Monday, June 19, 2017
I 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
As 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"
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Non-medical marijuana laws enacted in US states are associated with increased marijuana use, but only among adults 26+ years.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Cleveland.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."
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
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.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Minnesota health department reports "perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients" in state's medical marijuana program
Minnesota'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.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
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
As 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
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)
Pennsylvania receives "flood of applications" seeking one of a few dozen medicial marijuana licenses
This local report from Pennsylvania highlights the large number of applications received by state officials from businesses looking to get in on the ground floor of the state's medical marijuana industry. Here are the basic details:
Hundreds of applicants have asked for licenses to grow or sell medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, including dozens in the state's southeastern corner.
In their first accounting of the flood of applications, Health Department officials said Wednesday that they received more than 500 packages by the March 20 deadline, and have sifted through 258 applications. Among those have been 31 applications to grow medical marijuana in Philadelphia or its surrounding suburbs.
But officials wouldn't release the names of the principals behind the company names — or divulge the locations where they propose to grow or sell the drug. More company names will be released after additional applications have been reviewed.
Still, the data suggests the frenzied interest in getting in on the ground floor of the potentially lucrative medical marijuana industry, which some advocates hope will be the first step toward broader legalization of the drug.
Only 12 growing permits will be granted statewide. The state has been moving swiftly to implement a law passed last year with support from both parties in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The law aims to supply cannabis to seriously ill patients who have any one of 17 qualifying ailments.
March 20 was the deadline for all materials for people vying for one of 12 initial grower licenses. The state also received applications for would-be operators seeking one of 27 permits that would allow up to 81 dispensaries, where prescriptions could be filled, across the state.
The permit applications that are pending represent just the first phase of the bidding process. The state also is preparing to offer clinical registrant licenses, which would attach medical marijuana to existing hospitals that also serve as academic medical institutions. That credential would allow eight academic medical centers to select investor partners to establish research, growing, and dispensary networks of their own. Health systems have been soliciting potential suitors for months....
Each applicant was required to put up a non-refundable $10,000 fee, in addition to a $200,000 permit fee that will be returned only to the unsuccessful applicants. The ante for dispensary licenses, which will allow the winner to operate up to three storefronts, was $5,000, and those checks were accompanied by a refundable permit fee of $30,000 per storefront.
I am expecting that the same sort of "frenzied interest" will also be the medical marijuana story here in nearly Ohio when the has its license application process fully up and running in the coming months. (This short column from an Ohio business publication, headlined "Intense competition for state-issued medical marijuana licenses necessitates advance preparation," suggests I am not alone in that view.) The old "Field of Dreams" adage, "if you build it, they will come," seems fitting here. Though perhaps in this setting the adage should be tweaked to "if you build it, they will come with checks with lots of zeroes."
New research highlights increased "illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders" in medical marijuana states through 2013
JAMA Psychiatry has this notable new research published under the title "US Adult Illicit Cannabis Use, Cannabis Use Disorder, and Medical Marijuana Laws, 1991-1992 to 2012-2013." Here are parts of its abstract:
Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time....
Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013)....
Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7–percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03)....
Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Blogging in this space will be light over the next few days because I am about to travel to Pittsburgh to attend and participate in the 2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo. As this schedule details, I am speaking tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) on a panel titled "Higher Education & Its Role in the Industry." Here is how the panel is previewed:
The cannabis industry is set to create more jobs than established industries like manufacturing by 2020. However, there is still no clear path to getting involved in the industry or clear educational path. Students need more courses and curriculum that teaches the fundamentals of the industry. These include all areas of the industry including business, agriculture, research, etc. This panel will talk about what courses are currently available for students and what still needs to be offered as well as how higher education can translate their findings into commercial services and products the industry can use to advance itself.
April 21, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
As reported in this local article, headlined "WV governor signs medical marijuana into law," the latest state to reform its marijuana laws is the Mountain State. Here are the details:
Gov. Jim Justice signed a comprehensive medical marijuana bill into law Wednesday, wrapping up what might have been the legislative underdog story of the session. Justice signed Senate Bill 386, which will put a medical cannabis commission into place to begin forming the regulatory infrastructure for the Bureau of Public Health to begin issuing marijuana patient ID cards on July 1, 2019.
This action makes West Virginia the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Surrounded by Democratic legislators who helped push the bill through, Justice said the law will help those who are suffering obtain access to a treatment approved by the medical community. “Our doctors are telling us, this is a pathway to help those people [who are suffering],” Justice said. “How could you turn your back on that? How could you turn your back on a loved one who is really suffering? To have a vehicle to be able to help, and to turn our back on it and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ To me, that’s not listening to the wise, and it’s not being charitable and caring, like we ought to be.”
The new law will allow patients suffering from 16 conditions to apply for a card with permission from their doctor, who must be approved to recommend marijuana by the Board of Public Health. Acceptable conditions include terminal illnesses, cancer, HIV or AIDS and Parkinson’s disease.
The law does not allow patients to grow or smoke marijuana. Only a licensed dispensary can issue marijuana in the form of pills, oils, topicals (gels, creams, ointments), tincture, liquid, dermal patch or non-whole plant forms for administration through a vaporizer or nebulizer.
Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, who sponsored the legislation and served as its point man, said he thinks the bill will help ease suffering of fellow veterans who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and simultaneously cut into the state’s opioid crisis, by taking money out of illegal drug dealers’ pockets.
Sporting a cannabis leaf-shaped pin on the breast of his jacket, Nitro resident Rusty Williams watched Justice sign the bill. Williams survived a late-stage diagnosis of testicular cancer. He said his doctors prescribed him aggressive doses of chemotherapy to combat the cancer, and he used illegally purchased marijuana to help him handle the treatments....
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said that, although some might be frustrated by the gap between the bill’s passage versus its 2019 full activation date, it will be a good thing for the state to not botch such a promising, although complex, initiative. He said other states have tried to shoot the moon and get things rolling prematurely, and it only served to their detriment. Woelfel also pointed out that the Legislature can revisit the bill in any session down the road and add to it, as needed.
Monday, April 17, 2017
The Denver Post, as highlighted here, this past weekend had a section of its "Sunday Perspective" focused on marijuana reform. Included among the section's contributors were "former Cannabist editor Ricardo Baca, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson, L’Eagle grow and dispensary owner Amy Andrle, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting, and former teachers turned science-based marijuana curriculum developers Sarah Grippa and Molly Lotz." Here are the headlines of the pieces with links:
April 17, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, 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)
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
West Virginia seemingly poised to become latest medical marijuana state (and first new one in the Trump era)
This new local article, headlined "Medical marijuana bill passes WV House; Senate likely to concur," reports on some interesting and notable marijuana reform news out of the Mountain State. Here are the basic details:
A bill that would permit the use of medical marijuana in West Virginia was approved by the House of Delegates on Tuesday.
The bill (SB 386), which would have created a West Virginia Cannabis Commission charged with overseeing medical marijuana regulation in the state, passed the Senate last week.On Monday, the House of Delegates amended the bill so that instead of a commission, it would create an advisory board within the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health. They also made several other changes.
In a 51-48 vote, delegates approved an amendment by Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer and House Judiciary chairman, that would prohibit smoking, ban people from growing their own plants, and charge $100,000 annual fees for growers and processors. That fee was cut in half during a late-night floor session.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael said this afternoon that the Senate plans to concur with the House’s changes. Jacque Bland, spokeswoman for the Senate, said that likely won’t occur until Wednesday. “That’s our expectation, unless we find something that is just totally out of bounds in this bill,” Carmichael said. “We trust the House of Delegates and Chairman Shott’s work on this piece of legislation.”
If it occurs, the governor would still need to sign the bill for it to become law, and no patient identification cards would be issued until July of 2019....
The bill defines serious health conditions as cancer, HIV or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proven ineffective, or having a medical prognosis of one year or less.
The bureau would regulate medical cannabis in the state, review physician applications, issue permits to growers, dispensaries and processors, maintain an electronic database to include “activities and information relating to medical cannabis organizations certifications and identification cards issued, practitioner registration and electronic tracking of all medical cannabis,” and maintain a directory of patients and caregivers to whom it has issued ID cards.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Among the many exciting topics for student presentations in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming wee is a look at "recent trends and varying approaches in allowing/restricting home growing marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes and the plant count and possession limitations these laws impose." As preparation for this topic, my student has provided these links for background reading:
Law review article: Ryan Stoa, “Marijuana Appellations: The Case for Cannabicultural Designations of Origins.”
A research paper expounding upon the possible iterations of a post-legalization marijuana market in the United States. Predictions concerning the form of a future market and the potential regulatory hurdles in the way. The possibility of the marijuana market evolving similarly to the wine industry and avoiding the widespread concern with “Big Marijuana."
Press article: "Costs of Growing Cannabis at Home vs. Buying Bud at a Dispensary"
A helpful guide comparing the costs to a consumer of either cultivating their own marijuana or simply purchasing marijuana from a dispensary.
A recent article from Denver concerning home grown marijuana entering into the black market.
A helpful visual summary of which states have adopted medical/recreational marijuana policies.
Press article: "Home Cannabis Cultivation Laws by State"
A quick reference to the laws of each state that has legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes with regard to home cultivation.
April 3, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, April 1, 2017
A terrific guest speaker for part of my last class means that my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students are going to be making a large number of class presentations this week. So, blog readers should be prepared and excited to be seeing a bunch of posting about diverse topics that are the focal point for student work. For example, one student is focused on medical marijuana "start ups" in the Buckeye State, and he has provided the following synopsis and links as a preview of his presentation:
The conflict of Ohio law and applicable federal law on medical marijuana presents a myriad of legal issues for individuals and businesses to consider when deciding whether to participate in the new cannabis industry. But because federal law preempts conflicting state law, the primary goal of participants should be to manage the risk of federal enforcement uncertainty to an acceptable level. For those who are willing and able to manage the risk of uncertainty, participation in the new cannabis industry is not just about making money -it’s also about making history. Meanwhile, those who are unable to navigate the complex contours of cannabis law are left watching from the sidelines.
1. Federal Preemption: Risk of Forfeiture. August 2013 Cole Memo; The Role of Local Law Enforcement in Civil Forfeiture
2. Local Government Law: Risk of Local Zoning/Land Use Restrictions. Ohio H.B. 523; Garcia v. Siffrin Residential Ass'n, 63 Ohio St. 2d 259, 407 N.E.2d 1369 (1980)
3. Banking Law: Risk of Money Laundering Liability. BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana-Related Businesses.
4. Intellectual Property Law: Risk of Unsecured Enforcement Rights. In re Morgan Brown, U.S.P.T.O. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Serial No. 86/362,968 (2016); In re Christopher C. Hinton, U.S.P.T.O. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Serial No. 85/713,080 (2015).
5. Tax Law: Risk of Preclusion. Capitalization of Inventoriable Costs; Californians Helping to Alleviate Med. Problems, Inc. v. Comm'r, 128 T.C. 173 (2007).
6. Employment Law: Risk of Disputes. Ohio HB 523; Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 695 F.3d 428 (6th Cir. 2012).
April 1, 2017 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
"Too Stoned to Drive? The question is trickier than you’d think for police and the courts to answer."
The title of this post is the headline of this ABA Journal article appearing in the April 2017 issue. Here are excerpts:
Massachusetts is one of eight states, plus the District of Columbia, where recreational marijuana use is now legal. Twenty more states have legalized medical marijuana. But science and the law have not kept pace with this rapid political change.
We take for granted that not being able to walk a straight line or stand on one leg means you’re drunk, and that being drunk means it’s unacceptably dangerous to drive. But there is no clear scientific consensus when it comes to smoking pot and driving. And few of the tools police officers have long relied on to determine whether a driver is too drunk to drive, such as the Breathalyzer, exist for marijuana....
Most (but not all) studies find that using pot impairs one’s ability to drive. However, overall, the impairment appears to be modest — akin to driving with a blood-alcohol level between 0.01 and 0.05, which is legal in all states. (The much greater risk is in combining pot with alcohol.)
The increased crash risk with pot alone “is so small you can compare it to driving in darkness compared to driving in daylight,” says Rune Elvik, a senior research officer at the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway, who conducted several major meta-analyses evaluating the risks of drugged driving. “Nobody would consider banning people from driving in the dark. If you tried to impose some kind of consistency standard, then there is no strong case, really, for banning it.”
When it comes to alcohol, science and the courts have long established a direct line between number of drinks, blood-alcohol level and crash risk. As one goes up, so do the others. Not so for pot. Scientists can’t say with confidence how much marijuana, in what concentration, used in what period of time, will reliably make someone “high.” (This is especially difficult to gauge because most of the existing studies used pot provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which tends to be a lot less potent than what smokers can buy on the street or in shops.)
Blood levels of THC — the chemical component of pot that makes you high — spike quickly after smoking and decline rapidly in the hours afterward, during the window when a smoker would feel most high. What’s more, regular smokers could have THC in their blood for days or weeks after smoking, when they are clearly no longer high.
Still, laws in 18 states tie drugged driving charges to whether drivers have THC or related compounds in their blood. Some states prohibit driving with any amount, and some specify a threshold modeled after the 0.08 limit states use for blood alcohol. But the lag time between being pulled over and being transported to a hospital for a blood draw — on average, more than two hours — can lead to false negatives, while the tolerance developed by regular users (and the tendency for THC to stick around in their bloodstreams) can lead to false positives. This is why, researchers say, blood THC laws make little sense....
The more sensible strategy appears to be prohibiting driving while high, and 31 states take this approach. But proving that a driver is high turns out to be tricky terrain, too....
Research shows that failing a standard field sobriety test correlates closely with having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit—and officers have the Breathalyzer to confirm their findings. But “the gap between assessment, cannabis use and driving is really not completely closed,” says Thomas Marcotte, co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California at San Diego....
Some police departments use drug recognition experts — specially trained officers dispatched to evaluate suspected drugged drivers. These officers, commonly referred to as DREs, use an hourlong, 12-step process that includes taking the suspect’s blood pressure and pulse and conducting eye exams and balance tests. They use this information to generate an opinion about whether the driver is intoxicated — and, if so, by what. Preliminary research seems to indicate their opinions are of mixed quality, and not all judges allow DREs to testify to their findings.
“They’re not EMTs. They’re not medically trained,” says [Nicholas] Lovrich, the Washington State professor who, in a recent study of five years of DRE data in Washington and New Mexico, found a false-positive rate for pot intoxication ranging from 38 percent to 68 percent. “Everyone in the DRE business knows it’s really hard to do this.”
The gold standard would be a Breathalyzer-like device that can objectively measure whether someone has recently smoked, as well as how much. Lovrich is working on developing such a tool, using the same type of technology that security screeners use at airports to check for explosives. He says it will be at least two years before the technology is perfected, miniaturized and engineered to be durable enough to toss in the back seat of a squad car.
Monday, March 27, 2017
As readers know from recent posts, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar students deep into their class presentations. And a student this coming week is "analyzing and comparing the risks, restrictions, and barriers providers face for providing recommendations." Here are the materials this student has prepared for background on this topic:
March 27, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)