Saturday, October 18, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable AP piece from Oregon headlined "Economist: Benefits of legal pot outweigh societal costs." Here are excerpts:
University of Oregon economist said Thursday the best-case estimates for Colorado's legal marijuana tax revenue were overstated because of a faulty model. Economist Ben Hansen said at the Oregon Economic Forum that misjudgments in Colorado's revenue estimates stemmed from a term familiar to students in Econ 101: Elasticity of demand.
Previous estimates of demand for recreational marijuana only looked at the potential shift from the black market to the legal market. But with the medical market suctioning off some new consumers, revenue forecasts changed. With various substitutes available, from synthetic marijuana to medical and black-market pot, Hansen said, guessing at the potential revenue impact in Oregon remains difficult....
Colorado has decided to spend pot taxes in arrears, meaning taxes aren't projected but spent only once collected. The unusual budgeting maneuver was adopted because the pot market is expected to be highly volatile for the first several years.
Legalizing marijuana increases its supply and drops its price, Hansen said. That price drop makes additional taxes harder for consumers to notice. That's important when the tax rate people pay in Colorado and Washington for legal pot is north of 40 percent. In Oregon, the same rate is anticipated to be about 15 percent.
While police agencies will no longer arrest or fine people caught with marijuana if it's legalized, Hansen says taxes function as a kind of fine for marijuana consumption. "With legalization, we can kind of double-dip," Hansen said. "We're no longer paying to arrest and incarcerate people, and we're getting tax revenue from it."
Hansen also says he doesn't anticipate a dramatic impact on the alcohol market, though he says studies have shown heavy drinking and beer sales decline in markets where medical marijuana is approved.
Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron said Thursday that Colorado's medical marijuana market was already commercialized when marijuana was legalized. "The medicinal market was so commercial, so visible, that for all practical purposes, it was legal," said Miron. "Economists consider all that matters are the fundamentals: Can you get access to it, are there barriers to it.
"I just don't think you (in Oregon) will see any kind of dramatic change. You're a long way toward a commercial market already."
October 18, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 13, 2014
The question title of this post is my reaction to this interesting report from Florida headlined "How Florida's Medical Marijuana Amendment Managed to Plunge South." The report by Nancy Smith suggests that the marijuana reform ballot initiative going before Florida voters in three weeks is now on the political ropes. Here is her account for why:
In April, Amendment 2 looked indestructible. Poll after poll gave it upward of 80 percent in voter approval. Then all of a sudden the cracks began to show. Numbers dipped slightly. And by May, anybody who says he couldn't see the medical marijuana amendment's steep slide coming wasn't looking very hard....
And here's what I think happened. I think the smooth-sailing pro-constitutional amendment campaign did such a good job of promoting its early popularity, it became a victim of its own success.
Strong Amendment 2 polling numbers plus an end to the struggle in the Florida Legislature to pass the landmark Charlotte's Web bill launched an entrepreneurial feeding frenzy across the state. It was like a gold rush. But it was also a turn-off for conservative voters who felt overwhelmed, who wanted medical marijuana, but not the greed they now identified as an accompaniment.
Sold-out, cannabis-themed business expos and training conventions -- particularly the ones in Miami and Orlando -- got big media publicity, lit up Twitter and attracted medical marijuana "experts" from other parts of the country. Law practices and lobbyists carving out a specialty in medical marijuana consulting were even buying billboard ads along South Florida highways.
The first eye-opening event I remember -- well-publicized before and after -- was staged in mid-April at the Sheraton Hotel in Miami. Bob Calkin, Los Angeles cannabis hustler, charged wannabe entrepreneurs $299 a pop for a 10-hour crash course on how to make a fortune "dispensing medicine." His company, Cannabis Career Institute, headquartered in Calkin's van, raked in $45,000 for a day's work.
As I said, none of this escaped the notice of increasingly jittery likely voters. All told, it's left a sour taste. Floridians now are asking, is this amendment more about who can profit from it than it is about who it might be able to help?
"What am I supposed to think?" asks Mandy Stokes, 54. "I want sick people who can be helped by medical marijuana to have what they need no matter what. But all these people swarming into the state looking to get rich quick ... I don't want Florida to be Colorado and end up with recreational marijuana."...
Retired Tamarac doctor Garrett R. Richardson, a family practitioner, told Sunshine State News, "If I were still practicing, I would have nothing to do with cannabis therapy until the feds decriminalize the plant. I wouldn't want lawyers and patients in my face constantly to recommend something I may not think is the best therapy. No lawyer would be getting rich at my expense, I can tell you that."
Add to mounting fear the increasing presence of well-financed Vote No on 2. Its slick television ads are all over the state's larger markets. And John Morgan's profanity-laced video hasn't helped: Morgan, the father of Amendment 2, cocktail in his hand, standing before a group of cheering young people, urging them to vote for marijuana. Negative publicity, to say the least -- and didn't the Vote No on 2 people jump all over it....
All of a sudden, United for Care went from "we're in!" to "do we still have a chance?" And it's beginning to lose the battle for money. A successful TV ad campaign can cost $1 million a week....
This constitutional amendment needs 60 percent approval to pass and become law on Jan. 6. Yet, of the eight polls released since Sept. 1, the average percentage of support is 57.6....
If you're wondering, the top contributors for the "pro" team, People United for Medical Marijuana, are 1) The John Morgan law firm, $3,535,896; 2) prominent Democratic fundraiser Barbara Stiefel, $605,000; and 3) John Morgan personally, $250,000.
Top contributors for the "con" team, Vote No on 2, are 1) casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, $4 million in two combined chunks; 2) the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust, $540,000; and 3) Republican donor and millionaire Mel Sembler, $100,000....
[T]he same Floridians whose initial motives for embracing medical marijuana were pure and true, are now repulsed by what they see as mob greed -- would-be business people flocking to launch ventures in an industry built on disease and suffering. I'm not sure how you overcome that.
October 13, 2014 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, September 29, 2014
As reported in this interesting local piece, headlined "U.S. senators join request for medical marijuana waiver: Schumer, Gillibrand back N.Y. in Justice Dept. effort," New York officials are making a concerted effort to aid in marijuana importation. Here are the details:
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Monday joined New York State’s effort to obtain a waiver from the U.S. Department of Justice allowing the state to import medicinal marijuana to treat children who suffer from rare and deadly seizure disorders.
The letter by the two Democratic senators from New York to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. comes three days after the state Health Department submitted a new waiver request to Washington permitting the emergency importation of the drug while New York prepares to enact a broader medical marijuana program in the beginning of 2016.
The senators, acting after families of ill children sought their intervention with Justice, wrote to Holder that children with severe epileptic disorders “urgently need medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease, and these children obviously do not hold any imminent criminal threat.”
The senators are asking that the federal government help pave the way for Charlotte’s Web, a strain of marijuana grown in Colorado that is not smokable, to be permitted to cross state lines for distribution in New York. Parents of children with the condition say the drug offers no real attraction to the black market because the strain of marijuana they seek does not get users high....
There are an estimated 60,000 New Yorkers who suffer from a form of epilepsy that cannot be controlled by over-the-counter medicines, Schumer and Gillibrand said. How many of those are children with the rare seizure disorders who might qualify for the medical marijuana is uncertain, state officials say.
The specific request by Schumer and Gillibrand seeks assurances from Justice that individuals would not be prosecuted for shipping medical marijuana into New York under a state-created emergency program while the broader marijuana program is being developed.
At least three children have died in New York from the seizure disorders, including 9-year-old Anna Conte of Orchard Park, since the medical marijuana measure was signed by Cuomo in July. Before and after the law’s enactment, families urged the state to carve out an emergency exception for their children to get access to cannabidiol, or cannabis oil, which can be taken in pill, oil or other form other than smoking with no psychotropic effects....
In July, the state legalized medical marijuana, but the program is not set to begin before January 2016. Advocates were upset with Cuomo in June, when the medical marijuana deal was struck, because he insisted on killing a legislative provision to permit the state to participate in an emergency-type program for the seizure treatments by allowing marijuana to be transported across state lines into New York.
Now, advocates say that even if the federal government approves the waiver requests, the legislation Cuomo insisted upon and signed in July would have to be amended. That, they say, would require a special session of the State Legislature if patients don’t want to have to wait until January to gain access to the drug.
Emily Pierce, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the two letters by the state Health Department have been received and are being reviewed. She said the department does not believe that it has ever granted a waiver like the one being requested by New York.
Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, D-Manhattan, sponsor of the medical marijuana law in the Assembly, recalled how the governor at the last moment during negotiations insisted that New York not be permitted to import the drug on an emergency basis and that any marijuana dispensed in the state must be grown in the state. “Even if the state licensed a registered organization tomorrow, it would not be allowed to dispense a product that was produced in Colorado or Vermont,” Gottfried said, suggesting that Cuomo call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the matter.
September 29, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 28, 2014
As reported in this local AP piece, headlined "Illinois Banks $5 Million in Medical Marijuana Applications: More than 350 groups apply to run cultivation centers and dispensaries," the Prairie State is already seeing an economic benefit from its new medical marijuana laws. Here are the details:
Illinois is already seeing a lot of "green" thanks to medical marijuana. A preliminary count showed 158 applications for cultivation centers and 211 applications for dispensaries beat the Monday afternoon deadline. That means that nonrefundable fees collected by the state from the applicants topped $5 million.
"There's a ton of excitement and enthusiasm from the industry," said one applicant, Ben Kovler, founding partner and CEO of Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries. "This shows there is trust in the system the state has set up."
Green Thumb submitted applications for cultivation centers in Normal, Rock Island, Oglesby and Dixon and dispensaries in Mundelein, Chicago and Chicago Heights, Kovler said. Applications were so extensive that they filled many boxes and required the company to rent a truck, he said.
Bob Morgan, coordinator of the state's medical cannabis program, said the volume of applications "will allow us to pick the most qualified applicants." Applicants weren't deterred by stringent qualifications, fees and cash requirements, Morgan added. For cultivation centers, there was a non-refundable application fee of $25,000 and a first-year registration fee of $200,000....
Illinois expects to grant up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and up to 60 permits for dispensaries before the end of the year. The first legal marijuana would be available to registered patients in the spring of 2015.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Why Florida is such an interesting marijuana reform state: "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana"
This lengthy local article from Florida, headlined "Snowbirds potential partakers of medical marijuana," highlights just some of the many reasons I think Florida is the most interesting state to watch in the near future concerning marijuana law, policy and reform. Here are excerpts from the article:
Sunshine and beaches are great attractions, but there could be another reason snowbirds flock to Florida if Amendment 2 passes: The availability of medical marijuana. Whether that happens depends on several unknowns as Florida heads into the last seven weeks before people vote on the question of legalizing medical pot.
State and local tourism officials don't believe the amendment will have an effect on tourism if it passes. They say the impact on snowbird residents would be miniscule. They also say they have no intention of using medical marijuana as a marketing tool.
Others say it's too early to tell. "I'm a snowbird with pain associated with MS," said David Dillabough, of Syracuse, N.Y., who winters in St. James City. "I avoid hydrocodone, oxycodone and the like. Marijuana is my choice whenever I need a break from persistent pain.
"Like other retired/older people, Florida is attractive to me because of the warmth and sunshine. Legalized medical marijuana wouldn't be the icing on the cake (that would be my friends), but it would be the flowers on the icing."
The state Department of Health financial analysis estimating the possible impact of the passage of Amendment 2 says snowbirds are a potential pool for medical marijuana tourism. "An estimated 17,178 to 41,271 may apply for an ID," the analysis says. That estimate has not been updated since the analysis was released in early November, said Phil E. Williams of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, the multistep process someone will have to go through to get an ID for medical pot would discourage shorter-duration visitors, the analysis says....
If the amendment passes, the effective date would be Jan. 1. The health department would have six months from that date to come up with rules; nine months to issue ID cards to qualified patients and caregivers; and nine months to register medical marijuana dispensaries.
Tamara Pigott, executivwere director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said you have to remember tourists and snowbirds are two different things: Snowbirds are considered part-time residents who are here for a month or longer and often own property. Many snowbirds have established Florida residency, an attractive option because the state has no income tax. Tourists are short-term visitors.
Even if up to 41,000 snowbirds could apply for a medical pot ID, that number pales in the context of the actual numbers of state visitors, she said. Visitors reached 94.3 million last year according to Visit Florida, the state's official tourism and marketing entity, and the state is aiming for 100 million in 2014. One conference alone could bring in 40,000 people in a big city, Pigott said. "I don't anticipate that we would see a significant bump."
The legalization of medical marijuana might affect seasonal residents, said Jack Wert, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. "But it probably would not have much effect on short-term visitors, which is what we do and how we promote," he said. Snowbirds aren't even counted in their statistics, he said. "I guess we're going to watch it and see where it goes from here."...
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry, agrees with Florida officials when it comes to tourism and medical marijuana. The reason is states that have legalized medical marijuana have a residency requirement, she said. However, one possible exception is that Nevada is planning to allow reciprocity in their medical program, so people who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients in other states can purchase medical marijuana in Nevada, she said. "But that hasn't actually started yet, and it's still not going to create a tourism boom, since anyone it would affect is able to access medical marijuana in their home states already," West said....
Kathy Lowers of Naples said Amendment 2 will not make Florida a more attractive place to visit or live. Lowers, who has six children, said she moved here from California in part to avoid what she called the "sleaziness" of pot shops that popped up there. "To me, if Florida goes the way of California, I will just be so depressed," she said. "I am not against medical marijuana, but against pot shops dispensing it. There is a big difference.
"The Florida amendment is way more liberal than even the California one, so goodbye to family-friendly Florida," Lowers said. "People like me come here because it is more wholesome than other places; pot will ruin that benefit of visiting or living in Florida."
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Gray Lady continues to do important reporting and advocacy concerning marijuana reform as evidenced by this recent article headlined "Legal Use of Marijuana Clashes With Job Rules." Here are excerpts from this piece:
Brandon Coats knew he was going to fail his drug test. Paralyzed in a car crash when he was 16, he had been using medical marijuana since 2009 to relieve the painful spasms that jolted his body. But he smoked mostly at night, and said marijuana had never hurt his performance answering customer calls for a Colorado satellite-television provider.... “There are a lot of people out there who need jobs, can do a good job, but in order for them to live their lives, they have to have this,” said Mr. Coats, who is 35. “A person can drink all night long, be totally hung over the next day and go to work and there’s no problem with it.”
But when it comes to marijuana, Mr. Coats and other users are discovering that marijuana’s recent strides toward the legal and cultural mainstream are running aground at the office. Even as 23 states allow medical or recreational marijuana, employment experts say that most businesses are keeping their drug-free policies. The result is a clash between a culture that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it....
Employers and business groups say the screenings identify drug-abusing workers, create a safer workplace, lower their insurance costs and, in some cases, are required by law. But marijuana advocates say the prohibitions amount to discrimination, either against people using marijuana to treat a medical condition or against people who smoke it because they simply have the legal right to do so, off the clock and away from the office. “It wasn’t like I was getting high on the job,” Mr. Coats said. “I would smoke right before I go to bed, and that little bit would help me get through my days.”
On Sept. 30, he will take that argument before the Colorado Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging his 2010 firing. For years, courts in Colorado and across the country have ruled against marijuana users, saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies. But legal experts say that if Mr. Coats prevails — he lost 2-1 in an appellate ruling — his case could transform how businesses must treat marijuana users.
Relatedly, the NYTimes had this editorial headlined "Obsolete Zero Tolerance on Pot."
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Does an increase in marijuana seizures in Colorado mail mean more Coloradan's are mailing marijuana? Not necessarily.
There's a new law enforcement report out saying postal inspectors saw a big spike in marijuana seizures from Colorado mail headed to other states between 2010 and 2013.
The amount of Colorado marijuana being seized en route to other states through the U.S. mail has more than quadrupled since 2010 and was destined for more states than before, according to a new report by a federally funded drug task force.
Postal inspectors seized more than 493 pounds of pot from packages in 2013, up from 57 pounds in 2010, the year after medical marijuana dispensaries proliferated in Colorado, according to the figures released this month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
Just 15 packages were bound for 10 states in 2010, compared to the 207 parcels destined for 33 states in 2013. Top destinations were Florida, Maryland and Illinois, the report states.
Does this news mean Coloradans are actually sending more marijuana to other states than they used to? No, not necessarily.
The increase in seizures could just as easily be the result of more vigilant enforcement as the result of more Coloradans mailing marijuana to friends. Perhaps inspectors have started to look more closely at Colorado packages in response to the state's marijuana reforms. Similarly, it is not incoceivable that legalization opponents are pushing to up enforcement to try and boost numbers to give legalization a black eye (certainly, it seems like this HIDTA report was released with that in mind.)
On this point, it is worth recalling that marijuana arrests more than doubled between 1990 and 2002. Did marijuana use double during that same period? Not at all. The numbers were the result of increased law enforcement attention to small marijuana cases (broken windows, stop and frisk style enforcement, etc.).
To be sure, the numbers could reflect a real increase in Coloradans sending marijuana out of state. (Or, it could be a mixture of both causes.)
But the only thing this data tells us is that more marijuana is being seized, not what caused the jump in seizures.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
In my last two posts, I’ve highlighted the emerging struggle between state and local governments for control of marijuana policy. My latest article tries to provide some guidance on whether states should give local governments the option of banning marijuana sales.
This Part of the article discusses the theory of local control. It illuminates the competing considerations that help determine whether local control over marijuana (or any other issue) is normatively desirable. (I’ve eliminated the footnotes for this post, but they’ll be available once I post the completed draft on SSRN.)
A. The case for local control
Local control is supposed to promote economic efficiency. In particular, empowering local governments to tackle divisive issues is supposed to enable more people to get the policy they desire. The reason is that minorities in statewide contests sometimes comprise majorities in local communities; there are, after all, more than 3,000 counties and 15,000 municipalities sprinkled throughout the 50 states. These residents would be happier if they were allowed to pursue the policy they prefer through these local communities, rather than live under the policy the state as a whole would choose. Mobility of the population arguably enhances the efficiency of local control. The idea is that residents who are dissatisfied with the policy espoused by one local government can relocate to a community with a more appealing policy. To be sure, residents could also relocate from one state to another, but the comparatively large number of local governments increases the chances that dissatisfied residents will find more appealing matches and it also lowers the cost of relocation.
August 26, 2014 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, August 22, 2014
The quote in the title of this post is drawn from this new Businessweek article headlined "Marijuana Law Mayhem Splits U.S. as Travelers Get Busted." Here is how the lengthy article gets started:
America is two nations when it comes to marijuana: in one it’s legal, in the other it’s not. The result is that people like B.J. Patel are going to jail. The 34-year-old Arizona man may face a decade in prison and deportation following an arrest in 2012. On a trip in a rented U-Haul to move his uncle from California to Ohio, he brought along some marijuana, which is legal for medicinal use in his home state.
Headed eastbound on I-44 through Oklahoma, Patel was stopped for failing to signal by Rogers County Deputy Quint Tucker, just outside Tulsa. He was about to get off with a warning when Tucker spotted a medical marijuana card in his open wallet. “‘I see you have this card. Where’s the marijuana?’” Patel recalled Tucker asking him. “I very politely and truthfully told him, ‘I’ll show you where it is.’” That’s where things started to go bad for Patel. He now faces trial next month on a felony charge.
Possessing pot for recreational use is legal in Washington and Colorado, and allowed for medicinal purposes in 23 states. The other half of the country, which includes Oklahoma, largely prohibits any amount for any purpose.
While challenges may land the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, what exists now is a legal checkerboard where unwitting motorists can change from law-abiding citizens to criminals as fast as they pass a state welcome sign. The difference is especially clear in states like Idaho. Surrounded on three sides by pot-friendly Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana, Idaho State Police seized three times as much marijuana this year as in all of 2011.
“The manner in which a person acquires the drug is not relevant,” Teresa Baker, an Idaho police spokeswoman, said. “This is important to know for those who may purchase it legally elsewhere, believing that it will be overlooked.”
James Siebe, a lawyer in Coeur d’Alene, put it another way: “Come on vacation, leave on probation.”
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
As promised, I’m going to dive into a new project evaluating the “local option” for marijuana: i.e., proposals to allow local governments (usually counties) to ban marijuana sales, notwithstanding state legalization of the drug.
I plan to post the project piecemeal. I'm still working on the language, ideas, and research, so I welcome feedback. I’ll start, naturally, with the Introduction (omitting footnotes) and follow with the Parts II and III to follow over the course of the next week. Here goes:
The states have largely prevailed in their struggle against the federal government for control over marijuana policy. More than 20 states have already legalized marijuana under state law and the number is sure to grow. Though the federal government has not yet repealed its own marijuana prohibition, it has largely ceded control of the issue to the states. As I wrote nearly five years ago,
[M]edical marijuana use has survived and indeed thrived in the shadow of the federal ban. The war over medical marijuana may be largely over, though skirmishes will undoubtedly continue, but contrary to conventional wisdom, it is the states, and not the federal government, that have emerged the victors in this struggle. Supremacy, in short, has its limits.
But the states are now facing growing opposition from within. Citing concerns over marijuana’s perceived harms, many communities in marijuana legalization states are seeking to re-instate marijuana prohibition at the local level. In Colorado alone, for example, more than 150 municipalities have passed ordinances banning marijuana shops outright.
These local ordinances raise one of the most important and unresolved questions surrounding marijuana law reforms: What power, if any, should states give local governments to regulate marijuana? How the states answer this question will determine just how quickly and broadly marijuana legalization spreads. The experience with alcohol control is instructive. Although national alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933, and although Mississippi repealed the last statewide alcohol prohibition in 1966, hundreds of local communities – governing roughly 10% of the nation’s population -- continue to ban the sale of alcohol today, more than 80 years after the ratification of the 21st Amendment.
Despite the importance of the local authority question, there has been surprisingly little attention paid to it. Most marijuana legalization states failed to address local authority in their marijuana reform legislation, sparking dozens of lawsuits challenging local ordinances. In many states, the issue of local control remains unsettled. And while many scholars have weighed in on the federalism issues surrounding marijuana law reforms, they have all but ignored the important power battles now flaring up within the states.
This Article begins to fill the gap. It aims to provide lawmakers, jurists, scholars, and other interested parties insights into the desirability of enabling local communities to ban marijuana. It approaches this task in two ways. First, it discusses the theory of local control. The theory seeks to balance the interests of individual local governments against those of our broader society. On the one hand, local governments can tailor their policies to satisfy local tastes. What’s right for Last Vegas isn’t necessarily right for Reno. On the other hand, local policies can also affect outsiders who have no say over them. What happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay there. The desirability of local control over any given issue hinges on the relative strength of these competing considerations.
Second, the Article attempts to gauge the strength of these competing considerations for marijuana. Would local control advance local policy interests? Would it harm outsiders? It is, of course, far too early to gauge the impact of local marijuana regulations. But we do have more than one century worth of experience with local alcohol regulations. I argue that this experience holds some valuable lessons for debates over local marijuana control. In particular, I find our experience with local alcohol control should temper enthusiasm for giving local government similar control over marijuana. The research on local alcohol control suggests that local alcohol regulations have effects beyond the boundaries of the jurisdictions that adopt them. A wet county might thwart a neighboring dry county’s effort to curb alcohol consumption and the harms that go along with it. Likewise, a dry county might shift some of the harms of alcohol consumption onto a neighboring wet county. The sobering experience with local alcohol control suggests that the state or even national governments might be better suited to controlling that substance and, by extension, marijuana as well.
The Article proceeds as follows. Part I discusses the current controversy over local marijuana regulation. Part II discusses the theoretical framework for evaluating the desirability of local control. Part III discusses the lessons of local alcohol control. Part IV then returns to draw some tentative conclusions about the desirability of local marijuana control.
August 19, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, August 18, 2014
This local article from Florida, headlined "Ad war looms over medical marijuana: 'Compassion for sick' versus 'Devil in the details'," spotlights the developing terms of debate in the campaign for and against Florida's medical marijuana initiative being voted upon this November. Here are some of the details:
A burst of ads coming soon to TV screens in Florida will feature patients and doctors extolling the virtues of marijuana as a compassionate way to treat the sick and ease their pain. The soft-sell campaign, a laid-back variation on the usual political pitch, is designed to promote a constitutional amendment on November's ballot to legalize medical marijuana.
Countering that message will be a rival set of ads warning that approval of the amendment would lead to widespread drug use, supplied by "pot docs" and "pot shops" at every turn.
The dueling ad campaigns will compete for attention amid political appeals from candidates for governor and other offices, adding to an expected deluge of election messages though late summer and early fall.
Neither side would say when its ads will start or how much it's planning to spend. But both sides are preparing to hit the airwaves with TV and radio spots while developing networks of campaign volunteers and delivering their messages on the Internet. It's not quite politics as usual.
"We're not in a partisan scrum. We're not in an attack-and-response mode," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager of United for Care, which is spearheading the marijuana amendment. "We're just going to go out there and have people share their stories about how medical marijuana has affected them, or could have affected them, and their loved ones." The testimonials, he said, will come from patients, doctors and nurses.
He said 10,000 volunteers have signed up to help convey the message through phone calls, in-person talks and social media. They will be pitching constitutional Amendment 2, which "allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician."...
Early polls indicate overwhelming public support for medical marijuana — by 88 percent in a statewide Quinnipiac University poll — but analysts expect a close vote on Amendment 2, which requires 60 percent approval to become law.
Opponents, including law-enforcement groups and Republican leaders, say the amendment is full of loopholes that could allow unscrupulous "pot docs" to recommend the drug for recreational users. "The thing I would be concerned about is the ruse of medicinal marijuana for purposes of allowing people basically to buy a joint and smoke it," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Florida reporters this month.
Nonprofit groups that oppose the measure have banded together under the Don't Let Florida Go to Pot coalition, which provides speakers at public forums. A separate group known as Vote No on 2 will lead the ad campaign.
A sample ad already has popped up on the Internet. The video shows scenes of children walking past marijuana stores in California, big piles of pot and derelicts puffing on pipes. "They say they just want to help the sick, but that's not the whole story," a narrator intones. These scenes are interspersed with commentary from experts, such as lawyers and cops, who support the theme "The Devil is in the Details."
"A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for legalization of marijuana forever in the state of Florida," Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, tells viewers.
The coming air war will bring the debate into Floridians' living rooms. "There's certainly going to be enough spending to make it a salient issue, with both sides ramping up their ad buys," said Daniel Smith, political science professor at the University of Florida. He said this issue, highlighted by the ads, will prompt some voters to cast ballots who otherwise might not bother with a non-presidential election.
The Boston Globe has this intriguing new article discussing in the problems that face medical marijuana patients in university settings. The piece is headlined "In halls of academia, medical marijuana an unwelcome guest: Colleges, mindful of federal rules, draw ire by keeping stiff bans." Here are excerpts:
Thomas Burke Jr., a 25-year-old US combat veteran and Yale University grad student, has a physician’s permission to use medical marijuana in Connecticut to treat PTSD symptoms. Although medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly two years, many local colleges are putting out the message to students as the fall semester nears: You still can’t use it on campus, even if a doctor says it’s medicinal.
College administrators have reaffirmed policies banning the drug in all forms, and that includes for students who have a doctor’s recommendation. They say their hands are tied by federal regulations, which still classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and they worry that allowing cannabis use of any kind could lead to the loss of federal funding, including student financial aid....
But other medical marijuana patients and advocates say colleges are being overly cautious. Forbidding the use of a state-recognized, doctor-authorized medicine is unfair, unethical, and a detriment to students, faculty, and others who use the drug to treat ailments, they say. “We would like to see schools recognize, as many states and millions and millions of individuals and doctors have done, that marijuana is in fact valid medicine for the patients that are using it, and treating it differently than other medications is harmful to students and faculty who have chosen to use medical marijuana,” said Betty Aldworth, director of Students for Sensile Drug Policy, a national student network pushing for an overhaul of drug laws....
Some schools — including Boston University, Tufts University, and Amherst, Curry, Emerson, Hampshire, and Wheelock colleges — that ban medical marijuana on campus try to help students with certifications to find alternatives. One way is to allow the students to opt out of on-campus housing contracts and requirements so they can pursue treatment off-campus....
The Justice Department said in a memorandum last year that it focuses enforcement on the most serious marijuana-related violations, and it is “not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers.”
However, in 2011, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Education Department wrote a letter warning campuses that deviating from federal rules could put their federal funding at risk. “The administration’s stance hasn’t changed since then,” drug control policy office spokeswoman Cameron Hardesty told the Globe last week.
Advocates, however, say it is unrealistic to believe the US government would cut off funding to colleges over the issue. “I understand not wanting to risk millions of dollars in federal funding, but no college has ever lost federal funding for changing their drug or alcohol policies,”said Connor McKay, a 22-year-old Northeastern University senior and president of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Colleges could and should at least accommodate students who need to use it.”
Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Miami Herald has this interesting new article discussing comments by former Florida Gov Jeb Bush concerning marijuana law and policy and the competing tensions created by state reforms and federal prohibition. The full headline of the piece provide a summary of its themes: "Jeb Bush conflicted over feds role in medical-marijuana enforcement; Former Gov. Jeb Bush is conflicted over the federal government’s role in medical-marijuana states and refrains from criticizing President Barack Obama over the issue." Here are excerpts:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush opposes Florida’s medical-marijuana initiative, but the potential GOP presidential candidate said he’s not sure if the federal government should enforce federal cannabis laws if the Sunshine State proposal passes.
Bush’s struggle with the state-federal split over medical marijuana reflects a broader struggle in the national Republican Party, where anti-drug hardliners are at odds with states-rights conservatives and libertarians over the issue.
Though a top Republican and frequent critic of President Obama, Bush refrained from repudiating the current White House’s position to de-emphasize enforcement of certain marijuana laws in the 20 states that have legalized medical cannabis, plus Washington D.C., and the two states that have completely legalized adult personal use of the drug, Colorado and Washington.
Asked Friday about the federal government’s role in prosecuting pot laws in medical-marijuana states, Bush said he’d have to give it more thought. “In medical marijuana states? I don’t know. I’d have to sort that out,” Bush said. “I think that states ought to have a right to decide these things. I think the federal government’s role in our lives is way too-overreaching.”
“But having said that,” he continued, “if you’re in Colorado and you can purchase marijuana openly, should people in Wyoming not be concerned about that? And I think there, maybe, the federal law needs to be looked at — interstate commerce.”
Bush made his comments in response to a reporter’s questions during a Homestead campaign stop for Gov. Rick Scott’s reelection. The day before, Bush issued a written statement urging Floridians to vote against the proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana. The amendment would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana to people with “debilitating” medical conditions. Opponents say the measure is too broad; supporters say it’s designed to ensure that sick people get the care they need.
As a likely frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Bush’s thoughts about marijuana have an added layer of significance because, if elected, his administration would have to decide whether it should continue the Obama policy in marijuana-decriminalization states.
“I think Jeb Bush is thinking about 2016 politics,” said Ben Pollara, director for the United for Care group that fought to get the medical-marijuana initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment, on the Florida ballot in November. Pollara pointed out that many of the big names who might run for president have nuanced views on medical marijuana.
“Rand Paul is more libertarian. Rick Perry has come out in favor of decriminalization. Chris Christie administers a medical-marijuana system in New Jersey,” Pollara said. “This is part of the more-libertarian strain. Jeb has presidential considerations to worry about.”...
Another potential GOP candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also opposes the proposed constitutional amendment but said he supported low-THC medical marijuana therapy, which was called for in a bill that the Legislature passed this year and that Scott signed unexpectedly. The Legislature only took up that measure this year when the United for Care amendment was bound for the Florida ballot, where its chances of passage are good....
The medical marijuana constitutional amendment looks incredibly popular right now. Polls indicate that about 70 percent of voters back the proposed ballot language. It takes 60 percent voter approval to pass a constitutional amendment in Florida.
Support spans all demographic and partisan lines, but support is strongest among Democrats, including fundraiser and trial lawyer John Morgan, who employs Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Charlie Crist and helped spearhead the United for Care initiative.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I haven’t blogged for a while, but I’ve been enjoying Doug’s and Alex’s and Rebecca’s posts over the summer.
After starting up several new projects over the summer, I’m finally able to begin blogging again. In my first few posts, I’m actually going to focus on one of the projects that consumed my summer time -- a symposium paper I’m writing tentatively called The Local Option for Marijuana. The paper asks whether states should allow local governments to ban marijuana sales, notwithstanding state legalization of the drug. Doug, Alex, and I have debated the merits of the local option before – see posts and comments here, here, and here. I think we identified most of the major arguments both for and against local control. But it also became clear to me that many of our arguments depended on contested assumptions about the effects of local control. For example, local control looks a lot less appealing if it simply displaces – rather than reduces – the harms associated with marijuana distribution (DUIs, etc.). But it’ll probably be decades before we can know with any certainty what happens when local communities ban vs. allow marijuana distribution. And that will simply be too late for most states, which must decide now whether to grant local governments the option of banning marijuana sales.
Fortunately, we do have decades of experience with local control of alcohol that could prove instructive. Since the mid-to-late 1800s, states have delegated power to local governments to control – even ban -- the distribution of alcohol. Indeed, hundreds of counties inhabited by roughly 10% of the nation’s population remain “dry” today. Social scientists have exploited county-by -county variations to test the effects of various local controls on alcohol consumption, cirrhosis, traffic fatalities, etc. In this article, I’m poring through that research for lessons about local control over marijuana. I have a few tentatively formed conclusions that I’ll share in the coming days. As always, I’m open to comments, critiques, and suggestions – sources, avenues of inquiry, etc.
August 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Oregon, for now, decides to preclude medical marijuana patients from working at child care facilities
This local article from Oregon, headlined "State: Child care providers can't use medical marijuana," provides one example of a workplace restriction on licensed medical marijuana users. Here are the details:
A handful of child care providers who use medical marijuana will have to choose between their business and their medication following a unanimous vote Wednesday by the Early Learning Council. "Caring for children is not an entitlement; not when it's other people's children," said Duke Shepard, a policy adviser for Gov. John Kitzhaber.
At the governor's request, the council imposed temporary changes to its registry rules, revoking permission to hold child care licenses from individuals who use, grow or distribute medical marijuana.
"You don't make these kinds of requirements for people who are using Vicodin," said Anthony Taylor, who runs a medical marijuana patient advocacy group called Compassionate Oregon. His sentiments of being singled out by the council were echoed by a steady stream of public commentators who asked the council to reject the new rules or delay a vote.
Oregon has 4,340 licensed child care providers. A preliminary review by the Child Care Office estimated that fewer than 10 of those facilities employed a medical marijuana cardholder. "This is a small, small fraction of people," Shepard said.
The rules passed Wednesday are set to expire in six months. The council plans to consider writing permanent rules in January. Permanent rule making requires a longer process that includes time for public comment, and Oregonians will vote in November on an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.
In-home child care providers are allowed to keep alcohol on site so long as they follow certain safety precautions. The council could eventually land on similar regulations for marijuana. "I don't know what's a possibility for permanent rules," council chairwoman Pam Curtis said.
It was also unclear whether some council members would support a permanent prohibition on medical marijuana. "Whether we've got it right in this document remains to be seen," council member Norm Smith said. "This is the starting place. That's why I will support it today, but I don't know where I will be in six months."
The temporary rules prohibit providers from having cannabis on their premises — effectively prohibiting family members or roommates who reside at in-home facilities from using medical marijuana. This was a point of concern for some council members who hoped to discuss the issue further when the permanent rule making process begins.
Monday, July 28, 2014
As detailed via this report from the folks at Quinnipiac University, the latest polling numbers suggest Florida voters are keenly in support of marijuana reform. Here are the basics concerning a state seemingly poised to bring marijuana reform movement into the south:
Florida voters support legalized marijuana for medical use 88 - 10 percent, with support ranging from 83 - 14 percent among voters over 65 years old to 95 - 5 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. The lowest level of support is 80 - 19 percent among Republicans, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.
Sunshine State voters also support 55 - 41 percent "allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use," or so-called "recreational marijuana." There is a wide gender gap and an even wider age gap: Men back recreational marijuana 61 - 36 percent while women back it by a narrow 49 - 45 percent. Voters 18 to 29 years old are ready to roll 72 - 25, while voters over 65 years old are opposed 59 - 36 percent. Support is 64 - 32 percent among Democrats and 55 - 40 percent among independent voters, with Republicans opposed 56 - 41 percent.
"Forget the stereotypes of stodgy old folks living out their golden years playing canasta and golf," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "Almost nine- in-ten Floridians favor legalizing medical marijuana and a small majority says adults should be able to possess small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes.
"Even though a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, on the ballot this November, must meet a 60 percent threshold, these numbers make a strong bet the referendum is likely to pass," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll....
If medical marijuana is legalized in Florida, voters say 71 - 26 percent they would support having a marijuana dispensary in the town or city where they live. Support ranges from 57 - 37 percent among voters over 65 years old to 79 - 21 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old.
July 28, 2014 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, July 25, 2014
Rand Paul amendment to block certain federal prosecutions in medical marijuana states would raise interesting legal questions
Senator Rand Paul has filed an amendment to a jobs bill that would protect patients and physicians from federal prosecutions in states with medical marijuana laws. Unlike the spending amendment that passed the House earlier this year (which Paul and Cory Booker also introduced in the Senate), this proposal would have a very real legal impact. I think it would also raise some interesting legal questions, if it were to pass (which I suspect is unlikely.)
Paul's proposal provides (in relevant part):
(a) State Medical Marijuana Laws.--Notwithstanding section 708 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 903) or any other provision of law (including regulations), a State may enact and implement a law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use.(b) Prohibition on Certain Prosecutions.--No prosecution may be commenced or maintained against any physician or patient for a violation of any Federal law (including regulations) that prohibits the conduct described in subsection (a) if the State in which the violation occurred has in effect a law described in subsection (a) before, on, or after the date on which the violation occurred[.]
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
"Light, Smoke, and Fire: How State Law Can Provide Medical Marijuana Users Protection from Workplace Discrimination"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new student Note by Elizabeth Rodd now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Currently, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation providing an affirmative defense to prosecution under state law for medical marijuana use by qualified patients. Despite growing public and legislative support for the legalization of medical marijuana, medical marijuana use — either recreational or medicinal — remains illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Given the inconsistency between state and federal law concerning the legality of medicinal marijuana, there is significant uncertainty regarding the rights of employees to engage in state-sanctioned, off-duty use of medical marijuana.
To date, courts have refused to grant protections to employees’ who have suffered adverse employment action for their off-duty, state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Although the existing case law appears employer-friendly, employee-friendly dissenting opinions and states that have adopted explicit statutory discrimination protections for medical marijuana users signify that this current trend could easily change. This Note argues that courts should allow employees’ claims for disability discrimination to proceed under state law, and state legislatures should amend their current medical marijuana statutes to afford employment discrimination protection to qualified patients. In doing so, states will be able to protect disabled employees from discrimination due to their use of a state sanctioned therapeutic remedy.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
This Salon interview with Evan Nison of the New York Cannabis Alliance about the process of finally passing a law permitting the use of medical marijuana in New York state reminded me of that old saying about laws and sausage
Here's an excerpt to support that conclusion :
In terms of the negotiation and lobbying process, who in Albany did you work with, primarily — was it the Senate or the governor’s office or both?
Almost the entire time — the five-plus years I was working on the bill — was focused on the Senate. That’s because, for the majority of the time, it was run by the Republicans and then eventually the “independent” Democrats. The assembly was great throughout the whole process and passed the bill multiple times just this past year. The governor’s office was fairly silent on it, maybe even more of a hazard than anything throughout most of the process until the very tail end. Something else that was interesting to note was that we had the votes in the Senate for maybe a year and a half or two years before the vote was brought to the floor. And we had the votes in the Senate to pass the broader version before Cuomo amended it. It was really just a matter of the Senate leadership not bringing the vote to the floor, but the support was there in the legislature to pass this years ago.
When asked if New York could be characterized as a national leader, Nison stated that " New York is following rather than leading, at this point in time" but prefers a comparison to Prohibition rather than sausagemaking:
New York was a leader in repealing alcohol prohibition and I think, hopefully, we can do that again. But … we’re the 23rd state [to do this] and although we’re a landmark state, we’ve certainly haven’t been a leader on this issue yet.
NYers-cross your fingers...
[Note-To comply with the US Supreme Court's fair use ruling in Harper & Row v Nation Enterprises, I am omitting the juicy discussion of Governor Cuomo's role in enacting the New York law].
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this new Huffington Post piece. Here is how it starts:
The Obama administration believes marijuana policy is a states' rights issue, the White House said Monday in opposing Republican-led legislation that would prevent Washington, D.C., from using federal funds to decriminalize marijuana possession.
The GOP-sponsored House amendment would prevent D.C. "from using its own local funds to carry out locally-passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule," the White House said in a statement. The White House said the bill "poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) called Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) a "tyrant" for meddling in the District's governing process with the amendment, pointing out that Maryland just voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. The amendment is aimed at blocking a recent D.C. law that lowers the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana to a fine.
July 15, 2014 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (1)