Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, August 14, 2017

Federal district court in Connecticut rejects preemption claims by employer sued after rescinding employment offer to medical marijuana user

I noted in this post last month the significant ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, No. SJC 12226 (Mass. July 17, 2017) (available here) allowing a state-law-based civil discrimination lawsuit to proceed after an lawful medical marijuana user has been fired for a positive drug test.  This past week, as detailed in this helpful opinion summary, a similar type of decision was handed down by a federal district judge in Connecticut in Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co, LLC, No. 3:16-cv-01938 (D. Conn. Aug 8, 2017) (available here).  Here are the basics:

In an issue of first impression, a federal district court in Connecticut found an implied private right of action under Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA) and further held that federal law did not preempt the PUMA discrimination claim of a registered medical marijuana user whose job offer was rescinded after she tested positive, even though she explained to the employer that she only took synthetic cannabis at bedtime and was not under the influence at work. In finding no preemption, the court explained the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) does not regulate the employment relationship and that the ADA does not regulate non-workplace activity.

Here is how the opinion in Noffsinger gets started, along with a key passage from the heart of the ruling:

Connecticut is one of a growing number of States to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Connecticut likewise bars employers from firing or refusing to hire an employee who uses medical marijuana in compliance with the requirements of Connecticut law.  By contrast, federal law categorically prohibits the use of marijuana even for medical purposes.

This lawsuit calls upon me to decide if federal law preempts Connecticut law.  In particular, I must decide if federal law precludes enforcement of a Connecticut law that prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire someone who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes.  I conclude that the answer to that question is “no” and that a plaintiff who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes in compliance with Connecticut law may maintain a cause of action against an employer who refuses to employ her for this reason.  Accordingly, I will largely deny defendant’s motion to dismiss this lawsuit....

Although most cases dealing with the CSA’s preemption of state medical marijuana statutes have come out in favor of employers, these cases have not concerned statutes with specific anti-discrimination provisions; courts and commentators alike have suggested that a statute that clearly and explicitly provided employment protections for medical marijuana users could lead to a different result.  Indeed, one court recently held that the CSA does not preempt the anti-discrimination-in-employment provision of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana statute. See Callaghan v. Darlington Fabrics Corp., 2017 WL 2321181, at *13–14 (R.I. Super. 2017).

August 14, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Can marijuana rescue coal country?"

JO-welcome-WV-02The title of this post is the headline of this extended Washington Post magazine article exploring whether marijuana reform could help address some of the woes to be found in Wast Virginia.  Here are excerpts:

One of the leading proponents of loosening restrictions on marijuana in West Virginia is Democratic state Del. Mike Pushkin, who represents parts of Charleston and its surrounding areas. Pushkin is an unconventional pol — a cabdriver and folk musician who has spoken about his own struggles with addiction. He once told the Charleston Gazette-Mail how he spent 11 years living from crisis to crisis. “I’m sure there were times that my mother would have thought it more likely she would be attending my funeral than she would be attending my swearing-in at the Capitol,” he said.

It took a spiritual awakening to get his addiction under control. To stay sober, he told me, he volunteers at detox facilities and talks to addicts in area jails. This experience informs his policy positions. He’s sure West Virginia can’t arrest its way out of this drug crisis. And he has pushed his colleagues to consider marijuana in a new light. “While marijuana is described as a gateway drug, that’s not proven,” he says. “What is proven is that a lot of people who are prescribed painkillers get hooked on heroin.”...

In May 2016, Pushkin introduced a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to let adults grow, use and possess a limited quantity of marijuana, provided that they paid a one-time fee of $500. That month, he told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he didn’t have high hopes for its passage. He was right: It wasn’t even debated in a committee. But it did spark media attention and prompted an eye-opening brief from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, which showed that a marijuana tax could be a boon for the state, generating as much as $194 million annually if the drug were legal for adult use. That would be enough to eliminate West Virginia’s projected deficit and create a $183 million surplus, a dramatic improvement in a place that’s been slashing everything from higher education to Medicaid as it tries to stay afloat.

Indeed, Pushkin’s argument for marijuana legalization had a strong economic component. “They’re not having the types of budget issues in Colorado that we’re having here,” he told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. In Colorado, where pot is now fully legalized, the industry created 18,000 full-time jobs in 2015 alone. New Frontier Data, a financial consultancy in Washington, estimates that by 2020 the marijuana industry will create upward of a quarter of a million jobs in the United States, more than manufacturing is expected to create.

It’s hard to imagine anywhere that could use these jobs more than West Virginia. Since the 1980s, both coal and manufacturing in the Mountain State have been in a steep decline. As these industries have dried up, so have others that rely on them — such as freight rail, which has cut jobs by the thousands and begun pulling up tracks.

August 11, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Could the States Do Anything to Blunt the Impact of a Federal Crackdown?

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Authority 

I just returned from the NCSL annual meeting in Boston, where I participated on a Marijuana Federalism panel with Representative Roger Goodman (WA state house) and John Hudak (Brookings). A short recap of the panel can be found here . Consistent with recent reports, all the panelists agreed the Trump Administration is unlikely to crack down on state-licensed marijuana suppliers anytime soon. (John and I have both previously written about the Trump Administration’s approach to marijuana policy, e.g., here and here.)

Nonetheless, given Jeff Sessions’ stated opposition to legalizing marijuana, I think it’s worthwhile to consider what (if anything) the states could do to blunt a federal crackdown, if the Trump Administration did decide to attempt one. Let me offer two possibilities state lawmakers might consider:

1. Create an indemnification fund to help pay the legal expenses of any state-licensed marijuana supplier who faces federal legal sanctions. This would include a supplier who faces a federal criminal prosecution, a civil forfeiture action, or even a civil RICO lawsuit brought by another private citizen.

Why would states ever do this? Individual defendants sometimes lack the ability and / or incentive to optimally (from the state’s perspective) defend themselves against federal claims. For one thing, defendants don't always have the money needed to pursue every viable defense vigorously, especially if their assets have been frozen by the government. In addition, individual defendants capture only a small part of the benefit (to the state) of successfully asserting certain types of defenses. After all, those defenses -- once established -- can be invoked by other, similarly situated defendants.
To illustrate the problem, suppose a Massachusetts-licensed medical marijuana supplier is being prosecuted by the DOJ for distributing marijuana. Her attorneys tell her she could spend $25,000 trying to convince a federal court that her prosecution is barred by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (discussed on pages 353-358 of my book), but there’s no guarantee she’ll win – say, because the First Circuit might not follow United States v. McIntoshand the Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of Rohrabacher-Farr. In this case, the supplier might not pursue the defense vigorously (even if she could afford to); she might instead prefer to cut her losses and cut a plea deal, say, by agreeing to shut down her shop if the DOJ drops all of its charges against her. But that may not be the best outcome for the state – it might prefer that the defendant spend $25,000 for even the chance that all state law-abiding medical marijuana suppliers would be declared immune from federal prosecution. Thus, to ensure that defendants vigorously pursue legal defenses that benefit others in the state, the state might help cover individual defendants’ legal expenses (say, using a portion of marijuana tax revenues).
I develop this first proposal in more detail in a symposium article for the Montana Law Review here. It’s loosely modeled on personal liberty laws adopted by northern states in response to the federal Fugitive Slave Act.

2. Adopt poison pill legislation that would make it costly for Congress to preempt certain state marijuana reforms. Some state laws are vulnerable to preemption challenge because they (arguably) undermine one of Congress's goals, like deterring drug use. Citing such reasoning, for example, a few state courts have held that state laws purporting to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination are preempted by the federal CSA (the issue is discussed on pages 672-681 of the book). To defuse the threat that a court would find such measures preempted, a state could pass a second law – one that Congress clearly favors – and then tie the two laws (favored and disfavored) together – i.e., make them inseverable.
To illustrate, suppose Massachusetts was interested in preserving its recently recognized employment protections (discussed here) from a preemption challenge. To do so, the state could pass a law limiting the quantity of marijuana that non-residents are allowed to buy at state licensed shops, similar to the way Colorado once limited non-residents to buying one-quarter ounce of marijuana at its shops (discussed at pages 283-287 of the book). It could then make the new quantity restriction inseverable from the employment protections. While Congress (in theory) might not want states to protect marijuana users from employment sanctions, it might tolerate those protections if the states limit non-resident access to marijuana.
I develop this second proposal in more detail in a new article for the George Washington Law Review here. It’s very loosely modeled on the poison pill tactic in corporate law.


Part of the appeal of both options is that their success does not depend on the DOJ’s willingness to heed past enforcement guidelines or Congress’s willingness to restrict the agency’s spending.

August 9, 2017 in Court Rulings, Current Affairs, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

So many summer state marijuana headlines, so little summer time....

I have been on the road the last few weeks with limited internet and limited blogging time, and thus I have been barely able to keep up with all the summer state marijuana reform news of late.  Here are links to some news headlines/stories that provide just a sample of some notable late dog-days of summer state stories:

From Massachusetts here, "Massachusetts' Marijuana Law Passed by Voters, Rewritten by Lawmakers"

From Michigan here, "Marijuana is 9% of all Michigan arrests, and other facts on marijuana arrests"

From Nevada here, "Tourists Buying Marijuana In Las Vegas Have Nowhere To Smoke It In Las Vegas"

From Utah here, "Over 75 percent of Utahns support medical marijuana ballot initiative, a new poll says"

From Washington here, "Washington Marijuana Legalization: No Stoned Mayhem on the Freeways"

And, this important story covering lots of states comes from USA Today under the headline "Marijuana's legalization fuels black market in other states." It starts this way:

Marijuana smugglers are growing and shipping vast quantities of illicit cannabis across the USA. They’re mailing it, driving it and, in at least one case, flying it around in skydiving planes. They’re hiding it in truck beds and trunks and vacuum-sealing it to hide the smell as they pass police officers patrolling the interstates.

Many are starting in states where growing marijuana is legal, such as Colorado, and sending the drug elsewhere. In June, Colorado prosecutors said they busted a 74-person operation producing 100 pounds of marijuana per month — enough to generate $200,000 monthly, tax free, for more than four years.

Police seized two tons of cannabis from dozens of homes and warehouses in the Denver metro area. Tangled up in the scheme were fathers and sons and several former professional football players. “Those of us in law enforcement kept saying, '(Legalization) will not stop crime. You’re just making it easier for people who want to make money. What we’ve done is give them cover,' ” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said.

For decades, the black market was the only source of recreational marijuana in America. But in 2012, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize the drug. Seven states followed in 2014 and 2016. Now, nearly 65 million Americans live in states where adults can legally consume marijuana for any reason.

Legalization advocates have long argued that regulating marijuana forces the industry out of the shadows and into the public eye, where the drug can be taxed and the black market effectively eliminated. But because marijuana remains illegal in so many states, smugglers can take advantage of the patchwork of laws. A pound of marijuana might sell for about $2,000 in Colorado but could fetch three times as much in a large East Coast city.  Less marijuana is crossing the U.S. border, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. The agency's marijuana seizures dropped by almost half between 2011 and 2016, falling from 2.5 million pounds to 1.3 million pounds.

August 1, 2017 in Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Senate committee preserves spending limit precluding DOJ interference with medical marijuana regimes

As this new piece from The Hill reports, the "Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a budget bill on Thursday to protect medical marijuana programs from federal interference in states that have legalized the drug for medical use." Here is more:

The amendment to the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill passed by a voice vote and prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to prevent states from "implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

"The federal government can't investigate everything and shouldn't, and I don't want them pursuing medical marijuana patients who are following state law," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who offered the amendment. Leahy argued that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should be focusing its limited resources on more legitimate threats.

"We have more important things for the Department of Justice to do than tracking down doctors or epileptics using medical marijuana legally in their state," he said. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), however, argued that while civil liberties and states' rights are important, telling DOJ not to enforce federal laws goes against legal principles. "If Congress wants to tell the Department of Justice to stop enforcing the medical marijuana laws, then it should change the authorization within the Judiciary Committee, not through an appropriations provision," he said.

The amendment passed despite a letter Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent in May asking House and Senate leadership not to block DOJ from using funds to enforce federal marijuana laws. "I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime," Session wrote in the letter first obtained by Massroots.com and later confirmed by The Washington Post. "The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) told The Hill on Thursday that he plans to once again offer the amendment to the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, which passed the appropriations committee earlier this month. When asked if he's expecting a fight on the floor, where he'll be forced to offer the amendment, Rohrabacher said he hopes there isn't one "but if there is, clearly we will win."

July 27, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big meeting of feds and state/local officials in Colorado portends...?

As reported in this US News & World Report article, headlined "Feds Tour Colorado in DOJ Pot Review: Recommendations are due next week on whether to crush state-legal weed," there is some new activity in the arena of federal review of state marijuana reform. But what the new activity will lead to remains unclear. Here are excerpts:

Federal officials asked seemingly mundane questions during a Tuesday meeting in Colorado with state officials, at least some of whom were unaware that the discussion was part of a shadowy review of federal marijuana policy. The meeting provides the best glimpse yet into the issues authorities are considering as they prepare to make recommendations next week on what to do about state-legal recreational marijuana, with options ranging from a crackdown to keeping the status quo.

The guest list on Tuesday included Justice Department attorney Michael Murray, who is leading the department's marijuana policy review, and a State Department official with expertise in treaty obligations, according to Mark Bolton, deputy legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. John Zadrozny, a domestic policy adviser at the White House, was in the room, as were two representatives of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says Bolton, who also attended.

A person with knowledge of the meeting's purpose says the gathering and another meeting Wednesday with officials from the city of Colorado Springs are directly related to the ongoing federal pot policy review. The source asked not to be identified. Bolton says he was unaware that the meeting – which featured about 20 state agency representatives -- was directly related to the policy review....

The only question that Bolton recalls Murray asking dealt with whether 2014 guidance from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) remains "up to date," he says. That guidance outlined how banks can work with pot businesses, but many financial institutions remain reluctant to take on the compliance burden or perceived risk involved in handling cash for cannabis firms operating in violation of federal law. "I don't remember him asking other questions, but it may be they weren't questions that resonated with me," Bolton says.

The State Department official asked if there had been significant problems with diversion of Colorado marijuana to other countries, Bolton says. A representative of the Colorado Department of Public Safety said that is not a significant problem....

The ONDCP representatives at the meeting asked about educational efforts and about continued black- and gray-market sales, Bolton says. He can't recall Zadrozny asking any questions....

Bolton says state officials shared how Colorado uses marijuana tax revenue – estimated to exceed $500 million since recreational sales began in 2014 – to educate the public about the risks of the drug and about responsible use, and that officials pointed out teen use has not increased. He says participants did not directly address the possible consequences of repealing the Justice Department's 2013 Cole Memo, which allowed recreational pot stores to open....

Hickenlooper was not present at the meeting. But Bolton believes invitations extended by the governor during an April meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as an invitation by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, inspired the visit. It's unclear if federal officials are touring other states as part of their policy review....

After meeting with state officials, a group of feds met Wednesday with legalization foes in Colorado Springs. No supporters of regulating recreational sales attended, KKTV reported after staking out the meeting and later interviewing Mayor John Suthers, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general who opposes marijuana legalization. "A lot of [the meeting dealt with] sensitive case investigations. That's another reason why it couldn't be public," Suthers told the station. "Probably most of the discussion centered around the huge black market that exists for marijuana in Colorado." Suthers said the city's police department created the guest list, which included a local doctor and a school district director of discipline. The mayor and the police chief were unable to provide immediate comment....

KKTV reported a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff and at least one member of the DEA also attended the Colorado Springs meeting. Pence's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the national DEA headquarters referred questions to the local office, which did not immediately respond.

Although the Justice Department could launch a devastating legal assault on state-regulated recreational marijuana, medical marijuana currently is protected from federal prosecutors and anti-drug agents by a budget restriction passed in Congress. And in Colorado, state legislators approved legislation earlier this year allowing businesses to reclassify recreational pot as medical marijuana if the need arises.

July 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Massachusetts top court issues major ruling allowing medical marijuana user to pursue lawsuit against employer after her termination

As reported in this Boston Globe piece, headlined "Ruling means Mass. companies can’t fire workers for medical marijuana," the top court in Massachusetts issued a significant employment law ruling yesterday on behalf of a medical marijuana patient. Here are the basics from the press report:

Massachusetts companies cannot fire employees who have a prescription for medical marijuana simply because they use the drug, the state’s highest court ruled Monday, rejecting employers’ arguments that they could summarily enforce strict no-drug policies against such patients.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants said a California sales and marketing firm discriminated against an employee of its Massachusetts operation who uses marijuana to treat Crohn’s disease when it fired her for flunking a drug test.

In Massachusetts, Gants wrote, “the use and possession of medically prescribed marijuana by a qualifying patient is as lawful as the use and possession of any other prescribed medication.” Therefore, he said, employers can’t use blanket anti-marijuana policies to dismiss workers whose doctors have prescribed the drug to treat their illnesses.

Instead, antidiscrimination laws require companies to attempt to negotiate a mutually acceptable arrangement with each medical marijuana patient they employ, such as exploring alternative medications or allowing use of the drug only outside of work hours. The ruling overturned a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against brought in 2015 by Cristina Barbuto of Brewster, who was fired by Advantage Sales and Marketing after just one day on the job because she tested positive for marijuana.

Barbuto said she told the company during interviews that she uses cannabis several nights a week — not before or during work hours — to treat her Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the digestive tract and can inhibit appetites. She said the local hiring manager told her it would not be a problem, and that she was blindsided by her dismissal....

Advocates called the ruling long overdue, and said they expected that other medical marijuana patients who had been fired over their use of the drug would soon contest their dismissals. “We are thrilled that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled in favor of compassion for people that use medical marijuana for a range of debilitating conditions,” the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which sponsored the state’s successful 2012 medical marijuana ballot initiative, said in a prepared statement.

A business group that interceded in the case, however, said the ruling would especially hurt small companies that don’t have the resources or expertise to negotiate accommodations for marijuana patients. “This is opening small business owners up to a ton of litigation,” said Karen Harned, the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, which filed a brief in support of Advantage. “It’s making their lives harder because they can no longer have a clear drug-free-workplace policy.”

The decision doesn’t mean employers can never fire a patient for using marijuana medically; firms that contract with the federal government, for example, or where workers operate heavy machinery, could argue that accommodating their employees’ use of the drug constitutes an “undue hardship.” But the ruling puts the burden on employers to prove they cannot accommodate medical marijuana patients because their cannabis use impairs their ability to do required work, endangers public safety, or otherwise demonstrably endangers the business, Gants wrote.

“Employers can still prevail,” said Chris Feudo, an attorney at Foley Hoag who represents companies in employment disputes. “Employees aren’t entitled to the accommodation they want; they’re entitled to a reasonable accommodation — and sometimes, there isn’t one.” Still, Feudo said, the ruling will have “really wide implications.”

The full ruling in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, No. SJC 12226 (Mass. July 17, 2017), is available at this link.  And it gets started this way:

In 2012, Massachusetts voters approved the initiative petition entitled, "An Act for the humanitarian medical use of marijuana," St. 2012, c. 369 (medical marijuana act or act), whose stated purpose is "that there should be no punishment under state law for qualifying patients . . . for the medical use of marijuana." Id. at § 1. The issue on appeal is whether a qualifying patient who has been terminated from her employment because she tested positive for marijuana as a result of her lawful medical use of marijuana has a civil remedy against her employer. We conclude that the plaintiff may seek a remedy through claims of handicap discrimination in violation of G. L. c. 151B, and therefore reverse the dismissal of the plaintiff's discrimination claims. We also conclude that there is no implied statutory private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and therefore affirm the dismissal of those claims.

July 18, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Court Rulings, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Mapping medical marijuana: State laws regulating patients, product safety, supply chains and dispensaries, 2017"

CoverThe title of this post is the title of this useful new article in the publication Addiction authored by numerous researchers.  Here is the article's abstract:

Aims

1) To describe open source legal datasets, created for research use, that capture the key provisions of U.S. state medical marijuana laws. The data document how state lawmakers have regulated a medicine that remains, under federal law, a Schedule I illegal drug with no legitimate medical use. 2) To demonstrate the variability that exists across states in rules governing patient access, product safety, and dispensary practice.

Methods

Two legal researchers collected and coded state laws governing marijuana patients, product safety, and dispensaries in effect on February 1, 2017, creating three empirical legal datasets. We used summary tables to identify the variation in specific statutory provisions specified in each state's medical marijuana law as it existed on February 1, 2017. We compared aspects of these laws to the traditional Federal approach to regulating medicine. Full datasets, codebooks and protocols are available through the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System (http://www.pdaps.org/ ; http://www.webcitation.org/6qv5CZNaZ).

Results

Twenty-eight states (including the District of Columbia) have authorized medical marijuana. Twenty-seven specify qualifying diseases, which differ across states. All but two protect patient privacy; only 14 protect patients against discrimination. Eighteen states have mandatory product safety testing before any sale. While the majority have package/label regulations, states have a wide range of specific requirements. Most regulate dispensaries (25 states), with considerable variation in specific provisions such as permitted product supply sources (23 states), number of dispensaries per state (18 states) and restricting proximity to various types of location (21 states).

Conclusions

The federal ban in the USA on marijuana has resulted in a patchwork of regulatory strategies that are not uniformly consistent with the approach usually taken by the Federal government and whose effectiveness remains unknown.

July 12, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Florida medical marijuana advocate sues after legislature blocks smoking as means to consumption

As reported in this local article, "John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who spearheaded and financed the successful campaign to make medical access to cannabis a constitutional right, filed the lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court Thursday morning, asking the court to declare the [legislatively developed] law implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment unenforceable.  Here is more about this lawsuit:

Arguing that Florida legislators violated voters’ intent when they prohibited smoking for the medical use of marijuana, the author of the state's medical marijuana amendment sued the state on Thursday to throw out the implementing law....

“By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use' to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the lawsuit states.

More than 71 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment in November 2016, the largest percentage of support a medical marijuana initiative has received by popular vote, Morgan said. The amendment allowed the Legislature to address smoking — but only by prohibiting it in public places, he said, anything more violates the intent of the Constitution.  “If something is not allowed in public, it is allowed in private,” Morgan said at a press conference outside the Leon County Courthouse. “It’s as clear to all of you as it is to any first grader taking first-grade logic.”...

If the court agrees and invalidates the law implementing the amendment, the task of writing the rules for implementing the new amendment will fall to the Florida Department of Health.

The legislation allows for edibles and “vaping” as a delivery system for THC and cannabinoids.  It also provided funding for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to conduct research into the uses and effectiveness of medical marijuana.  But the House sponsor of the law, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, called smoking a “backdoor attempt at recreational” use of marijuana.  Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the Senate sponsor, called the measure, which passed during the June special session, “patient-first legislation” that “will expand access to this medicine, while ensuring safety through a unified regulatory structure for each component of the process from cultivation to consumption."

But Morgan, who uses the hashtag #NoSmokeIsAJoke, argues that the legislative claim has been a “bogus argument from Day 1,” and if they were truly interested in keeping the public safe from smoking, they would have taxed tobacco “to the hilt.”  Instead, he said, their arguments enforce what he believes is a quiet campaign against marijuana fueled by “Big Pharma,” which has capitalized on the explosion of opioid abuse.  “I don’t know what drives these politicians other than money and donors,’’ he said.

He said that in the next few weeks he will add to the lawsuit patients suffering from ALS disease, epilepsy and other ailments for whom smoking marijuana is the best way to treat their symptoms.  The lawsuit cites a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found smoking marijuana does not not impair lung function and, when not used heavily, was shown to increase lung capacity.  “Despite decades of marijuana being used for smoking in the United States, there have been no reported medical cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana,” the lawsuit said.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes federal funding of marijuana research, blasted the lawsuit as “nothing more than a smokescreen designed to bypass the FDA and open the doors to a new for-profit, retail commercial marijuana industry in Florida.”

“There's a reason why every single major medical association opposes the use of the raw, smoked form of marijuana as medicine: smoke is not a reliable delivery system, it's impossible to measure dosage, and it contains hundreds of other chemical compounds that may do more harm than good,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of the group, in a statement.

Calvina Fay, executive director of the anti-marijuana group Drug Free America Foundation, also criticized the lawsuit.  “While not perfect, the legislation succeeded in finding a balance that protects the public health and safety of all Floridians while allowing the legal access to marijuana that was approved by voters," she said in a statement.

Morgan counters that those arguments miss the point. “If you are on your death bed, or on your bed in debilitating pain, who really cares if you smoke?” he said.  He warns that by aggressively working against the implementation of what voters supported, legislators have inadvertently “kicked the door wide open for recreational marijuana use in Florida.”  If they don’t allow for smoking as a medical use, the newly formed industry will “bankroll a constitutional amendment to put recreational marijuana on the ballot...and I believe it will pass with 60 percent of the vote," he said.

July 6, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Notable accounting of large number of jobs in the legal marijuana industry

6-26-17-COTW-Revised-e1498251123994This new posting at Marijuana Business Daily, headlined "Cannabis industry employs 165,000-plus workers," includes this interesting chart highlighting just how many legal jobs might be linked to state-level marijuana reforms. Here is part of the text that goes with the chart:

With 165,000-230,000 full- and part-time workers, the U.S. cannabis industry has quickly become a major job generator. Cannabis-related businesses now employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists.

The estimates – published in the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook 2017 – include employment data for retailers, wholesale grows, infused products/concentrates companies, testing labs and ancillary firms.  The job figures represent an impressive feat for an industry that has, for the most part, been operating legitimately only since 2009.  They also underscore marijuana’s rapid transformation out of the black market and into a viable economic force, capable of producing a host of new jobs and business opportunities for towns and communities across the country.

Employment figures were calculated using a variety of methodologies, including the use of survey data regarding the average number of employees for each type of company in the industry.  That information was then applied to the estimated number of companies in each sector to arrive at a rough idea of how many employees work in the industry. Only ancillary companies that glean a sizable portion of their revenue from the marijuana industry are included in these employment figures.

A majority of the jobs in the marijuana industry are currently with small businesses, most needing only a handful of employees to maintain daily operations.  Though the average number of employees at marijuana companies has been rising in recent years as businesses grow, the state-by-state nature of the marijuana industry has prevented companies from developing into large-scale enterprises that employ hundreds of people....

The cannabis industry is coming off a landmark year in 2016, when four states legalized recreational marijuana and another four approved measures tied to medical cannabis.  Additionally, Ohio and Pennsylvania legalized MMJ earlier in the year, while Louisiana passed a law to set up commercial cultivation and sales of medical cannabis.  Though it will take some time for these markets to fully develop, they have the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the marijuana industry.

California’s recreational market alone could eventually bring in between $4.5 billion and $5 billion in annual retail sales – more than the nation’s entire legal cannabis industry generated in 2016 – so the impact adult-use legalization will have on business and employment opportunities in the state is massive.

June 27, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Will Utah be among the states voting directly on marijuana reform in 2018?

Logo_Final-copy_200I already have my eye upon states like Arizona and Michigan for potential notable marijuana initiative votes in 2018.   And this local article, headlined "Medical marijuana advocates within weeks of filing ballot initiative," suggests Utah is another state worth watching.  Here are the basics:

For years now, the Utah Legislature has labored over the question of whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.  In 2014, the Legislature chose to legalize a marijuana extract for use in controlling epileptic seizures.

In 2016, two laws which would have legalized medical marijuana — to differing extents — both passed through the Utah Senate, but never reached a vote in the House of Representatives.  And in the 2017 session, the only marijuana legislation passed allowed only for studies to take place, which could take years to yield results.

Despite the Legislature’s hesitancy to act on medical marijuana legalization, Utahns may have the chance to vote on the issue directly in the form of a ballot initiative in 2018.  “Having tried multiple times to persuade the legislature to help these people and facing significant resistance, we think it’s best now to give the public a chance to decide for themselves,” said Connor Boyack, who is acting as a consultant for the ballot initiative.  Boyack has previously advocated for medical marijuana in his role as the president of Libertas Institute, a Libertarian think tank....

It’s an extensive process to put an issue on the ballot.  First, the language of the legislation must be written and an application turned into the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.  The language of the medical marijuana initiative is almost complete, Boyack said, and is based off of language from one of the bills that failed in the Legislature in 2016.  Senate Bill 73, sponsored by then-Sen. Mark Madsen of Saratoga Springs, was used as a baseline for the language of the ballot initiative, Boyack said, with just a few tweaks.  For instance, autism was added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana could be used....

According to state law, to get an initiative on the ballot, signatures must be gathered that total 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last presidential election.  Since Utahns cast approximately 1.13 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, it would take just over 113,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot.  It’s not as simple as just collecting the 113,000 signatures.  They have to be spread out semi-evenly over the many senate districts in the state....

Boyack said they already have much of the financial backing that will be needed to pay professionals to gather signatures. “We’ve got some very strong commitments,” Boyack said. “We’re following up to get checks written.” He said he’s confident that they’ll get the $2 million needed to pay for signature gathering and promotional media.  “There are a lot of individuals who are very upset with the Legislature for having the chance to help people, then punting,” Boyack said....

Even if the necessary signatures are collected, Utah voters would still have to choose to pass the initiative. Organizations like the Utah Medical Association have consistently opposed legalizing cannabis as medicine before it has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration.  Even the prominent and influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighed in on the issue in 2016, specifically favoring one medical marijuana bill over another more comprehensive one.  Boyack says he believes the odds of passage are good — polls show that people want medical marijuana to be legal, he said.

June 19, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bipartisan group introduces new version of CARERS Act to reform federal marijuana prohibition

CARERS-act-header-backgroundAs reported in this new Roll Call article, a "bipartisan group of senators and representatives have reintroduced legislation that would enable states to set their own medical marijuana policies."  Here are the basics:

Senators Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., joined by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., made the announcement on Thursday....

The legislation reintroduced Thursday would protect patients, doctors and businesses participating in state medical-marijuana programs from federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states. Instead, it would ensure that people in the states where medical cannabis is legal can use it without violating federal law.

In addition to Booker and Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the CARERS Act include Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Al Franken, D-Minn. 

This press release from Senator Booker is titled "Lawmakers Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Medical Marijuana Bill: CARERS Act would ensure patients have access to lifesaving care without fear of federal prosecution." The press release includes quotes from all the sponsors and state that "the CARERS Act would:

(1) Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution

The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers, and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.

(2) Allow States to Import Cannabidiol (CBD), Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal of definition of marijuana. This change will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.

(3) Provide Veterans Access

Current law prohibits doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities from prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.

(4) Expand Opportunities for Research

The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana and creates a system for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage research.

The CARERS Act has the support of more than 20 health, veteran and policy organizations, including: American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access, Compassionate Care NY, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, MS Resources of Central New York, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Third Way, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care."

June 15, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 12, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions has urged Congress to end limit on DOJ appropriations concerning state-compliant medical marijuana actors

In this new MassRoots posting, Tom Angell reports on a notable letter sent by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to member of Congress back in May.  Here are the details (with a bit of my emphasis added):

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking Congressional leaders not to renew a current federal law that prevents the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.  “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic House and Senate leadership. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

The letter, sent to Capitol Hill last month, was shared with MassRoots by a Congressional staffer. The protections are the result of a rider — known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, after its lead Congressional sponsors — which has been enacted into law with strong bipartisan votes for the past three fiscal years, including the current one.

But when President Trump signed a Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he issued a signing statement that essentially reserved the right to ignore the medical marijuana protections. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he wrote. And when the president made his first full budget request to Congress, he did not include an extension of the provision.

While President Obama never issued a signing statement concerning the provision, he did suggest that Congress delete it in his last two budget requests. And the Obama Justice Department took the position that the budget rider only prevented the government from stopping states from implementing their laws and did not provide any protections to patients or providers who are acting in accordance with those policies.

But last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, over the Justice Department’s objection, that the measure does in fact prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing cases against state-legal medical cannabis patients, growers and dispensaries. However, the ruling only applies to the nine states and two territories that fall under the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“As a result, in the Ninth Circuit, many individuals and organizations that are operating in violation of the CSA and causing harm in their communities may invoke the rider to thwart prosecution,” Sessions wrote in the new letter to Congress....

In the new letter to Congress, the attorney general wrote that marijuana use has “significant negative health effects,” arguing that is “linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, respiratory ailments such as lung infections, cognitive impairments such as IQ loss, and substance use disorder and addiction.”

Congress is now considering appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018, and marijuana law reform advocates are pushing to include the state medical cannabis protections again as well as add broader new ones that would cover full recreational legalization laws. “I respectfully request that you oppose the inclusion of such language in Department appropriations,” Sessions wrote to the Capitol Hill leaders.

On Tuesday, relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees will take testimony about the Justice Department’s budget request from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions was initially slated to testify but will instead appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The line I emphasized highlights that this newly-unearthed Sessions letter does not mark a huge departure from the position of the Justice Department under Prez Obama. Nevertheless, this letter, which stresses research on the harmfulness of marijuana and suggests that criminal organizations seek to hide within state marijuana regulatory regimes, reinforces the notion that AG Jeff Sessions is not too eager to allow state marijuana reform regimes to operate without significant possible federal review and oversight.

June 12, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Loose regulation of medical marijuana programs associated with higher rates of adult marijuana use but not cannabis use disorder"

CoverThe lengthy title of this post is the lengthy title of this new research to appearing in the journal Addiction.  Here are the summary details via the abstract:

Background and Aims

Most U.S. states have passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), with great variation in program regulation impacting enrollment rates.  We aimed to compare changes in rates of marijuana use, heavy use, and Cannabis Use Disorder across age groups while accounting for whether states enacted medicalized (highly regulated) or non-medical MML programs.

Design

Difference-in-differences estimates with time-varying state-level MML coded by program type (medicalized v. non-medical). Multilevel linear regression models adjusted for state-level random effects and covariates as well as historical trends in use. Setting Nationwide cross-sectional survey data from the U.S. National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) restricted use data portal aggregated at the state level.

Participants

2004-2013 NSDUH respondents (N ~ 67,500/year); age groups 12-17, 18-25, and 26+ years. States had implemented 8 medicalized and 15 non-medical MML programs.

Measurements

Primary outcome measures included 1) Active (past-month) marijuana use; 2) Heavy use (>300 days/year); and 3) Cannabis Use Disorder diagnosis, based on DSM-IV criteria. Covariates included program type, age group, and state-level characteristics across the study period.

Findings

Adults 26+ years of age living in states with non-medical MML programs increased past-month marijuana use 1.46% (from 4.13% to 6.59%, p=0.01) skewing toward greater heavy marijuana by 2.36% (from 14.94 to 17.30, p=0.09) after MMLs were enacted. However, no associated increase in the prevalence of Cannabis Use Disorder was found during the study period. Our findings do not show increases in prevalence of marijuana use among adults in states with medicalized MML programs. Additionally, there were no increases in adolescent or young adult marijuana outcomes following MML passage, irrespective of program type.

Conclusions

Non-medical marijuana laws enacted in US states are associated with increased marijuana use, but only among adults 26+ years.

June 12, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Updating the state and future of medical marijuana in Ohio one year after legislative enactment

Medical-marijuana-ohioCleveland.com has this notable lengthy new article providing a kind of one-year-later update on Ohio's medical marijuana program under the headline "A year after Ohio's medical marijuana bill signed: Patients waiting, growers applying."  Here are excerpts:

The landscape has changed since Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio's medical marijuana law one year ago today. Details of the new, tightly-controlled program began rolling out in November. The state began accepting applications for 24 grow licenses on Monday, and other businesses are preparing to apply for dispensary and processor licenses in a few months.

Several cities and villages that passed moratoriums or temporary bans on marijuana businesses have decided to allow them, usually after being approached by a potential business promising jobs and tax revenue.

But much remains the same. Patients still can't buy legal marijuana here, and doctors can't become certified to recommend it. No licenses have been awarded to marijuana cultivators, processors, testing labs or dispensaries. Some details about the program are still unknown....

The law, which went into effect in September, set the framework for the medical marijuana program: patients with one of 21 medical conditions could buy and use marijuana if recommended to them by a physician. Smoking marijuana and growing it at home were not allowed in the law. But details, including who would grow and sell marijuana, were left to three agencies to work out before September 2017. State officials say dispensaries will open by the statutory Sept. 8, 2018 deadline.

So while it seems to be taking a long time to set up, state officials are on track to meet their deadlines. Rules and regulations for cultivators were finalized in April, and the rest are nearing the end of the process.

The state plans to license up to 24 cultivators (12 for up to 3,000 square feet of growing space and 12 for up to 25,000 square feet), 40 processors that will make marijuana oils, tinctures, patches and edible products allowed by law, 60 dispensaries and an unknown number of testing labs. Cultivator licenses will be awarded based on how they plan to grow marijuana, staff and secure their facilities and comply with state regulations.

The application process is complicated, and state-imposed fees are steep. For example, larger cultivators will pay a $20,000 nonrefundable application fee and a $180,000 license fee if selected, renewable for $200,000 a year. That's not stopping entrepreneurs, many with the help of out-of-state consultants, from applying....

Ohio's law allows cities, villages and townships to limit the number of marijuana businesses or ban them altogether. More than 50 municipalities have passed temporary or permanent bans: some because of public safety concerns, others wanting to see what decisions state officials make. Businesses cannot apply for a license for a site where a moratorium or ban is in place. The cultivator application also requires a local zoning official to sign a form indicating the applicant has applied for local permits.

So communities that haven't lifted their bans by the end of June won't be home to a cultivator unless state officials decide in September 2018 to add licenses. In recent months, more than a dozen communities have lifted those bans or let them expire. The driving factor: Entrepreneurs and investors want to start businesses there. Youngstown gave its approval to five cultivator applicants Wednesday night. Columbus and Johnstown have each signed off on six applicants. Lorain, Painesville, Eastlake and Richmond Heights have given their blessing to cultivator applicants eyeing underutilized city property.

Johnstown was the first Ohio community to open its doors to potential medical marijuana businesses last year and lined up so many potential cultivators it ran out of eligible land to grow on. But it almost lost them all when village council members were mulling a hefty local licensing fee and tax on top of state fees and taxes. Interested businesses balked at the proposal, noting several communities are welcoming marijuana businesses to its empty business parks and vacant lots without tacking on high fees. The village opted to tax 1 percent of net profits -- the same as any other business and lower than neighboring Columbus' 2.5 percent....

Lawmakers recognized it could take two years before legal marijuana was available for patients and built in a safeguard intended to allow patients to use medical marijuana without being prosecuted for possession. Patients with qualifying conditions, who comply with the possession and paraphernalia parts of the law, have an affirmative defense in court if they have a letter or other paperwork certifying compliance and signed by an Ohio physician. But the law didn't say where patients could get marijuana.

Doctors have been reluctant to sign off on paperwork before becoming certified by the state. The certification process is not yet in place, and no continuing education courses -- required to become certified -- have been approved. Only about 7 percent of Ohio physicians said they would be willing to recommend medical marijuana and their hospital or employer would allow them to, according to a state medical board survey of Ohio doctors.

There's only been one known case of an affirmative defense letter being used. The Bedford police chief told the Associated Press charges were dropped against the man because the illegal substances found didn't match the search warrant.

Amanda Candow, a Mentor woman who has multiple sclerosis, has a letter but doesn't know how much she can trust it. Candow said patients like her want to be on the right side of the law, and many, including terminal cancer patients, don't want to buy illegal marijuana. "Everything is so vague and when you're a patient, it feels personal -- why are they doing this to me still?" Candow said. "I didn't choose to have MS or choose to have super tight muscles when I wake up in the morning, and the one thing that gives me relief I can't have."

June 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Highlighting notable state efforts to enhance minority participation in marijuana industry

This new AP article, headlined "Growing pot industry offers breaks to entice minorities," reviews some efforts in some jurisdictions to help some minorities participating in the emerging marijuana industry. Here are excerpts:

Oakland and other cities and states with legal pot are trying to make up for the toll marijuana enforcement took on minorities by giving them a better shot at joining the growing marijuana industry.... The efforts' supporters say legalization is enriching white people but not brown and black people who have been arrested for cannabis crimes at far greater rates than whites....

Massachusetts' ballot initiative was the first to insert specific language encouraging participation in the industry by those "disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement." The law does not specify how that would be accomplished.

In Ohio, a 2016 medical pot law included setting aside 15 percent of marijuana-related licenses for minority businesses. In Pennsylvania, applicants for cultivation and dispensing permits must spell out how they will achieve racial equity. Florida lawmakers agreed last year to reserve one of three future cultivation licenses for a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association.

There have been setbacks as well. The Maryland General Assembly adjourned last month without acting on a bill to guarantee a place for minority-owned businesses that were not awarded any of the state's initial 15 medical marijuana cultivation licenses.

There's no solid data on how many minorities own U.S. cannabis businesses or how many seek a foothold in the industry. But diversity advocates say the industry is overwhelmingly white. The lack of diversity, they say, can be traced to multiple factors: rules that disqualify people with prior convictions from operating legal cannabis businesses; lack of access to banking services and capital to finance startup costs; and state licensing systems that tend to favor established or politically connected applicants. "It's a problem that has been recognized but has proven to be relatively intractable," said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who studies marijuana regulation....

The Minority Cannabis Business Association has drafted model legislation for states considering new or revised marijuana laws, including language to expunge pot-related convictions and to encourage racial and gender diversity among cannabis businesses. "The people who got locked up should not get locked out of this industry," said Tito Jackson, a Boston city councilman and mayoral candidate. He suggests Massachusetts give licensing preference to groups that include at least one person with a marijuana conviction....

An Oakland-based nonprofit known as The Hood Incubator provides training and mentoring to minority cannabis entrepreneurs. "Maybe they lack the money to get into the industry or they might have, you know, gotten arrested in the past for oh, what do you know? Selling weed. And now they can't actually get into the legal industry," said Ebele Ifedigbo, one of the group's three co-founders.

This related AP article provides a details state-by-state run down of efforts to aid minority participation in the marijuana industry.

May 31, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Minnesota health department reports "perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients" in state's medical marijuana program

Rsz-minnesota-patients-with-chronic-pain-now-qualify-for-medical-marijuana-640x401Minnesota's medical marijuana program has garnered some headlines this week in part because of reports of big economic losses being suffered by industry players.   As this local article details, "Minnesota's medical marijuana manufacturing companies have lost $11 million in just two years of sales."  But the story emerging from the state this week that seems greater potential import and impact concerns a state study of patients noted this AP piece headlined  "Study: Minnesota medical marijuana patients report benefits."

The study comes from the Minnesota Department of Health and is titled "Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Patient Experiences from the First Program Year."  The complete report is due to to be released next month, but this Executive Summary was released this week and includes these passages:

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 a total of 1660 patients enrolled in the program and 577 health care practitioners registered themselves in order to certify that patients have a medical condition that qualifies them for the program. The most common qualifying conditions were severe and persistent muscle spasms (43%), cancer (28%), and seizures (20%). Each of the remaining six qualifying conditions during the first year – Crohn’s Disease, Terminal illness, HIV/AIDS, Tourette Syndrome, glaucoma, and ALS – accounted for less than 10% of patients. Ten percent (167 patients) were certified for more than one qualifying condition. Most patients were middle-aged (56% between ages 36-64), 11% were <18, and 11% were ≥65. Distribution by race/ethnicity generally matched the state’s demographics, with 90% of patients describing themselves as white....

Information on patient benefits comes from the Patient Self-Evaluations (PSE) completed by patients prior to each medical cannabis purchase and from patient and health care practitioner surveys. Results of analysis of PSE and survey data indicate perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients....

Moderate to severe levels of non-disease-specific symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and sleep difficulties were common across all the medical conditions. And the reductions in these symptoms was often quite large. These findings support the understanding that some of the benefit perceived by patients is expressed as improved quality of life.

May 18, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still more sales data suggesting a Trump bump in Colorado marijuana sales

In a post last month, I asked "Is the Trump Administration driving a 2017 spike in Colorado marijuana sales?" based on data showing increased marijuana sales in Colorado the first two months of this year.  Now, via this new Cannabist piece, headlined "Colorado marijuana sales top $131M, set record in March 2017," we have additional data on ever-increasing sales, though there is no way to tell from basic sales data if the market is experiencing general growth or if folks in Colorado may be stocking up on marijuana in light of uncertainty concerning federal marijuana policies under a new administration.   Speculations about reasons aside, here are the basic sales details along with some perspectives via The Cannabist:

The Colorado cannabis industry’s unbridled growth hasn’t waned — in fact, it’s still setting records. The state’s licensed marijuana shops captured nearly $132 million of recreational and medical cannabis sales in March, according to The Cannabist’s extrapolations of state sales tax data made public Tuesday.

The monthly sales haul of $131.7 million sets a new record for Colorado’s relatively young legal marijuana industry, besting the previous high of $127.8 million set last September, The Cannabist’s calculations show.  It’s the tenth consecutive month that sales have topped $100 million.

Sales tax revenue generated for the state during March was $22.9 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.  March’s sales totals were 48 percent higher than those tallied in March 2016, according to The Cannabist’s calculations. The month closes out a quarter in which sales were up nearly 36 percent from the first three months of last year.

In 2016, the year-over-year quarterly growth rate ranged between 29 percent and 39.6 percent.  The Cannabist also found that March 2017’s year-over-year percentage growth outpaced much of what was seen on a monthly basis last year.  Monthly growth rates from calendar year 2015 to 2016 averaged nearly 34 percent.

It was this continued rate of growth that caught the attention of some analysts and economists contacted by The Cannabist. Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, separately calculated out the year-over-year monthly growth rate for Colorado cannabis sales and saw a trend emerge.

“The year-over-year rates of growth have continued at a steady pace, which to me indicates that we have not yet reached the point at which we are starting to cap out the market,” he said. At that point, he added, the growth rates would start to decline.

If the current growth rates keeps up, April 2017 should be another record month, and the summer of 2017 should set new highs, Livingston predicted. And by the end of the year, that could add up to an industry boasting $1.6 billion in sales, he said.

“We’re surprised that sales continue to grow so quickly,” said Miles Light, an economist with the Marijuana Policy Group, a Denver-based financial, policy, research and consulting firm focused on the marijuana industry.  “We are not surprised that almost all of the sales growth is in the retail marijuana space.”  Adult-use sales, which hit a new monthly high of $93.3 million, accounted for the lion’s share of the March totals.  Medical cannabis transactions totaled $38.4 million.

Light and other economists have previously projected that Colorado’s marijuana market would eventually hit a ceiling as the draw from the black market becomes more complete, regular economic cycles take hold and other states implement adult-use sales.  It’s hard to predict when that plateau may occur, but the license and application fees in the March 2017 report were telling, Light said.

Ten months into Colorado’s fiscal year (the latest report for March sales show tax revenue remitted in April), the license and application fees for medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana businesses were down 25.4 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue report.  “This shows that fewer new firms are entering and, I believe, shows that … sales should be tapering off or declining,” he said.

Whatever the particular reasons for the strong and steady sales growth in Colorado, there numbers seem certain to keep investors and other business players "bullish" on the marijuana industry at least for the time being.  And such business bullishness will likely continue to fuel various efforts in various jurisdictions to continue moving forward with or expand the reach of marijuana reform.

Prior related post:

May 11, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Prez Trump issues notable statement when signing spending bill with DOJ limit on going after medical marijuana states

170301105323-trump-marijuana-780x439As reported in this Bloomberg piece, headlined "Trump Spurns Congress as He Signals Medical Marijuana Fight," the President made a significant statement on a number of topics, including marijuana enforcement, while signing the latest spending bill. Here are the details:

President Donald Trump signaled he may ignore a congressional ban on interfering with state medical marijuana laws, arguing in a lengthy statement that he isn’t legally bound by a series of limits lawmakers imposed on him.

Trump issued the “signing statement” Friday after he signed a measure funding the government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, reprising a controversial tactic former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama used while in office.  Trump also suggested he may ignore gender and racial preferences in some government programs as well as congressional requirements for advance notice before taking a range of foreign policy and military actions....

In the signing statement, Trump singled out a provision in the spending bill that says funds cannot be used to block states from implementing medical marijuana laws.  “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he said.

Obama also occasionally released signing statements objecting to congressional restrictions on his authority.  The White House described Trump’s signing statement as routine, but did not indicate whether the president planned to take action to defy Congressional restrictions....

Tim Shaw, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that the president is bound by the language in the spending bill that now bears his signature.  “Part of the argument here in this signing statement is that he has the constitutional requirement to execute the law,” Shaw said in an interview.  “But this is one of those laws, and Congress has the ultimate authority over funds getting spent.”

Because the language used in this signing statement is somewhat boilerplate, I am disinclined to view this development as a direct announcement or even an indirect signal of any new firm policy of the Trump Administration in the arena of marijuana reform.  Still, given that the President has said almost nothing about marijuana reform since his election and given that some members of his Cabinet are clearly not fans of the marijuana reform movement, this statement provides more evidence that Prez Trump and others within the White House are not eager to be active cheerleaders for state marijuana reform efforts.

May 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Osbeck and Bromberg's Marijuana Law in a Nutshell"

The title of this post is how West Academic Publishing is promoting its latest notable nutshell publication authored by Mark Osbeck and Howard Bromberg. In part because I think it is near impossible to summarize modern marijuana law in short form, I view this nutshell effort as extraordinary in various respects. And here is how West briefly describes the product:

Concise yet comprehensive text that provides an overview of marijuana law. It discusses important issues pertaining to public policy, legal history, constitutional law, criminal law, and jurisprudence, as well as practical legal issues that concern both marijuana-related businesses and individuals, in areas such as banking, employment, tax, bankruptcy, and child custody.

The text provides in-depth coverage of federal laws governing marijuana, along with an overview of international, state, and local laws relating to marijuana regulation. It also provides an overview of arguments for and against medical and/or recreational legalization, as well as an analysis of how marijuana compares to other potentially harmful substances, both legal and illegal.

April 26, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)