more staff. http://www.today.com/id/43641235/ns/business-us_business/#.Um8iJiRieiY
3) Interesting stats — apparently only a quarter of people think legalized pot would lead to more jobs in their community, while 57% believe there would be no effect. Makes you wonder if this is a (mis)perception that should be hit harder by legalization reformers. If the benefits can be demonstrated to those in the 57% camp maybe you pull in some new supporters. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?
4) Mr. McPherson said the city stood to reap more of what he called the “secondary benefits.” “You’ve got accountants that are working for them, you’ve got all the security companies that are working for them, you have labs that are working for them, you have bakeries that are baking all the edibles, you have union employees that are getting great benefits, you have delivery services, hydroponic stores, doctors get some benefit,” he said. “It’s the secondary market that gains from this, and all of those pay business taxes to us.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=2&
Saturday, October 26, 2013
But at a time when polls show widening public support for legalization — recreational marijuana is about to become legal in Colorado and Washington, and voter initiatives are in the pipeline in at least three other states — California’s 17-year experience as the first state to legalize medical marijuana offers surprising lessons, experts say.
Warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded. Instead, research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol.
Although marijuana is legal here only for medical use, it is widely available. There is no evidence that its use by teenagers has risen since the 1996 legalization, though it is an open question whether outright legalization would make the drug that much easier for young people to get, and thus contribute to increased use.
And though Los Angeles has struggled to regulate marijuana dispensaries, with neighborhoods upset at their sheer number, the threat of unsavory street traffic and the stigma of marijuana shops on the corner, communities that imposed early and strict regulations on their operations have not experienced such disruption.
Imposing a local tax on medical marijuana, as Oakland, San Jose and other communities have done, has not pushed consumers to drug dealers as some analysts expected. Presumably that is because it is so easy to get reliable and high-quality marijuana legally.
Finally, for consumers, the era of legalized medical marijuana has meant an expanded market and often cheaper prices. Buyers here gaze over showcases offering a rich assortment of marijuana, promising different potencies and different kinds of highs. Cannabis sativa produces a pronounced psychological high, a “head buzz,” while cannabis indica delivers a more relaxed, lethargic effect, a “body buzz.”...
Still, even as public opinion in support of legalizing marijuana has grown, opposition remains strong among many, including some law enforcement organizations, which warn that the use of the drug leads to marijuana dependence, endangers the health of users and encourages the use of other drugs....
In a broad study on the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana about to be published in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, two economics professors said a survey of evidence showed a correlation between increased marijuana use and less alcohol use for people ages 18 to 29.
The researchers, D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado, said that based on their study, they expected younger people in Colorado and Washington to use marijuana more and alcohol less. “These states will experience a reduction in the social harms resulting from alcohol use: Reducing traffic injuries and fatalities is potentially one of the most important,” the professors said.
Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on marijuana policy who was the chief adviser to Washington on its marijuana law, said the connection between alcohol and marijuana use, if borne out, would be a powerful argument in favor of decriminalization. “If it turns out that cannabis and alcohol are substitutes, then by my scoring system, legalizing cannabis is obviously a good idea,” Mr. Kleiman said. “Alcohol is so much more of a problem than cannabis ever has been.”
Still, he said, it will take time before long-term judgments can be made. “Does it cause problems?” he said. “Certainly. Is it on balance a good or bad thing? Ask me 10 years from now.”
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Minnesota sheriff asserts "approximately 54 percent of males arrested for violent crime test positive for marijuana in Hennepin County." Really?
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it does not intend to challenge policies in Colorado and Washington state that legalized the sale and recreational use of marijuana to adults — despite the fact that these state laws are in opposition to federal law.
As president of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, I have joined a broad coalition of law enforcement officers from across the country to express our extreme disappointment with this unprecedented decision.
As law enforcement officials with decades of experience, we know that keeping neighborhoods safe will become more difficult for our men and women on the front lines because of the DOJ’s decision.....
Marijuana is an addictive gateway drug that harms Minnesota’s children and public safety in every community in our state. As sheriff of Hennepin County, I am concerned that legalization of marijuana in other states and reduced federal prosecution will increase the availability of marijuana in Minnesota.
I have seen firsthand in Hennepin County that there is a direct connection between marijuana and violent crime. Drug task forces here have linked marijuana to assaults and homicides. In the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center, marijuana is the most commonly detected drug among the 36,000 inmates who are booked into the facility each year. According to our most recent data, approximately 54 percent of males arrested for violent crime test positive for marijuana in Hennepin County.
The student who sent me the link to this claim by Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek remarked that this number seems very high. I share this reaction, in part because I think advocates against modern marijuana reforms would be frequently stressing a link between marijuana and violent crime if it was common to find in more than a few justidictions that over half of all males arrested for violent crimes tested positive for marijuana. (Of course, we all know that correlation does not prove causation and that prohibition rather than legalization might be the reason marijuana users turn to crime, but such a statistic still struck me as potentially quite valuable for the anti-reform forces in the broader debate.)
Intrigued by the data claim made here by Sheriff Stanek, I have now written via e-mail directly to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office seeking more information about the basis for these claims linking marijuana use and violent crime. (I quickly got this automated response to the e-inquiry: "Emails are answered when staff is available to view them and respond. It may take several days before your email is viewed. Thank you for your patience.")
While patiently waiting for more information concerning these violent crime data claims from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, I did a little digging about drug testing of arrestees and found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy released this 2012 Annual Report on arrestee drug abuse. With a focus on five major US cities (none in Minnesota), this report found that in 2012, "the proportion of [big city] arrestees testing positive for marijuana ranged from 37 percent in Atlanta to 58 percent in Chicago," but it also reported that only "17 percent (Atlanta) to 27 percent (Chicago) of [these] arrestees in 2012 had a violent crime as one of the charges recorded for the current arrest."
In other words, though there appears to be extant (and seemingly rigorous) data from the ONDCP report to support a claim that a majority of total arrestees in some urban areas may test positive for marijuana, there is still reason to suspect that nonviolent drug arrestee (particularly those arrested for marijuana offenses) will be disproportionately among those testing positive for marijuana, as opposed to those who are arrested for violent crimes. (And there are other interaction and intersectionality concerns with the data here too, as a significant percentage of arrestees in the ONDCP groups tested positive for multiple drugs in their system and reported alcohol and prescription drug abuse, too.)
Interestingly, two of the five cities that are the focus of the ONDCP report are in medicial marijuana states (Denver and Sacremento), while the three others are in prohibition states (Atlanta, Chicago and New York). It might be interesting (though surely challenging) for a sophisticated empiricist to use the ONDCP data to explore whether big-city arrestee drug use data is potentially impacted by marijuana laws in a particular state.
September 19, 2013 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (3)
As I continue to think about pros and cons of various possible state regulatory regimes for the legalization of marijuana, I continue to notice the significant differences between the rules and regulations that control medical use of marijuana in the 20+ jurisdictions that have legalized this use. (This list of state Medical Marijuana Laws assembled by NCSL provides an effective summary of these realities.) And especially because there are so many rankings of various states on so many different kinds of metrics --- on topics ranging from business climate to freedom to happiness to inovation to government mismanagement --- I am not wondering whether it would be a good idea to try to develop a ranking of the "best" and "worst" medical marijuana states.
I was unable to find such a ranking and this is surely understandable given the views of partisan advocacy groups focused on marijuana law and policy: advocates for marijuana reform are, in most respects, happy and eager to praise any and every state to have any kind of medical marijuana law; while advocates against marijuana reform are, in most respects, unhappy and eager to criticize any and every state that moves away from blanket marijuana prohibition. But, of course, voters and their elected representatives (not to mention academic researchers) are not partisan advocates, and it would likely be a significant contribution to the reform discourse to have some kind of ranking(s) of those states that have already adopted various medicial marijuana regulatory regimes.
Of course, as the title of this post highlights, any such ranking of medical marijuana states would need to develop some metrics for deciding what are the "best" and "worst" regulatory regimes, and this in turn would require a bunch of contestable normative judgments about what makes for good and bad impacts from medical marijuana laws. But that very challenge --- i.e., deciding whether and how to measure and consider in a cumulative ranking factors like ease of access for ill patients, a state's collected tax revenues, drugged driving statistics, teen marijuana use and abuse --- would both help illuminate what might be considered most important in reform debates and might allow deeper and more informative analysis of state-level impacts from diverse regulatory regimes.
Recent related posts:
- Are there undisputed benefits from prohibition regimes and/or undisputed harms from legalization/regulation regimes?
- Two decades into experimentation, what is really known about medical marijuana practices?
- Do any studies explore increased (or decreased) violent crime or unemployment (or other undisputed social ills) in medicial marijuana states?
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Will Big Pharma, and "the Impact of Marijuana Pharmaceuticals," determine the future of marijuana reform?
The FDA will soon approve Sativex, the first marijuana-based pharmaceutical. Sativex is a tipping point in the marijuana law and the politics of strict prohibition. The reclassification of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act is in the financial interests of the American pharmaceutical industry. The availability of marijuana-based, or synthetic cannabinoid-based, pharmaceuticals will change the politics of marijuana prohibition.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Do any studies explore increased (or decreased) violent crime or unemployment (or other undisputed social ills) in medicial marijuana states?
Perhaps to the chagrin and annoyance to students in my "Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform" seminar, I keep pushing our class discussion to try to figure out and precisely specify what could be considered undisputed and undisputable harms from any drug legalization regime --- especially if one views simply increased drug use alone, even by young people, to be a social good or at least not clearly a social harm. (This prior post raised some of these issues and ideas.) The question in the title of this post is prompted in part by our most recent class discussion, where a rough consensus emerged that increases in violent crime and/or unemployment might be undisputed metrics of a failed social policy.
Thus the question in the title of this post, which also builds a bit off a prior post which asked "Two decades into experimentation, what is really known about medical marijuana practices?". Specifically, I am wondering if anyone has yet tried (or if it really would even be feasable) to develop effective and sophisticated empirical studies to explore if there have been any statistically significant changes in violent crime rates or unemployement rates in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
As a relative agnostic (with libertarian leanings) on lots of marijuana reform issues, I believe I would be moved significantly by serious data showing (or even just suggesting) causal links between medical marijuana legalization and violent crime rates or unemployment rates. Of course, like research on incarceration and crime rates, the results of any such empirical study linking medical marijuana to an increase or decrease in social ills could be disputable and would be disputed by partisan advocates in the reform policy debate. But for those without a predetermined perspective on various marijuana law, policy and reform issues (which likely describes a majority of Americans), even tentative or partial data showing the positive or negative impact of medicial marijuana and violent crime or other undisputed social harms could and would likely "move the needle" considerably.
This post is intended not only to inquire as to whether anyone is aware of any modern studies exploring these issues in states with medical marijuana laws, but also to ponder whether there are other clear empirical metrics of undisputed social ills that ought to be a central part of the medicial marijuana reform discussion and debate.
Cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg
Recent related posts:
- Are there undisputed benefits from prohibition regimes and/or undisputed harms from legalization/regulation regimes?
- Two decades into experimentation, what is really known about medical marijuana practices?
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The website ProCon.org has via this web portal with lots and lots of helpful information and links on the topic of medical marijuana, and the site lives up to its claim of presenting "facts, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not marijuana should be a medical option." But notably absent from this site (or really any others I could find) was any serious and balanced "on the ground" research concerning the practical realities of "medical" marijuana use and abuse in any particular jurisdiction or across the United States.
This ProCon.org webpage, titled "How Many People in the United States Use Medical Marijuana?," has a very interesting state-by-state accounting of "the actual number of patients holding identification cards in the states (and District of Columbia) with mandatory registration" which reports that there are over 1 million registered medical marijuana patients. But this data, of course, does not tell us anything about who are these registered patients and for what purposes and how often they use marijuana as medicine.Similarly, a lot of pro-reform organizations like Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have lots of information about medical marijuana laws and lots of resources and arguments for would-be advocates. But hard data on medical marijuana patients and their practices do not leap off the page at these locales.
As noted in this prior post, a prominent opponent of modern marijuana reforms called medical marijuana "a laughable fiction" noting that in California, a the typical user is a 32-year-old white man with no life-threatening illness but a long record of substance abuse; in Colorado, 94% of medical marijuana patients just pain as the justification for their pot prescription; and in Oregon, only 10 practitioners write the majority of all marijuana prescriptions in the state. And yet, many prominent doctors have come to acknowledge, as stated by the reknown Dr. Sanjay Gupta in this pro-pot CNN piece, that there are many "legitimate patients who depend on marijuana as a medicine, oftentimes as their only good option."
Because the medical and scientific communities are still vigorously debating the potential health benefits and harms of marijuana and its chemical compounds, and especially because all marijuana distribution and use remains illegal under federal law, I suppose I should not be too surprised that it is hard to find much "on the ground" research concerning the practical realities of "medical" marijuana use and abuse in any particular jurisdiction or across the United States. But I find this reality disappointing, and I know that I would sure like to know a whole lot more about medical marijuana patients and their practices. (And, in class today in my "Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform" seminar, I hope to steer our discussion of medical marijuana to the question of what students think the average likely voter would want to know about the practical realities of "medical" marijuana before supporting any reform to the legal status quo.)